“So I guess you visit places everyday, right?”
Some of my friends have been curious about what I’m doing during my long-term travels. And it has been a while… The 3rd August 2016 is the date on my departure stamp from Indonesia. Today is 6th of April, so I have been travelling for 8 months.
In terms of long-term travel, this is not the first time I’ve been abroad for a long time; I went to Laos and Myanmar in 2014 for 2 months. But this is the first time I’ve been away from Indonesia for so long. I definitely miss Indonesia. I miss Indonesian food, my family and my friends in Indonesia.
I am writing this to give an idea of long-term travel, which is probably still new for some people. Travelling long-term outside Indonesia has been a dream for me since a few years back, but same like a lot of other dreams, the dream was just there (it’s sad to admit that we often don’t focus enough on our own dreams). I just want to know what it feels to live outside the comfort zone of what we called home. I do hope that there are few points that you can take from my writings. Enjoy the article!
So where were you for the past 8 months?
This is my rough itinerary: 14 weeks in India, 3 weeks in Nepal, 4 weeks in Sri Lanka, 6 weeks in Tanzania (and Zanzibar) and 6 weeks in Malawi. Can’t remember how many flights, trains, and bus journey I have taken in between.
What is the next plan? I wish I could elaborate more, but it is always changing. At the beginning, I was planning to head to South America, but was tempted to explore Africa too. Here I am in Malawi, just sent my online visa application for Zambia (and hopefully I will get it soon). The plan is to go to Zambia and probably go to Zimbabwe or Namibia after that.
Best friends, please don’t freak out, I know I’ve been telling you that I am planning to head north to Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, so on and Egypt, but hey my plan just changed! Or maybe it didn’t and I’ll still head North. Hahaha. :p
You are so lucky! You can travel for so long!
Yes, I am lucky to be able to travel (for so long). I feel even luckier because I am able to do my work from anywhere I want to. I consider that a luxury that a lot of people can’t afford. It is kind of a mixture of a plan that wasn’t really a plan but turns out to have worked really well. So my blog, Discover Your Indonesia, which started at the end of April 2013 has transformed into a small and growing business!
The blog, Discover Your Indonesia, funds my long-term travel. If you fancy to know or learn more about my business, read my income reports. I should start them again, they are a few articles created for the sake of keeping myself focused and helping some people who are curious about growing an online business.
I would like to tell you that long-term travel is not a vacation; it is more like a living. So yes you travel, but you also work (get some stuff done). I am sure this will lead you to the next question.
What do you every day?
So here is the thing, I don’t go to (new) places everyday.
Sometimes there were boring days, like 5 boring days in a week. It is basically the same like what you do on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes you focus on your work for a half-day and play around for the rest of the day. Sometimes you go somewhere on the weekend. Sometimes you take Thursday and Friday off and go somewhere far for 4 days and so on.
Everyday I wake up in the morning, take a shower, have breakfast, do some work, have lunch, do some more work and play. At the end of the day I have dinner and enjoy some free time then I go to sleep. I’m basically just living my life, but moving around in between; pretty much the same thing as you do everyday, but just in different locations every now and then.
How much money did you bring?
Last night someone asked me this on Twitter. This is rather difficult to answer really, especially in 140 characters. The answer is I would say I carry an income with me.
Speaking about money, if you are really curious, I limit myself to spending USD 75 per day (for two people). This covers accommodation, meals, transport, and basically everything. There were days where we spent a lot more than that (for example we spent around 200 USD per person for the music festival ticket in Zanzibar and of course obvious thing like flight tickets), and there were days when we spent less than USD 75 in a day. So you can simply multiply USD 75 times how many days I’ve been travelling and you get a figure. You’ll then know roughly how much money I’ve spent.
However it is not a secret that it is possible to travel cheaper, for instance, USD 1,000 for a month (around 30 USD per day) or even less than that. There are several things you can do to keep your budget to a minimum (which sometimes I do too and I’ll write about them in my next post).
So you might ask why do I spend that much money (on average USD 75 per day)? This is simply because I have the money and I am ok to spend that much for a day. I tend to choose a more comfortable hotel/hostel (almost never stay in a dorm, we are travelling as a couple anyway). I do activities that I want to do and experience things I want to experience.
While you’ll find a lot of encouragement from people to travel the world like this: book a one-way ticket, pack your bag and have adventures, I would recommend having plans and organising some way to support your travels. It sucks travelling only to be broke at the end.
The next thought that might come in your mind; Omg! You have the money to pay for a deposit to buy a house or you can buy a car! This is about priorities in life. My life and your life priorities can be different and that is ok. My partner and I would love to see the world and there are places that we would prefer to see now rather than later. On top of that, we are actually saving for our future too so we are not spending all our money on travelling (You should too. Save for the future. Oh I feel like such an adult!).
Are you not tired?
A friend of mine asked me through Instagram about this, here is his question: “Are you still enjoying travelling or are you overloaded with new impressions?”.
While I said I still enjoying travelling, I can say that being constantly on the go, moving from one place to another every 2-3 days, seeing new places, meeting new people, and doing new things is tiring. It can be overwhelming, especially as I need to work in between time.
Some of my closest friends know that I am not a typical nomadic person. I would love a place to call home. The definition itself about home is so abstract. I do get tired and that is why I stayed 1 month in Goa, basically did nothing (just did some exploring on the weekend) and recharged my battery. I stayed in one place because I got a new team member on board so I needed to do training, which a bit tricky to do while you are on the go.
Now we are staying for around 6 weeks in Blantyre, Malawi, we also took our time to focus on the business. There are a few things we are targeting to launch, getting some things on the pending list done and improving the system that we have for managing the business. We combine this with going on safari or climbing on the weekend.
What have I learned during my long-term travels?
Life is very interesting. There are uncountable things I have learned during my travels. I’ll share few important ones:
- Don’t carry expectations with you
I love to read travel articles and find out several things about the destinations that I’m going to before I visit. However I also keep this in mind: someone else’s favorite place can be your worst experience. The same destination or activity has a different story for each person. Like almost everything in life, high expectations are a recipe for disappointment. Be moderate and enjoy the journey.
- Most places are safe, don’t worry too much
To give you an example about this: so many people, including me, don’t have a clue how safe it is to travel in Africa. In general, it is true that travel in Africa is dangerous compared to other continents, but then it comes to where in Africa are you going to travel. I can still recall how amazed I was by all the friendly locals in Zanzibar who helped us to get the right bus from the airport to Michamvi. A guy even tried finding a piece of paper to write down the number of the bus and the destination for us.
I tell you what, worrying is the most pointless thing you can do. As long as there is no conflict happening in the country (or you are not anywhere near the conflict area), you’ll pretty much be ok. Mostly… Just make sure use your common sense and you’ll keep yourself safe anywhere. Observe what locals do and basically do the same thing.
- People are friendly
From my 8 months of travelling I only met 3 assholes, they are: A receptionist guy at the hotel in Chennai, India, who was completely useless and almost made us miss our flight from India to Sri Lanka (it was the first time I yelled at a receptionist). There was a tuk-tuk driver in Sri Lanka who tried to raise the agreed rate on the way to our destination and lied to us. And finally a guy who tried grabs my snack while I was eating food and waiting for a minibus in Blantyre (I grabbed it back from him). I am sure he was drunk. Apart from that it was just a few annoying pushy sellers (mostly in India).
Meanwhile, 99% of people I’ve met have been very helpful and friendly.
- I still think that travelling light is the best
At the moment I am travelling with my 33 L backpack and I have enough things that I need. There are moments when I wish I had the option of a handbag or different kind of sandal, but mostly I feel fine. I did throw away some old t-shirts and get few new ones. Less stuff means less time to pack and fewer things to worry that I might forget to pack. I really want to get rid of more stuff so I can bring my bag to the cabin, but it is tough.
- This world is just too interesting to not explore
I was blown away by the mixture of culture in Stone Town, felt very pleased meeting the friendly Sri Lankans at the train station, cherished random conversation with a guy with HIV who works as a house guard in Malawi, enjoyed the tasty lamb sausage from a street seller at the Main Bazaar in Leh, and thousands of other things that I’ve experienced during my travels… These memories are priceless. There are so many things in the world that are amazing for their own reasons.
Go outside, do something different, meet new people and just experience things. Allow yourself to have adventures.
- You can travel and work (productively) at the same time
No secret, prioritising is the key. And while I failed so many times in the past to get the balance right, it is possible. Make time to write down your top priorities and then set aside time to really do it.
Quite often I work in the morning and go on a wander in the afternoon, or if it is really busy then I work the whole week and go off exploring on the weekend. A tip: when you really need to get work done, put away your phone. Really, as far as possible! Social media and chat applications are such a distraction.
When I was in Nepal, trekking was my priority (ha!), I postponed all the work that I needed to do and it was ok! I finalized all the important things I needed to do before starting the trekking and just used an out-of-office reply for new enquiries (and yes my autoresponder stated: Firsta is on vacation climbing a mountain).
- You are more capable than you realize
I remember when I landed in Leh, Ladakh, checked in to the hotel and received news that the Internet had been off for the past 3 days in the whole region. I was shocked by the unexpected situation and considered booking a flight back to Delhi right away.
After 2 hours of panic attacks, being really confused how to work and feeling really desperate, I got myself together and started to think. We started to make some plan how to make it work without have to fly back to Delhi/somewhere else with Internet connection. Then we found an Internet café, which yes the Internet wasn’t working, but we could make an international phone call from there.
I sat in the middle of the Main Bazaar in Leh, drank a cold coffee and wrote down one by one the most important pending things that I really needed to do. The plan was to call my brother/my mother in law, pass my email login and ask his/her help to do stuff for me. At the beginning I thought, oh shit, this is going to be loads of stuff and how the hell is it possible to do all this!
But I had a plan. Then we found an Internet café with satellite Internet where I can work. I loaded my Gmail (with the standard or basic html version just because the connection was super slow) and got through my important emails slowly. For 2-3 days I kept on going back and forth to the Internet café for 1-2 hours. And everything was fine. I got all my work done and nothing was really messed up.
If you asked me do I enjoy what I am doing at the moment, the answer is: yes. It is a privilege to be able to do the things that I am doing now. It is a great life and I am grateful for that. See other people live their lives has been one of my favourite things. It is amazing how it can change your perspective in life. Do I want to do this (long term travel) forever? The answer is: no. I’ve been thinking of getting a house in Indonesia (maybe) and travelling 3-6 months a year.
If you are curious about long-term travel (and you are able to do it), take the chance. Travel far from your home base, or travel around your home base. It is great to travel slowly, experience different things and see new sites. And do it soon, only if you want to, because it’s easy to let other things get in the way of your plans. And there’s nothing worse than not chasing your dreams.