34 Weeks and 5 days on the road

Its been 34 weeks and 5 days on the road for me. Not such an amazing number really in terms of continents covered, countries traversed, or cities seen. But in another way, an amazing personal journey that began with but a single step on 28 February. Memories are rich of that day because it was the baseline from which all the rest of the days sprung. I lived then in Newark, California and I woke that day knowing it was my last day to work ever. The first thing was breakfast to do that day so I splurged on food and came back and the donation people soon showed up. The garage in the house had some final things in it to take away. Minor furniture, some clothing, electronics. They showed up on time and removed the remains of a life spent for over 2 decades in California. All left was a strongly made rubbermaid storage container that was loaded in the car.

I had to drive in to Mountain View to the company, do a final meeting, turn in company property, and say my goodbyes. This part was tough. I had made friends at the company. Many people had worked with me on these particularly pesky projects of which I only had two. Both seemed as spawn of the devil at the time yet both finished on time with the desired results but after months of 18 hour days, no weekends or holidays. Of course both were done over the holiday. Figures.

So anyways, the goodbyes were tough. There were the surviving members of the burger club that had taken me out one final day earlier in the week. Down to only two members, they were not sure if they would continue. There were friends in the office that were the recipients of my never-ending teasing and that somehow got through the music that started most days at 4pm. My manager was in Florida and I had hoped to reach him on the phone but as a Senior Director, he was quite busy most days. There was my group Vice President who had become a friend and supported me and made the pitch to get me hired full time in 2016. There was my buddy the senior Director of Infrastructure Services that would always have time to talk and have the cold beer out sometimes. Then the legions of others like the administrative assistants, database managers, identity management, networking, windows and Linux team administrators. It also crossed over to the sales and support organization and I had many friends there.

But the goodbye’s were said and the equipment turned in and it was time to go. I remember walking to the parking lot thinking I would not be back ever to this building because I was leaving but the company was also moving in the coming months. I drove my little car on its last trip with me owning it. Over the Dumbarton Bridge again for the last time. I drove to Union City with the backpack, the transfer of title for the car, and the small container of what remained of life here. Pictures and old papers. All condensed to a single plastic container to store in the garage at my ex-wife’s house. She met me out front and I gave her the car title and transfer papers, saw my daughter, dropped off the rubbermaid container and hiked to BART which is about .5 miles away. On BART I would ride across the bay to a stop, get a cab, and ride to a hotel by SFO for one night.

The hotel was very nice and there was a nice bar and restaurant next door so after getting settled and writing a farewell post on LinkedIn, I decided I should probably party a bit. Who knew when I would be in California or the US again. Who knew what the next moments of time would yield for me?

The next day I would fly to Japan for 2 weeks and then on to Vietnam for 6 months. Both trips were kinda planned but Japan was very well defined with hotels and Shinkansen trips. Vietnam was a little more open but I had the 6 month tourist visa and I knew that I wanted the slow travel in Asia already.

If you flash forward to mid September this year, my six months ended in Vietnam on a flight to Phnom Penh Cambodia. I had set 4 months of travel in Cambodia with visits to Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Siem Reap, and Battambang. That would get me through the 2018 year. Later I would define 5 months of travel in Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand and start thinking about the remaining months of 2019. A plan began to take hold about China for some months from Phnom Penh and then perhaps back to Vietnam. Some not decided 100% but China is about 75%.

From February to October, what a time!

So from that day to this, its been that number of weeks and days. Weeks and days spent in the slow mode of travel that I have found suits me best. Moments spent in the giant sprawl of Hong Kong because I had to go there to clear the Vietnam visa after 90 days or trips to Hoi An, or Hue. Then Da Lat and Da Nang and a number of times to Ho Chi Minh City. Many tours to places as well.

So much done, so many days thus far but the time is not near over. I would say in many ways it’s only begun. I had a major need around a retirement visa that would grant me flexibility in Cambodia. I did that. I needed to verify that my slower travel would always feel good to me, be positive in outlook, and also allow me the walking each day with the camera to see things. That’s been done.

Finally from that day on 28 February to this day, there’s been a silent revolution in my thinking. I’ve come to realize I am not a digital nomad or a gap year person or a round the world traveler. I am not limited nor do I ever want to work again or need to. So thanks to a few people that will never read this paltry excuse for a blog. Thanks to my manager Lee who became a friend and supporter over some tough times and projects at the company. Thanks to Robert and Payman for always supporting me and never doubting. Thanks to my ex-wife for helping me always and never saying no if I asked for her help mailing something or just doing a minor errand there for me. Thanks to the few friends I actually have that supported me over the years. Not many but the ones there are good!

Most of all thanks to me! I did this myself. I decided in 2017 that a sea change was necessary that would let me surpass the more horrible years from 2009 to 2014. Those days are past and I’m in the 34 weeks and counting now. Someone may ask if i’m happy with what I have. Yes. I am.

Perhaps I have been able to measure my worth a bit and I know I am not a people person. I know I’m selfish and something of a narcissist and critical. But in the end I did this. You could but it would be different. It would be your thing. I hear people wonderingly ask sometimes

it would be so cool to do what you’ve done. Can you tell me how to do it?

I’m sorry but I cannot. The problem is that each of us faces a reality and a fantasy of our own making. My methods may make you crash and burn or be unhappy or lose the will to continue. So I cannot help but I can tell you  that you can do what I’ve done if you truly desire a change and you can satisfy a few things;

Debt free. I would not have done this without first removing all debt. No recurring debt either. This is the bane of existence.
Consider credit cards. Do you need them? No you don’t. They are evil. Get bank accounts with good ATM Debit cards. Get rid of the evil credit monsters.
Services and Support. Get the services you need to support you when you leave to another place. Mail forwarding services come to mind.
No car, home, property. Get rid of everything. You don’t need to spout minimalist BS but be a realist.
A simpler life calls. Able to live a simpler life in a simpler place perhaps out of a backpack
Retirement Benefits. Understand your social security retirement benefits, how to do them, what they mean, when to claim.
Desire to make a change. You gotta want it. No halfway, half-assed things.
Implement the change.  Be the change you want.

So, can you do it? The question is do you want to? Can you do the things? If not, it may simply not be for you I hate to say. I would not have left if I had not paid off all debt and had not gotten rid of everything. If you cannot live a simpler life in a simpler country, you may be doomed. Lack of desire on your part will lead to lack of execution on your part.

Finally without the things leading up to the event on February 28th. The years of agony and hatred and then the year of planning, I seriously doubt it would have happened so you must implement the change. The top things above were not done in a vacuum folks. It took a year of writing, planning, paying off two final debts; one that dogged me since 2012 and the other being the car. To desire the change you must be willing to do the things to implement the change. Some may be painful. Saying goodbye to work colleagues and friends, my daughter, a known yet expensive life in the Bay Area. All were painful.

Yet then gain reached was so much more than anticipated. I’m free now.

Author: Michael Perry

I've been blogging for over 20 years and now am living in Southeast Asia. The blog is about my slow vagabonding wherever I want to go. My home base is in Cambodia but I'm rarely there.