,

The Travel Lifestyle: More Than Beaches & Bucket Lists

Steve Jobs said it perfectly when he was discussing the rules for success: “People say you have to have a lot of passion for what you’re doing And it’s totally true. The reason is because it’s so hard, that if you don’t, any rational person would give up… So if you don’t love it, if you’re not having fun doing it, you’re going to give up… If you look at the ones that ended up being successful.. oftentimes the ones that are successful loved what they did so they could persevere when it got really tough.”

No, the life of a digital nomad isn’t always easy. Like anything, it takes work and dedication and, like anything, it comes with its ups and downs. But as we’ve mentioned, the travel lifestyle is our passion. We love it, we have fun, and we’re not going to give up.

We’ve already touched on some of the downsides of the travel lifestyle in our previous post but we only scratched the surface.

More Hardships Of The Travel Lifestyle

cons of the travel lifestyle

 

Here are our final 6 hardest things about the travel lifestyle we lead:

No, I Can’t Call To Confirm, I’m in Asia!

You may think, since we’re constantly connected, that it would be simple to get many tasks done online but believe us when we say it is far from easy. Credit card companies often require you to call from your home number, mail doesn’t come direct to you so you’re always going through a middle-man, and getting taxes done is an ordeal when you are across the world. There has been very little we’ve been able to do easily, if at all, and the number of times we’ve had to explain that no, we can’t deal with it when we are back home, because we don’t know when we’ll be home, is ridiculous!

In fact, the only issue we’ve had resolved quickly and efficiently was a small one with our account on StubHub. We think they deserve a shout out just for their extremely helpful customer service line and the fact that they acknowledged that we weren’t able to deal with the situation from home and made sure to follow up by email and provide avenues of contact that were easiest for us.

If only it was that easy to change our credit card bills from paper to email (nope, we can’t even do that)!

What Should I Wear Today? My Black Shirt Or… My Black Shirt?

Carry on suitcases backpacks

This one isn’t really so bad. We love that we travel light – with only a carry-on sized backpack (we down-sized significantly after our trip home for Christmas) and a laptop bag each – as there is something incredibly freeing about not owning a lot of “stuff”, but sometimes we get the urge to own something new, or different, or wear an article of clothing that isn’t already in all of our photos, or something that isn’t a different colour than when we first bought it. Sure, we could buy more but that costs money and takes up more precious space we just don’t have enough of to waste.

Not to worry, we do update our wardrobe, on occasion, by throwing out one thing and replacing it with another, though it’s been hard here in Asia as the sizes are smaller and we can’t always find what we need.

There are times we look at something at a market or store and think “I want that!” but it passes quickly as we realize there’s absolutely nowhere to put it and no sense in buying it when we’re always on the move.

We feel lighter, not just because we literally are, without having too much but the natural tendency to gather and accumulate rears its ugly head every so often and in those moments we contemplate buying a bigger backpack…

No I Haven’t Seen That Movie… But How About The Great Wall!

hardships of the travel lifestyle

There’s a real loss of common ground when you start travelling. We’re having a bunch of different experiences compared to people back home, or many of the people we meet on the road, and frankly, most people just don’t care – they’ve got their own lives to live – and we understand.

But we’re living a completely separate lifestyle and the loss of that commonality can be tough. Sure, when we talk to people back home we’re all always interested in what’s new and what’s been going on in each other’s lives, but there are times when it seems it is difficult for both ends to relate.

Neither party can commiserate about the others’ problems. Our lack of foresight in bringing toilet paper to a squat toilet seems like an alien concept back home and the hunt for the perfect car-seat or crib seems absolutely foreign to us.

We listen, we care and we offer our insight but we’ve got less to contribute then ever and it can feel like we’re not just continents apart, but worlds. And it can suck.

Fortunately, we have an amazing travel blogging community that we can connect with, share stories and experiences and literally talk travel non-stop. We just never get sick of hearing about each others’ adventures!

What Country Am I In?

Alright, it’s not that bad – we don’t usually forget what country we’re in. Well, at least not most of the time. We travel slow enough that we don’t wake up every morning forgetting whether we should be saying “sawadeeka” or “konnichiwa” (although this often happens when we just arrive in a new country).

What we do have to remember is exactly what it MEANS to be in a different country. We sometimes forget that by the sheer nature of being a “foreigner” we are more open to scams,  being taken advantage of or ripped off. No, it’s not as bad as that makes travelling sound but we are definitely more susceptible and also have the additional downfall of sheer ignorance.

Ignorance about every new neighbourhood we venture to means not knowing where to find the best and cheapest food or accommodation and that means we almost always end up spending a bit more the first week we are in a new area. If we’re only in a place for a week, well, that means we’ve only begun to crack the surface and find the best local options before we’re up and leaving again.

Fortunately, most people are willing to help and point us in the right direction.

Feeling Like A Broken Record

digital nomad

Yes, we travel full-time. No we don’t have a ton of money. Nope, didn’t win the lottery. We have a blog, we do freelance work and we move around, a lot. We don’t have any real plans passed our next plane ticket and then, we only have that because customs required it for us to get into the country.  We love what we do, it’s not a trip, not a vacation and it’s a full-time job.

We are constantly explaining, and re-explaining, what we do and why we do it and while we don’t mind overmuch because we really do enjoy it all, it can get taxing to have to correct all the wrong assumptions that are made and frustrating to see the looks of disbelief and derision.

One time, after talking to a fellow traveller about why were were in South Korea, we happened to mention that we didn’t have any plans for the week as we had lots of work to catch up on. She actually laughed in our faces, rolled her eyes and said “oh yeah sure, so much work!”.

The travel lifestyle isn’t traditional and, while it’s increasing in popularity, it’s not all that common, so we understand the lack of knowledge about what we do. In all fairness, most people are ignorant of what a job entails unless they are doing it themselves but then, that’s why we wanted to write these two posts – to show that while we may work in different places around the world, when it comes down to it, our jobs aren’t any easier than most. We just love doing it a lot more than anything else!

The Emotional Roller Coaster

Perhaps all of these things come together to create one seemingly constant emotional roller coaster. We know this isn’t specific to the travel lifestyle, but we definitely feel the highs and lows and we feel them strongly. Combine any and all of the previous 11 points and you’ll get the cause of some of our lower moments.

When our views are up, freelance and other jobs are flowing in and our affiliate links are getting some love, we’re feeling like life just can’t get any better. But when we have a day of slower traffic, have issues with clients and finances, and are struggling to fit in all our tasks for the day because things just aren’t working smoothly? We’re down, we’re moody and we’re convinced this one day will never end.

Just because we’re travelling, doesn’t mean it’s a vacation and we’re exempt from feeling stressed and frustrated. Sometimes, the stress is all that more difficult BECAUSE we’re travelling, away from home and comforts, away from friends and support systems and without the ability to turn it all off, step outside and just relax.

Nothing Worth Doing Is Ever Easy

best par

These hardships are just a small part of our lifestyle and as what we do evolves and changes, these are surely bound to as well. We may eventually have a more permanent ‘home-base’ from which we travel, eliminating some of the feelings of homelessness and homesickness, and we may manage to find a better balance with our online work. What we do know for certain, is that we’re the happiest we’ve ever been and loving every moment of this crazy ride.

We don’t advocate quitting your job, selling your stuff and travelling the world as digital nomads. It’s not for everyone. What we do advocate is evaluating your life, finding what truly makes you happy and going for it, no matter how scary, how difficult or how hard you have to work for it. It’s what we did and even though we’re able to make a list of the hardships of this travel lifestyle, our list of positives is much longer and wouldn’t change a single thing.

 

Take a look at the first 6 of our list of hardships of the travel lifestyle

 

We went for the biggies and larger topics in these posts but: Did we miss anything? Is there anything that falls within one of these points that you’d elaborate on more? Anything surprise you about the travel lifestyle? Comment below and let us know!

 

, ,

Taiwan: From Layover to Love Affair

We recently wrote about how much we love Japan. And we do. But perhaps one of the most surprising occurrences during our travels was when we realized just how much Taiwan had wormed its way into our hearts and made us fall totally in love with it – more than any other country we’ve yet to visit.

How Taiwan Stole Our Hearts

We hadn’t planned to visit Taiwan. In fact, we were supposed to fly from Toronto to Vietnam with a short layover in Taipei, but when a series of events added up, we made the decision to stay in Taipei instead of boarding our connecting flight to Ho Chi Minh.

We had no clue what to expect. We hadn’t researched the country and we had barely read or seen any travel blog posts or videos on it but we were cautiously optimistic. With two months in the country, we certainly hoped it would be a place we would enjoy and since we are usually good at finding the positive in most situations, we weren’t overly concerned.

travel taiwan hiking jiufen

What we found over the two months in Taiwan was more than we could’ve expected. In fact, before we left, we actually contemplated returning to Taiwan and living there for a while – we still bring it up occasionally.

From Taipei in the north to Kenting in the south, and back again, we explored the country, immersed ourselves in the culture, stumbled our way through the language and enjoyed some of the most amazing food.

The Beauty Of Taiwan: A Video Montage

When we left Taiwan we left a piece of ourselves behind and so we wanted to show a bit of our journey through this incredible country and share some of the many moments we cherish from our time there.

So What Is It About Taiwan?

It is a country of incredibly generous people who invited us into their homes and families, and ultimately found their way into our hearts. With each new place we visited we found people who would go out of their way to help us find ours, small family restaurant owners who would bring us a “special dish” to make us feel welcome, people who would always try and help us overcome the language barrier, and a country full of smiles for us foreigners, with no price tag attached.

We spent a week with our friend’s family celebrating Chinese New Year and found ourselves warmly embraced into the fold. Yes, everywhere we went it seemed as though there was an abundance kindness and generosity.

taiwan food candied fruit and why we love taiwan

 

It is also a country with incredible natural beauty from the rugged coastal regions, to the beautiful outlying islands and the incredibly varied inland sights like mountains, forests, gorges, and natural springs. We hiked up mountains for stunning views over villages below, visited tea plantations, walked along the sandy shores of the southern beaches, and motorbiked through national parks overlooking incredible coastal landscapes.

We explored the cities, walking what seemed like every inch of Taipei, visiting night markets, temples, memorials, and making friends with locals and expats alike.

We made such strong connections and so many wonderful memories that it’s hard to think we may not be back there for quite some time. Taiwan will always have a place in our hearts and you’ll be sure, when we get the chance to return, it won’t just be because we happened to decide to stay at our layover destination.

 

Have you found a place that grabbed hold of your heart while travelling? Comment below and tell us about it!

The Travel Lifestyle: Not Always Sunsets & Selfies

Don’t get us wrong, the travel lifestyle has been such a positive thing for us. We’ve seen so many things, made so many  – memories, grown as individuals and bonded as a couple. We’ve developed new perspectives on the world while learning to navigate through so many different situations and circumstances – we even had quite the interesting time on our very first day of full-time travels in Beijing!

Yes, this travel lifestyle (as we like to call it) has been more than we ever could’ve imagined. But that doesn’t mean that it’s all sunsets (which we like to post on Facebook) and adventure (which we typically choose to write about),

The Tough Side of The Travel Lifestyle

And Living As a Digital Nomad

cons of travel lifestyle

Nope, there’s a whole other aspect to this life that doesn’t usually get posted to our Facebook page, or talked about when we blog. Obviously the positives far outweigh the negatives, or we wouldn’t be here to be posting this, but to ignore the cons altogether would be to grossly disillusion you about exactly what our lifestyle involves.

It may sound petty: So sad for us, we get to travel to a new destination, explore and do what we love, but we aren’t trying to throw a pity party. We’re merely shedding some light on what goes on behind all those travel articles, photos and videos, all us travel bloggers are always posting. It’s just like when you scroll through your Facebook feed and see all those happy faces smiling back at you – people rarely post, or want to read, about the bad.

Since everyone seems to think we are “so lucky” and tell us they “wish they could do it too”, we thought we’d shed a little light on exactly what this travel lifestyle entails.

So, for those of you interested in this lifestyle and for those of you who are just curious about what we do beyond our stories in our posts, here are the first six of some of the hardest things about the travel lifestyle we lead.

 

Homelessness

travel lifestyle, digital nomads

If you’ve ever moved to a new country, a new city or even a new neighbourhood, you may have experienced the feeling. It’s a combination of sadness, excitement, trepidation, worry, and a sense of loss, all wrapped up in what feels like a ball in the pit of your stomach.

For us, this feeling reoccurs with every new place we visit for a length of time and then, inevitably, leave again.We get comfortable and familiar with a particular place, the establishments we frequent and the people we meet and then just as quickly we are packing up and heading out to a new location.

We joke that each new place is our “home” but in reality it is. Sure, in our hearts home will always be Canada and where our loved ones are but in this crazy nomadic life of ours, home is wherever we are and for us a “sense of home” is more of a fleeting concept we barely begin to grasp before it disappears again as we board the next flight, to our next destination.

With each new place we leave after getting comfortable it feels just like we are uprooting and leaving home again.

 

There’s No Place Like Home

We don’t miss home, per se. We miss the people, definitely. The ease in which we are able to navigate the country and culture, absolutely. But we don’t miss our old lives or have any regrets about our decision to live a travel lifestyle.

Unfortunately, there is still a sense of loss. While we are away, people are getting married, getting pregnant, and getting sick. The young are growing up and hitting major milestones like learning to talk and starting to walk. Our friends are bonding over outings and get-togethers, or forming new friendships as they go.

And while all this is happening, we’re missing out on those weddings, and births and being home to take care of our family, and watching the little ones start to walk or strengthening friendships already strained by the natural process of getting older and drifting apart.

So yes, while we’re excited about not being at home we’re still homesick. We miss all that home represents and all that we left behind.

There is no real sense of community for us anymore either. Other than our online travel blogging community (hello if you’re reading this!), we meet people in each place we go and we, fairly quickly, say goodbye again. Sure, we keep in touch with most of them online or via chat apps, but it’s not the strong, deep bonds one associates with friends from “home”.

 

What Language Am I Speaking?

travel lifestyle problems with language

Conversation is hard these days. Are we speaking Japanese? Korean? Thai? Can anyone translate what that intercom in the apartment keeps repeating over and over again? Should we evacuate? It’s not easy when you are frequently switching countries and, with that, languages.

Added to that, we’ve gotten used to speaking in a sort of broken English. Using words that are more common among non-English speakers, making wild hand gestures to get the point across and speaking in a way that is neither fluid nor really conversational.

Thank goodness we have each other to talk to but it seems that, without fail, whenever we meet any native English-speaker, we forget we no longer need to compensate and start using the same methods of speech that we would with a non-native speaker.

And no matter how much we think in our heads “stop flailing your arms” or “you can speak at a normal pace”, the message just doesn’t get through and we’re left staring at some slightly puzzled, very uncomfortable faces.

 

Financial Woes

It’s true! We’re not rich and we didn’t win the lottery! While we made an effort to budget and save before we left, we work, and work hard, just like everyone else to make a living and fund our lifestyle. With this comes all the same concerns and worries everyone else has about making money and paying bills.

For us, though, we don’t have a steady income or regular paycheck. Instead, we rely on multiple streams of income and try to budget accordingly and while it’s not always easy, we couldn’t be happier.

Before, we would spend some extra money on a night out at the movies or a nice dinner. Now, the country we are exploring IS our entertainment and we find just as much enjoyment buying some food at a night market or street vendor.

 

An Unnatural Attachment To Technology

technology and the travel lifestyle of a digital nomad

We were debating what to title this section. Our other option was “my eyes sometimes bleed!” and yes, it is just as fitting. We can’t stop doing something work related because pretty much everything we do IS work related. This means we rarely look away from our computer screens or cell phones and virtually live through the camera viewfinder while exploring.

We are “on” almost 24/7, posting on social media, networking, completing our freelance work, commenting, commenting back, responding to emails, sending emails, writing posts, fixing pictures, making videos, researching,  and the list goes on. There is ALWAYS something to do and always the sense that if we aren’t doing something, we’re falling behind, not staying on the top of our game or not doing what we need to do to succeed.

For us, there is no concept of weekends. Actually, weekends kind of suck for us because that’s when everyone else is off work invading our favourite coffee shops and clogging up the streets, markets and sights.

And as for vacations? It may look like we are on one all the time based on the photos and stories we tell, but for us, there is no such thing as time off from the online work we need to do.

 

Internet Connection Required – Cue Panic Now!

Tied in to the previous point is the concept of internet connection. We are always taking this into consideration because, after all, we’re called digital nomads – without internet we really can’t do much.

A stream of questions run through our heads with each place we go: Where is the internet? Where is it fastest? How do I get WiFi access, a SIM card, a top up on my phone plan? How much is it? Wait, how much did you say internet was? Who do I have to pay to find some internet that actually works?!?! Why would they ever have internet this crappy!?

It is hard to “turn off” and enjoy the moment when you always need to be connected. In fact, one of the reasons we changed our plans after Christmas and stayed in our layover destination of Taiwan rather than flying to Vietnam was because of internet connectivity and internet speed.

We know, we know, it’s not that bad and many people we’ve talked to said it was good enough (a few even got a bit heated about it) and that’s great for the average tourist but for people who need quick, reliable access in order to upload and email a freelance assignment on time or work on creating new videos, pages, and posts on your website, good enough doesn’t always cut it, especially when you’re really starting to build your business and your site.

 

At this point you may be wondering, why the heck are you even doing this if you have so much to write about all the hardships of being a digital nomad? Well, to be honest, not only do the pros outweigh the cons but all of this makes what we do that much more special –  we’re sacrificing and working hard for something we love. No one said doing what you love would be easy – if it was, everyone would be doing it!

We’ve got a few more points to make before we’re done telling you all about the worst parts of the travel lifestyle so check back soon for the second half!

 

What do you think the hardest part of the travel lifestyle would be for you? Comment below and let us know

 

, ,

Sushi and Samurais: A Journey Through Japan

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Japan? Kimonos? Sushi? Samurais? Yes, those are some stereotypical aspects of Japanese culture, and we did find them in our journey through Japan, sometimes in abundance, but what we also found was a country and culture of incredible depths reaching far beyond what people typically see.

For us, Japan wasn’t a country that slowly wormed it’s way into our hearts, like Taiwan. No, Japan wasn’t so subtle in its courtship.

Instead, it reached inside and grabbed hold of both our hearts from the moment we stepped foot on its soil.

What did we love so much? The landscape, the people, the culture, the language, the food, and the, well, everything! There was only one thing we didn’t like about Japan, and even that wasn’t something that hindered any part of our experience.

A Journey Through Japan – Beyond Expectations!

Sure, even before we went we both had a love for sushi and while that love now probably escalates well beyond a healthy level, it was only one of the many things we loved about Japan and Japanese culture before we travelled there together.

Since Macrae had already been to Japan, twice, he had shared a lot of his stories, including his favourite places in Japan, and the language. In fact, trying to learn Japanese was one of the first goals we made as a couple (3 years later and we’re still not fluent… one day!), so Japan already held a special place for us both.

Our trip to Japan lasted 3 months and while we didn’t get a chance to see everything, we sure saw a lot! From Okinawa to Fukuoka, Fukuoka to Osaka and Osaka to Tokyo, we explored, met incredible people and made some amazing memories.

Take a look at some of our favourite moments and places in Japan – a vibrant country where the traditional and modern contrast yet the culture holds strong, the people are always welcoming, and there’s always something exciting around the next corner. These are our visions of Japan.

Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Below!!

 

Have you been to Japan? Comment below and let us know what you thought of the country. If you haven’t been, what are your impressions?

 

, , ,

5 Of The Weirdest Foods Found In Asia

As we’ve mentioned several times when discussing our visit to the food stands of a night market in Beijing, or our culinary exploration of Taiwan, there’s very little food we don’t like or, at least, won’t try – even the dishes that are labelled as the “weirdest foods in Asia”. We’ve even surprised a lot of locals when they offer us different dishes that foreigners typically consider “weird Asian food”, and we eat with hearty enjoyment, but the Nomadic Boys, another couple of travellers whose culinary explorations always capture our attention, have put together a list for us of some weird foods they’ve tried in Asia, and we think that these may cause even us to hesitate.

Here’s their list, and experience, with 5 of the weirdest foods found in Asia:

Nomadic Boys Dive Head First Into Some Of  The

Weirdest Foods In Asia

 

Nomadic Boys mermaids photo

 

We are Stefan and Sebastien, a gay couple from London. Stefan is second generation Greek Cypriot, born and raised in North London and Sebastien is from Lyon in France.

We first met over 6 years ago in London and have been together since.

We have two main passions in common: food and travelling. So, we decided to combine the two and eat our way around the world together, starting with Asia. Nomadic Boys is our travel blog chronicling our adventures with our food discoveries.

Along the way we’ve encountered some delicious food, particularly in places like Sri Lanka, Vietnam and China.

But along the way we’ve also tried some pretty weird foods, and here’s 5 of them:

#1 Peking Duck Feet in Beijing, China

Stefan and Sebastien from The Nomatic Boys eating Peking Duck Feet in Beijing, China, one of the weirdest foods in Asia

 

Beijing is famous for its duck dishes (named after the city’s former name, Peking) and they are delicious. We had lots of yummy duck dishes ranging from roast to crispy.

But, the Chinese eat all parts of the duck. Literally, every single part of the duck is eaten including the face and the feet. Ok the face may have some flesh and is easier to stomach, but the feet?

We struggled with this a little bit.

#2 Airag (Fermented Mare’s Milk) in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia

Stefan drinking Fermented Mare’s Milk one of the weirdest foods in asia

Airag is fermented mare’s milk with a slight alcoholic content and popular with nomadic families throughout Mongolia. It dates back to the days of the Mongol empire in the 1200s when traditionally guests to a nomadic ger (their fast-to-assemble nomadic home) would be offered a bowl of airag along with a plate of dairy based treats.

We were quite excited to try airag as we had heard a lot about this drink before arriving.

But it’s absolutely disgusting: bitter and sour, like a yogurt that has passed its sell-by date by several months.

It is also supposed to have “cleansing” qualities and you are warned to go easy on it. We did not need to be warned as a few sips was more then enough to satisfy our airag curiosity once and for all.

#3 Vu Sua Fruit in Hoi An, Vietnam

Sebastien from The Nomadic Boys eating Vu Sua Fruit in Hoi An, Vietnam, which is considered to be one of the weirdest foods in Asia

Vietnam has the ideal tropical climate to keep us fruit lovers happy and we were spoiled with a variety of mangoes, dragon fruits, papaya, passion fruits…

In Hoi An (Central Vietnam), we stumbled upon a new fruit we’ve not yet come across in our travels around Asia: the breast milk fruit!

Actually it’s more formal name is ‘Star Apple’ (or Vu Sua in Vietnamese).

Star apples are juicy and sweet. They are so nicknamed because as you peel them, a few white milky drops dribble out, just like, er breast milk!

#4 A Platter of Bugs in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Fried crickets and silk worms anyone? Washed down with a platter of spring rolls with chopped red ants with fried giant water bug, tarantula and scorpion? All of this topped with a samosa containing chopped feta, spinach and tarantula…?

a plate of bugs and some of the weirdest foods in Asia- courtesy of The Nomadic Boys

Okay, we’re showing off now, but Cambodians make the most of what they have and cook these high-protein-easy-to-maintain creatures for a crunchy and quite chewy meal.

We were too shy about trying cooked bugs from the streets vendors in Cambodia, but instead visited the famous BUGS cafe in Siem Reap and sampled their discovery platter.

Sebastian from the Nomadic boys eating scorpion - the weirdest foods in asia

The fried scorpion particularly excited Sebastien. After he got over the whole psychology of ‘UN SCORPION…QUELLE HORREUR: IT’S A FRIGGIN’ SCOPRION!’ , he found it to be palatable, chewy and not so bad – almost like eating a prawn.

#5 Balut (Duck Embryo), The Philippines

Sebastien eating one of the most weirdest foods in Asia, Balut (Duck Embryo), in The Philippines

Now THIS bad boy always raises eyebrows with every foreigner visiting the Philippines.

Balut is a developing duck embryo boiled and eaten as a snack in the shell and with a splash of vinegar.

It is a popular street food snack that originated in the Philippines and is also frequently found in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Stefan from The Nomadic Boys eating Balut (Duck Embryo) in The Philippines, one of the weirdest foods in Asia

The ideal age of the duck embryo is 17 days (called balut sa pulaI), when the chick is almost fully formed with feathers, beak, claws and bones. Let’s just say it has a slight crunch to it…!

The alternative is a younger balut (known as balut sa puti): more mushy and gooey…equally as, er, tasty.

We tried a few baluts at Puka Beach on Boracay island in the Philippines and absolutely, er, loved (!) it. It tastes like a very concentrated egg flavour but with a very gooey, jelly-like texture with pieces in it.

What is the weirdest food in Asia you’ve ever tried? Comment below and let us know! 

 

 

 

, ,

What Not To Do While Travelling To Malaysia

Have you ever travelled to a new country only to be confused by certain customs and practices? Walked the roads of a new city uncertain as to how you should behave? Every country has its own customs, standards of behaviour and taboos and often times they remain undiscovered until those practices are breached. Amidst questioning looks, confused stares and, sometimes even, expressions of angry disbelief, a traveller learns fast what is not acceptable in the places they visit.

Getting Lost in the Customs of Malaysia

Malaysia travel

Malaysia is no different. Quickly becoming one of the hottest and most popular travel destinations, it is a multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-ethnic country rich in variety of foods, traditions, and history.

With a core society of indigenous Malay, Indian and Chinese, the culture of Malaysia has also found influence from other areas of the world, from Britain to Persia, Europe to the Arabic nations. With so much diversity it can get confusing for a traveller to know exactly what customs to follow.

Before we first visited Malaysia, we had heard tons of ‘dos and don’ts’ from fellow travellers and we supplemented that with lots of research on the issue ourselves. While we didn’t notice all of these rules in play, possibly because we spent most of our time in the tourist-friendly Georgetown, Penang, we definitely were aware of some stark differences in practices between our own culture and that of the people in Malaysia. We’re sure if we had stayed longer, we may have noticed an even more stark contrast.

If you’re looking to make sure you don’t breach any behavioural rules while visiting Malaysia, the following will give you a good idea of what not to do in Malaysia.

Be Aware of Gestures Considered Rude or Obscene

hand-686288_1280

Gestures are a difficult thing to control as they often come automatically. When in Malaysia, it’s good to avoid a few gestures that are not acceptable in Malaysia but may be commonly acceptable in other parts of the world.

For instance, the head is considered the most sacred part of the body and as such, should be respected. Touching the head of an adult or passing an object above someone’s head is considered rude and disrespectful.

While common in a lot of western cultures, using the forefinger to point is seen as a rude in Malaysia and instead, make a fist with your thumb over top the fingers and point using the thumb as the directional guide. We noticed about half of the people would point with their finger and the rest with their thumb over fingers. We’ve also found that in many places “pointing in a direction” with your whole hand open-palm, works very well.

Pounding your fist into the palm of your other hand is an obscene gesture to some people in Malaysia and should also be avoided.

Take Into Account Gender-Based Considerations

hand-819279_1280

An important consideration in many places is the difference in acceptable behaviour from, and between, men and women. In Malaysia, men and women should avoid embracing and kissing in public. Public behaviour and image is incredibly important and public displays of affection are not considered appropriate.

Women should also take care in the beachwear they choose. Topless sunbathing is not allowed and while some tourist areas allow bikinis, many Malay women will swim fully clothed.

Interaction between unfamiliar men and women also comes with taboos. Don’t be offended if a member of the opposite sex does not return an extended hand for a handshake. In Muslim culture, physical contact between members of the opposite sex is not encouraged and may not be reciprocated. If you are a man, wait for the woman to offer her hand first. With a country as diverse in culture as Malaysia, it’s not always easy to identify what beliefs a particular person holds.

Interestingly, it is also important that a woman never touch a monk, even accidentally brushing past, or hand a monk something as they are then required to fast and perform a ritual cleansing.

Remember Table Manners and Guest Etiquette

baby-feet-836867_1280

Table manners and guest etiquette change significantly from country to country, and even sometimes city to city. What you have been told as a child may not always apply to another country or culture. In Malaysia, there are several important rules to remember when acting as a guest.

You may be used to showing signs of embarrassment when burping as it is often considered rude to do so in public in many Western countries, but in Malaysia burping after a meal is typically acceptable and a regular part of dining etiquette. On the flipside, wearing your shoes upon entering someone’s home, a mosque or a temple is a definite faux-pas. Remove your shoes before entering a house or place of worship as a sign of respect.

A related custom is ensuring the soles of your feet do not point at people or sacred images. When in public, ensure that your feet are facing towards the ground and are not propped up exposing the soles to others.

In Malaysia, there are apparently fairly strict customs for using your hands to eat. Always eat with your right hand, even if you are left-handed, as the left hand in Malaysian culture is usually reserved for bathroom-related behaviours. If you are left handed and cannot get used to the right-handed way, ask for utensils.

 

While there are more customs, traditions and taboos to be encountered in Malaysia, these are some common and more relevant behavioural rules to take into consideration while visiting the country. As a traveller it’s hard to know all the ins and outs of a culture, especially one as diverse and multi-ethnic as Malaysia, but taking time to learn the dos and don’ts, and making an effort to incorporate them while travelling, can make a huge difference in the way in which you are able to interact with the locals you meet and the impression you leave as you go.

 

Have you noticed any of these customs while in Malaysia? What other customs and practices have you noticed differ from your own culture while travelling abroad? Comment below and let us know!

 

[button link=”http://onemoderncouple.com/email-list” type=”big” color=”orange” newwindow=”yes” fontcolor= “black”] Enjoyed this post? Click here to keep up with our adventures![/button]

 

 

,

How Travelling To Korea Landed Us In Central Park

Where can you get a glimpse of Central Park from New York, the Canals of Venice, and the Boulevards of Paris all in one place?

We’ll give you a hint: We’re not talking about Vegas.

Chances are, if it wasn’t for the title of this post, you wouldn’t have guessed that, surprisingly, it’s in South Korea in the incredibly “smart city” of Songdo.

Before you read more about Songdo, and how we ended up staying here, check out our video and get a glimpse of a different type of Central Park than the one you’re familiar with:

 

We Followed A Cat To Songdo

songdo south korea smart city

After several recommendations by people we’ve met on the road, we decided to join a website that connects home and pet owners with people who are able to stay at their place, watch their animals and/or take care of their house and property while on vacation or out of town (check the end of this post for details on the site we use and a discount if you’re interested in signing up!).

Since we already knew we were going to travel Korea for several months, we decided to keep our eyes open for upcoming requests and fairly quickly, we saw one within the dates we required.

Fast forward a few months and we’re in Songdo, South Korea, not too far from Incheon Airport (a major airport near Seoul) and only about a 45 minute commute if we want to visit Seoul, taking care of a gorgeous, and slightly hefty, cat named Pumpkin and staying in quite possibly one of the most interesting cities we’ve seen in Asia.

It’s No Walk In The Park, Unless it’s Central Park, South Korea

deer in central park songdo south korea

This new smart city, was designed to be an international hub for business, and boy has it focused on the concept of bringing foreign people, and companies, to its backyard. The city drew on some of the “great cities of the world”, like Paris and New York, to find inspiration for various features and we were quite surprised when we heard that a “Central Park” was among one of them.

We took some time to walk through this expansive park – comprising 10% of the total area of Songdo International Business District – and explored the impressive grounds. This Central Park includes seawater canals that refresh every 24 hours and contribute to the ecosystem and two boat houses where people can rent canoes, kayaks or motorboats.

rabbit island central park songdo south korea

They also have artwork and statues throughout and a complex, built to look like traditional Korean houses, with a cafe, restaurant and hotel. We were pretty excited about the fact that there is even a deer park and a rabbit island!

It really is a beautiful and peaceful park in the heart of this incredibly interesting city and we plan to head back to rent one of their various tandem bicycles and explore more what Central Park in Songdo has to offer.

We loved the animals and active canal in Songdo’s Central Park. What would be in your ideal “Central Park? Comment below and let us know!


 

You Can Do It Too

Looking to start housesitting? Or do you have a need for a housesitter yourself? We’ve been using TrustedHousesitters and find it’s a fantastic, reliable and safe platform to find and interact with other users and they are pretty reasonably priced.  Whether you’re looking to find places for a weekend, a week or long-term, they basically have all the options available pretty much around the world.

Since we are members, we’ve got a discount code we can offer others. Register through this link to TrustedHousesitters.com and you’ll get 20% off whichever type of membership you choose.


 

 

 

,

Oh Canada! The Good, The Bad & The Coffee

OH CANADA! It’s been six months.

Well, 5 months, 18 days and some odd number of hours.

As of today, July 1, 2015, also known as Canada Day, that’s how long it’s been since we last stepped foot on Canadian soil…and yes, we do miss that Canadian soil!

Oh, Canada Day, the anniversary of Canada’s confederation, a time when we’d normally be celebrating at some ribfest (literally a festival of BBQ ribs), cottage, or campground, enjoying some Canadian beer and a fireworks display. Sigh. Canada does know how to throw a great party!

Instead, we’re in South Korea, home of ‘Gangnam Style’, not a Canadian flag in sight (no seriously, there’s a street dubbed “flag street” with every flag you can think of… except Canada!), holed up in a pretty fantastic apartment watching a cuddly cat of questionable origins as part of our first housesit.

Would we change a thing? Absolutely not. So while we’re not catching the next flight home – much to the dismay of our family – we are taking this day to reminisce about the country we call home and reflect on all the things we miss about it as well as those things we just couldn’t wait to see in our rear-view mirror!

What We Miss About Canada

Food, Glorious Food!

salt and vinegar pringles japan

Oh yes, we’re having an amazing culinary experience while travelling. We love trying new food and discovering the dishes and flavours of each place we visit, and most places have some international restaurants in case we need a change, but we sometimes think back to what it’s like back home where you can find a restaurant that serves virtually any type of cuisine you could want. If not, you’re almost guaranteed to be able to find the ingredients you need to make those dishes.

The choices and options are endless when it comes to food in Canada and we find ourselves missing the ability to walk into a grocery store or market and pick out whatever we are craving. Some things we’ve specifically noticed that are missing are: oatmeal/oats, milk (in many places it just doesn’t taste the same), meats (often many cuts are just too expensive), fruits and vegetables (it is hard, or expensive, to find fruits and vegetables indigenous to other countries), and good ol’ Canadian maple syrup.

What You Want, Baby I Got It!

Think of something you want to buy. it can be anything at all. Got it? Chances are you’ll be able to easily find it at some store Canada. The convenience we took for granted is sorely missing in many countries we’ve visited and it’s not just the food, as we mentioned above. Sure, there’s an almost unnecessary abundance of STUFF, something that has hit home the more we travel and realize how little of that stuff we actually need, but it often makes things that much easier and efficient when you can just run out and grab what you are looking for.

Over-the-counter medication, clothing in our sizes, and so many, many things are harder to locate, if you can locate them at all. One thing we noticed in particular is stick deodorant. It seems that men’s deodorant only comes as aerosol or roll-on and the few women’s stick deodorants we’ve found include bleach, a common ingredient in women’s skin care products in Asian countries.

Time Is Money!

Speaking of the efficiency of having everything you need at your fingertips, we also miss the general appreciation of expediency and efficiency. People just tend to MOVE faster back home and seem to look for ways to get things done, and get them done fast!

From the cashiers at the store to the people on the street, there’s an underlying ‘in-and-out’ mentality that we definitely notice has been missing during our recent travels – especially when we’re waiting in a line that’s moving at the speed of molasses to purchase a tube of, what we hope is toothpaste, and attempting to maintain our position in line as several people endeavour to claim a spot in front of us.

A big one on our radar is clothes dryers. Perhaps it is energy saving, but there seems to be very few people that actually use clothes dryers – even when they own one – instead opting to hang their clothes. Now, we used to hang most of our clothing ourselves when we lived in Canada but in humid climates and during rainy season, it takes DAYS to dry!

The Canadian Addiction

tim hortons canada

 

Always Fresh – Always Tim Hortons! For most Canadians, these words create a sensory-memory onslaught: the smell of freshly brewed coffee, the sight of honey crullers, vanilla dips, and maple dips all lined up, the taste of that Timbit you just had to have…for all our Canadian friends out there, we’ll go the nostalgic route and picture this particular Timbit as a dutchie…

It’s all part of a long relationship we Canadians have with a coffee and donut franchise called Tim Hortons. Tim Hortons AKA Timmy’s AKA great, reasonably priced coffee is something that we’ve bonded over with other Canadians abroad.

Surprisingly, we’ve found that some of the most die-hard Timmy’s fans were actually NOT Canadian. We met an American soldier based in Japan and a Japanese citizen that had briefly lived in Canada who actually have friends ship them coffee from Tim Hortons in Canada. We’ve met a slew of others from around the world who have travelled to Canada and who raved about their coffee and donuts! And don’t let us get started on Roll Up The Rim!

24 Hour… Everything!

This one ties into the concept of convenience and is a wholly unnecessary, but totally appreciated, luxury. While convenience stores are generally 24/7 everywhere you go, we really miss being able to find 24 hour establishments like grocery stores, drugstores, Tim Hortons (oh yes it is!) and restaurants. Whether we’re up late and looking for a caffeine hit, in need of something in the middle of the night, or just feel like doing some twilight shopping, there’s usually a place you can go.

The Great Outdoors

banff canada landscape

Road trips, camping, cottaging and just spending time outdoors and exploring the amazing sights of the country are all things we love to do, and love to do in Canada. We’ve had some amazing road trips, including a long weekend where we drove to New Brunswick, a great day-long wine tasting excursion to Niagara-on-the-Lake, and a (what-a-coincidence) Canada Day long weekend camping trip.

Yes, we see so much of other countries now and we’ve even done road trips overseas, but there is so much to see and do, no matter where you live in the country, and getting out and participating in summer activities involving nature and the outdoors in Canada is something we really do miss. Nature is everywhere and the idea of a concrete jungle is not something that is readily applied to any city in Canada.

Do You Understand The Words That Are Coming Out Of My Mouth?

While we’re quoting Jackie Chan (one of Carolann’s favourite actors) with this heading, we often feel this phrase screaming through our heads when we try to convey a message. It’s not so much the English language that we miss, but the ability to communicate, read, understand, and navigate easily without pantomime and hand signals, without google translate or having to draw pictures.

It can get tiring having to strain your ears to hear the odd word or phrase you may understand or to use both words and charades to communicate. Don’t get us wrong, we love learning new languages and have met so many people who try so hard to help us despite the language barrier, but sometimes we do miss being able to relax and just let the conversation flow.

Is There A Doctor In The House?

Many of us Canadians complain about our health care and sure, in the past, we’d participate in a healthy dose of health-care reform dialogue ourselves. There are the long wait times for procedures and hospital admission, a lack of beds in hospitals, and a lack of completely comprehensive coverage, to name a few. But now that we are full-time travellers and without the ability to hop into a doctor’s office when we need, we really notice the benefits of Canadian health care coverage.

Now, we have to factor in the cost of a doctor’s visit, any required tests, and any prescriptions we need to fill, as not everything is covered by our travel insurance. We also still need to wait in line. So, while we may have complained in the past, we definitely feel nothing but longing for the coverage we have back home.

We Are Family!

While last on this list, it is DEFINITELY not least. The hardest part about being away from Canada is being away from our loved ones. We have a saying: While we miss everyone terribly, it’s especially hard to leave the old and the young. We’ve got young toddlers and children in our family who are growing so fast, but instead of ‘before our eyes’ it’s ‘before our Skype app’ and we’ve got older family who we worry about, especially as health problems increase with age.

We miss them and we love them, and we are so fortunate they understand our need to travel and to forge a different path in life.

Things we definitely DON’T miss about Canada

canada-55981_1280

There’s A Slow, Slow Train Comin’

We definitely don’t miss the transit options back home. Travelling overseas has enabled us to experience truly accessible and extensive transit systems and the ease at which many countries facilitate travel within, and between, cities. With only expensive, slow train travel across country, limited subway systems and few, albeit growing, inter-connected bus systems, navigating from one place to another in Canada can get tricky and expensive.

Winter Is Coming

winter landscape

Nope, we don’t miss the changing seasons, or playing in the snow, or donning our winter coats and furry hats and mitts. The beauty of the leaves changing colour in fall?  Sure it makes for a pretty picture, but blink once and those leaves have fallen to the ground, and the trees are standing barren, as snowflakes start making their way down to bury those leaves in an ice-cold chilly grave. That’s what we think about winter.

Life In The Fast Lane

Sure, Canada is convenient and efficient but with that also comes the sense of urgency and stress of getting where you need to go… now! Part of the reason we left was to get away from that ongoing rat race and constant struggle to maximize, find and not waste, time. This battle seems to cast one heck of a shadow on happiness and we find ourselves calmer and more content to be away from it all.

Money, Money, Money!

Canada can get expensive and we definitely do not miss the price we pay to live in an urban or suburban area. We’re living abroad cheaper, from place to place, than we did when we were at home.  Everything – from accommodations, dining out, groceries (even though some things are more expensive depending on where you go) and transportation – is often cheaper.

Brrr.. It’s Cold In Here

Did we mention this already? Winter sports are popular in Canada, but give us a pair of water skis over the downhill kind any day. Granted, Carolann was never much into winter sports…at all, and Macrae spent the last few winters in Canada hibernating rather than playing in the outdoors. Even still, we’re more inclined to take to sunny beaches and warmer climates over anything that can be considered cold weather.

Here’s A Tip

piggy bank and change

Many places around the world do not participate in this practice – Canada, however is not one of them. Tipping is considered the norm and is typically anywhere from 10-20%, depending on the type of service and independent of just how well that service is performed. While traditionally, a tip was to reward an individual for a ‘job well done’ or going ‘above and beyond’, it is now just assumed.

We don’t mind tipping, but it’s nice to not feel obligated to do so in many of the countries we visit. In fact, there are even some countries that consider tipping an insult as they believe it is their job to provide exceptional service.

We Don’t Need No Stinking Taxes!

Although in Canada, taxes are added at the cash register, taxes are included in the price shown in most other places, so you’ll seldom be surprised at just how much something costs. We definitely don’t miss having to do the math to figure out exactly what our total will be.

Did we mention Winter?

 

What do you miss most (or least) when you leave your home country? Comment below and let us know!