A Note To My Future Self On The Importance of Home


I AM SAT in the car as I write this, door open, remnants of the morning’s rain spattering the windscreen as the wind ruffles the trees above. In the driver’s side cupholder there’s an empty beer bottle leftover from the night before. Our tent, pinned down by all four of its pegs, sits next to the car, looking about as good as a NZ$30 (£15) tent can. When we erected it for the first time, yesterday, we discovered that, due to a manufacturing error, the entrance had partially been stitched closed. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve.

We’re in a peaceful Department of Conservation campsite somewhere north of Napier, on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island. We’re basically marking time until tomorrow, when we can decamp to our luxury cottage accommodation in Lake Taupo that we’ve booked for three days over Christmas. That and we’re doggedly attempting to justify the NZ$157 that we optimistically spent on camping gear when we first arrived in New Zealand, six week ago – before we knew about the six weeks of rain that was to come and before we’d realised the LIE of free camping (“yeah man, you can, like, just camp anywhere you want in New Zealand. It’s, like, awesome” – this from pretty much everyone we’ve ever met who’s been to this country).

Have you ever seen anyone so proud of her tent?

Have you ever seen anyone so proud of her tent?

Instead of sitting in this car, we could be going and doing THINGS, important TOURIST THINGS in this beautiful country. But we’re not – in fact I’m quite enjoying just sitting and doing very little, quite enjoying not spending the day driving around (although I am, ironically, still sat in front of the steering wheel). New Zealand has been one of the best countries we’ve visited. We’ve loved it, from its snow capped Southern Alps to the crashing waves of its West Coast, from its varied craft beers and delicious Sauv Blancs to its unfailingly friendly people and laid back ‘tude. It’s every bit as good as people say. And it’s so far away from anywhere else (our flight home from Auckland to London will take us 30 hours) that there’s a good chance I’ll never come back. In two weeks our year of travelling will be over, and soon after I’ll be back in work. So why not maximise our time seeing the place? Why not revel in our freedom?


On the shores of Lake Tekapo, NZ

This post is an effort to answer those questions. It’s also an effort to recount the impact of long term travelling and, above all, it’s a reminder to my future self about the importance of home. (Future David: remember how you’d grown to hate the uniformly white mugs found in motels, hotels and hostels everywhere? Remember how you just craved a mug with some colour on it? Remember how it bothered you so much that you went out and bought your own mug?).

WHAT’S A NORMAL week in travelling? The glib, cliché answer that’s only half true is that “there is no normal week.” In fact, there are rhythms to travelling, some regardless of who you are, others specific to us.



I’ve developed a real problem with authority whilst travelling. Sometimes, in motels, I DON’T DO WHAT THE SIGNS say! Stickittotheman.

When I was a student and went travelling in Eastern Europe for a month, we just turned up at places and found accommodation by speaking to people or walking between hostels. This seems to me now to be an incredibly inefficient way of doing things when you have a very heavy backpack. But maybe that’s because I’m a decade older. Without exception, everywhere we stayed in Asia we booked in advance, usually over the internet, often through Airbnb. Thus a portion of our time (and, it has to be said, more of BK-C’s time than mine) was always spent researching accommodation options. Where do we want to stay in the city/region? What’s available? Why have they got such bad photos on their websites? What does tripadvisor say? How long should we book for? Sometimes this could take five minutes, sometimes it could take hours; sometimes we’d book only the day before, sometimes we’d go on accommodation binges and book several stops in a row, gaining breathing space but losing spontaneity. Booking accommodation is a never ending rabbit hole: remember that, Future David.


I didn’t risk this one though.

In Australasia we’ve always had a car and sometimes we’ve been lucky enough to be staying with friends. So we’ve quite often just turned up in places without anywhere booked, and it’s always been fine. However, see below for Transport, specifically travelling by car.




There’s been a lot of this. In Asia, particularly towards the end, we slowed down a lot and thus were able to properly unpack our bags and live out of things like wardrobes and drawers for a while, which was blissful. However, then there was always the hassle of trying to fit everything back into the bag, which often resulted in me sitting on BK-C’s bag (which is marginally smaller than mine) whilst she zipped it up. In Australasia we’ve spent much less time in places – normally one or two nights – and thus there’s been a lot more packing/unpacking, but we’ve had the luxury of cars, so breaking zips has been less of a risk.

This is what happens when you have a car for six weeks and then have to catch a ferry on foot.

This is what happens when you have a car for six weeks and then have to catch a ferry on foot.

When we arrive in a new place now (every night it seems), we have a well oiled routine: BK-C empties the cooler bag and food items, I get the toiletries out of the bags and arrange them in anally straight lines in the bathroom and on bedside tables/the floor. The side of the bed nearest the bathroom will always be mine. That’s just the way it is. (Future David: remember the sinking feeling when you emptied the washbags only to discover that something had leaked over everything else. Remember that one time when it was tiger balm that had melted in the heat, and everything, everything smelled of tiger balm for weeks?)



Actually, this rarely caused us a lot of stress. I researched every country before we came and how much we were likely to spend on a daily basis in each. This has proved to be fairly accurate, so we were prepared for how much things cost. But we’ve also been scrupulous about recording everything that we spend, through the marvellous phone app Trailwallet. Every time we spend money, it goes in the phone. Thus I can tell you, for instance, that on 19 March, a date that I just selected at random, we spent a total of £72.02, or NT$1,858 (Taiwanese Dollars). The financial record reminds me that 19 March was a great day of food – we caught the metro to north of Taipei to Tamshui, where we indulged in a “delicious pasty like thing” (59p), “cheese potato with bacon” (£1.19 – about as bad as it sounds), and “steam dumplings” (£1.19). Then we caught the metro back home via Taipei’s famous night market of Shilin, where we ate “green onion bread” (49p), “stinky tofu and oyster omelette” (£2.67, worse than it sounds) and “delicious sushi” (£7.71). I can also tell you that street food – of the sort that we indulged in on 19 March – made up 3.82% of our total spent budget in Taiwan, at £53.79; our biggest expenditure was, predictably, accommodation, at £689.46; and our smallest expenditure category was laundry, at £2.77 (read into that what you will).

This kind of data is fantastic when you’re trying to stick to a budget, but it’s also great in retrospect: its specificity dredges from my memory a vivid image from when we were sitting by the quayside in Tamshui, enjoying an evening iced coffee (£6.96) at a posh restaurant, watching the simmering orb of an Asian sun dip into the Taiwan Strait, turned a deep crimson by pollution blown over from China.


I’m glad that we recorded everything we spent, and what it went on, simply because it’s meant that we’ve curbed our potential expenditure and because it prompts memories of what were we doing on each day. Putting purchases into the Trailwallet has become second nature. But, I must admit, I’m also looking forward to being able to buy a coffee without assiduously recording it, without making an assessment as to whether it’ll take us over budget for the day. Future David: revel in your ability to choose any of those sandwiches neatly lined up in Pret, without fear that you’ll go over budget.


I know, I know. I look COOL.

I know, I know. I look COOL.

This one’s up there with accommodation. Whoever you are, you’re going to need to get from place to place. It’s sort of the point of travelling. In Asia, that means buses, trains, planes, boats, tuc-tucs, mopeds, or some ingenious – probably hand built, certainly not safety tested – combination of all of them. Often, you can (and we did) just rock up and get a bus. If you’re in Malaysia then celebrate! For you are blessed with a cheap, well organised and above all easy public transport system. If you’re in Japan, don’t even think about it – the Japanese system is so efficient that they’ve probably heard you were coming and booked everything for you already (except you Tokyo, yes you: please meet my friend London who has a unified transport authority and not A GAZILLION private companies running different lines and routes in a confusing mish mash of colours and acronyms). But if you’re in Burma, well, don’t exactly expect efficiency. You’ll probably have to walk forever to book your bus tickets and then the bus “terminal” will be dozens of kilometres out of town and you’re just expected to know which bus is yours. It’s all part of the fun. In the forty degree heat.

Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads...

Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads…

In Australasia we travelled by car. We went where we wanted, when we wanted. It was liberating. But I also realised how much I’d grown to value that time bundled up on public transport – time to read and write, the opportunity to meet locals, or simply the chance to stare at the landscape, thinking big thoughts about the world. In Australia, we drove over 7,000km in two months. After four months of driving for several hours most days, I’m beginning to tire of the road. (Future David: remember how towards the end of travelling you used to get into those moods where nothing was quite right and where your tolerance of other people was equivalent to that of a cat? Remember how you wrote that blogpost to remind you in the future about the wearing parts of travelling, and then instantly regretted it because people would think you were ungrateful?).





Shan Noodle Soup from a roadside stall in Nyaungshwe, nr. Lake Inle, Burma. Possibly my favourite noodle soup of the year.

I love food. It’s one of the reasons I love to travel. We’ve had so much amazing food this year, from banana leaf curries in Malaysia that really put the “gorge” into “gorgeous” (no, I can’t believe that I just wrote that cheesey line either) to so-fresh-it’s-nearly-still-moving sushi in Japan – we’ve had it all, and then we’ve asked for seconds. But there comes a time when even the most hardened foodie tires of eating out at restaurants, of choosing where and what to eat every night (why is it worse having lots of choice instead of just what’s in the fridge? I don’t know, but after a while it becomes overwhelming – I want less choice, not more). In Asia, there’s always that old staple of noodles-in-a-cup, easily enjoyed in your hostel/hotel room. Yes, there’s the hostel kitchen as well, but if you buy those ingredients you’ve got to carry them around with you and, besides, it’s actually cheaper to eat out and that’s not to mention the fact that all the fresh produce is sold at markets miles away from where you are at times when you’re highly unlikely to be up. So: you’re probably going to be eating out at restaurants. And it turns out that you really can have too much of a good thing. (Future David – think about how much you love eating out at restaurants? It’s one of the Best Things, isn’t it? Now remember how you’d come to resent having to eat out when you were in parts of Asia. It seems like a form of cruel and unusual punishment, doesn’t it?).


In Australasia – and especially in NZ, where we’ve been without family visits – there’s been, blissfully, a lot of self-catering. The facilities with which to cook have, however, been varied – most motels have only a microwave, all have blunt knives, and there’s no guarantee that we’ll have a fridge from night to night. As a lover of cooking this is frustrating, as a shopper for food, it’s limiting: most things that we buy to eat for dinner can be cooked in the microwave. I can’t wait to have my own kitchen again, where the knives are sharp and the spices are neverending. (Future David: remember how you’d grown to quite like tinned STAG Chilli, the best long shelf life microwaveable meal you’d found in the supermarket? Yes, that’s right, hang your head in shame).

People, other


Our hosts in Penang, Stu & Clara.

The people you meet is one of the best things about travelling. Vincent, the Taiwanese IT consultant turned design-guru surfing hotelier; Francoise, the 71 year old French man with whom we shared accommodation and a love of antiques (“my treasures,” he called them) in Kyoto, and whom I helped with his IT problems: “I wish to send an email to my girlfriend, but I do not wish to send it from this account, because it is my wife’s. Can you help?”; the postcard seller from Yangon, Burma whose name I can’t write here because he dared to talk to us about politics and his hopes for the future of his country; Joslyn, who was our Oregonian tour guide on a trip to Central America and later put us up for the night at her house in Brisbane; Lorette, our French, wise old-soul-in-a-young-person’s-body companion on the two day Tiger Leaping Gorge hike, in China; Tom, the funny, open minded film editor from LA on his own travelling odyssey – these are just some of the amazing people we’ve met this year. But for each Tom and Lorette there’s been a dozen others who we either haven’t clicked with, who have been downright unfriendly or, worse, friendly and the most annoying person alive. Yes, yes this is the joy of travelling – and I’d meet everyone again just to meet those few gems – but after a while you start to ache for shared context. You miss your friends. I miss my friends. And then your patience starts to wear thin, and you become as intolerant as BK-C has become of Other People’s Music, however minimally it may be leaking out of someone’s headphones, and you must, you simply must ask them to be quiet. In short, you begin to Hate Other People. When this happens, Future David, you remember all the good things about home – the way that you don’t have to start conversations with everyone by telling them where you’ve been, where you’re from and where you’re going; the way that you can can say something and the person you’re talking to will just get you (or at least pretend to) without you having to explain just how witty you really are; and you remember how your home friends delayed their New Year celebrations until you got back, and how much that meant to you. At this point, you realise that it may be time to head back.


Our hosts in Bali, Ktut and… er… Mrs Ktut.

All These Things Together

INDIVIDUALLY, THESE THINGS are insignificant. But together, taken over time, they start to matter a lot more. Everyone needs something to anchor them – a space to retreat to, a good book to read, a friend to turn to, an ipod to plug into; travelling either takes these things from you or makes them more difficult to control. It’s fine at first, but after a while you’ll go to greater lengths to secure your anchor, and not being able to do so frustrates you more. The good thing is that taking nothing for granted – be it comfy accommodation or the ability to speak to your family – you get a better sense of what’s important to you, something more difficult to achieve in the rhythms of home routine. The bad thing is that after a while the exciting challenges that travelling brings seem only to get in the way of your anchors, not to augment your appreciation for them. Some people are able to spend their lives travelling; I do not know how. For me, to have meaning, all things must have an end. You might say that travelling is a constant series of beginnings and endings, as you depart and arrive from places, greet and leave companions – but sometimes I just want to enjoy being in the middle of the story.


Future David, the things that I’ve written about are not the things that you’ll recall. When the 6.30am alarm goes off telling you to get up for work, you’ll remember having no alarm when you travelled; you’ll remember sunrise over Yellow Water in Kakadu, the way that the birds cut through the mist; you’ll remember walking through the blistering heat of the market in Pyay, Burma, and the friendly, confused smiles of the locals; you’ll remember the exquisite pork dumplings from that place in Hualien, Taiwan where no one spoke English and everyone – yourself included – laughed at your ineptitude in miming what you wanted to eat; you’ll remember the flight over the Great Barrier Reef, the way it stretched out and disappeared beyond the horizon; and you’ll remember feeling free to do whatever you wanted to do, all of the time. But also remember this: there’s a wide range of multi-coloured mugs in your kitchen cupboard, and not a single bloody white one.

Trav21-17 DCIM100GOPRO

Our year of travelling comes to an end on 2 January, when we arrive back in the UK. But don’t fret! I’ve got loads of stuff still to write about, including an oh-so-nearly finished post about PROPER travelling stuff, in Australia, rather than this boring boo hoo I’m ready to come home stuff. So stick with me.

Australia Is More Than This

Trav20-2 “WELL, IF YOU’D have kept up with your blog, then you’d be able to remember all these things, David.” So said my mother as she sat opposite me in our cabin in Kakadu National Park, Northern Territories, Australia, and quizzed me about our year of travelling. “Your fans are waiting.” 

Yes, well. Thank you mum. Sorry all for the interruption. Been busy travelling and seeing things and that, which I appreciate is a departure from my 2014 normal of just sitting and reading in different places. Hope that you’ve got along just fine without me.


I CANNOT TELL you how strange it is to arrive in Australia after eight months in Asia, eight months of being different. You’ve journeyed from London to the other side of the world; you’ve seen sights, eaten foods, learnt strange new things; and then you arrive in Melbourne to find Woolworths and pie shops, fish and chips and hipsters. And everybody kinda looks like you.

From this...

From this…

...to this.

…to this.

It’s a wonderful, awful, comforting, uncanny thing and we were so happy to be here. After nearly six weeks in Bali, drinking water from the tap and having a refuse disposal system that didn’t involve burning plastic on every street corner was a joy.

When we first booked our flights for this year, I said to our guy at Travel Nation (who worked their airline ticket magickery and got us an excellent deal) “but what are we going to do in Australia for two months? Do you think we’ll be bored?” I imagined Australia as being a few big, western cities, a lot of beaches and lots of red scrubland.

Sorry Australia, I had you all wrong.

And I guess that I was wrong about what we’d want at this stage of the trip. I’d imagined leaving Indonesia as the end of the “proper” travelling. It’d all be easy from now on and we’d have a gut wrenching nostalgia for eating dirt cheap street food on tropical beaches, floating from place to place on a cushion of camaraderie and travelling awesomeness. Well, it wasn’t quite like that. It was amazing, obviously. But when everything is amazing all of the time, things stop being, well, amazing. After a while you become a bit jaded and find it hard to get excited about things. It’s a sort of travelling impotence – you just can’t get it up for anything anymore.

Another bloody volcano? It's alright. I s'pose.

Another bloody volcano? It’s alright. I s’pose.

So we spent five weeks in a bungalow on a family compound in Bali, our days filled with hammock swinging and reading, cake eating and writing. I probably won’t have so much free time all at once for decades, possibly ever. If anyone reading this is considering going travelling long term, I urge you to build in time to rest and do the things you want to do without worrying about going to visit that temple or those rice terraces. You won’t have the chance to do it again for a long time and you probably saw a better temple in Burma anyway. And when you start thinking thoughts like that it’s time for a holiday from the tourist duties.


Five weeks of this: highly recommended.

So when we finally did arrive in Australia, not only was I well rested and a lot better read than before, I was also excited to see new things. And more than a little glad to be met at the airport by our Melbournite friend Catherine.


Later on that week we met up with my parents who’d flown out to see us and also, I should’ve known, as much bird life as possible given that they were accompanied by their reluctant, none-twitching son and daughter-in-law.

Is this what they call a selfie, David? Yes, Dad, it is.

Is this what they call a selfie, David? Yes, Dad, it is.


And in other news, today a woman was escorted from the premises of a Melbourne deli after shouting “cheese!” and immersing her head in brie.


“Yeah, she just put her head right in there. A whole brie. Just gone.”


Do you have any eucalyptus for me? no? Then sod off.


And in other news today, a man was escorted from a food truck after attempting to drive it away whilst shouting “I want all the tacos.”

Trav20-13 Trav20-3 Trav20-16

AFTER MELBOURNE, ROAD. But don’t be fooled – the Great Ocean Road, heading west from Melbourne, is about more than the coast. Or it should be anyway. Yes, there are amazing clifftop views.

Trav20-18 Trav20-19

My mum laughs in the face of danger.

My mum laughs in the face of danger.

But unless you fantasise about being in the landscapes from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, being seaside on a rainy day when everything is the colour of tumble dryer lint and the rain stings like a swarm of kamikaze bees is not that much fun. Instead, on one day, we followed a winding, decaying road into the Otways National Park, taking nearly an hour to travel 18km and wandering whether we’d just entered into a different kind of hell, the kind where a T-Rex might jump out and attack the car.



In hindsight, putting superglue onto the lenses of everyone’s binoculars wasn’t that funny a practical joke.


The Otways is a temperate rainforest that elected to skip the last 60 million years of evolution. Enormous ferns loom overhead, lorakeets squawk out of sight and Giant Myrtle Beech entice the unwary into their cavernous, hollow inners, offering far-too-convenient path-side person-sized crevices that surely bring only a spidery death (this is Australia, after all). When we were there the reluctant sun broke into a crusty light, falling between the leaves, fronds and twisted tree limbs, and we idled amongst the prehistoric fauna, feeling more than pleasant. This was my favourite part of the Great Ocean Road.


Venture further into the Otways and you will find a forest of Californian Redwoods, planted in 1939. They stretch up to the sky, eerily uniform in their giant, branchless reach upwards. There was no one there when we went, and we just stood amongst them, dwarfed, watching a tiny, Pink Robin proudly show off its fluffy fluorescent chest. It was still there when we left, alone amongst the redwoods.


IN TRUE ROAD trip fashion we didn’t book any accommodation for our time on the Great Ocean Road, and instead just rocked up at wherever took our fancy. We never had any trouble finding somewhere and were never disappointed with where we slept. One night, curled up in front of a log fire in the common room of our B&B in Port Fairy, we were roused from our reading and sipping of peppermint tea by a raucous party of seventy-somethings returning from a Tuesday night out. “Hello and who are you?” asked the man who had come to sit on the sofa, breathing alcohol over me in a friendly manner. “I’m 70,” he said, lowering his voice conspiratorially, “you wouldn’t guess would you?”

We sat with them and talked about “the old country,” as they called the UK, including its relative merits (“Europe on the doorstep”), its de-merits (“the rain, and the awful food, or it was when we were there in the 80s.”) and what we did there for employment (“and are you far enough along to have any influence?”). Britain persists in the mind of many Australians as a strange historical anchor that many think they know and perhaps did thirty or forty years ago; it’s glimpsed through the news and through the ex-pats that never quite made it home. I lost count of the amount of times that I had conversations with people about what the weather had been like in the UK this year and last – they knew more about it than me (“those floods were awful.”). And yet small town Australia can feel like the Britain of forty years ago, stuffy and unapologetically blue-collar, all shops closed on Sundays and a varied cuisine provided only by the changing of what the pastry walls of pies hold. People eat mysteriously early here, and it’s not uncommon for restaurants to close at 8.30pm. At one restaurant in Brisbane that we visited with friends on a Thursday night, we were the last people there at 9pm and shortly afterwards were asked to leave as they were locking up. All of these things feel like an echo of a Britain passed – the greatest irony is that “the old country” is now found only in Australia.

After the Great Ocean Road he headed onwards to Adelaide, via the Grampians National Park. It kinda looks like Scotland.

After the Great Ocean Road we headed onwards to Adelaide, via the Grampians National Park. It kinda looks like Scotland.

Or possibly Mordor.

Or possibly Mordor.


BUT THE TOP End is not like any part of Britain, now or then. After driving all the way to Adelaide we flew to Darwin, in the Northern Territories, 3,000 km north. Then we headed into the bush. Kakadu National Park is exactly as you imagine Australia to be – long, straight roads, red earth and man size termite mounds. Oh, and hundreds of crocodiles, just waiting to eat you.

But more about all that another time.



NEXT TIME: Crocodiles! Long Roads! More Birds Than You Can Shake A Stick At!

This post has been a long time in the writing, mainly because I’ve been so busy. It was started in Lismore, in the Gold Coast hinterland, NSW, Australia, and finally finished in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Hell is a Tropical Island: Or, Why I Am An Awful Backpacker


IT’S BEEN A while since I last posted, I know. In Burma it was because access to the internet was patchy at best, and that was without the regular power cuts; but since then? It’s because I’ve been gripped by a terrible apathy: Tropicalislanditis.

Normally, I’m never without my little notebook – I write down things we see, what people say and how I feel. It’s all recorded for you, dear internet, so that I can reproduce it in what I tell myself is a witty, urbane manner. Ok, so it’s for me too, so that I can feel slightly smug about it all (although I’d probably feel a lot smugger if I was quicker at posting stuff on this blog). But since Burma, I’ve been without my notebook.

Let me explain: after leaving the 42 degrees heat and 80% humidity of Mandalay we travelled to Ko Samui, an island off the east coast of Thailand. There we met both sets of parents, and spent a blissful ten days with our family in a resort with a private beach, smoked salmon for breakfast, and eye watering prices in the restaurant. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to stay in one place for so long. Needless to say, we did very little beyond reading, eating, drinking and playing pool.


After that we parted with our parents and headed over to the west coast of Thailand to the little island of Ko Lanta, where we got a fantastic deal on a bungalow right on the beach, and I celebrated my 31st birthday. Then we took a very circuitous minivan, car, ferry, taxi route to travel south to the Malaysian island of Langkawi. And here we are now, sitting in Starbucks to use the wifi, whilst outside it rains.

Here’s the thing though: we’re bored. Worse: we’re bored and WE CAN’T BE BOTHERED. It’s the worst combination. Yes, you’re right, that is the sound of tiny violins being played, or perhaps the drip drip of your heart bleeding for us. Tropical islands are wonderful places to relax, but they are not great places to do things. I mean, I could probably go and rent a jet ski and make some heroic charge towards the swimmers paddling close to the shore, but my chest isn’t quite chiselled enough, my skin not quite bronzed enough, nor my wrist not quite braceleted enough for that particular brand of hedonism.

YOU’VE FELT THIS before – those of you with children, cast your mind back, those of you who are retired, stop pretending that reading the paper in the morning is being busy – it’s Sunday early afternoon and the day stretches out before you, a wonderful expanse of Not Working, the morning behind you as a leisurely lounge on the sofa. You could do anything, absolutely anything, yet you can’t quite rouse yourself to leave the sofa. You feel vaguely anxious that you’re not making the most of this precious free time, yet you want to take the opportunity to relax; you’re bored, but the TV or the radio or that book is keeping you glued down; and you realise that you slightly despise yourself both for doing nothing and for thinking that you should do something other than relaxing. You only really start to unwind in the evening because by then you don’t have the anxiety of time pressing down on you, and you end up going to bed late, only to wake up completely unrefreshed on Monday morning but having achieved absolutely nothing – nothing – with your weekend.

That’s pretty much what it’s like being on a tropical island all the time. Although it’s possible that I may be missing the point.


I haven’t even bothered to break out my big camera since we left Burma. That’s why I’m showing you a picture of a pineapple right now – I don’t have any decent photos, just what I’ve been snapping on my phone. Still, who knew pineapples grew on the ground like this? Not me.

I like to find solace by tormenting the local wildlife.

I like to find solace by tormenting the local wildlife.

YESTERDAY, THINGS REACHED a crisis point. We didn’t set an alarm, and when we did rouse ourselves, we just lounged about in our tiny, cramped, windowless yet air-conditioned room in the guesthouse we’re occupying, caught in a paroxysm of apathic homesickness, looking at facebook pictures of how friends at home are re-decorating their houses, building new garden sheds, or Having Fun Without Us. We didn’t want to go to the beach, because it was stiflingly hot; there was no one else in our guesthouse to socialise with, probably because the rooms are like prison cells; and we didn’t want to wander the streets of the town we’re in because this is tourist central and I don’t want to buy another pair of board shorts, thank you, or eat at your overpriced and yet underspiced restaurant. We had a long, soul searching discussion about why we’re travelling, what we’re getting out of it, and when did we become so bitter and ungrateful? (actually, I’ve always been bitter, but I’m generally better at hiding it). Then we realised it was time to take things in hand: so we went to buy some stationery.

After some initial horizon scanning, we identified the things that were important to us in life and travelling, tabulated the data to identify what could/couldn’t achieve whilst travelling, and then set a colour coded schedule for the coming weeks with some overarching strategic objectives. What else would you do in this situation?

After some initial horizon scanning, we identified the things that were important to us in life and travelling, tabulated the data to identify what we could/couldn’t achieve whilst travelling, and then set a colour coded schedule for the coming weeks with some overarching strategic objectives. What else would you do in this situation?

The problem is, we’re kind of inbetween most other people we meet who are travelling. There’s the early twenty-somethings who (with some notable exceptions amongst the people we’ve met) generally want to get drunk and wear as little clothing as possible; and then there’s the older travellers, generally in their 50s or 60s, who are either very well travelled and just Better At Life than us, or instead credulous and herding together for protection. There aren’t really many people in between. Apparently all the 30-somethings are at home having, well, homes and families and things. If you want to put a label on us, then I think that we fall into the flashpackers category, although it’s a bit of a loose term.


Both BK-C and I are on career breaks. There are definite things that we want to achieve – apart from seeing the world, of course – whilst we travel. For me, it’s my writing. For BK-C, it’s to eat a lot of different foods and talk to a lot of different people. Maybe it’s because your thirties are the first time that you start to feel the grains of your life slipping past, but it’s hard to find the right balance between doing things and not doing things – too many experiences in too short a time and you quickly become tired and jaded, doing too little over too long a time and you soon become bored and apathetic. Right now, we’re in the latter; at the end of Burma, we were in the former. So now we’ve got colour coded goals, we’ve got plans about when to get up, when to lie in, and – of course – where we’re going to go. Yeah we’re probably massive losers, but tomorrow we’re heading to George Town, on Penang, the food capital of Malaysia, and honestly? I can’t wait to get up off the sofa.


This post was written and uploaded on Pulau Langkawi, Malaysia.

NEXT TIME: Normal service is resumed and I actually write something about the places we’ve been. I’ve got posts about Burma and my final China post stacked up, so expect something on them. I’m also dying to write about Malaysian food, but I’ll save that until after George Town.