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.

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.

Asia here we come, right back where we started from…

One month from today will be our “last day in Australia for a while.”

4 and a half weeks. 
31 days.
744 hours.
44,640 minutes.

Who’s counting?

It’s a strange feeling to know that in in just a few short weeks, everything we know – our comfort zones and safety nets – will be stripped from us. We’ve had so long to prepare, yet it still hasn’t sunk in.
What will we miss? What won’t we miss?…

It’s a big bag of mixed emotions when we think about how we feel about departing Australia,  and “going home” [in a sense] to Asia.
There is this extreme excitement that is, some days, simply uncontrollable. We frolic about, skipping rather than walking, with this joy that I can not explain. 
Other days, we feel filled with a worry, or a fear of the unknown; For our health, for our safety… 
We’re nervous too. It’s hard to pin-point exactly what that’s about.
And, we’re a little stressed: We’ve got 4 VERY busy weeks left of work, a house to move out of, our lives to pack up into boxes and backpacks, and a heap of loose ends to tie-up.

I look forward to soon being able to write non-mundane, rather; exciting and interesting blog posts about fascinating places.

Even more so, I simply look forward to experiencing Asia.

I have a feeling this trip is going to open up doors that right now, neither of us can imagine.
We’re off to Asia again, which in a way, feels like where we started from.

 

Bad Drivers, Strangers, Couch Surfing and a Little Bit of Trust

You’ve just got to have a little bit of trust in them.

Trust. It’s a beautiful and daunting concept. Hard to gain, easy to lose – isn’t that how it goes?
But, what about when you travel? Does it become a whole new concept? I think so.
Sometimes, you don’t get a choice… And sometimes, that can work out to be better than you ever imagined.

When it comes to travel, I am constantly reminded to think “You’ve just got to have a little bit of trust in them.”

And it’s true, for the most part. I don’t believe you can travel, if you are not open to trusting others.
Travelling, [especially backpacking], and trusting people work together.

I’m not suggesting you walk blindly into any situation and just hope for the best. Sometimes common sense kicks in, or maybe it’s your gut feeling that guides you, and you can tell wether it’s a situation you’re comfortable in, or if you want to get the fuck out. Sometimes you can just ‘know’ when you don’t need/want to trust, but other times… you just have to.

Like when you get into the back of a taxi, and spend the entire time with your heart beating wildly in your mouth. You don’t have a choice – if you want to cover a distance to get somewhere, then – at some point you’ll have to take transport, and trust someone to get you there safely.

Or when you check yourself into a backpacker dorm, pack your belongings into your locker and your important doccuments into your day pack… You need to be able to trust that as you sleep/shower/eat, your basic belongings  will still all be there when you come back to your room.

What about when you order a meal? Your common sense and gut instinct can help you here to an extent, but other than that – you have to trust what you eat is safe enough to not have you spending the next 4 days with your head in a toilet. As travellers – we all know this is really difficult and not always possible.

And what about people? People can be so hard to trust! How do you trust that overly-smiling tuk tuk driver when he says “yes, yes, very good, very cheap, the cheapest, yes, yes, follow me, come come, I give you so cheap.?
How do you trust that weird guy in your dorm when he asks if he can borrow your lap-top for a little while?
How do you trust a stranger in a foreign country when they say “Of course, I can help, I can guide you…”
How do you trust someone who you’ve never met before, and known only for a few short minutes, with your life?
I’ve been in all of those situations, and sometimes, you just have to trust.

Sad but true, I’ve found that occasionally when people offer me something generously in a foreign country – somewhere in the back of my mind, I wonder why they would be so generous. It’s terrible to admit, but sometimes that little part of my brain telling me to be cautious starts buzzing, alerting me to the idea that “it’s too good to be true”. Is it the same for you? Sometimes, because of this, I am reminded to trust – becuase not every person is trying to take advantage of me in some way.

What about Couchsurfing? Have you ever tried that?…
Jake and I plan to couch surf in every country we visit during our trip – we’d like to do a lot of it. Not for the “saving money” side of it at all – our reason for couch surfing is to meet locals, and see a country as a traveller, rather than a tourist. Couchsurfing can help us to do that…

But, how do you trust someone you’ve never met, and agree to stay in their home, travel with them, eat with them…? There are no lockers there for your pack, no locks on your bedroom door, and you have no idea who these people are…
Yet, you click a few buttons and type a few lines, swap a few e-mails and there you go – you’ve got somewhere to stay and the possibility of a great new friendship. What a foreign concept to me, what a great one at that! You push aside all those “stranger danger” and “online safety” alarm bells ringing in your head, after years of being taught that in school, from your parents, and through the media.

Couch surfing is built on trust. Trusting your instincts, and trusting others… Thinking of strangers as friends you just haven’t met yet… And I like the concept. A lot.
There are some not so nice people in the world, true, but I think there are a lot more, a LOT more good people out there. And I want to meet some of them.
We’ve already got some couch surfing opportunities lined up, and we hope they work out for the best…

I like how travel pushes people to trust, more so than they might usually. It’s a hard concept to get my head around, but I appreciate it.
We can’t wait to travel; we can’t wait for those dingy hostels and bumpy bus rides. We can’t wait for those people we are going to meet – where ever you are. We can’t wait for our new friends, and those couches we are going to sleep on.
We’re excited to experience travel, and life, and trust is simply part of it all.

So we’re going travelling with open hearts and big smiles, and we look forward to meeting you somewhere Asia!

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.

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