A lot happens in a month of slow travel so I’m going to write monthly recaps of my thoughts throughout the year. To most people who are not following this journey, you will feel very lost, but that’s ok! The goal here is to capture my observations while they are still fresh. I’m hoping it can help anyone who is curious about this journey or are planning their own long-term travels.
Get oriented, read this post first: About One Life Changing Year
A quick summary of our first month during our slow travel
- Budget: Under our Bali budget by 19% and 11% of our Malaysia budget
- Places visited: Bali and Kuala Lumpur
- Items lost: Lens cap for one camera and lens hood for the other camera (seriously? Seriously…)
- What I miss: My parents. My dog. My friends. Especially the ones who tell me how much they miss me *Looks at Friendship and Jan Ice*. Gary misses his coworkers, which he said I’m not allowed to write on here (bahaha but it’s my blog!). We heard they’re building a shrine for him at his desk
- Transportation: Boarded a plane 3 times (Toronto to Bali, Bali to Kuala Lumpur and then from Malaysia to Phuket)
- Accommodations: Four Points By Sheraton in Seminyak, Four Points By Sheraton in Kuta, The Swaha Hotel Bali and La Berceuse Resort And Villa
- Scariest moments: None, to be honest. Maybe the scariest moment was when I went through immigration in Indonesia and the officer was questioning why I only had a one-way ticket to Bali. Luckily, we had printouts of our next flight that showed we were leaving Bali in a month)
- Memorable moments: Releasing the baby sea turtles to sea, watching the beautiful sunsets in Bali, finally making it to Kuala Lumpur
- Defining moments: Staying in our own private Bali villa and thinking to myself how another crazy idea of mine is now a reality. The late nights and almost a year of persistence has finally amounted to something
Feelings during the first month
I feel like a child again. The days are so long and so full of new things or strange situations. Everything is a learning curve and everything is foreign. Everything. From simple tasks like withdrawing money from ATMs to figuring out where we need to go. The word everything is not an overstatement.
Gary’s only feeling is that he’s not tired from this trip and he constantly feels energized.
Things we had to adjust to during our first month of One Life Changing Year
Having to resettle into a new place every few days is so exhausting. I think my new rule now is to stay in a place for at least three nights. Each time we relocate to different locations, we end up having to spend time finding the closest laundry place, money exchange and where to get groceries (aka, Oreos and chips).
Having to exchange money and keeping track of local currencies. We’ve gone through three currencies in the last month. We’ve used Indonesian Rupiah, Malaysian Ringgit, and Thai Baht. Oh, and I guess Canadian too while we were at the Toronto airport if that counts. We’ve also brought USD because it’s easier to exchange here versus CAD bills.
Having to put on sunscreen and mosquito repellent every day. Every time I get bitten, I’m like SHIEZA I hope I don’t have dengue fever. I sound bratty as I write this out because these items were a luxury for my parents when they were growing up but it is something to consider. I’m also pretty sure the locals don’t use either product very often.
Finding stuff like maggots and seeing rats run around in broad daylight. It’s so annoying and disgusting, especially while I am eating. I’m so over finding hair and fruit flies in my food though. They don’t bother me anymore.
Rat sightings to date are
- Seeing a huge rat scurrying around a Warung in Kuta while eating
- There was a HUGE rat running behind us while we were eating dim sum in Malaysia
- We saw another rat running around in Batu caves. Actually, only I saw the rat
- There was a huge rat almost running across my feet in the dark cave
- We saw another huge rat running across our path in Kuala Lumpur (again!) at one of the street food markets
- A rat came running through the bushes at a Phuket market
I’m pretty sure I’m missing one or two more encounters with rats in broad daylight, but you get the gist. Where there’s food, there will be rats
Having to carry little stuff to avoid bag snatching. It’s pretty annoying having to be on guard all the time. I did try to employ the tick to scare people away by thinking that I’m crazy. I think it worked because I still have my bag.
Editing so many photos. We take on average, 300 photos a day and edit until we end up with around 100 photos. That’s a conservative average. Simple math tells me we’ll end up with roughly 36,000 photos by the end of this trip.
Trying to capture memories and all the little moments. The days are so long and so filled with these incredible heartfelt moments.
Things we got used to during our first month of One Life Changing Year
Not carrying a lot of stuff with us. In fact, we got rid of more stuff. The saying that stuff weighs you down rings a bell to our ears, starting with our mishap at the Toronto airport.
The crazy driving on the road. Used to it. *Yawn*.
Getting ripped off every so often. It sucks but hey, if we walked in their shoes and we were that poor, would we do the same thing in order to feed our families?
Being alert all the time and being aware of our surroundings 150% of the time. It can get really exhausting being on high alert at all times.
Planning bathroom breaks. Because you never know when we will find the next clean toilet.
Slow wifi. Oh. Em. Gee, you have no idea how slow the wifi is here. Think, loading a photo on Instagram takes forever.
Seeing each other 24/7. The only break we get from each other is when one of us is in the bathroom.
Read Next: We Booked A One Way Ticket To…
Things that we did not expect during our first month of slow travelling
The kindness of the Balinese people. They are so genuine. Well, most of them anyway. There’s always that one bad apple *glares at the taxi driver who tried to rip us off*. Long story short, there were a few times where we couldn’t take a Blue Bird Taxi.
Slipping all over the place (just me). I slipped once in the rice fields, once in the bathtub of our hotel in Kuta Bali, and once while sitting down in Malaysia. That’s three times in a month! It’s crazy because I don’t slip that often (if ever) in Canada.
Not reading enough. I thought I’d spend my days reading while watching the clouds pass by. Nope, nada. I tried to fit in some audiobooks here and there but I haven’t made enough time to read.
Random thoughts during our first month of slow travelling
Each accommodation is now our temporary home
We had most of our trip booked for the next few months but we left a few things to the last minute. Spent some time booking hotels today and had a little scare because prices went up big time. For those who tell me to “wing it”, I can’t handle that, especially since we are slow travelling. Slow travel is a completely different mindset and accommodations make a huge difference.
When I was younger, accommodations meant a hot shower and a bed to sleep on. Most times, it involved putting up with sleeping in crappy places with blood stains and human hair. But now, because accommodations are also our home, it’s important to stay in places that are comfortable. Because at the end of the long day when we spent most of our time dealing with all the little nuances that come with slow travel, we just want to rest at “home.”
We are not on vacation. We are travelling, it is a lifestyle
Life is not always convenient for us. In fact, we always pick the most frugal way to do things (given that it is the safe and reasonable). But it’s a learning experience, and it brings us a step closer to empathizing the life of the locals. Of course, we do splurge where it counts, especially when we see that we are tracking under our budget.
The concept of time. How time feels during our travels. Hard to describe except that time moves incredibly slow some days and not so on others.
The biggest thing that I noticed when I was in Bali was how slow the pace of life was on that island. It could be because I wake up on average at 6 AM and so my days feel longer. Who knows, but time feels different. I feel so present as I soak in everything in my surroundings. Every moment is rich with experience.
Minimal stuff, minimal lifestyle
We already knew going into this trip that we wouldn’t be packing a lot of stuff. Essentially, everything that we need for a year fits into a carry-on, a suitcase, a backpack, and a messenger bag. We’ve been actively getting rid of stuff too, making our trips a bit lighter with each passing day.
Sometimes I watch the airline workers load their trolley with everyone’s suitcase. We have two suitcases that will last us a whole year, but it’s crazy to see how everyone packs like that for a short trip. I can’t help but think about my parents, and how they had nothing but the clothes on their back when they left Vietnam.
You can read and see photos of destinations all you want, but seeing it in person is a different experience
Malaysia was everything I expected it to be; a big city with Asian people and lots of shops. Malaysia is akin to Hong Kong, Bangkok, and the other large Asian cities. But still, even when I am armed with that knowledge, I still wanted to see Kuala Lumpur firsthand in person. It’s just not the same hearing about it versus visiting a place.
My dad spent almost four years in Indonesia and my mom was in Malaysia for almost three years. Their experience in these two countries is a stark contrast to what I saw and experienced. You see, my parents were the Vietnamese boat people, and my dad was teaching himself English every day at the Galang refugee camp in Indonesia in preparation for his new life. My mom was patiently waiting for some country to accept her while she was in Pulau Bidong.
Life was hard during this time when they were considered stateless citizens. Imagine leaving everything you’ve ever known behind except for the clothes that you are wearing and wishing, praying that some country will take you in.
Asia Feels Like Home
I am Asian, being in Asia is home. Travelling to Asia is about exploring my roots and understanding more about how I was raised. Sometimes, it’s about how culture has shaped my perspective. Going to Asia helps me to understand myself and most importantly, my parents. It’s so crazy how the older I get, the more I want to understand their hearts.
It’s also very important to me that Gary spends time in Asia because there is not an ounce of Asian-ness in him. He is 100% Mauritian, and I’m a bit sad that he didn’t get a chance to understand a bit more about his/our heritage.
Budgeting during our first month
We’ve been tracking our daily spend because I am obsessed with data. I’ve been doing bi-weekly variance analysis on my budget versus actuals (HAHA). I then take these numbers and compare how we did versus our budget, so I can get an idea on the accuracy of my budget. It’s pretty cool to see that we spent less money than we anticipated. Of course, we’re also expecting our budget to be blown out of the water once we hit Japan.
Having clean clothes is a luxury
Clean underwear is gold (ask Gary, I packed three weeks’ worth of underwear so I’m good if we miss a laundry run).
Gary and his island life
Gary grew up on in Mauritius and because he is a man of many words (‘m being sarcastic here), I’m learning more about his childhood now than ever before. In reality, Gary is terrible at elaborating on stories and he’s also a bit forgetful. Our daily encounters trigger memories of his childhood and it’s nice to learn about his pre-Nancy life.
Photography learnings during our first month of slow travels
A huge part of this trip is all about improving our photography skills. I spent the first month reading one photography tip a day and would plan our photo shoots. Those mini lessons on photography helped me tweak my skills just a bit. My goal was to learn one tip a day so that by the end of the year, I would have learned over 300 tips. Now I’ve given up and I don’t know what I am doing half the time. I just try to bring the beauty that I see in my eyes to life through photos. I hope it’s working.
Gary calls me bossy…
A LOT during this first month. He says it in jest, but there’s always truth to every joke. I may be bossy, but that’s the only way to get results (true story, ask my university friends, they know all too well)! I can’t help but be bossy because we’re dealing with so many things when shooting. For example, we have to deal with the changing weather, lighting changes or tourists walking into our shots.
It’s so hard to describe to him what I see in my mind so I’ve built a process around how I can capture what I see in photos. I set up the shot for Gary by taking the photo first, and then count the number of steps where I need him to stand.
Gary is really handy with the technical stuff and he has saved me time by setting up the tripod and backing up the photos. It’s been a pretty good teamwork that way and we’ve been learning different things from each other.
Gary’s photography has improved as well and he’s become a lot more creative with his shots. I’m glad I don’t have to bug him anymore about the rule of thirds and composition.
What’s in store for the second month of our slow travels
We will be in Thailand, travelling from the south to the north. It is my third time in Thailand now and I’m finally achieving my dream of travelling the north and south. I’ve always wanted to hit the islands and some inland cities, and that’s what we will be doing in our second month! Of course, I will have a boatload of random thoughts to share in next month’s summary.
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