Reality: The Count-down is On!

It’s official. In exactly two months from today, we will be on our way to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Two months from today marks the true ‘beginning’ of our journey; we are so excited and, not gonna lie – a little bit nervous about what we will experience… but at the same time, we couldn’t be happier.
Our to do list is growing, but at the same time, we’re starting to tick more and more off as the “important tasks” like applying for visas, booking remaining flight paths, organising travel insurance and enduring those all important travel injections, start getting done.
Em started a packing list yesterday, and quickly felt overwhelmed by the amount of stuff we’re going to have to carry around. “Seriously, do we even need that?!” is becoming a familiar question…
Jake’s baby – aka his car, is up for sale. Anyone looking for an amazing, almost new, well looked after car?
We stored a lot of our goods already at our parents homes, and our wardrobes are looking bare due to the large amount of clothing we culled recently.
Yet, we are still (well, Em is – Jake might have some slight hoarding tendencies), overwhelmed by the amount of stuff we still actually own! Again – “Seriously, do we even need that?!”
It starts becoming real, doesn’t it, when the count down is on. With just a few more shifts at work, resignation letters start getting written, our life starts getting packed into boxes and the car is up for sale. And fuck! – we bought daggy travel sandals! You don’t get much more real than that in our opinion! (We kid, we kid…)
The next two months are going to go so quickly, and there feels like so much to still organise. And then we start thinking about how much we are going to miss our family, friends, our annual trip to Wangaratta Jazz Festival we love so much and Melbourne in general.
Bittersweet though – we’re about to embark on a journey of a lifetime: and without a reminder of home, what would travel be? We know to, and are reminded to appreciate everything even more so.
We can’t wait for this trip – it’s been our main topic of conversation and, for the last 6 months our lifestyles have been adjusted to scrimp and save, and work towards and for this trip.
We want this.
We know it’s going to be so amazing, so challenging, so life changing in so many ways – we’re just not sure yet how. There in lies the beauty of travel, and we are so excited, and feel so privileged to be able to do this.
2 months.
8.5 weeks.
59 days.
59 sleeps.
1416 hours.
…and counting down.
Malaysia, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Borneo… Here we come.
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Daggy Sandals, Baggy Pants… and Nepal thrown in for good measure!

Jake and I spent 6 weeks wondering about Cambodia, Laos and Thailand in a pair of black Havianas, that by the end of the trip, were pretty well worn, filthy and on their last legs. Not to mention; our feet were in poor form after hiking, biking, waterfalls, dirty backroads, 12-hour walking sessions and god-knows what else we stepped in, with only little pieces of rubber to protect our feet…

In the last part of our trip, Jake broke one of his thongs (flip-flops/slippers – we call them ‘thongs’ in Australia) and we spent a good few hours wondering about the little market bazaars trying to find him a new pair. Normally, this would’ve been an easy task, but when you have size 16 feet, even more so, when you have size 16 feet in Asia, this task was impossible, and he spent a week or so walking around with his heels hanging off the back of the (tiny in comparison) thongs. Em found it funny, Jake probably just found it uncomfortable.

So yesterday, we made an exectutive decision to buy those daggy heavy-duty travel sandals. Yes, we know, we know… We know we’re not the only farangs to be wandering about in these bad boys around Asia town, but it didn’t stop us from feeling like we’d aged about 30 plus years in a matter of minutes… Em’s refusal to try them on without socks didn’t help to make the fashion statement any more stylish.

The boy at the shop laughed and kindly said “you know, you are welcome to try them without the socks on…”
Em’s face was priceless; a look of horror, as was her response “…I’m sorry, I just can’t…” Em hates feet with a passion, and the suggestion of taking her socks off was akin to that of being asked to get naked infront of everyone in the shop.

Still, after winging, moaning, deliberating over ‘should we, shouldn’t we…’, Em laughing/dry reaching at the sight of Jake in a pair of sandals, and complaining that ‘I never thought I’d do this, I never thought I’d ever wear these…’, yes, we bought them. Em claims she heard her wallet crying as she handed over her VISA.

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Sandas in hand, we walked silently amongst the busy shoppers. No doubt, we were in shock. We know, we know – slight over-exaggeration, but true. With that, it was on to our next stop – to buy some travel pants. Em got a pair that ticked every box.

Quick Drying? Tick.
Light Weight? Tick.
Non Crease? Tick.
Suitable for travel/hiking? Tick.
Daggy? Tick.
Ugly? Tick.
Baggy and Un-flattering? Tick.
Unattractive? Tick.

Jake bought some new underwear; his friend’s wise words echoing in his mind. “You’re going to India, man. Sometimes, underwear means the difference between getting to the toilet in time, or feeling the shit trickle down your leg.” – Charming, yes. True, yes, probably. We better stock up… sigh.

With the shopping done, feeling defeated and happy with our purchases at the same time (read: Hideous shoes to make us look even more like rich farangs, baggy pants for India to hide Em’s legs from unwanted attention, and underwear to help control things just that little bit more when we are shitting ourselves…), we went home.

Whist strutting about in our sandals, Jake in his new underwear and Em in her baggy pants […what!? You don’t do that…?] Em had a sudden thought.

Why aren’t we going to Nepal? What reason do we have not to? We’re there, near the border, why not just skip accross for a week or so?

So with a little more strutting about in our sandals and baggy pants/underwear, a little research and then dinner out at ‘Old Faithful’ with our friends who have been to India and Nepal in the past, it was decided what we should do.

So, cheers guys! Jake and Em are proud to announce the following:

We own daggy sandals that scream ‘rich farang’…
Em owns a pair of quick-dry, non-crease, light-weight, hideous baggy pants…
We’re well stocked-up on underwear for our trip…

And were off to Nepal! Fuck yeah! Country number 8 – Welcome to our list…

Car for Sale: The Preparations Continue

With 62 days to go before we depart, this is my first solo post – an exciting prospect.
As our planning continues to progress, the check list exponentially increases and the myriad of tasks grows, rather than dwindles.

Well, mine does at least. I’m evidently not the best executioner of tasks, although proficient in planning. Some of the tasks I have been presented with are so simple yet when it comes to doing them… when I think of them it is not the best time to do them, but when it is, it doesn’t come to mind. It is an unfortunate paradox, one that you would imagine given my job would not exist… or I’m lazy.

Alas, however, I have finally put my car on the market. This is a sad time for me, it is the first brand new car I have purchased, it was the first car I bought for my preferences; so you could say that I am attached to the car. It is a brilliant little hatchback and to drive it takes me to a happy place. To see it go will invoke a sadness    and sorrow akin to a break-up or loosing a close friend because they are moving away. But if I don’t sell it the ramifications will be far greater. One of which will be a huge portion of savings chewed up by repayments, depreciation and an irate Em; its the last one I am worried about.

So doctors appointments are booked, car is up for sale, size 16 shoes are purchased (fingers crossed they fit) now to suss out clothing and the final visas and odds and sods.

It’s getting exciting now.

Peace, Jake

Reading: An Inspiration for Travel

I love to read; there’s nothing better, in my opinion, than a rainy night, a warm bed, snuggly PJs, a cup of chia and a damn good book.

 
Coming up to our Asia trip, I’ve been spending lots of time concentrating on travel guide books and online reading, but I still love getting absorbed into a good book.
 
At the moment I’m reading ‘Shantaram’ – a book I can not put down.
Our upcoming trip to India was the inspiration to actually read this book that I’ve been “wanting to” for so long.
 
I’m addicted. I take the 900+ page beast of a book with me everywhere: on the train, to work, to bed, for coffee, to the toilet… I can’t stop reading it.
 
And every time I learn a little more about India, the culture, the people, and the way of life, I feel a little bit more enlightened, a little bitter inspired, a little bit more terrified, and a little bit less prepared!
 
I love that this book is teaching me, changing my perspectives, growing my understanding and questioning my morals – I didn’t realise a book could do that, really.
 
Have you ever found a book like this?
 
I’ve got two months before I go away, and I’m on the hunt for more books to inspire and teach me, preferably related to travel…
 
What can you recommend?

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Travel Planning: Spectacular, spectacular Sri Lanka

Okay, so our trip is getting nearer – 68 days, to be exact! If the count down wasn’t enough, our sore arms – quite reminiscent of pin-cushions after our latest travel immunisations, are another reminder that our big trip is inching closer and closer.
Along with our growing excitement and also some nerves here and there, our ‘to-do’ list is also getting bigger and bulkier by the day. Sure, we just ticked off tetanus and the flu vaccine off our list, but we also added another 100 odd things to it, too!
As per usual, Em’s been scouring through forum after forum, blog after blog, websites, travel magazines, guide books, travel literatures and anything else even slightly related to get ideas, information, and be inspired.
We decided that, although we’re quite laid back travellers; backpackers who want to meet lots of people, go where ever we so choose, follow advice of others, find our own way etc. etc. … we need to have a rough plan.
Planning is something we’re both good at by trade; it’s a big part of our daily work and lives, so – isn’t it funny that we’re actually pretty lazy when it comes to travel. Really, we can’t work out if we’re shit at planning travel in general, or that we just hate to do it becuase we like to leave things to chance, and pre-booked accommodation gets in the way of that.
When it comes to places like mainland Malaysia, Thailand, India (to an extent), Vietnam and Singapore, we have no plans. We will probably at some stage before arrival organise the first night or two of accommodation and leave the rest to chance… However, places like Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Malaysia Borneo, we’ve read and heard over and over from various sources – you need to have a plan.
So. We might as well start with our first major destination – Sri Lanka. Spectacular, spectacular Sri Lanka. It’s a country that we didn’t really know too much about – instead it lured us in with its beautiful scenery, walking trails, tea plantations, lucious beaches, tantalising food and friendly looking faces.
After reading and hearing from a number of people, it seems as though (and correct us, if we’re wrong) budget accommodation can book up reasonably well in advance in certain areas, leaving the more pricey guesthouses/hotels as the only options. As long-term travellers, we need to be living on the cheap whenever possible, which means we can’t really risk, nor do we want to, have to stay at the Hilton or the likes of, night after night. We’ve read this is also the same sort of situation for Myanmar, and Malaysia Borneo…
Another reason we want to plan some of the places we’re going to, is becuase we have a limited time there and want to make sure we get the most out of it; to get to the places we want to go. This of course can also be done without prior planning, and we fully intend to work this way in some of the other countries we are heading to, but again – we want to book accommodation in advance, and that requires planning the places you’ll go and where, in turn, we will stay.
Sri Lanka, if we wern’t already excited, and didn’t already love it before we started really planning; well, we sure do love it now and we haven’t even touched down! In less than three months we’ll be travelling through Sri Lanka, and we simply can not wipe the smiles off our faces every time we think about it.
Spectacular, spectacular Sri Lanka; we can’t wait to meet you!
What is your travel style? Do you like to plan ahead or see where your journey takes you?

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

You’ll look up and down streets. Look ’em over with care.
About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.”
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.

And you may not find any
you’ll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you’ll head straight out of town.

It’s opener there
in the wide open air.

Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.

And when things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.

OH!
THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!

You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.

You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don’t
Because, sometimes, you won’t.

I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.

You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You’ll be left in a Lurch.

You’ll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you’ll be in a Slump.

And when you’re in a Slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…

…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

NO!
That’s not for you!

Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.

With banner flip-flapping,
once more you’ll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!

Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. there are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You’ll be famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.

Except when they don’t.
Because, sometimes, they won’t.

I’m afraid that some times
you’ll play lonely games too.
Games you can’t win
’cause you’ll play against you.

All Alone!
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you’ll be quite a lot.

And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.

But on you will go
though the weather be foul
On you will go
though your enemies prowl
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike
and I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.

You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)

KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!

So…
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss.

Amazing how a children’s poem can move an adult to tears. This poem has always touched my heart and soul, I adore these words.

Budgets, Bookings, Backpacks and Borneo!

It’s ticked over to April and that means there is less than three months until we depart! It’s actually becoming quite daunting to think this is all happening so soon! We leave for our big trip in a mere 88 days!

There is a lot to organise, and we just gave our selves a whole lot more to plan, becuase as of today we have added Malaysia, Borneo to our itinerary! Exciting stuff!

Our new itinerary is as follows:
Melbourne – Malaysia, KL – Sri Lanka – India – Malaysia, KL (transit) – Burma – Thailand – Vietnam – Malaysia, KL (transit) – Singapore – Malaysia, Borneo: Kuching – Malaysia, Borneo: Kota Kinabalu – Malaysia, KL – Melbourne.

It feels as though we made all these ‘to-do’ lists months back but haven’t really made much more progress since then – like we made all the plans and haven’t put anything into action…
However, that isn’t actually quite the case.

Here’s a bit of an update as to where we are with our current travel plans. It’s interesting to see what we have actually done, and what we still need to do. It feels like all we’ve done in the past few months is add to the list, rather than cross things off – it keeps growing!

Important Stuff:
– Open a bank acount and commit to a set amount to deposit each week
– Start a budget – a work in process.
– Save like never before – a work in process.
– Em: finish your studies before June! – Two electives complete, two half-complete, and one still to start.
– Jake: finish your thesis before April! – He’s being a big slacko.

Travel Stuff:
– Travel Insurance – We’re looking into it.
– Get more passport photos taken for Visas, and to have on hand 
– Organise Visas, apply for visas, pay for visas, get visas – This month we’re onto it, and we’ll get our Vietnamese visa whilst in Bangkok.
– Book the remaining flight paths 
– Read like crazy every travel book, forum, guide, article etc… No, Jake, that does not include Manga! – A work in progress.
– Photocopy doccuments for family members and each other.
– Give flight itinerary to family members.
– Read through guide books we purchased, and start planning the routes we want for each country
– Start planning and researching and finding out about the places we want to go to in each country.
– Start making a general time line
– Make a budget for when we are overseas – A work in progress.
– Look at the travel gear we have, and then work out what travel gear we still need. 
– Jake needs new travel shoes. And should probably stock up on thongs/flip-flops-jandals (whatever you call them) for the duration of the trip… size 16/ EU 51 feet are hard to accomodate for when buying shoes in Asia…
– Finalise a Packing list – packing list will be started on this week.
– Pack backpacks

Medical Stuff:
– Dentist Checkups for us both – booked!
– Orthodontist Checkup for Em
– Optometrist appointment for Em
– Travel Doctor Appointment (February)
– Any outstanding jabs to be had, must be endured – Japanese Encephalitis, Flu Shot, Tetanus: Appointments need to be booked for April/May
– Prepare and organise all medication for travel, along with doctors letters etc. Photocopy this stuff too.
– ‘Build’ up a first aid kit
– Em – begin vetetarian diet one month before departure, book appointment with dietition.

House Stuff:
– Organise the sale of Jake’s car – hopefully starting this process this week.
– Sort through our belongings and try to get rid of the stuff that is clogging up so much of our space
– Cull our clothing and wardrobe; give to charity.
– Store our good stuff – thanks mum!
– Try and sell the useless stuff – what we don’t actually need
– Give to the salvo’s the stuff we don’t want to keep and are too lazy to sell… and of course, mostly because we are generous people.
– Finalise and cease renting

Other Stuff:
– Redirect Mail
– Mobile phones – whats happening with them?
– Call Plan International – organise a visit to Em’s sponsor child in India – in the process.
– Buy AU netbook plug
– Quit our jobs
– Keep going to gym – ….shit.
– Em: Have an early birthday party
– Organise a going away celebration with family and friends somewhere.

Items to buy before travel:
– Steri-pen
– Mosquito Net
– Hiking Shoes for Jake
– Adaptor Plugs
– A decent drink bottle for Emily
– New thongs/flip-flops for our trip
– Jake: New pants and shirts for travelling
– Emily: New prescription glasses and sunglasses

Over the next 88 days we have a lot of stuff to keep us busy!… With a bit of luck, we might get most of it sorted!