Category Archives: Travel Tips & Advise

Add some rhythm to your travel

It’s been about 2 weeks since my solo journey began, and I’m noticing that it could get a little lonely at times. Luckily though, I have my own travel companion called the Asalato, a West African music instrument (apparently from Ghana) that I recently stumbled across after watching this Youtube video.

It’s essentially two balls attached to a string with seeds inside, which you swing around the hands to make them hit each other, creating a percussive click, as well as a shaking sound.

I really love the simplistic nature of this toy, made out of sun drying a type of fruit called the Oncoba Spinosa.  They create a hollow but solid sound when struck, and the shake of the seeds add a very soothing flow to the rhythm.

According to Wikipedia they can also act as a skill-development tool to help improve dexterity, ambidexterity, brain hemispheric synchronization, and develop the ability to multitask. Best of all, it fits conveniently in my pocket, and I can whip it out whenever I feel rhythmic, or whenever I need some inspiration as I journey on.  When  I got lost in a forest, for example…

  

The Asalato has become my beloved travel companion which I always carry wherever I go. Try it out yourself and add some rhythm to your travel!

A journal a day keeps the travelers awake

The self proclaimed life lessons learnt throughout this preparation phase have so far been very educational and enjoyable. Quite unexpected really, to once again be reminded and relive the joy of learning stuff and discovering new things (especially about yourself). So fun that it makes me wonder what I’ve been doing for all those other times, years, where I probably wasn’t learning anything useful, or at least enjoyable to say the least.

As described in my previous posts, I feel like I now understand the power of setting goals, or the essence of packing lite, and feel proud to have discovered an idea that life may not need to be a one way direction; these discoveries are happening almost every day, and I feel good that I’m able to document them onto this blog as I go.

At this point, I realise that inspiration comes and goes,  almost instantaneously, and if I fail to document them while they’re fresh, I probably wouldn’t remember them, I wouldn’t learn them, thus I wouldn’t have discovered them. So blogging has now become one of the top priorities on my daily ‘To-Do List’ as I embark on my journey to keep my mind awake to the discoveries that lay ahead.

However, I know I’m not going to have the luxury of being connected on my laptop everyday when the journey actually begins, which is when I imagine to have a lot more of these inspirational moments coming and going quickly, probably more than I can handle and definitely more than I can blog about. Which is why I’ve decided to get myself a little pocket journal to capture as much moments as possible on the go.

At first, you might be like me and question the difference of taking a notebook, a journal, or even just a pen and paper. I certainly started off by searching for the cheapest notebook on ebay, but as I continued scrolling, the more I started noticing the different types of notebooks out there, and started daydreaming the different use cases that I can picture myself in with them, and suddenly a rush of good-feeling. Yes, that’s the moment of inspiration.

After spending about an hour of scrolling through pages and pages online, I think I’ve finally found one that hits the spot. The Midori Traveler’s Notebook

The Midori Notebook seems highly regarded, or at least frequently talked about amongst seasoned travellers, or within the small but prominent underground scene of adventure journalism (Yes, It’s there).  Apparently the paper quality is great for writing, the leather cover ages quite nicely as you travel, and the design of the journal allows for owners to customise it to their own liking with ease with things like attachable papers, folders, photo inserts, zip bags, etc, all made possible with just one piece of string,  it’s simple and concise, I see it as an art form of pure engineering brilliance.

In the end, however, it is just a notebook, and I admit  feeling embarrassed for spending hours looking at reviews and user feedback, but the more I researched, the more inspired and curious I got, and slowly I started understanding why there is a hidden niche market of journal fanatics across the world.

Now I’m convinced that a diary/notebook/journal essentially becomes a part of you when you’re travelling, becoming imbued into the characteristic of each person’s individuality, your one and only companion that sees everything you see, ages as you do, and develops as you go.

The cost was 3240 Yen, about $30 USD. Shipped together with various accessories and customisable parts, I ended up spending about 7000 Yen. Currently on it’s way from Tokyo. Expect to see this journal in action soon, for notes, sketches, ideas and discoveries!

How I will save up $25k in 4 months

MONEY SAVING ANATOMY 101 

This was the part where I wished I had prepared much earlier. There’s no denying that you will need money to travel for 12+ months. How much? That’s totally dependant on your travel style and where you go, but I budgeted my trip (being conservative) to be roughly $25k.  If you want to see an example of how I calculated this, please leave a comment and I’ll share a doc with you privately.

The idea of the trip only became real to me when I told my manager a few months before D-Day, giving me just 4 months to make $25k. To make things worse, I didn’t have any savings large enough to even buy a round the world ticket. For years I lived by comfortably, going out, eating out, drinking heaps, buying things, without ever thinking about saving up, which I think is the symptom of being too comfortable. With the high cost of living in Sydney, plus a mortgage to pay in Melbourne, I don’t have a salary to net $25k in 4 months. Even as I type this I am nowhere near that amount. So how am I going to get it? I did a quick google search…

Aim at the sun, and you may not reach it; but your arrow will fly far higher than if aimed at an object on a level with yourself
– J. Howes

Okay Mr.Howes, that’s inspirational but no where near rational. How about:

Make a plan, put them on a spreadsheet, and do it.

I did a bit of research into my cashflow and I was surprised how much money I could save by downshifting a few notches, and spending money on just the bare essentials (just like packing). Not only that, how much I could make by selling stuff, renting out stuff, or quite simply getting a part time weekend job.

Quite literally, that’s what I’m doing now. I’m not going out, not dining out, not drinking beer each night, stopped smoking, changed banks, selling heaps of crap and working a weekend job to save as much as possible to reach this target.

Another valuable lesson learned: Money is hard to make, so why not put as much hard work to save?

If you put my average weekly expenses on a scale of 1 to 10, I’ve shifted from about an 8 to a mere 2, and increased my cash inflow by about 15%.

If I carry on at this pace for 4 months, I may not hit it, but I’ll be closer than ever to reach $25k.  One thing I forgot to mention was the extra cash you get from the annual leave/vacation/holiday pay out when you quit your job (which applies for most countries), and also things like the deposit/bond from your leasing property that you get back, as well as tax refunds (if you’re in Australia) where you can claim back a portion of withheld income tax.

Anyway, the point that I wanted to get across, is that things may seem out of reach at first and we often give up at that instant. But if we put our minds to it, persist, and explore every possible angle, there may be things that we’ve simply overlooked. Our mind is strong enough to come up with ideas, but only if we really wanted it to.

I think I’ve finally understood the true power of setting a goal and working towards it. I hear it all the time, but could never apply it until now. It’s a powerful stimulant to move you forward, as long as the goal you set is something that you really really want.

All these wonderful new learnings before the journey even started. Ernest Hemingway, you are one wise man…

[Now, let the Journey unfold..]

1 year travel with a 40L backpack? It’s not as hard as you think if you know this one advise. maybe.

PACKING ANATOMY 101 Mountain Design - Escape 40L

As soon as I made the decision to leave and started thinking of what to pack for my 12+ months journey, I already began learning things.

Sure, “pack lite” but that’s a given statement, not a formula.

Initially I underestimated how difficult it would be to only pack what I considered to be the bare essentials. Although I’ve always tried this  concept each time I took vacations, 100% of the time I would end up with a suitcase load of crap with more than half the items never being  used.

Not only that, I underestimated how much space a pair of jeans or a pair of jacket takes up when stuffed into the backpack. This becomes a problem when you know that you’re stepping into the  Himalayan winter right after South East Asia.

The break-through came when I met a guy from one of the camping stores who mentioned that his favourite fabric to wear is Merino Wool. Naturally I have no interest whatsoever about fabrics, but after researching more about this Merino Wool, I learnt that they are naturally anti-microbial, fast drying, lightweight, packable, and great for temperature control in both hot and cold climates.

What this meant was, I don’t need to wash as often as cotton or synthetics since it will not build up smell, lightweight so it won’t add on weight, packable so it takes less space, dries fast since it wicks out moisture in vapour instead of liquid form, keeps me cool in warm places but warm in cold places. Simple right? But I never knew about these things and how this could significantly reduce the amount of clothes I’d need from 7 or more T-shirts to like 3. More importantly, it motivated me to research on almost every clothing materials out there, their effects, the science behind performance, ultimately making me better at picking the most essential items to bring. Not just clothes, but bags, towels, shoes, and packing cubes.

Mountain Design - Escape 40L
          Mountain Design – Escape 40L

Don’t research quantity, research quality and prioritise functionality and science.

So, the ski jacket was out, the cotton hoodies were out, the synthetic T-shirts and underwears were out. All items that I initially planned to pack was becoming less and less essential, all thanks to the discovery of Merino.

The lead up to what may be the biggest decision of my life

This has been by far the most difficult thing that I’ve ever attempted.

The master plan of where I was going for the next 12+ months, how I was going to explain to my parents that I’m leaving the best company to work for in the world, how I was going to survive without a steady income, without knowing 10 different languages, with only 4 months to save up, and pack 10 years worth of possession into a 40L backpack and venture out into the unknown.

It’s a very frightening thought I must admit. There were countless times when I thought of turning back and give in to the comfort of Google to be on track to lead a successful career (See Why I Left Google).

But just as I was mentally preparing and tossing up the options, I had an opportunity to go on a 10 day liveaboard scuba diving trip at one of the most remotest oceans of Indonesia called KOMODO. This trip played a pivotal part in finalising my decision, giving me ample time to reflect on how I wanted to feel
like waking up each morning, and how it became clear to me that life existed outside of Google.

 

By the time I stepped foot back onto land, after spending more time being surrounded by fishes than humans, the kueno bug had grown so large inside of me that it finally found a voice of it’s own. On the first day back on the job, I told my manager that I’m quitting.

[see Why I Left Google]