I don’t miss working 9-5 and so far, it has been an incredible experience. I know I’m ‘living the dream’ but from the outside, the grass always seems greener. In reality, life in paradise isn’t always perfect, it has it’s challenges and I’m learning a lot about myself.
Here’s what I’ve faced and learnt on the road so far:
When we arrived at our first apartment, the decor was so drab and mismatched. Seriously, it looked like a blind old lady had decorated it. Naturally, I went onto the ikea website and filled up a shopping cart with items to make the place look less hideous. When I looked at the cart total, I had to stop and think about it realistically. We’re on a mega tight budget and we’re only going to stay at this apartment for three months. Our bags were so jam packed and there was literally no space to travel with more.
What was I thinking? We just got rid of all of our belongings back home and I wanted to buy more fodder! I realised how much consumerism had become ingrained into me, nothing in the cart was essential and we could live (and did live) without it. Our money was much better spent elsewhere.
Being away from the consumerism of western holidays has been great. Just think about the lead up to Christmas and Easter. Christmas here was just a bit of tinsel up at a bar on the day of (or still up from the year prior), and I didn’t see a single easter egg. It’s become so normalised for people to waste ridiculous amounts of money giving each other crap that you don’t want or need. I’d much rather receive a skype call and spend some time with the ones I love than have an object that I feel obliged to keep because it was a gift.
Two years before we started this adventure we had a big lifestyle change and lost a significant amount of weight (~50kg between us). Being slimmer when travelling is SO much easier. I have much more energy and heat tolerance – and hooray to no chafing or squishing into seats on planes & buses.
In our first three months we were living like we were on holiday. We’re in a land where it’s perfectly acceptable to have fried chicken for breakfast, lunch and dinner; and it’s cheaper to get a cocktail than a gin & soda… so it quickly caught up with us. When my limited wardrobe started becoming too small, I realised I needed to get things back under control. It’s hard though – almost everything in Southeast Asia comes with carbs, is fatty, or is high in sugar (or all of the above!). We’re constantly surrounded by temptation, especially being in a foreign country with new things to try. But, I don’t want our hard work over the last few years go to waste. It’s important to make a conscious effort to watch what we consume. A good reminder is; it’s easier to control what goes in than what goes out!
Exercise was planned into my daily life back home, but when you’re on the road, every day’s different. Although I do a lot more incidental exercise here, it’s not enough and I need to push myself to do dedicated exercise. One of the few personal items I brought with me is my yoga mat so I can do pilates/barre workouts at home. In addition to keeping fit, working out has been the best solution for dealing with an aching neck and shoulders from the rock hard beds here.
When I’m travelling, I’m constantly being asked “Where are you from?”, “What do you do?”, and for such simple questions, they get me stumped. I was a confident woman before leaving on this adventure, but in meeting people, there’s continual theme of ‘who are you?’. When you don’t have a solid answer for these simple questions, it can wear you down. It makes me question who I am, and has chipped away at my confidence.
I’m a New Zealander who has lived in Melbourne for the last 10 years. When I’m asked ‘Where are you from?’ I’m torn between saying I’m a kiwi or from Australia, because Melbourne is just as much home to me as NZ. Traveling as a couple, we’re often answering for the both of us than individually. So, I find it’s just easier to just say Australia. To me, that answer is just as right as saying that I’m kiwi, but each time it makes me stop and think about my identity.
“What to you do?” is the one that bothers me the most though. I feel this question needs me to wrap up what I do into a particular box. I’m new to this nomadic life. I’m not a specialist or expert to confidently say that I’m a ‘blogger’ or ‘digital nomad’. When neither of these ‘titles’ are financially supporting our travels, am I just a ‘traveller’?
Lastly, my visual appearance was a huge part of my identity. I was a pinup girl with bright red hair who lived in dresses. The upkeep for vibrant hair when you’re on the road and swimming constantly is pretty much impossible, so I’ve let the red wash away and go back to blonde. Plus, I traded my feminine wardrobe for more practical and heat tolerant activewear. I miss getting dolled up, but at the same time, being able to leave the house in under 10 minutes is great. And my skin is loving being makeup free!
Discovering who I am and what I want to be has definitely been my biggest challenge. I’m still working on it, and just need to remind myself that I don’t need to have answer that puts me in a box. What’s most important is that I am honest with myself and happy.
I didn’t expect to feel homesick this early into our travels. I miss normality back home like catching up with friends for brunch and going out to a bar with good music (can someone please remove reggae from the face of this earth?!).
Homesickness is strange. I’ve been open with Steve about how I’m feeling because it’s important that we let each other know what’s on our minds. I know it’s been hard for him to hear, and he has seriously asked if I want to go home. Honestly, part of me does. It seems much easier to go back home to the life I know back home. But that’s ‘the grass is always greener’ scenario rearing it’s head. While I say “part of me does”, there’s a hell of a lot more of me that doesn’t want to.
If I were to go home now, I know I’d have regret. We spent so long saving and planning this adventure. I don’t want to throw this opportunity away when there’s so much more I want to see and do. I need to stop looking back and continue to embrace every moment. The challenges of living on a shoestring budget and not having the financial freedom to do everything we want is hard. Especially when it’s more expensive here than our research indicated. My friends, family and routine will still be there when I go back, but when will I get the chance to explore Southeast Asia like this again?