“Is it safe for me to travel by myself when I have to?”

 

While in Bonneville Salt Flats.

While in Bonneville Salt Flats.

A question we heard the most. If we traveled back in time when there were no internet and gadgets, how do you think these people did it? That’s right, by going to these places and confirmed the fact themselves.

Thanks to internet, it is easier to find out about things you never knew about. But still, people who never traveled are scared of the world out there, and I found them always in state of “needing to be reassured that it is okay to travel alone”, over and over again. How do you think those travelers got that far? They ventured, they took risks and, experiences they had gained while being on the road had turned them from scared to brave. We all had our first times. We all had our first scary bus rides. We all had that time when we missed our international train and flight. Getting your first times by getting started in everything; they matter. That’s how you build courage. Nobody was born brave, it is acquired.Here are why I think you shouldn’t be scared to travel, especially by yourself or even with others.
1. Utilize the internet and phone in your hand; research, research and research.

Use Google, it’s free! Type in things you are curious about. Magically, things you want to know about places will show up! Read and comprehend, take notes and keep them close to you. Take only good advices, make the bad ones lessons. There are tons of information available online, use them. If you still want to ask advices from others, at least come prepared. I dislike it when people come to me ZERO, expecting me to shower them with everything, A to Z. Don’t be this lazy and heavily relying on others!

2. The world is not that big. 

Everywhere you go, almost certainly you’ll find things that are connected to your country. Almost instantly you’ll feel less of a stranger in a foreign land when they told you they have met lots of Malaysians traveling to their country, some of them can even speak Malay! A little advice: Choose wisely of where to go on your first trip. Don’t make a war zone as your first. Commone sense, if you chose to start bad, you’ll feel bad. You’ll also feel that the world is a scary place while it is not.

3. You are not really alone out there. 

You know some people chose to feel lonely when they are alone by not trying to make friends and using the excuse “locals are not that friendly or I found other travelers are selfish.” You later realized that the problem is you. Don’t lie when all the time you get out there, you’ll meet thousands of new people on the street who also want to make friends with you! Strike a conversation, don’t be too shy to ask someone to take pictures of you. Next thing you know, you guys are best buds! That’s my case in 100% of the time. Am I magically friendly or pretty? I am not, I just open my mouth and start talking!

4. It’s not that dangerous.

Beware of advices from people who never actually been to Thailand when they told you going there could kill you. Never trust this kind of perception, especially when they also never made research about the place! Unless that one place is obviously dangerous like a war zone, then you should take cautions. I dislike when one person write an unfair list about how not safe one place is after spending ONLY 3 days there. How dare you to trick everyone into believing it at first place?

5. Know how to stay safe.

We heard of people getting pickpocketed in Paris, being ripped off by tuk-tuk drivers in Bangkok, and having to pay for a supposedly free shoeshining on streets of Istanbul. Practice precautions when you are alone or with friends by not making fast decisions when you do not want to get ripped off. Don’t wear flashy clothing and showing your expensive camera and that you have money to afford things. Modesty could save you. Don’t take offers that sound too easy and cheap. Take them into careful considerations. You want to have fun and also save money, but when making fast decision without carefully thinking it through, your dream trip can go down the drain.
Extra point,

6. Women, trust your instict. That’s all that I can say.


Alone or not, traveling, when you do it right, it’ll benefit you and others in ways you could never imagine.

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How not to be a good traveler

Even a traveler who is constantly on the road makes mistakes sometimes. Mistakes are avoidable if you know exactly what not to do. Note that #2 is definitely unforgiving, so don’t ever try to.

We can never be perfect, but we definitely can try not to pick wrong choices.

1. Underestimating what you are getting into and what you actually are prepared for

In my case, I had underestimated Yosemite National Park, when I thought I can just go there without planning on which part of the park I should go, to see places I wanted to see. I had no idea that all those things are so far away from where we started. It was already 2pm on that day and we made our move from a place that was 4 hours away from all the attractions in Yosemite which is in the valley. On the map, those places look so near, I even underestimated that. Improper planning leads to unnecessary drive and exhaustion. I totaled an excruciating 8 hours of tiresome drive, for 3 minutes of just this photo, and putting my partner’s life at risk.

As a result, I only got to see this spot for 3 minutes because the sun was going down. Was it worthy? We still had 3 hours on the road to our final destination that day, including driving in the dark on dangerous, winding road. I got nothing but this photo and yes I was so mad at myself. I definitely learnt my lessons.

As a result, I only got to see this spot for 3 minutes because the sun was going down. Was it worthy? We still had 3 hours on the road to our final destination that day, including driving in the dark on dangerous, winding road. I got nothing but this photo and yes I was so mad at myself. I admit, I definitely learnt my lessons.

Other things you might be doing while traveling, like going to the zoo, museum, souvenirs shopping or going for a stroll on a beach don’t necessarily require concrete planning. Never ever venture out there not having any idea of what you are getting into. It might costs you your life.

2. Offending everyone by not respecting rules, customs and traditions

In the light of recent earthquake in Sabah, my home state that kills at least 16 climbers, just weeks after a group of tourist climbers posing naked on top of the mountain, also 2 tourists who got arrested and later deported for showing their rears at Angkor Wat, Cambodia, everyone of us here wants or at least thought of being THAT cool traveler, doing things differently than the others, competing to become trendsetters thus becoming popular without realizing that you are dragging unassuming people along with you. There’s nothing wrong in being different but what you do is a reflection of who you are. It is true that earthquakes in Sabah or Nepal weren’t caused by those irresponsible acts. No matter what the reasons are, locals in Sabah are angry because these supposed more-civilized nations & experienced travelers should’ve forehandedly studied cultures of the places they’re going to and that most definitely include thoroughly understanding traditions, respecting the differences in rules and not hesitating to follow the customs. Not a second you are allowed to think that the rules of one foreign place aren’t applied to you just because you’re just visiting. Just visiting is also not an excuse to misbehave. You may get naked in your own backyard because that’s your space, then what makes you think that you should get naked in other’s backyard? Oh, it’s just a mountain and that’s just another temple, no big deal, right? If you think it is okay to just get naked, showing parts of your body that you aren’t supposed to and offending millions of people, you are definitely on your way to become a NOT good traveler. You should see that coming, people do really get what they deserve, especially if they’ve done something offensive and punishable by law.

NAKED TOURISM IS NOT FOR ALL PLACES IN THE WORLD. -Photo courtesy of The Star

NAKED TOURISM IS NOT FOR ALL PLACES IN THE WORLD. What seems cool to you might be offensive to others.
-Photo courtesy of The Star

3. Relying too much on online resources

Not all itineraries made by others will suit you and your travel needs. That is why it is important to construct your own. One’s experience at one place might be different than another. This would actually leads to disappointment, when you didn’t get what you expected to get at first place. Before spending my summer 2 years ago in Venice, Italy, I’ve read lots of wonderful things about Venice and so I just went there, winging it, thinking I too will be having great times like others but in the end, I was disappointed. I didn’t get the experience that I wanted in Venice, because I was relying too much on whatever information I read online without further research. Laziness cannot be forgiven. If you put extra efforts into it, you’ll get more of good things, not only for you but also beneficial to others.

4. Being a complainer that you are

Bad habits are hard to break. Sometimes when you travel, you have to leave them at home, whether you like it or not. Home means all the comforts you can get. Outside home, you forgot that foreign places aren’t designed for you. Then you started complaining about non-existing restaurants that serve rice and why that city must have at least one restaurant that serves your favorite food otherwise you won’t survive. You complain about the sidewalks that aren’t comfortable enough to walk on but locals seem to be walking fine on those. These, and tonnes of other complaints that you sometimes listed for your own amusement, later passing it to friends, simply making your own conclusions of how bad that particular country is and why your friends too, shouldn’t go there. Next time you travel, try not to complain. The purpose of traveling to foreign places is to experience different kind of living situations of others. If you just want the comfort, stay at home. Don’t even bother discovering new places.

So what do you think you did wrong during your last travel?

“So which one is your favorite country/state?”

I found this question difficult to be answered accordingly. Although to date I only was in 20 countries, I love every country that I went to. I dubbed Thailand as my second home after the USA(not counting Malaysia because it is already in my blood) because I’ve had lived in Thailand long enough to understand the culture and know it like the back of my hand. I love Bangkok specifically, if any of you had been in either Bangkok or New York City, you can relate. And therefore New York City is my favorite and preferred city to live in because it’s like Bangkok, only bigger! As for the rest, I loved all 34 states in the US that I recently explored with my permanent traveling partner. I only have 16 states more to go and I am sure I will love them too.

NYC=Bangkok=awesome! 


When I am not in the US, I will park myself in Bangkok or be in Bali, Indonesia. I’ve been to Bali 4 times to date and although it is not a favorite getaway island to some, Bali to me is a great place to undergo emotional therapy. “What? Kuta is like the worst place on Earth!” That 18,000 Indonesian Rupiah early-morning-dolphins-sighting ride in Northern Bali is awesome, do you know that? As someone who doesn’t drink or party, I have successfully made the best out of all famous party spots in South East Asia that I’ve been to. You know you’re THE traveler when you are enjoying what you’re doing regardless the condition or hype of the places! I can’t help you if you are THAT picky traveler.

 Bali is pretty cool for your soul.

I guess that’s why it’s hard for me to choose, because all these places that I’ve had been to are so significant to me. I met the nicest people while in Romania, I’ve had the best home-cooked meal in Italy, I’ve experienced the best horseback riding in the US, I’ve had the best underwater experience in Indonesia. This is how I answer this question! Next time you ask me, it’ll still be the same. I love the whole world!

 Montana’s countryside with horses.

I am in love with Earth and for as long as I live, I will try not to stop loving this planet and everything in it, except Venice in the summer and Paris metro.

So, do you have any favorite country/state?

People walking backwards in Tokyo, Japan!

This is the famous Shibuya Crossing in Shibuya, It will be a shame not to see Shibuya while visiting Tokyo. When the light turns green, people will be walking to every direction and the sight is pretty amazing! But my favorite place in Tokyo is definitely Asakusa which is in the north of Tokyo. I love the ancient vibe it gave me!

I used to say “I’ll never want to visit Japan!” And you should never say never!

The famous Shibuya Crossing!

The famous Shibuya Crossing!

The area near Senso-ji Temple.

The area near Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa.

The beautiful entrance of Senso-ji Temple with huge lantern behind me.

The beautiful entrance of Senso-ji Temple with huge lanterns behind me.

With status of legendary loyal dog in 20th century, Hachiko, near Shibuya subway entrance/exit, Hachiko.

With status of legendary loyal dog in 20th century, Hachiko, near Shibuya subway entrance/exit, Hachiko.

How to take on Tokyo in 15 hours is a little guide based on my recent layover in Tokyo en route to Los Angeles from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I can suggest other places to see in Tokyo while transiting if you are interested. Just hit me up!

What’s your favorite place in Japan?

“Yo, you gone for so long, you never miss home ah?”

Celebrated I turning perfect cube 23 weeks ago on the road in Texas, with beautiful cotton field. Can't get any cooler than this!

Celebrated I turning perfect cube 23 weeks ago on the road in Texas, with beautiful cotton field. Can’t get any cooler than this!

No. I don’t miss home. To be not fair, I only miss the foods and the warm water of pristine South East Asia’s beaches. Nowadays, friends and family back home are just one video call away. Sure you can always call or text them, but you can never text or call the foods! I just made perfect sense!

“But… why? And how come?”

You know, I treat every place I went to as my home. Therefore, I am at home everywhere. That explains the fact that I am selfishly don’t miss Malaysia. I am so comfortable living out here. You know it when you are also living a nomadic life. I was born a traveler, and confidently, when I was a kid, I grew up having my bags ready all the time. I sure had lived out of my backpack for months in Thailand and that was the most encouraging thing I’ve ever done for myself.

“How about Hari Raya? You also don’t go back?”

Yes, that one too. For so many years after the passings of my late grandpas+grandmas, my family celebrate Eid outside Malaysia. It is fun like that. You know, I once celebrated Raya in Germany, eating “nasi lemak sambal udang dan petai” and that was like the sweetest Raya ever? Exactly. I celebrated Raya overseas for so many years now, it is way funner than in Malaysia, to be honest.

I love being a traveler. Even now when I am permanently living in the USA, we are always on the move.

Life’s good.

Bali : Revisited

Hello, people of the world. I have very limited time in Malaysia with my family, now that I am going to migrate real soon. It has been almost a year of constant traveling, and I feel prepared physically, mentally and emotionally. After a year long of discouragement, I am on my way out and I cannot wait to start my new life abroad! Am I scared? No!

Last year I had promised my little sister a trip to my favorite place in South East Asia. We flew on April 10th, it was her birthday gift and we both had wonderful week. It’s like a ritual visit; I had been visiting Bali every year and the feeling is the same every time; overwhelming. Such beautiful place.

Non-existent sunset but the skyline was still breathtaking.

Non-existent sunset but the skyline was still breathtaking.

Sea grasses are not disgusting to be felt on your feet!

Sea grasses are not disgusting to be felt on your feet!

Uluwatu: I once shroomed here with JF. It is still the prettiest spot in Bali.

Uluwatu: I once shroomed here with JF. It is still the prettiest spot in Bali.

Sister and me.

Sister and me.

I love the sea, that's the gesture.

I love the sea, that’s the gesture.

Ceking-Tegallalang rice field terrace near Ubud, Bali.

Ceking-Tegallalang rice field terrace near Ubud, Bali.

Do you want to sit here all day? I do.

Do you want to sit here all day? I do.

Our place in Ubud and it is USD15 for one night.

Our place in Ubud and it is USD15 for one night.

Have you had your Bali shot? It is more than Eat, Pray, Love. It is life.

I am in my home country and I am going again

Yes, traveling while on travel break. I have lived in Bangkok, Thailand but now I am back in Malaysia for a short while. I have to settle my visa for my big migration next month. And in 3 days, I am going to Indonesia with my little sister. I can barely catch my breath.

Meanwhile, I satisfied my cravings to eat Malaysian food for almost everyday and that makes me happy as I was struggling with food choice while I was in Europe, particularly in Paris. Je suis désolée, Parisians!  It is good now that I’ve gained some weight.

Do you guys have your favorite travel quotes? I agree it is hard for me to explain why being a traveler is different than being a tourist.  Few years ago, I lived with “Go at least once a year to a place you’ve never been before.” by Dalai Lama. Now that I am constantly on the road, I realized that I am comfortable having the world as my current address. As I said, I love the whole world thus I am never at home anywhere but I like it. I repeatedly told myself that a tourist see what they want to see, which usually are the things that they pursue from other tourist, while a traveler will see everything. I don’t usually believe the hype, like being in Paris and feeling it, if you know what I mean, because I honestly didn’t feel anything when I was there with JF.

The need to keep in touch: Many friends asked me how do they contact me while I am on the road. I can’t be having 10 SIM cards for 10 countries that I traveled to. So I said, I also don’t really write to my family, only once in 3 weeks, just to let them know my whereabouts and to let them know I am doing fine. Some people love traveling and being constantly on the road but they cannot be away from the PC or their phones because they have to report to loved ones very frequently. To travel alone is to find oneself and to go back with better self. So why can’t we just leave that comfort zone and be quiet for a while? Turn off that phone and PC, send a postcard home instead.

Life is a great adventure or nothing. 

Here is my postcard to you!

Just the sea, the sand and I. Karimunjawa, Indonesia.

Just the sea, the sand and I. Karimunjawa, Indonesia.

 

 

 

March 2014

I have never owned a fancy camera. I traveled with my phone with just 3mp camera, and when I am with JF or friends, they will take pictures for me with their better camera phones. My point is, you don’t need fancy cameras to make memories.

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Viewpoint, Koh Chang, Thailand

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However this would make you feel.

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I came up with this photo idea, my friend took it with his phone camera.

You can always make money but not memories. Go out and sail, be away from the safe harbor.

Why not the macaques?

ImageNot amused.

I grew up with macaques and orang-utans being just in the jungle near my childhood’s little house. The macaques are never amusing to me because I know that they are diseased and should be avoided at any cost. But to most of you out there, you are still very delighted to get to see the macaques in the wild. I saw this macaque after my breakfast on day 3 in Koh Chang, Thailand. My friend immediately took out his phone to take this photo. I was dead sick seeing it walking through the cables looking for pieces of food. I wasn’t sure whether I should feel bad or happy. Koh Chang is beautiful but it is too populated on one side thus the environment gets dirtier and very welcoming especially for the macaques. When I was there for 5 days, I tried to look on the beautiful side, just. I managed to forget how disturbing to see monkeys all the way.

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This looks like Argentinian coastline. 

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I was jumping waves, I swear that was the greatest wave jumping.

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At the end of the stay, I thought I’ll never want to leave.

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 It was a perfect sunset at White Sand Beach.

A mini bus trip from Bangkok to Koh Chang will cost you around B300 ( USD 10 as in March 2014) and it will get you there in 5-6 hours. Bear in mind that the ride will be thrilling. Thai mini bus drivers are among the most reckless and notorious drivers in the world(I am not joking), ones who actually traveled Thailand this way knew exactly how it feels.

When I was on the island, I went on a quad trip with my friends through lush greens of Koh Chang. The trip was incredible, though I paid B2500(USD80) for supposedly 1 1/2 hour trip, we were on the wheels for 2 hours. That was to me, the greatest way to see Koh Chang on the quieter side.

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The ATV Salakphet Adventure team, they rock! That’s my German friend, Torsten.

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No mosquitoes nor malaria for me.

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Quite a happy ending, an isolated beach at Salak Phet.

It was a great escape. I’ve seen all of Thailand for more than 5 times.

Alone?

When I am not traveling wit JF, I will usually continue traveling alone. I had lived alone in Bangkok for 3 months and now I am back here alone too. Traveling alone is always a concern to some. I’ve talked to so many people who have dreams to travel but most of them prefer to travel with their partners. Safety-wise, I’ve been asked about how I survived being alone in Bangkok alone while Bangkok is dubbed as a dangerous city to be at on your own. It is true, it takes time to gather courage to travel alone.

Traveling solo has its pros and cons. After some time, it always more pros than cons to me. There are so many people you can meet while traveling alone, and yes you can also enjoy the fun of having temporary traveling partner while you are alone. You can always travel at your own pace, do whatever you want to do, eat wherever you want to eat and choose to stay wherever you want to stay. You don’t have to wait for your partner to get ready, you don’t have to wait for your partner to finish packing, and you never need to argue of which way to take when both of you are lost in the city. When you are on your own, you are so much more independent and in control.

Among reasons why many refused to travel alone is because they cannot take it having to eat alone. Yes, it is a sad imagination but it is not bad as it you think it would be. Single traveler is easier to be approached by other single traveler and the next thing you know is the two of you sitting at the same table, laughing for hours, beer after beer. But then, if you must eat alone, bring a book. Read, and maybe this is a good time to learn foreign language. Keep yourself busy. Own a journal and write.

Of course, traveling with your partner will benefits in terms of sharing the cost of hotel/hostel room, taxi ride, everything will become cheaper when you split the costs. This is definitely the downside of traveling alone.

It is so much easier to experience stranger’s kindness when you are alone. You are definitely more approachable. There is nothing scary about this too. See? You eventually are not really alone. How not to become lonely? Stop feeling alone. Think that you’ll always stumble upon other travelers, because you’ll always be. Choose to travel during peak season so you won’t feel as empty. Some of my friends use Couchsurfing and they know with that they’ll always have some company. Be bold and confident and ask if someone wants to go out and have dinner with you. Chances are they will always say yes. Meeting new people is always fun and this often happens when you are alone. I cannot help you if you are very shy but don’t complain!

I have made so many temporary traveling partners while I was alone in Bangkok for 3 months. It was all great and I’ve made wonderful memories with them. Even though it was just temporary fun, fun is always going to be FUN. Single travelers that I met while I travel alone were all very independent, sounded and acted very educated and they are the most fun partners that you could ever enjoy being with.

So go ahead, don’t be afraid. Alone? It won’t suck that much.