Career Break updates so far
6 weeks of not working an office job… I have a surprising amount of things to do – freelance assignments, trip planning, even managed a week in South Sumatra on a FAM trip I ordinarily would not have been able to attend! Honestly, I’m far from bored. I have actually been less productive at writing than I thought I would be – you would think having extra time would make me crazy efficient but… nope, still me being me I guess :)
On the trip planning front, I’m mostly working on the first leg of my trip – 2 months in Japan and Taiwan! I’ve managed to settle most of my Japan flights and most of my Japan accommodation. I know I talked in my last post about the tension of leaving room for spontaneity to being all well organised, but it turns out the “being well-planned” side is winning right now. It has resulted in some crazy good deals though – I scored some amazing airfares for Fukuoka to Okinawa (S$32!) and Okinawa to Taipei (S$54!!) on Peach Airlines because I booked early! Also, I have a better sense of whether I need to change more money now (yes I do) that I know what the accommodation situation is like.
Also, taking this opportunity to give a shoutout to the various partners that I’ve been working with so far who have helped me put together an awesome trip! Whether it’s loaning me cool equipment or helping me save some money, they’ve been a really big help:
- JapanTravel.com – These cool folk are the one who set me up with the internship in the first place, which inspired me to take on Japan. The internship is pretty free and easy which works for me, and there is a small stipend to help offset costs. See all my JapanTravel articles here.
- Jetstar – they are getting me from Tokyo to Takamatsu, which is one of the key hubs for the Setouchi Triennale. This internal flight is one of the cheapest options – cheaper even than the JAL Japan Explorer pass if you book early enough, definitely much cheaper than taking the Shinkansen (which is 3-4x the cost!) and less lengthy and cheaper than an overnight bus or train ride. Read about the Setouchi Triennale here.
- Casio Singapore – look out for some fun outdoor shots with the Casio Exilim FR100 thanks to Casio Singapore! I tested the camera briefly in Bali, but now I’m going to be spending more time with this camera, am hoping to do some fun stuff with it. Read more about my Casio Exilim FR100 review here.
- Changi Recommends – extremely important for keeping me connected on the go, they are setting me up with their handy portable wifi devices, so I can work and play and stay in touch throughout my journey. I love how easy it is to pick up and return the device at Changi Airport directly, so convenient! Read more about Changi Recommends here.
- CabinZero – I have been carrying the classic bag around for awhile, but they kindly upgraded me to the black Military version that you will be seeing on this trip. It has a much-needed waist/chest straps, and they also threw in some packing cubes which fit the bag perfectly (my original packing cubes are a little on the large side), all very useful for me. Read my full review of CabinZero here.
- Rent Something Leh – My initial plan was to bring a GoPro along with me to capture some of the beautiful outdoor scenery of Japan, but I didn’t want to carry around too much gear since I have the FR100 to play with as well! But for short term GoPro rentals, do check them out (I have special discount codes and all! More on the perks page)
I’ll head over to Taipei just before Japan’s Golden Week in end April and as of now I have literally zilch planned and booked for anything Taiwan. Perhaps it’s a combination of me being focused on Japan, that I know Taiwan will be cheaper overall and that I speak Mandarin so I’m a little less high-strung about getting it planned so properly because at least communication won’t be an issue. I spent two weeks in Taiwan way back in 2007 when I first graduated, and while I’ll be mostly on my own this time around, I think it will be just as awesome.
Which brings me to my next point of thought:
Deciding where to travel to
The dilemma I often have is trying to decide between exploring new unknown places, and revisiting ones that I have been to before. There are places that I have visited that I absolutely love and tell myself that I need to return to again, but then I consider my limited resources of time and money and tell myself that there is so much of the world that I have yet to see, should I really go back to some place that I’ve already seen? Is my imagination so limited that I somehow end up back on the trodden paths, over and over again?
The simple answer, of course, is that it depends on what you are looking to get out or your travels. Go where you want, don’t let anyone tell you not to revisit a place because it’s a ‘waste of time’ if that is what you really want to do.
There is something about going back to a place that you have visited before and seeing how much or how little it has changed. I visited Penang first in 2014, and then again recently in February, and it was an odd mix of nostalgia where I recognized familiar places, and a sense of ‘ooh look what I missed previously’. Back in 2014 I was mostly looking for a break and to hang out with my friend A, but in 2016 I had a pretty clear goal of seeking out street art on my own, so even though I visited the same place, I had quite distinct experiences both times.
Penang is not the only place I have visited more than once – Bali and Bangkok are places I’ve been back to several times, though usually with friends. In this upcoming trip, Tokyo and Taipei are both places I have been to before as well, but I am looking forward to my solo experience in these cities, which I think will provide quite a different perspective to my earlier travels.
Age and experience is another factor that affects your experience of a city. I was last in Taiwan almost 10 years ago – youthful, fresh and just graduated. I left most of the trip planning to my more capable friends and mainly focused on just hanging out and having fun. I kept travel journals back then but I wasn’t travel blogging at that point, so the way I took in my travels was also quite different from the way I perceive things now.
I had a think about what I wanted to do in Taiwan this time around that was different from my past trips and drew a blank because I had been quite content to follow my friends’ whims and fancies in the past. That is one reason I usually encourage people to try a solo trip at least once in their life – you get a true sense of your own interests and travel style that is hard to distill when you travel with others.
The urge to discover
The whole point of me quitting my job to travel instead of just travelling on my leave time like usual was two-fold: to go further than before, and give me more time and flexibility to go deeper.
A very early iteration of this epic year of travel was based very much around the latter need to go deeper and travel more slowly – I had planned to have 4 major bases – 1 in Asia, Europe, Central and South America. From there I would spend around 3 months in each region, and I wouldn’t plan things and be all flexible about my schedule.
But I’ve found from my solo travel experiences that the urge to see new things is a much larger call than the need to travel more deeply. So that plan has evolved quite a fair bit to what it is now, where I would be the quintessential backpacker moving from place to place. I am still attempting to travel a little more slowly by spending at least 2-3 nights in a particular place rather than move every single night, but this might change again down the road…
So I’m still not really packed and suddenly it’s time to go… where did all that time go, 3 months down in 2016!? I’m both nervous and stoked about what lies ahead, but I guess the only way to know what happens next is to just do it! Stay tuned for more musings and stories, and I hope each of you, my dear readers, is travelling as much as you want to and need to right now!
Curious about how my Career Break turned out? Read all about it here.