Myths inspire traveler, poet, geek fashion icon

Long before Lin Manuel Miranda’s musical based on the life of Alexander Hamilton hit the stage, Alice Fanchiang discovered the Federalist politician in an AP history class and became a bonafide Hamilton fangirl.

This was just one of many fandoms to come. Alice’s parents instilled in her a love of reading at a young age, which fostered a fascination with myths and fairy tales. The Taiwanese-American travel and fashion blogger now weaves her own myths into poetry. Her life of reading, writing, and adventuring continues to be informed by a passion for history and stories.

Alice chronicles her travel adventures, while offering helpful tips and geek fashion guidance, on her blog, Girl on the Roam, where she combines her wanderlust with her love of history. There, you can find details of her many trips to locations as far-flung as China and Iceland.

She’s also a published poet, a contributor to Sartorial Geek magazine, and a model and ambassador for geek fashion brand Jordandene. A self-proclaimed “book nerd” with a soft spot for young adult fiction, Alice is also a TV binge watcher and pop culture addict whose fandoms include Moulin Rouge, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Disney, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Supernatural, Game of Thrones, Good Omens, Harry Potter (Ravenclaw in the house!), and classics like The Odyssey and Hamlet.

Read on to learn more about Alice’s fascinating life, her evolution as a geek fashion icon, her uniquely geeky approach to travel, her poetic process, and the importance of having a girl squad. You can also get a look at her considerable style on her Instagram accounts: @akangaru and @girlontheroam

You’re a traveler, self-described “book nerd,” poet, history buff, and travel and geek fashion blogger who is known for your writing, adventuring, and memorable geek style. What’s your geek origin story?

Where do I even start? I guess it all goes back to books and liking to know things. My parents always encouraged my love of reading, and I read everything. But what I loved most and still love now were fairy tales and myths.

I loved how magical and peculiar and big those stories were and how common so many of their themes were — and those were the types of stories I gravitated towards in other forms of media, too. Like so many kids, I grew up on Disney animated classics, and so many of those were riffs on fairy tales. Flash forward to today, aren’t things like Star Wars and superhero stories just modern myth? It’s no wonder I love them.

I read you never considered yourself much of a fashion expert, but you’ve definitely become one. How did you first become interested in geek fashion and what do you love about it?

I feel like geek fashion as we know it now wasn’t a big thing until relatively recently. Before that, I think geek fashion was a lot of graphic tees, and most of those catered at boys. So I think I became more interested in incorporating more fandom into my every day looks in more interesting ways as the industry grew.

I love it because fashion can be a conversation starter and it’s an easy way to show that you love something. For a lot of people, fandom is where we take shelter or find strength, so being able to wear something from fandom can also act as a talisman of sorts or as a source of inspiration.

How would you describe your style? How has it evolved in recent years?

To be perfectly honest, my style on the regular is pretty casual. I am very much a T-shirt and jeans/leggings type of person. But I do also love accessories and dressing up. I blame it on being a Leo for loving the sparkle and drama. So I think my style has evolved to better incorporate both of those things into what I wear.

I’ve also gotten more adventurous with mixing patterns and colors — partly because people seem to respond well to my attempts and, at the same time, I dress now more to make myself happy.

You’re especially into what you call “Inspired By” outfits, which are similar to Disneybounds, more casual/subtle looks based on a particular fandom. What are your tips for putting together a really
good “Inspired By” look?

Color block and pick a few specific details to focus on. Most characters have a distinct color palette or overall look. For example, both Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel share the red, blue, gold palette — but what makes them different is the order of the colors and a few key details. So you’d color block their outfits differently or, if you blocked them the same way, the details you add would specify who the inspiration is.

For a Wonder Woman look, I’d add cuff bracelets because of her famous gauntlets. For Captain Marvel, I’d accessorize with star jewelry like a necklace because of her symbol.

How did you become involved with geeky apparel business Jordandene and writing about fashion for Sartorial Geek magazine?

I found Jordandene through Instagram and was a fan for a long time. Over the course of that time, Jordan and I started chatting and we kind of just became friends that way. I’m pretty effusive about the things I love, and Jordan was one of the earliest people who made me feel like I was fashionable, so when she reached out to me to see if I wanted to write about geek fashion for Sartorial Geek, I said yes!

You recently co-hosted Sartorial Geek’s Spooky SG Fashion Fix challenge. How did that go?

The challenge went well, especially I think because it was Halloween themed and people love Halloween! It was a bit of an extra challenge for me this time because I had a busy October personally and had to scramble a bit to get my own posts ready.

You’re a published poet and write about travel, history, poetry, and fashion on your own blog. What sparked your interest in writing?

My friends and I have always had an active imaginary life, and I think it sort of came from that. We were creating stories already, so it was just a matter of putting it down on paper. Also, in 5th or 6th grade, I received a lot of encouragement and praise from my teachers for my creative writing assignments, and that positive reinforcement kept me at it!

When and how did you begin writing poetry? What do you like about this form of expression?

I think I first started really trying to write poetry in middle school. I like the shorter form and how the constraints of length, and sometimes form, force you to be more creative and more precise. I also like that because it’s poetry, you also have the freedom to be more experimental. I fell away from it after high school and picked it up again a couple years after college.

Where do you find inspiration for your poems?

Any number of things! But I usually start because there’s a feeling I want to capture or a theme I want to expand on. Sometimes, I want to focus on certain aspects of an old story or retell it in some way.

Could you tell me a little about your poetry-writing process?

It usually starts with a phrase or image — sometimes an idea if one really catches my curiosity and I can’t help turning it over and over like a faceted stone. But usually it’s a phrase that pops up in my head that I really like and I want to build something around it. I write chronologically most of the time because it helps me see the course of the story or scene I’m trying to create, but occasionally I’ll write out of order because maybe the end is clearer to me than the middle, etc.

Where does your love of travel come from?

From my parents, but particularly from my mother. She has an adventurous personality. She’s a people person and she likes to try new things. As a young woman, she worked at a travel agency. Travel was important to her — as a way of enriching yourself and just for fun. So growing up, I went on a lot of trips with my family.

You’ve traveled to Iceland and China and throughout the United States. What are some of the most memorable places you’ve visited?

This so hard because everywhere has its own charm! But I absolutely fell in love with Iceland because it was so extremely beautiful everywhere, and it felt otherworldly. I also really loved Venice, though I was only there for a day, had a cold, and St. Mark’s Basilica was partially covered in scaffolding. Despite all that, it was just so lovely.

In the U.S., I finally understood why fall is a big deal in New England when I spent a bit of October in Massachusetts, wandering through historic cities under a riot of changing leaves. It was glorious.

I’m intrigued by the fandom, pop culture and history-based approach you take to travel. For example, your recent trip to Scotland, where you visited many filming locations and even re-created shots from favorite movies. Tell me more about this unique style of travel you’ve developed.

My travel style has definitely become more geeky in recent years because I do more trips with my friends and thanks to the internet and other intrepid fans, it’s easier to find out where shows and movies were filmed! When I travel, I love learning the history and folklore of the places I visit. I love collecting facts and stories, and the more directly geeky aspects — like if it was a filming location or some place an author lived — just add an extra layer of enjoyment.

I also love that you dress thematically when visiting specific locales. What are some of your favorite themed travel looks you’ve put together?

I went on two trips to New York this year, both for Broadway shows, and I loved the outfits I took for those shows. For Hadestown, I wore a red jumpsuit with a flower crown and pressed flower necklace, and for Moulin Rouge, I wore a red jacquard gown. Both of these trips were super short, so I got to pack a little more indulgently and brought these two outfits.

What do you enjoy about coordinating your outfits with your adventures?

I just think it’s fun! It’s a different way to engage with the location, and it’s a way to prompt other people to engage in the location differently. As a fan, I also have this desire to visit or be IN the worlds of my fandoms. I’d love to visit Hogwarts or stand in the shadow of the Millennium Falcon. I want to be part of it, and when you go to a location that kind of lets you be in the world, I want to look like I could belong there.

You also seem to have a great “girl squad” to travel and adventure with. How did you form this “fellowship,” of sorts, and what’s the advantage of having this kind of support and camaraderie in your endeavors?

My squad is the best! They’re a mix of old friends and new friends I’ve made through the fun and suffering of San Diego Comic Con. It’s great having a group like this because they get excited about the same stuff I get excited about or they at least get it. So they’re game to do things with me.

Let’s talk about some of your fandoms. First of all, you’re an Alexander Hamilton fan, but you were one long before Hamilton the musical. How did you discover this chapter of American history?

It was AP U.S. History class during my Junior year of high school. I’ve been interested in history, but my favorite part of U.S. history is the days of the Revolution and the formation of the early government. I think it’s because that time period is filled with colorful characters and dynamic events.

Alexander Hamilton stood out in that cast for me, maybe because of how brilliant and divisive he was and definitely partly because of his rivalry with Thomas Jefferson when they served in Washington’s cabinet. The more I learned about him, the more fascinating he became!

So what was it like when Hamilton debuted and everyone was suddenly into Alexander H.?

It was weird! He’s always been one of my more niche geek loves, and now, it’s not so unusual anymore! That’s wonderful, obviously, because now everyone gets why I love him — but it is still weird.

Obviously, you’ve seen the musical … Is it everything you wanted it to be?

I honestly can’t answer this question because never in a million years would I have thought musical like this would exist — and to be as good as it is. It’s beyond anything I could want!

You recently saw Moulin Rouge The Musical AND Tom Hiddleston in Betrayal in New York. I’m deeply jealous and need a full report from you on both.

There’s not enough time or space for me to give a full review! Needless to say, I enjoyed both a lot. Moulin Rouge is a beautiful production and fun, though I still love the movie more, and Betrayal — everyone is so good in it. It’s also surprisingly humorous, given the subject matter. We did stage door for Betrayal and the cast was super nice and Tom, especially, was very accommodating  in trying to sign everyone’s stuff.

You’re a Ravenclaw. What Ravenclaw qualities do you see in yourself?

Well, I don’t know about clever, but I’m intelligent and pretty creative. I love learning things and know a lot of random stuff.

Among your fandoms are the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars, but I love that you also have classics like Hamlet and The Odyssey on your list of faves.

Thanks! There’s no wrong way to be a nerd.

You’ve been more than a little vocal about your Spider-Man obsession. Tell me more.

The funny thing about this is that I’ve been ambivalent to Peter Parker/ Spider-Man until about a year ago. I’ve always liked him well enough, but he was never my favorite. That all changed when my sister and I decided to play the PS4 Spider-Man game, and we just fell in love with him! The rest is how it currently is now. I probably seem extra vocal about it because he’s a relatively new obsession, and I’m not shy about fangirling about my new obsessions.

You’re very active in the YA fiction community. What do you love about this genre and why do you enjoy promoting it?

I love YA because it’s so broad — there are so many genres within this age category of books — and it’s more flexible than other age categories. There’s more room here to push for change and for genre-bending. I also love that this category is home to many female writers and lead characters. The plots tend to move more quickly, making for riveting reading, and I like that the stories here focus on a very dynamic and volatile time in all our lives — our teen years.

Plus, YA was becoming its own category around the time I was getting really into the book/writer community. So it’s kind of where I naturally ended up.

What are some of your favorite YA series/titles?

One of my favorite books (like in my top 3 of all books) is Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races. I’m currently obsessed with Holly Black’s Folk of the Air trilogy. I was gripped by Courtney Summers’ Sadie. I adore Maurene Goo’s I Believe in a Thing Called Love and Jenny Han’s To All the Boys books – which, as you may know, is also a hit Netflix movie.

And speaking of Netflix, I love the books set in Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse, and those are in production currently with Netflix. They are fantasy trilogy and a heist duology set in the same world.

I could go on and on.

You’ve also been an active part of discussions on diversity in pop culture and fandoms. As a woman and person of color, what would you like to see change within this culture?

I would like to see women and POC just have more opportunities – more opportunities to tell stories and create art and also the opportunity to have another chance if we fail. Right now, the issue to me is the limited opportunities we have because that then puts an unfair burden on the marginalized creators who do get a chance.

It becomes a game of this movie has to be the One Perfect Movie that represents all of us, or this show failed so now it’s too risky for a network to invest in anything even slightly similar to said project.

What are some of your go-to geek fashion companies?

There’s Jordandene, of course. Most of my geeky shirts are from her currently, though I do pick up a few things from Hot Topic or the Disney Store. I do also love the more inspired-by geek creations of Elhoffer Design. I’ve got a number of Loungefly bags because they have such cute fandom designs, and I’ve been a Blackmilk customer for years now — they are responsible for most of my loud leggings.

What are some of your favorite geek fashion items in your closet right now?

I’m always in Jordandene shirts, but my favorite that I wear right now is a scoop neck that says “Let the Past Die.” I also adore her bomber jackets and her super soft cropped sweaters. My current favorite of the latter is my orangey Spider sweater, though a pastel Loki helmet one just arrived.

I also love my Elhoffer Design Loki shell and cropped Captain Marvel-inspired sweater. The former is great for work and the latter is cute and comfy.

What’s left on your geek travel bucket list?

Well, I would still like to visit a few historic sites on the East Coast. I still haven’t been to the former dueling grounds at Weehawken. The more exciting of my bucket list destinations is Greece. Classical Myth is one of my oldest loves, and I would love to see those ancient Greek ruins!

You have a dog named Loki. Tell me everything about him!

All you need to know is that he is the cutest, most handsome dog in the world — and he is absolutely a mischief maker. He is way too smart for his own good and he gives A+ side-eye.


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