When I wrote about the highlights of my first month of slow travelling, I knew it would be a mishmash of random thoughts. The intention was to write these small notes to myself so that I won’t forget about them. A lot happens in a month, and already, I can barely remember what happened three days ago. You know when you are learning so much that your brain can’t keep up? Yeah, that’s me. So I write as a way to organize my thoughts.
It’s so important to me because these little moments shape my thinking and expand my perspective. Call it an exercise for self-awareness, if you will, but it is necessary for me. I’m also hoping that these highlights can help anyone who might be thinking about their own dreams or slow travelling.
Many people who don’t know me see my path to slow travelling as a spontaneous decision, but as they say, it takes ten years to be an overnight success. I’m not saying that I am successful; I am pointing out that those comments lack the appreciation that most good things in life come with a lot of hard work. What some people do not see are the late hours and lost weekends that go with turning a dream into reality. I think you fellow crazy dreamers can relate as you read this with bleary eyes.
There are many I wish I had known thoughts or I am aware and yet this doesn’t make the experience any easier moments. For those reasons, I try to share the views I have on the journey, and not just the before and after snapshots. Because I believe that the more one knows, the more one can make an informed decision.
So here it is! The second month of my jumbled thoughts.
A quick summary of life on the road during the second month
Dates Travelled: August 19, 2017 – September 18, 2017
Budget: Definitely under, although I am not sure by how much at the moment for Thailand. We still have another month to go, so I’ll write more about this next month. For now, you can read this post to get an idea of how much you will spend on a daily basis in Thailand.
Places visited: The major hotspots in Thailand! Phuket, Ao Nang, Railey beach, Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Sukhothai and Chiang Mai
Items lost: Nothing! And the lens cap that we lost last month was only $5 to replace! One of my shirts did get damaged in laundry though, boo… Good thing it was just $10
What I miss: Being able to cook my own meals, my mouse, keyboard, and monitor. Being able to read things. I can’t read Thai at all, which gets a bit frustrating at times.
Transportation: No airplanes this time, although it’s been an exhausting month to get from one city to the next
The transportation breakdown
• Phuket to Krabi: Minibus ride (including a few transfers) and a 30-minute ride in a complete stranger’s car
• Krabi to Bangkok: Minibus ride, double-decker bus ride, and an overnight train. We had to travel to Surat Thani from Krabi first since there are no trains in Krabi. This journey involved quite a few transfers, including a minibus transfer in the middle of a highway
• Bangkok to Ayutthaya: Train ride, boat ride, and then a grueling 20-minute walk in the scorching tropical sun to get to our guesthouse. It was so hot that we had to stop in the shade every two minutes to cool down. We could have taken the tuk-tuk instead of walking, but we were skeptical, and we try to save where we can. Now you know some of the secrets on how we are coming in under budget, haha!
• Ayutthaya to Sukhothai: Are you ready? Ok… so tuk-tuk rides to the Ayutthaya train station, then a train ride to Phitsanulok train station. From there, we took a Tuk Tuk ride from the train station to the bus terminal before taking a bus to Sukhothai
• Sukhothai to Chiang Mai: Walked to the bus stop in Sukhothai to get to Phitsanulok bus station. We then took a tuk-tuk to the train station where we caught a train to Chiang Mai
ARRIVED AT CHIANG MAI WHERE THERE WERE NO MORE CRAZY TRANSFERS, AND WE STAYED PUT FOR A FEW WEEKS
Yes, it was that exhausting. I’ll write a blog post at some point about our experience getting to all these cities. You’ll want to read them if you are planning to take a similar route.
Scariest moments: It was between Ao Nang and Railey beach. If you followed my Instagram stories, you’d know a bit about this scary moment. I will write a post about this incident after I come back from Canada because my mom will disown me if she finds out. Travelling from the airport to Phuket and then from Phuket from Krabi was also scary. I’ll write about these incidents later
Funniest moments: Well, showing up at five-star restaurant soaked to the bone was quite funny
Memorable moments: Visiting the ruins in Ayutthaya and biking through Sukhothai with barely a soul in sight. These two cities were the very reason why I dreamed of spending a month travelling all of Thailand. Words can’t describe how happy I felt to be able to make it to these two places.
Defining moments: Meeting a wise and successful entrepreneur who has changed the purpose of our travels. Meeting Thai people who shared with us the hardships they went through in life. I have this thing where I ask the Universe life questions, or I ask the Universe if I can meet like-minded people. Let’s just say I met many inspirational people this month who reminded me that my journey was once theirs as well.
Yucky moments: Seeing rats (read below), ginormous cockroaches… but that’s about it
Thoughts and feelings during the second month of life on the road
Travelling connects me to my family and helps me to understand their childhood
I have a better sense of their upbringing when I see these conditions with my own eyes. Hearing their stories just isn’t the same as seeing the environment of how they grew up. Remember the rat sighting in Kuta? While I lost my appetite and stopped eating, Gary finished his meal (and mine!) and continued as if seeing rats on the kitchen counter is the norm. That is because it was a frequent occurrence for him when he was growing up. He also doesn’t get sick from street food that often because he used to order his afternoon meals from dirty street vendors every day.
My parents also grew up in these conditions, and it’s only through my travels can I grasp their definition of poor. Of course, these experiences are not new to me as I’ve been to Asia many times. But still, these travels are a powerful reminder of how easy life is in Canada.
We’ve lost all concept of time
Is it Monday, Tuesday… or Sunday? I remember the dates, and I track my time based on the number of nights we have left in our accommodation. Because you know, I don’t want to end up having to search for a place to stay because we mistimed our checkout dates.
I see rats almost on a daily basis now
I saw four rats once in the middle of the night, and I see them running out of sewage in broad daylight. I even saw a huge rat running across the mall once in Phuket! I’m still grossed out whenever I see them, but I’m taking my friend’s tip and treating rat sightings the way we treat squirrels in Canada. Where I draw the line is if a rat walked on me or touched me. I’m so scared that I sit with my feet off the ground when we eat in sketchy places. I also get super jumpy at the slightest movements, thinking it could be a rat. I’ve jumped a few times over a loose luggage buckle or moving debris on the ground.
P.s. I’ve talked about rats so much on this trip that I’ve decided to stop talking about rats after this blog post. Just assume that I still see them almost every day.
We have different types of errands taking up our time
I envisioned our year of travel would be so carefree that I’d be spending my days reading. I mean, we have no condo to clean or meals to cook. And we don’t have to spend time over the weekend preparing for the upcoming week.
But nope, the reality is so far off from my expectations. Simple things like withdrawing money or booking bus transfers take up our time. Or rearranging our luggage and waiting to check in from one location to the next.
Another time sucker is getting from one place to the next. When we travelled from Krabi to Surat Thani, it took us a whole day… one whole day! The drive from one city to the next is just 2.5 hours, but all the transfers and the waiting ate into our time. Mind you, we did take the bus for 800 baht. We could have taken a private car for about 3,500 or 4,000, but we decided against it.
Having mold grow on my brand new Birkenstock sandals
Sucks big time, especially because I only wore them once before mold grew on them (I didn’t even know that was possible!). There is a crazy story behind this which I will share one day when I am back in Canada.
Learnings during our second month of life on the road
Spreadsheets aren’t just for budgets
Our spreadsheet also helps us to stay organized so that we can keep track of the logistics and the booked accommodations. I spent many nights trying to figure out the perfect excel model that will suit our needs before we left. I am now happy I made that time investment because it helps us to stay on top of things.
Being in transition sucks
It’s exhausting. Whether it is visiting a new city, country, or switching hotels, this constant moving is tiring. You’re no longer here but not quite there. I guess that’s the same feeling we all have when we’re in limbo. Reminds me of an undefined relationship, or when you’re ready to leave your old job but haven’t found that new one yet.
Slow travel is awesome
It means we can avoid the days when the weather is bad or when we feel like having a sick day (Haha, “sick day”). You can take in so much more and go at your own pace. Instead of winging it, we pre-booked most of our accommodations to lock in the best prices. For each place we visited, I buffered extra time, which was good because there were days when we needed to slow down.
Health is so important
This month has been the worst month for me as I kept getting sick on and off throughout the month. Never in my life have I ever felt this ill, ever. Ok, I lied. I have gotten super sick a few times, but it usually gets better within a few days. In this case, I had terrible symptoms that went on for weeks. It was starting to affect how I felt during my travels, and I was feeling very frustrated.
Luckily, all was better after we arrived in Chiang Mai and now I am almost 100% back to my usual self.
Gary also had a bit of a health scare where we were debating if he needed to go to the hospital or not while in Phuket
Not knowing what to do, and Google telling us it could be some fatal illness, I applied the worse/better/same test. Essentially, I’d ask him every few hours if it was getting better, worse or the same. Over time, it started to get better, and he turned out to be ok, but we were pretty worried for almost half a day.
While we are almost 100% now, this ordeal made me even more sure that our timing to travel now was, in fact, a good call on our end. I cannot imagine travelling while not at my healthiest because healthcare in developing countries does not compare to developed countries.
As well, even though I feel ten years younger than my actual age, this trip has shown me that I have AGED! My body is sensitive to so many things that never occurred to me when I previously travelled to Asia. Now, seemingly little things leave me sick and lacking energy. Booo.
One day it just hits you, and you realize you’re old.
Being able to roll yourself up into a ball is a life skill worth having
Especially on long train rides and bus rides…
Staying even more hungry and foolish
Watch this speech if you want to know the reference (and feel inspired).
I’ve met a few inspirational people in Chiang Mai who shared their struggles before they got to where they are today. These stories are a powerful reminder that all the success you see in someone’s life involved a lot of hard work and perseverance. There’s also the negative self-talk that no one talks about, the doubts, the fear, the questioning. Success stories are often broken down into bite-size pieces so that people can digest it, but the road to success is never that easy.
Waiting for our camera to climatize
We had issues with the camera lens fogging up when we move from air-conditioned areas to outdoors. This is new, and we never knew such a thing could happen. It’s such a pain because we end up having to wait for 30 minutes before being able to shoot with our cameras.
Photography progress during our second month of our life on the road
I haven’t learned anything new in photography. I understand the limitations of a mirrorless camera and the difference in capturing photos with a cropped/nonfull-frame camera. And I’m learning how editing makes a tremendous impact on the images. I think about colour now, and I try to plan my outfits around the effects of colour. And by outfits, I really mean which colour t-shirt I should wear.
You know it’s a special day when you see a picture of me in a dress.
We take about a thousand shots just to get the perfect photo
Patience is key as we wait for the perfect moment
Say, for example, we want a boat in our shot. We wait until the ship is in a particular area before we take the photo. Photography does teach you patience, and it is a big key to capturing a good picture. For us, at least, because we are newbies.
Honestly, sometimes it’s about taking a bunch of pictures and hoping for the best. I know, I know, that’s not what the pros do. But hey, it works for me.
Here is a timelapse which gives you an idea of how we needed to be patient to capture the Petitenget Beach sunset last month:
Food photos are the worst
It’s so hard to take pictures without people looking at you and thinking what the heck is so special about that photo. Sometimes, they don’t bring all the dishes out at the same time. So a waiting game happens just to get a photo like this one…
Gary’s photography cracks me up
He takes some pictures where I’m like wow, I’m so impressed, no direction from me! And then in the same shots, I’m like What the heck were you thinking? The lighting is terrible; the framing is off! But I’ve seen an enormous progression in his pictures, and as we approached the end of the second month, he’s been taking more stunning photos. Which is perfect for me because I’ve started to photograph less to take in the beauty that is in front of me.
I’ve been teaching Gary everything I know about video editing (which isn’t a lot)
It’s so hard to explain things to him because I really don’t know what I’m doing. I just do what feels right. We had this ambitious goal to film one second a day, and we were going to put it into a video so summarize our year but… that’s not happening. Too much work.
What’s in store for our third month of life on the road
We are spending a few more weeks in Thailand before we head off to Cambodia. We had plans to visit Myanmar, Vietnam, and Taiwan afterward but… we had a defining moment that has changed the course of our travels. More on that later.
Read next: Our Third Month Of Slow Travel In Cambodia
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