10 Things I Can’t Get Used To after Travelling in South East Asia

For the past few months my blog has kind of been put on the back shelf. I told myself I’d keep it going throughout my South East Asia travels, but who was I kidding, it was never going to happen! The past 4 months have been a crazy whirlwind adventure of buses, tuk tuks, motorbikes, long tail boats, packing and unpacking, bag lugging, sweating, hotels, bed bugs, monks, temples, villages, rice terraces, street food, beer tasting, adrenaline activities, and cultural madness. So I decided to leave things until I got back.

And here I am, back home in sunny Northern Ireland (it hasn’t stopped raining…), so I’m sure I can get back on track. To ease myself back into blogging I thought I’d start with 10 things I can’t get used to after travelling in South East Asia.

1) Every time I use the toilet I pause before putting the toilet paper in the bowl. I still haven’t got my head around the fact that it’s ok to flush almost anything down the toilet in this country.

2) When I go shopping I have to resist the urge to haggle for everything.

3) When I see a dog my first reaction is to keep my hands well away, but then I remember it’s ok to stroke the dogs here, they don’t have rabies.

4) I never realised how happy getting into a bed with freshly washed, cozy, warm, bed covers could make me. 1 week later and I still go to sleep every night with a big smile on my face.

5) It’s a bit scary talking to people from home again. They talk so fast, they use words I haven’t heard in years, do I use those words enough? Do I even sound Northern Irish? I’ll need to get myself a Norn Iron dictionary.

6) I am no longer a gypsy. I don’t have to pack and unpack a bag every few days, and it’s now normal to sleep in the same place each night.

7) All of a sudden it matters what I wear. My faded, suncream stained singlets don’t really cut it anymore and it’s probably a good idea to check my reflection before leaving the house.

8) When meeting up with friends it’s hard not to start every sentence with ‘When I was in Australia/Thailand/Cambodia…’ I’m sure they don’t mind hearing the odd story but lets be honest, they’d rather talk about who’s getting married or having a baby.

9) Every time I see a wispy fly floating around my instant reaction is to cover myself in deet, but then I remember that Northern Ireland seems to be one of the few places in the world where you don’t get mozzies.

10) Since arriving back I’ve heard nothing but complaints about the rain and the lack of summer. And yes, everyone is wearing jeans, jackets and scarves. But when I think back to the past 8 months and how I’ve been constantly covered in layers of sweat, suncream and insect repellent, I’m finding this whole cold thing a novelty. Although that said I seriously miss wearing flip flops. Shoes suck.

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Time for Something New

It’s funny how quickly a decision can be made to send your life in a new direction. First something sparks off an idea, before you know it you’re making plans, and then you’re taking actions to make those plans happen.

For Chris and I it was a wedding. Our friend from home, Speedy, contacted us to say he was getting married to his girlfriend, Wenching, in Singapore at the end of March 2015.

We were so excited by the news! Not only would we be catching up with Speedy (who we hadn’t seen in over 18 months) and going to his wedding, but it was also an excuse to go to South East Asia.

The original plan was to aim to be in Darwin by March, fly to Singapore for the wedding, and then come back to Darwin after a few weeks to continue our Aussie road trip.

But then one day we were talking and Chris made a suggestion which I’d already toyed with myself. Why don’t we just leave Australia for good in March and start our South East Asia trip?

All of a sudden I was filled with that feeling of excitement you get before going travelling. I couldn’t keep the smile off my face and my mind was going crazy with all the possibilities that were now opening up. Surfing in Indonesia, chilling on Thai beaches, hiking, scuba diving, experiencing new cultures and food, I couldn’t wait!

Don’t get me wrong Australia’s been great. For the past 4 months I haven’t really had a care in the world. Bumming around in our campervan, surfing at any beach with a ridable wave, partying when we got to the bigger cities, it’s been awesome! But I’ve been here for over a year now and I’m just ready for something new.

South East Asia’s been in the forefront of my mind since I left to go to New Zealand back in January 2012, so I think it’s finally time to go.

So last week, with the click of a button on flight scanner, Chris and I took the action to make things happen. We booked flights to Singapore and then on to Bali. And that’s just the start.

But before I get ahead of myself, I’ve still got 3 months to spend in Australia, and I intend to make the most of that! There’ll still be plenty more Aussie blogs to come.

Please Don’t Rob Me

photoI love my campervan, and I love travelling this way. But shortly after buying our van Chris and I found it wasn’t the most secure. It seems any key, when inserted only halfway, can open the drivers door. And once I accidently started and drove the van with the wrong key. We tried a different lock barrel in the door but it was a dodgy lock too, maybe it’s an ‘old van thing’…

But as Chris pointed out, if someone really wants into our van a locked door won’t stop them, they’ll just smash the window the way they did with our car in New Zealand. I’ll never forget that day at Cape Reinga. We’d been away on an amazing two day hike. It was pissing down with rain but we arrived back at our car in high spirits, only to see broken glass all over the ground along with some of our discarded belongings. I felt sick.

So obviously sometimes it’s hard to relax when leaving the camper, especially after splashing out on two new surfboards. Everything in the world that I own and care about is in that van! And with the surfboards up on the roof racks it pretty much advertises ‘backpackers’. Continue reading

One More Week to Go

For the past 6 months I’ve been working on a dairy farm in a little rural place called Blighty in NSW. Since leaving Northern Ireland in January 2012 this is the longest I’ve ever stayed in one place, and to be honest it’s not the most exciting of locations.

But for once it hasn’t been about travelling, but instead, about working. It’s been a chance to really build up the funds, and for the first time in my life, I actually have some proper money saved! Which is probably a good idea considering I’ll be travelling around Australia for the next few months with no plans of getting a job for a very long time!

So now the count down is seriously on. Less than 1 week to go, only 4 more shifts left at work. To say I’m excited is an understatement! I can’t wait to say goodbye to the mundane, day-to-day routine that many jobs bring. No more alarms going off at 3am, no more living for the weekend, those days are soon to be over.

Instead, Chris and I will be living out of our campervan, just taking each day as it comes, unsure of what will be around the next corner. I can’t actually wait! The feeling I have right now, it takes me back to when I was in Northern Ireland, waiting to go to New Zealand for the first time. The anticipation of not knowing what’s coming next, not knowing what I’ll see, the experiences I’ll have, or the people I’ll meet along the way. Continue reading

Asia Can Wait

Before I went travelling I had a plan, and that plan started with New Zealand. There was just something about the country that attracted me to it, the natural beauty of the place, the mountains, the unique landscape, the people, I couldn’t wait to get over there and see it for myself. I also thought New Zealand would be a good starting point for someone like myself who had never travelled before. The culture wouldn’t be much different and there wouldn’t be a language problem.

From here the plan was to step it up a bit and go to Asia, do some ‘real’ travelling as I thought of it. I thought that after 2 years travelling around New Zealand I would be craving something a bit more adventurous, I would want that extreme culture shock, to be put out of my comfort zone and experience crazy things. And this is exactly how I feel! But I didn’t follow the original plan and instead, I went to Australia. Continue reading

Culture Shock, It’s Not Just A Third World Country Thing

If someone says the word ‘culture shock’ what do you think of? You would probably imagine landing in a country where you don’t understand a single word of the language, where there’s weird religions, different fashion, and strange food, where everything is totally foreign to you. At least that’s what I thought.

But you don’t have to go to a country with extreme cultural differences to experience culture shock. It can happen when you go anywhere, and in a way, can be even more confusing when you experience it because you never expected to.

When I first arrived in Australia I was excited and everything was amazing. The weather was hot, the bars were cool, the people were so friendly, and I liked the wildlife. But then as time went on, slowly without me realising it, everything changed. I stopped looking at things through rose tinted glasses and couldn’t help but become negative. Continue reading