This post has been a work-in-progress for about a month because every time I thought I had a bead on it I’d come to a new understanding.
Some of you may know that I’m currently traveling throughout Southeast Asia as the beginning of what will be at least three years of world exploration. I started another blog that reports from the road on each place I visit and it began as a record of my planning for this journey. You can visit it here at ExPatAdventurer.
Well, the self-realizations and changes to both my plan and my way of living have been profound and I expect they will continue to be. So, I thought it was time to share some of these things with you, my readers.
First, the plan began as a search for a retirement haven outside the U.S. I realized that with the income from my Social Security alone, I simply could not exist here in the States. It would require that I continue to work until my death. Not a pretty picture. However, only a couple months into planning I realized that I could travel the world on the cheap without the need to settle down for years. So another lifetime dream came true. I was going to be an international traveler.
The day finally came and my daughter, Vanessa, joined me as I began the journey in the Philippines. A lot of my research had pointed to the Philippines as a cheap place to live with several specific cities. We were headed to Cebu and Baquio from Manilla. Quite honestly Manilla was a scary nightmare. There are nice areas in Manilla but traveling through the poor areas to get to them was too much. So off we went to Baguio, a six-hour bus ride, and then Cebu for a few days (both were not what I was looking for but a least we had a good time exploring), then a day trip to Bohol – another island – revealed a lovely smaller island, Panglao, with a pretty beach town, Alona Beach. After sending my daughter off on a 15-hour trip back to the U.S., I returned and stayed there another 10 days. It was enjoyable but still not for me, long-term. I had intended to stay in the Philippines for three months.
Then a huge realization hit me. I could move on. Whenever I wanted. I investigated travel to the close by countries I had already intended to visit and found I could afford to jump around on a monthly basis because the airfares ran less than $100 generally.
Wow! Big change in plans! And this is where the fun and need for new rhythms began. I quickly decided that two weeks in any one location was about my limit. First, I get bored. Secondly, I get bored. Seriously though, I realized that there is only so much to see in any one area.
So, from the Philippines I flew to Chiang Mai, Thailand, a truly wonderful city, which I split into two areas and stayed in each for two weeks. The Old Town area kept me busy for a long time, experiencing my first temples, the Day Market, the walled city, the Night Market, etc. Then I moved out of the old area of the city into a more suburban area. I loved it too and here I came to another important realization.
|Curry - my standby meal everywhere|
In this type of adventure, I am actually LIVING in the place I’ve landed for two weeks. Each arrival requires a couple of days of reconnaissance. I have to find places to eat, places to shop, a source for my meds, the best and top tourist destinations in which I’m interested. Simply put each location requires intel.
So what I’ve discovered is that I have a few traits that establish my personal rhythms for existence in an unknown country/city/hotel. After all, I’m not just a tourist, I’m a short-term resident. Here are a few of my observations:
- I will lose a day in recovery after transit to a new location. I get very worked up when I’m moving, even if it’s only across town. There’s the planning, packing and double-checking. It takes a full day to recover.
- Day two will consist of exploring the new area enough to make sure I have food services, local transportation and establish a relationship with someone working at my new digs.
- It is important to stretch out sight-seeing activities. One, because in order to enjoy them I need to be rested; two, it’s expensive to be a tourist; three, I’m not a professional tourist – I live here for the time being.
- What I mean by that last statement is that I still have clothes to wash, supplies to purchase, writing to do and simply relaxing to tend to.
- I started out with a huge stash of stuff that I’ve quickly pared down to a very minimalist load. This means I have to find ways to stretch my outfits out and I’ve changed from the woman who would not wear anything more than one time per washing to one who uses Febreeze spray a lot and hangs her clothes up to air out religiously!
- I rarely eat three meals a day anymore. I’m just not as hungry as I was at home. And I have to work at getting my veggies and fruits in. I’ve been pretty good about eating native (about 75% of the time) but retreat to “home” foods to both stabilize my digestive system and just enjoy myself. (Yes, I have had some minor digestive issues).
- My day normally starts after 8 a.m. and sometimes not until much later. I stay up as late as I want. I’m on no one else’s schedule and am enjoying every bit of that.
- I really don’t get lonely because I’m talking to Vanessa via Voxer (a free walkie-talkie VOIP service) nearly every day. We manage to Skype about once a week. I’ve returned to Facebook with a vengeance and use Instagram to instantly express myself.
- Do I miss my friends and family? Yes! But when I see them again – in May – I can visit at my leisure and will.
- Television? Well, I spent 8 years without a television intentionally so the lack of American TV wouldn’t have bothered me BUT there have been several English-speaking channels everywhere I’ve gone so far. Here in Cambodia I’ve been thrilled to have Discovery, National Geographic, Animal Planet and History channels. My last night in Phnom Penh I got to see the first episode of the last season of Downton Abbey and Scandal!
- Part of lightening my load was letting go of Ziggy, my mascot. I had bought Ziggy with the idea of showing him in all kinds of different tourist locations. But unfortunately Ziggy spent most of the time at the bottom of my suitcase. So, I gave him to a very sweet young boy who loved him at first sight.
|Bang & Ziggy|
I'm currently in Cambodia, about to see Angkor Wat tomorrow. Then it's Vietnam for a month, Thailand again but two new areas (Chiang Rai and Phuket), then Malaysia for three months and finally Bali before I return home. This all probably sounds pretty laid-back but I use an Excel spreadsheet to figure this all out initially and then a narrative with bullet-points to make sure I get everything right.
This is one of the longest posts I’ve ever written. I guess I had a lot to say. I’ve been so busy keeping up with my travels on the other blog I’ve neglected Red Mojo Mama Musings. I’ll get back on the ball! Red’s been raising hell.