What Goes on Behind my Round the World Travel that People Do Not See.

A silly idea mentioned over a casual conversation came to fruition two months ago. The allure of travelling around the world seems like an enticing dream to many. We often romanticise the idea of quitting your job to travel, visiting beautiful places and meeting people from all over the world. I have been sharing lots of photos of amazing places and people I have meet on my social media. Before I get anybody steaming green with envy, I would like to bring them to the ground with some aspect of my journey many do not see. It was not always candy floss, unicorns and everything nice.




1. Working my Butts off to save money for the past 3.5 years

People do not know how hard I worked and what I had to give up to get the money for travelling. While many friends were zipping around South East Asia on their big new machines, I had to practise restraint on spending on a new bike, going for long rides and expensive holidays. I sold my KTM 200 EGS and put my favourite activity of dirtbiking on hiatus for a few years.

There were months I was moonlighting a few jobs just to meet my saving target each month. On one particular day, I was running between 3 jobs in 16 hours. As a result, I disappeared from my social circle for months. Movies were a twice a year thing for me. I cooked my food as much as possible instead of eating out always. That period was physically and emotionally draining. Was it all worth it? As the date of departure drew closer, I think it was. Now that I am travelling, it definitely is!

2. The Process of Gaining Trust from Family Members

How am I going to put my mother at ease with me travelling solo in foreign land?

It took time to develop her trust in me. First, by embarking on small trips with my scooter; another time, riding alone in Chiang Mai to meet my friends. I wanted to show her that I know how to take care of myself and get around places.

One year before my intended departure, I stopped moonlighting to spend more time with family and also to recharge myself. I picked up yoga to break my sedentary lifestyle and as a way to maintain fitness during travel.

I brought my mother to Shanghai for a short getaway for bonding and also to make up for my long absence the following year. I did most of the planning for Shanghai to show her that I can be resourceful. 

Sometimes, I think she questions why she has a daughter who always do things to make her worry. Nevertheless, she supports my dream in her little subtle ways. She is not a mother who make decisions for her children, but only wants them to be happy with their decisions. I am very fortunate she did not burn down my scooter upon knowing my plan.

3. The Art of Letting Go

Unbeknownst to me before, the mental preparation preceding the trip was a lot harder. The thought of being away from home and family for such a long time scares me. I am going to miss out on family occasions like Chinese New Year, birthdays, Lantern Festivals. I am not sure if my one year old niece will see me as a stranger once I return home.

My 13 year old dog was recently diagnosed with heart problem and is on daily medications. Being a former Vet-nurse, I was the always the one bringing him to the vets and gets his health issue sorted. Now I have to entrust him to my sister and mother.

If my dog is to fall gravely ill, should I fly back home to see my canine buddy of 13 years off? When I said good bye to my family on 16 May 2015, I know that it may be my last time seeing my dog. Or if any of my relatives were to fall sick or to pass away, who should I return for? (My grandma passed away in August 2016, I could not and also decided not to go back.)

I, like many out there, have these mundane concerns before leaving. Over time, I learnt the art of letting go, partially with the help of yoga - not to let the past or future fret me so much, focusing on present instead.

If I am going to let the future of “what ifs” bother me so much, I should be staying behind in Singapore to take care of the “what ifs”, which may or may not happen.

If any scenarios I mentioned really happens, I will have to make a decision then. As of now, the present is still as such - nothing is holding me back from travelling. I should do it while I can.

Before I left, I had to make every present moment counts, leave nothing unsaid. 

My Italian friend shared with me quote from a Latin poem. "Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero." It means, "Seize the moment, putting as little trust as possible in the future." You can prepare for the future, but future is unprecedented, how can one ever possibly prepare for 1001 possibilities?

It is probably less daunting for me because I do not have the responsibility of raising children or caring for aged parents.

It is also because of these reasons that I want to do it as soon as possible instead of waiting until I have all the riches in the world. I can have more money in 10 years time but may not have the vigour or opportunity by then.

By then, I may have children or need to care for my parents, making such trip more challenging to fulfill.

In the past two months of travelling, I have met people who helped me and offered their friendships in many ways. Travelling alone, I tend to bond with people more than when I am travelling with friends. Eventually, there will come a time when I have to move on.

Saying farewell is the hardest thing to do. Sometimes, tears just well up in my eyes behind my helmet visors after I leave them. At times, I just could not hold it before I say good bye.

At Mae Sot Border, Thailand before crossing over to Myanmar.
Saying farewell is the hardest thing to do!

4. Having Time Vs Having Money to Travel

On the other hand, I came to realise the luxury of such long term travel is not about having lots of money, but having the time. Unlike my past travel with a planned itinerary, I had to stick to it because there is a train or flight booked. Sometimes, I wish to stay longer in a town, but I could not.

Now with my own scooter and time, I can decided to stay at a place longer if I like it. The best thing about doing it solo, you do not have to make compromises for others.

I met a few naysayers before my trip. What if scooter breaks down, what if this and that? But I guess they said what they did because of their expectation of a trip. Everything must be perfect, there should be no room for errors and set backs.

With time, there can be room for errors and set backs. With time, you can nurse your health before continuing with travel. With time, you can spend another day just to get your bike fixed up and running. You do not need to always have to spend big money on the quickest solutions.

With time, ride slower, appreciate your surroundings, your tyres and bike will last longer. With time, you can explore more options for cheaper accommodation in a new town. With time, you can find ways to make money if you really run out of money. With time, chat with the locals, they can provide you alternate insights and perspectives. With time, live with the locals, you will be humbled by their way of life and learn not to sweat over small stuff.

Yes, you still need money to pay for your food and lodging, (I do not like the idea of being a freeloader although I am on a tight budget,). Honestly, with the deposit I placed for Carnet, I do not think I have enough money to last me for the intended travel plan. But I will have time to figure out making money while travelling. Be it writing articles for travel magazines, teaching yoga or PayPal contribution through this blog. With time, you can gain so much more experiences that money and quick fixes cannot give you.

One thing I learn is that you cannot be 100% prepared for everything. I learn to tackle each problem as it comes and not to sweat over small stuff.

5. Stepping out of Comfort Zone.

Travelling on a tight budget also means giving up some of my usual comfort. I always try to look for the cheapest place in town to stay. My first choice is usually hostel or guest house with secure parking. There can be no attached bathrooms or privacy in shared dorms.  It also means having to put up with mosquitoes at times, or having to don a raincoat and torchlight whenever I need the bathroom.

Do not expect having dry and clean clothes to wear or the luxury of having a hot shower all the time.

At times, locals host me. Mum was always telling me over Whatsapp, "Please becareful of people around you." After being brought up not to trust strangers since young, I have to learn to trust strangers in a strange land, based on my instinct. It was a huge psychological barrier to overcome.

Behind the facade of visiting beautiful places and meeting wonderful people, the reality of travelling, is not going to be always a bed of roses.

And with monsoon, landslides, rain and riding in fog.
Two month into my travel, I had fallen from my scooter 5 times, scooter problems, food poisoning, problems drying my laundry in the rainiest place on earth and suffering from toe infection. Wet weather, moist environment in your riding boots are perfect breeding ground for bacteria.


In Guwahati, I had to have my toe nail removed at the hospital and later was vomitting and having diarrhoea from the side effects of antibiotic, busted my budget for lodging because I need to stay near the hospital, then screwed up my scooter when trying to fixed something simple myself. These are my downtimes so far.

So I became a regular at the hospital for my bi-daily antibiotic and end up befriending the nurses and doctor.
However, it is situations like these that you meet Samaritans who bring back your faith in humanity. Bikers are most of the time a helpful bunch.

I screwed up my scooter in my DIY attempt. Arnab got a mechanic to my hotel to salvage the situation.

Conclusion

Many people told me, “I envy you, I wish I can travel like you too.” They did not see what I had to give up or how hard I worked to save my travel fund, or how my family and I cried when I left home two months ago. They did not see the times when I miss my family. 

Luca, another Vespa traveller, shared the same sentiments as me.

Both of us, just like anybody out there, still have our accountabilities to people who love and care for us back at home.

I try to update as often as I can so everybody knows that I am safe. At the same time, I want to share what it is like out there and hopefully others will go and see the world for themselves. So far, the world is too amazing not to share!

If your dream is to travel around the world, are you setting your priorities towards that dream? For some, although they said they want to travel, I do not see their actions gearing towards that goal. They own expensive cars, bikes and spend money blinking them up. They probably can better afford to travel the world than I do but looking at their priorities, they can only say they cannot afford to do so.

After speaking to many overland travellers, I observed overland traveller always talk about solutions towards hurdles. How about emailing to 50 to 60 companies seeking sponsorships? I know one did and now he is paid to travel after building his reputation for the past 3 years.

Whereas, those who only say they want to do it but never did, I often hear excuses. It is too difficult. Of course, it is going to be difficult. If you are going to give up that dream just after a set back, you are not going to make progress in any pursuit.

If there are more excuses not to do it than reasons to do it, probably you do not want it bad enough. Maybe it is just not your priority. 

If you want it bad enough, you will find a way eventually. Quit envying and work for it!

Comments

  1. You have inspired me in so many ways.. I love reading about your travel and compassion, i have learned so much to make it my priority and start planning for my trip which has been my dream before I m not able to do so.

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  2. Chanced upon your blog - really glad I did. I envy and admire you. All the best for your journey and future endeavours =)

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  3. This sums up many of my experiences of hitting the road too! I wish I had a nickel for every time someone said they wish they could do what I do, maybe I could pay for gas and parts. Even though it's intended kindly, their actions reflect different priorities – which is okay, not everyone would be happier on some extended overland trip!

    But I also related to what you say about discomfort, setbacks, and missing loved ones/shouldering the burden of making them worry. The planning and build up is long and methodical. Things must be given up. The image of travel is fantastic adventure, but not often do you see the grind that makes it possible.

    And I'm not even crossing a bunch of borders!

    Anyhow, keep on scootin'. ^_^

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  4. What ur doing takes more than sacrifices and courage...it takes passion ... I myself have something similar planned like urs ,. But of course not on a vespa����... probably those high end touring bikes (BMW GS or ktm) the reasons being ...will b easy on the body ... although I probably will have lost vigour by then..
    One question I have for u is..do u plan to cross any oceans??��

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    Replies
    1. It really depends on my budget. If budget allows, I have plans to cross the Atlantic Ocean from Europe to South America on Grimaldi Freighter-Cruises

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  5. This was very inspiring! Its true, we as spectators only see the exciting part of traveller's journeys and aren't aware of the struggles they go through. I'm glad you shared that part of your experience :).
    I too wish to spend my life and time travelling, but I guess even though it's a serious craving from within, I haven't made any efforts to actually make it happen. Internally, unconsciously I'm continuously wishing for some magic/miracle to happen. Thanks for inspiration. I need to start doing before time runs out.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for dropping the message. Oh well, if you have a dream, don't just wish for it, work for it! All the best....

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  6. Greetings from a local biker here in SG.. had heard of your trip since last year and I would like to wish you well, stay safe but most importantly enjoy the ride of your lifetime! Meanwhile, remember your loved ones at home and do keep them updated regularly.

    Hope to hear more of your stories and life experiences whether here online or in person when you are back in SG.. cheers!

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  7. Its lovely to know that you are earning for the things you love to do.
    valet parking luton

    ReplyDelete

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