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Beautiful bum: Former Miss Universe on her no-hotel world travel rules
Akiko Chubachi travels solo, powered by global goodwill, and tells us she did it her way
Since taking the Miss Universe Japan crown in 2007, Akiko Chubachi has continued her own brand of hotel-free globetrotting (some might say slumming it), embarked on a new career in TV and even has plans to build a school in Africa. More of that later.
Having traveled solo to more than 30 countries in the past nine years, this 29-year-old adventuress has fed off global goodwill, yet is humble about herself and her achievements.
She has no qualms about the fact that she originally came third, but ended up with the MUJ crown anyway after the two poll-toppers moved either up or aside.
Years before the glamor arrived, her outdoorsy leanings were clear. On childhood forest walks, she and her cracked open beehives to eat freshly plucked larvae that were “collagen-” or “royal jelly-” like in texture, Chubachi says.
Back to nature
“That’s why when I went to India, when I went to Africa, I didn’t feel special -- sleeping outside, eating everything, drinking river water, I never felt strange, it was really natural”, she explains.
Living at home with her parents in Kanagawa, Chubachi is energetic, gregarious and especially excited about her recently published book, “World Travel Girl: Becoming Friends with 7 Billion People.”
Asia, Europe, North and South America, Australia and Africa are all marked on her map. Special mentions go to Jamaica and Mali.
“The first time I went to Jamaica, I went for one month and I lived in the ghetto with some, ah ... very, very poor people -- it was so much fun,” she recalls.
In Africa the biscuit was her savior. “You know in Africa they think that biscuits stop diarrhea? I ate a lot! I didn’t want to, but they said ‘eat, eat.’ So, I ate and it stopped.”
Her travel experiences include wild weather too. Her book shows a photo of a nosebleed due to 50 C heat in Africa.
Traveling light, Chubachi doesn’t tote a backpack, but a small bag the size of a cushion. She carries about three changes of underwear, her passport, yellow card vaccination certificate and next to no makeup.
“I wash my underwear everyday,” she says with a big grin, rubbing her hands together in a washing motion.
Chubachi says many people, particularly publishers, want to know about the seedier side of her travels in dangerous areas.
“That’s why it was difficult to publish my book -- they want to know just the dangerous parts. That’s why when I was trying to publish it, I was thinking about why I didn’t have any trouble.”
“If you don’t bring your Japanese rules with you, you’ll never get into trouble. If I follow African rules -- what I eat, what I say -- then I’ll never have trouble.”
Chubachi was only struck down by major illness once, when she caught malaria in Mali last year.
The former beauty queen just gets tougher and tougher, as once you have malaria you can’t get it again, she tells us.
When her New York apartment went up in flames during her year there, she lost almost everything. All that was left from the fire was her passport, with three days left on her US visa, and a ticket to Jamaica. No choice, but to travel on.
Back in Japan now, Chubachi talks of her dream to build a school in Mali as the logical conclusion of her experiences. The fact that she studied elementary-school teaching at university also plays a part.
“I think education can save the world, that’s why I want to build a school in Mali one day. That’s my dream,” she says.
“I want to help less-fortunate people -- they’ve treated me well, so I want to help them back.” Words to live by.