8 things I’ve learnt in a month of travelling

It’s been exactly a month since I left Singapore. Already! And it’s already about 3 weeks since I last wrote a blog, so I’m overdue for writing something.

The initial idea for this blog was ‘8 travel tips from my first month of travelling’, but now I’ve written it, I can hardly say ‘don’t wee on your own leg’ is a travel tip (see point 7) – or really any kind of tip, because it’s just common sense – so I’ve entitled it ‘8 things I’ve learnt in a month of travelling’ instead. Yes folks, I’ve finally learnt weeing on yourself is not advisable. So at least something good has come out of my leaving my job and travelling around Asia. My parents will be so proud.

Anyway, that little treat is towards the end, once you’ve read points 1-6, so let’s start where all good listicles start – at the beginning. Here’s what I’ve learnt (it’s groundbreaking stuff):

1. I have great intentions about blogging and writing, but intentions don’t always turn into actions. While I work well under pressure and can smash things out when I need to, it turns out I am pretty good at procrastinating unless I have a pressing deadline (who knew?! Haha. BTW, this is not new news to anyone who knows me. But it’s certainly been proven true in the last month). I think I need to start setting myself a goal of writing, say, at least one blog a week.

2. Despite my initial trepidation, I am perfectly capable of living out of a rucksack. In fact, I massively over-packed and will be sending some clothes with my friends back to Singapore after their visit this weekend to give me a bit more space. This is what my rucksack looked like initially – it needed its own seat on the ferry from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan.

rucksack on ferry

It was packed so high that when I put it on, I not only almost toppled over backwards with the weight (20kgs, which was lucky in a way because that was my maximum luggage allowance on the flights I’ve taken so far), I had to walk with my neck tilted forward like a right muppet because it’s not designed to be packed all the way to the top; the top has a drawstring and it’s supposed to roll down and sit behind your shoulders. Probably should have done a trial run of packing it before I left Singapore but, well, I left that until the last minute. See point 1.

While it’s definitely do-able, living out of a rucksack can be frustrating. Even though I always pack the stuff I think I’ll need near the top, this never seems to work, and I always end up needing something from at the bottom and emptying the whole thing out whenever I get to somewhere new. The solution? Just take everything out when you arrive at a new place, and dump it on the bed/floor/some other surface. Doesn’t work so well in dorms unless you want to encourage people to rifle through your stuff (maybe to take some of it and free up some space?), but okay when staying on your own. Another solution would be to use a suitcase, but no self-respecting travel wanker uses a suitcase.

3. After three years of living on the equator I thought I was used to the heat. Wrong! I was used to occasional heat in the 10 minutes or so I would typically be outside in between home and public transport or the office, and used to maximum airconditioning in almost all other conditions (trains or buses, home, work, shopping malls, bars, restaurants…). My first couple of weeks travelling were in places with a fan rather than airconditioning and in the last few days, I’ve upgraded to AC rooms. Turns out this is money well spent because not being able to sleep when it’s too hot is pretty rubbish, and waking up drenched in your own body fluids (not those kinds, get your mind out of the gutter!) loses its novelty very quickly. The heat is also exhausting and makes you sweaty and rank and I am by no means used to it at all, which brings me to point 4:

4. Make-up is overrated. It’s especially overrated when it’s so hot outside (and inside, if you don’t have aircon) that it drips off you immediately with sweat. It’s also overrated when you’re in ‘the zone’ of being a traveller and you don’t actually give a shit what you look like any more. I don’t usually wear a lot of make-up anyway, just a bit of foundation, mascara and lipstick, but I can’t even wear a tinted moisturiser here because as soon as I step outside, it slides off and drips down my face. Mascara is displaced by the sweaty drips and runs into your eyes; the panda look isn’t cool, and it’s also not cool to not be able to see because you have black chemicals in your eyes (maybe a waterproof mascara would solve this? But I don’t have room in my rucksack, so…). And lipstick – well, if we’re sacking off foundation and mascara and going ‘au naturale’, lipstick seems a bit redundant. I made an exception last week when speaking at an event in Phuket, but that’s only because a) it was kind of work-related, and I wanted to look like a professional speaker and not a traveller who definitely lives out of a rucksack, and b) we were in an airconditioned hotel, with minimum chance of profuse sweating (or make-up melting down my face) on the cards.

5. Mosquito spray is definitely not overrated. Mozzies are everywhere, and I’ve been bitten like mad. I even seem to get bitten while wearing spray and hiding in bed under a mosquito net. Maybe there’s something special in my blood. Mwuahahahahaha. I can definitely see the appeal of elephant pants now, with their covery-leg abilities and elasticated mozzie-up-your-leg-prevention system at the bottom. So I’ve bought some, which I don’t really have room for, as you’ll know if you read point 2. But, elephant pants are very much like rucksacks for the traveller – essential equipment.

6. Doing nothing is definitely underrated. I’ve managed to do nothing in 7 locations so far (1 in Koh Samui, 3 in Koh Phangan, 3 in Phuket), and to fill a whole month by doing very little, and it’s amazing! I’ve read about 8 books (separate blog with a list and short and probably useless reviews to come, which I’ve been writing as I write this one, so screw you, point 1), sat on beaches, been for a few walks, spoken at an event, eaten lots of Thai food, drunk plenty of Chang beer, watched multiple sunsets, been to a full moon party…you might notice none of these are particularly active activities. The most action I’ve seen was a yoga and meditation retreat for a few days on Koh Phangan. To be fair, this was more exercise than I’ve done in a long time. And it also involved more sitting on the floor than I’ve done since I was about 5 years old (which is probably about the same time I last did so much exercise). Never mind the yoga, sitting on the floor cross legged is *hard work* people. Another blog to come on the yoga retreat. Assuming I can get over point 1 (again). Here’s a picture of the place, just to give you a sneak preview. And break up the text a bit:

yoga retreat.jpg

7. The smell of mothballs (or whatever those gross smelling white balls are that look like old fashioned mint sweets which they put in urinals) makes me gag. Dis. Gus. Ting. Seriously gross. I have discovered this because some toilets in cafes have one toilet with a toilet and urinal in the same room, I haven’t gone loco*. I used a toilet today and actually weed a bit down my leg in my hurry to get out of there without throwing up. Which then actually meant I was in there longer because I then had to wipe wee off my leg as well as the regular ablutions associated with having a wee. The moral of that story? Don’t breathe through your nose in public toilets (really shouldn’t have taken me 37 years to figure that out), and don’t wee down your own leg (again, this shouldn’t be a thing at my age. What can I say? See point 8…).

8. I’m clumsy. Okay, this is also not new news, but having fallen off a moped in week 1, I went on to stub my toe a few days ago on the edge of a wooden bed (no injuries were sustained with the weeing on my own leg, you’ll be pleased to know). I thought I might have broken my toe initially it was so swollen and bruised, but I was still able to move it, which according to the NHS website – and my own previous experience of injuring a toe (this was not my first rodeo) – is a good sign. And after a few days, it’s definitely getting better, I’ve managed to walk to the beach today. That’s two injuries in a month. At this rate, I’ll have to replenish my first aid supplies soon – or at least the painkillers. At least a first aid kit was a useful thing to have packed in my over-stuffed rucksack. And I’ve learnt quickly to keep that in the front pocket so I don’t have to empty the whole bag if I ever next time I need it 🙂

Stay tuned for more properly insightful blogs, if I can be be bothered to write any.

*Edit – I used the facilities again before I left, and it turns out I was in the men’s toilet. Oops. It’s definitely still a thing though, I’ve seen it elsewhere.

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