5 Days to Go: Moving house, backpacks, minus-degree temperatures, flight cancellations and last-minute panic-mode!

We have five days left of normality – if you can even call it that.

In less than a week, we’ll be smiling and sweating in the sweltering 30+ degree heat; thousands of kilometres, and a world away from home.
Or, will we be ‘home’?

Either way, it’s surreal, exciting, and – let’s be honest; we’re in a bit of a tizz; panic mode has set in as we juggle moving out of our house, our last few days of work, packing, organising, finalising, seeing as much of our friends and family as possible and trying to appreciate our last few days of an absolutely bitter-freezing Melbourne Winter.

…And a lot of cups of Milo and Vegemite on toast: we’re going to miss our Aussie comforts.

While our alarm clocks keep screaming at 6am, the peak-hour traffic has us stuck amongst blankets fogs, the temperatures keep plummeting closer and closer to zero, and there seems to be more and more to do; we’re trying to appreciate our last few days here before we head off to Asia.

We had a garage sale and offloaded way too many items of clothing and a heap of other crap that was clogging our drawers and lives.

We moved out of our share house over the weekend, and said goodbye to our house mates over “dirty pizza” by the open fire.

We began packing our backpacks; sorting hiking socks and sleeping sacks, mosquito nets and zip-off pants, ugly sandals and insect repellents, and baby wipes and money belts.

We’ve spent hours (or, Em has) on the phone trying to re-shedule cancelled flights….

We’re spending our evenings with our much-loved family and friends; enjoying too many delicious dinners out and eating way too much chocolate.

We’re slowly crossing off our to-do list; but only half as quickly as we seem to be adding to it.

We’ve still got flights to book, things to buy, documents to organise, things to pack, people to see, work to do, studies to complete and…and…
…there just seems like too much to think about for the 5 days we have left!

Oh!… and did I mention panic?

This is it.

The next time you hear from us; our feet will be firmly in place (in our ugly hiking sandals) on our Asian stomping ground.

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Last Minute Preparations: Our Asian Adventure is about to begin!

17 days from today we’ll be high up in the sky, en-rounte to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

We’re so excited!
…but some how our nerves have set in and are clouding those previoulsy overwhelmingly excited feelings.

Instead of focusing on the things we’re looking forward to, and the things we ‘can’t wait’ to experience; we’re more focused on how little time we have left to get things done and to organise things and the people and things we will miss.

We’re not being negative; it’s just that naturally, a mild form of panic has started to set in.
Buried under this fog of uncertainty, is the realisation that in 17 days, our lives are to change completely.

11 more days left of work at our work place.
…Then that’s it.

1 more week left of living in our cosy share house in Little Asia.
…1 more week until we have to move out!…
…1 more week left sleeping in our most adored, comfortable bed!
…1 more week until we are back living at our parents’ homes.

16 more days of ‘normality’ and comfort zones.
…Western toilets.
…English speaking people.
…Our own home/space.
…Understanding the local customs

16 more days of Winter before and “endless summer.”

16 more days of personal comfort.
…Fluffy Towels and fresh clean sheets.
…Wardrobes full of clothing.
….Mobile phones.
…A kitchen to cook in whenever we choose.
…A car.

16 more days of convenience.
…Fast internet
…Knowledge of our surroundings.
…Being able to access/buy whatever we need/want.
.                                                                   …Living in a technologically advanced society.
…A steady income.
…No need to carry all personal belonging with us at all times.

Alternatively:

17 days until we’re in Asia.
…Fulfiling our travel
…Learning
…Experiencing new and different things.
…Pushing our comfort zones
…Sharing.
…Meeting new people and making new friends
…Creating memories
…Trying new things
…Exploring.
…Sweating in the heat.
…Facing fears.
…Enjoying ourselves.
…Eating incredibly foods.
…Educating ourselves about our world.
…Living out of back packs and on a tight budget.

…Travelling.

We’re nervous and overwhelmed about the big changes that are happening so soon, but, above all; we want this – we’ve worked and dreamed and planned for it, and it’s almost here.

So, with our last minute, final preparations in place…

Our Asian Adventure is about to begin.

Our Top 10 Picks: Ways to Save Money for Travel

To save as much as we can before we head overseas, we have been following these “rules” reasonably religiously. 

Feel free to add any of your own ideas and suggestions.

 
1. Live in Share Housing: 
Although not for everyone, and not without it’s annoyances sometimes, share housing can really be great! 
Rent and bills are super cheap in comparison to living alone, meaning you can save more money instead of paying off someone else’s mortgage. It’s also an opportunity to make new friends!
 
2. Cook at home instead of eating out:
We’re not the best when it comes to following this rule, but we have improved immensely since we began saving. We usually eat out a couple of nights a week, but we eat cheaply (around $10 per meal) – our reasoning is that it can sometimes work out to be just as cheap to eat out, and you don’t have to wash up!
 
3. Shop at the markets instead of the supermarket
We hate shopping at the supermarket.
We shop at the local markets and the price difference is unbelievable. The quality and range of produce is so much better, and it’s a great experience to just wander around the bustling markets. Going towards the end of the day means there are even bigger discounts.
Every bit we save means the more we can do while overseas.
 
4. Stop buying coffee:
Although we haven’t stopped buying coffee out completely, we’ve cut down on it A LOT! Jake buys coffee beans and makes his own, and Em has a ‘keep-cup’ she basically carries at all times. $3.50 here and there might not seem like a lot at the time, but in the long-run it adds up to a huge amount. Making your own drinks saves you so much money, and you don’t miss out.
 
5. Stop buying stuff for the sake of buying stuff:
We don’t buy anything really unless we need it these days. Our “big spending” in the last 6 months has been on plane tickets, immunisations ($280 each for Japanese Encephalitis…ouch!), travel gear, visas and insurance… There’s simply not anything we need, and as our focus is travel, fancy shoes and other things don’t seem as important.
 
6. Go to Free events:
We live in Melbourne, which means there is ALWAYS something on that’s interesting, fun and free.
We still pay to go out to shows and gigs occasionally, but cutting down and choosing to go to a select few means we enjoy and appreciate our outings more. Going to free events means we experience things we might not have otherwise if we weren’t consciously making an effort.
 
7. Have a budget: 
We really are not great savers. We don’t have a weekly budget or put away a specific amount each week… But in saying that, we knew from the beginning, roughly what the bare minimum amount of money was that we could depart Australia with.
From there, we knew how much we had to work towards, and we decided to put away whatever we could each week. We’ve saved a lot more than we were aiming for already, and we’ve still enjoyed luxuries and treats like coffee and concerts along the way!
 
8. Know the Worth of your Dollar:
We know how far one Australian dollar can stretch in the countries we are going to be visiting… And it can stretch a bloody long way. A $5 drink is one or two nights accomodation OR meals for both of us OR transportation to another place OR a fair few beers. Knowing the worth of our dollar makes us realise that even small amounts of money we ‘waste’ can make a real difference to our trip.
 
9. Use what you have:
We have everything we need, really. We haven’t bought new clothes this year – last years clothing is still perfect. We are using to the stuff that has been sitting in the back of our pantry, instead of buying other foods. We use things for longer, and have also started using things we’d put away for a “rainy day.”
 
10. Cut down on alcohol:
We’re not big drinkers in the first place, but buying alcohol in Melbourne bars and pubs can empty your wallet really quickly! We drink very occasionally, and when we do, we usually buy it at a liquor store and take it around to a friends place. It works out so much cheaper and we still have a great evening. Our friends and us also do other things together instead, that don’t involve drinking alcohol. 
 
All these simple things make a bit of a difference to our savings, and combined they have allowed us to save a great deal without compromising on our lifestyle.
 
What we save now, we can enjoy while abroad, and in the end, that’s our main goal.

Traumatic Visa Applications and Indian Touts

We’d been warned by many, been told horror stories and read about how traumatic it can be to try to organise and apply for an Indian Visa…

Our local travel agent warned us about the perils of applying for the Indian Visa without their help; describing the paper work as confusing, the wait-times as ridiculously long, the ques of people horrendous, and the embassy as so incredibly strict that without a travel agents signature of your approved itinerary, you’re bound to be rejected. We were encouraged to pay a $70.00 “convenience fee” each for them to organise our visas for us, as well  cover the extra cost of money orders necessary to pay for the $97.00 visas.

No thanks.

Those 160-odd dollars could stretch a looooong way in Asia… and if we can’t handle disorganised crowds of people, or expect constant convenience at all times, well.. we’re basically fucked in India, aren’t we?

One friend of ours warned of the crowds of people we would encounter at the Melbourne Indian Embassy, and staff so picky about application forms that they will do anything to make your application process more difficult.
Another told us we’d left it too late and would most likely have to pay a large fee to have it processed in a shorter amount of time.

We brushed off their caution, and decided to do it our way. If we can’t handle the visa application and the confines of the embassy, again, we may as well just give up now.

So we filled out the application online which was pretty straight forward.
We simply saved the application forms to PDF format and printed them, signing our names on the dotted line at the bottom of the forms. We each cut out a crisp, new passport photo depicting our mug-shot faces, and ticked off the nessecary check-list saying we had collected all the required documents.
Now we just needed to march ourselves down to the embassy with our paperwork, passports and a whopping $97.00…

So simple! Too simple…Where was all that hassle? Surely, that can’t be right!? The worst must be yet to come.

Monday morning, 8:30am, we stood silent in the lift as it took us to the 12th floor – to the Indian Visa Application Office. We were anticipating huge crowds of people, long-waits and unfriendly staff…

Ding! The lift opened and before we could even step out... “Yes, Hello Sir, yes, Hello Madame, hello, hello how are you? You want visa for India, you need passport photo? I can take, yes sir, I can take for you, only $10 per person, very cheaper than other place.”

Within the space of a few seconds in the Indian Embassy of Melbourne, yes sir, yes madame, we had been touted. Of all the things we were expecting, this had (foolishly) not crossed our minds. We had to smile.
Fuck! …already being touted and we haven’t even left the state, let a lone the country!… and we found that in itself reasonably shocking… we better get used to that shit quick smart and nip that unsettled feeling in the bud.

Escaping the tout, we walked into the empty, clean and silent visa office. We took a ticket from the self-service machine on the wall, and took a seat. Our number was called almost immediately, and together we walked to the desk… both wondering when the traumatic experience was going to start. Perhaps now?

“Hello. Forms and passports, please… You’re applying for a tourist visa? Okay… Jake you’ve made a small error on the form here, I will just change it now for you… Okay, It will be $97 per person… Can you sign here?… and here?… Cash or card? Paying seperately or together?… Okay, card please…”

Still so strangely, scarily… simple. No hassles. What is going on?… We’re still waiting for the drama to unfold.

With that, we were told our passports would be ready within 5 business days, and we would recieve a text message and an email letting us know when we could collect them. Within the space of a 5 whole, pleasent, pain-free minutes, we were done. We waved goodbye to our passports, $194.00 and to the man at the desk.

As we left the building I think both of us were in shock. Where the fuck was all that supposed garunteed commotion, hassle, bickering, inconvenience and turmoil? We’d mentally prepared ourselves for all of the above, as well as a two hour wait!

As we walked towards the lift feeling victorious, the tout came out of no where again, I guess hopeful we’d forgotten our passport photos afterall and required his very cheaper service. Thankfully, before he had time to pounce on us, the lift dinged again and some fresh prey began to exit into the corridor.
Mr. Touty no longer had time for us.

Just over 24 hours after we applied for our Indian visa, we’ve been notified our application is currently being processed. We’re still trying to figure out when the worst will come, but, somehow, it seems the worst of it was the smiling Mr. Touty.

Oh, India; we like you already.

 

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…