From a financial advisor to a fashion entrepreneur, thanks to one life-changing trip
“When people hear that I put my career on hold for seven months to go traveling, everyone has the same reaction,” Sandra Pangonyte, 29, tells us in her studio, while going through her design sketches. “They all go ‘oh you’re so lucky,’ but this has nothing do with luck. Nothing at all.”
Two years ago, this young Lithuanian woman was a senior investment advisor at an investment promotion agency, snapping photos in her free time. Though her career was kicking off, her heart longed for adventure.
After more than a year of saving for her flight tickets, Pangonyte packed her bags, grabbed her camera, and hopped on the next flight bound for Manila, Philippines, starting her solo 16,369-mile journey around South East Asia.
As the young woman explained to A Plus, the timing will never seem right.
“Our limitations should never be determined by our age, gender, or how much money and time we have. Especially when it comes to traveling,” she says. “There is no such thing as being too old to explore the world. Also, contrary to what many think, you don’t need to be rich. People would constantly ask me if I have rich parents or had won a lottery ticket to be able to afford such trip, but that certainly was not the case. It all came down to planning. Sure, I had to live on a tight budget, couchsurf, skip on anything even remotely fancy, and earn my keep abroad — I worked photography gigs and volunteered at local farms in exchange for meals — but this was just part of the experience. Do your best to understand the life that the locals lead.”
During her seven month adventure, Pangonyte visited six countries: the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Malaysia.
“You never know what kind of crazy adventures are waiting for you just one flight away,” she adds.
Surfing, swimming with whales, doing a 10-day silent meditation, volunteering as a photographer at a local wedding in Cambodia — these are just a few things she experienced abroad.
“There is no way you’ll see the world the same after travels. It’s been pretty life-changing for me too,” she says.
And Pangonyte has a new business she co-founded to prove it.
“One of the things I kept admiring while traveling across South East Asia was the importance of local craftsmanship in people’s daily lives.”
“I kept thinking it was a pity that the work of local craftsmen, especially in the industry of fashion, is losing it’s ‘coolness’ as fast-fashion brands take over the streets in Europe.”
“Upon my return — inspired by the trip — I got obsessed with the idea of taking such an old-school Lithuanian craft as knitting and turning it into something that’s truly contemporary. Along with my two jet-setter friends, I launched The Knotty Ones label focusing on contemporary knitwear and everyday essentials.”
“I never would have imagined myself as a fashion entrepreneur, but you never know where a trip will take you — literally and figuratively.”
By A Plus’ Danute Rasimaviciute. Full disclosure: The author of this article is a co-founder of The Knotty Ones