From March to November 2018

I had posted earlier about my thoughts regarding so many weeks and days traveling in slow motion in Asia. It dawned on me this morning as I wrote the piece on Phu Qoc that this was yet another one of “those days”.  Today to the day is 35 weeks! So many things mostly good have happened in those weeks folks. Not that I have been to so many places or have a passport full of stamps and photo albums or instagrams full of fancy photos of me in front of waterfalls or rainbows or mountains. Why do people feel the need to get themselves in each photograph on instagram I wonder.

More like the slow surge of the moments that lead me to fully realize that retiring and leaving was such the right step for me. I would not force this on others since posting and answering questions on Quora has resulted in a few interesting comments about living in a suitcase or not having something permanent or how could I live in place X or Y. I wanted to address those so here goes.

Living in a suitcase. Let me ask how much is enough? When you look at your property and needs and wants and if you put them in boxes, how many would you have? What do you absolutely, positively have to have to consider life worthy? How many “things” that are either valued or just kept because they “fit” in some ideal suitcase or box? We are represented way too often by the things either real or imagined. The real things may be television sets and vacation rentals. Cabins in the mountains or trips to Frys. The imaginary things may be fear, desire to avoid change, or the security feeling in just staying put. Your suitcase becomes your prison then and your comfort zone are the bars. I do not believe that we are meant to live like this. For thousands of years our suitcase was huge. We wandered the deserts and mountains and valleys. Comes to the second reason other than fear which is change. Your suitcase is a known thing. It does not change. It defines your boundaries and when you close it, nothing gets in. Perhaps including change. Its really too bad that we let age define change. I hear things like,

oh, I could not possibly do that. Its too different. I need the security and knowing what’s around each corner.

Well, your suitcase is gonna choke leash you after awhile. Finally, your suitcase lets you know what is around each corner. Its the known. You reach an age I am told and you should just take it easy, relax, not stress out too much. Just enjoy your remaining moments. Really?

No Permanent Thing. This one is interesting. By some measurement, permanence is important. Its the walls around us. To me, its the walls of your gradually increasing prison that you may see sometimes. Maybe in the mornings when you feel like the walk down the street, you can feel hamstrung. You know the permanence thing. Its there holding you to a thing you know. Again, we reach an age and somehow this also becomes important. We lose the pioneer spirit. We just want the permanent coffee shop an easy stroll from the house. The permanent friends on facebook that you can catch up with some mornings. Why?

Living in this or that place. There is nothing so different about living in another place. Maybe you will journey to many other places and do what I do which is this easy meander where I want to go. Places I’ve missed seeing and now am catching up with finally. You don’t need roots. You are not a tree. Become fearless in your 60s. Its okay to do this. I felt played in a permanent place. Like it was all decided to work until XX and then retire and kinda stare out the windows of the place forlornly. Why? Let me just say living in Vietnam or Cambodia is not so different if you an accept the first two things. I get up and have coffee, go for a nice walk with the camera each day, have some dinner and beers. I sit on the porch and feel the cool evening setting in. I do some people watching. I don’t want to live in one place. I am a hobo or something that accepts that a place will become boring and commonplace and it becomes “this or that place”. So the slow movement is a drug and narcotic to me. I can look out at 2018 what remains and 2019 and see the slow travel continuing but to where I want to go. The places will slowly unravel and be a place. Just not that place. Does that make sense?

Finally, word on it all. Age or fear does not mean you cannot do a thing. I know a solo traveler that has anxiety of being alone yet she travels solo. Because the good outweighs the bad to her. Nothing blocks you from the life you want besides really you when you retire. You can come up with umpteen reasons to not do a thing like the three I gave. I understand. We get older and for some reason we feel that the things of youth are out of reach. Its easier to be afraid of change, to fear the unknown and not deal with it, and not hit the road forever whether its on a train or plane or a mini bus to a new place in Vietnam. Don’t let it all define you though.

Be the you that you want. Defy definition. Wake up and find not the limitations or boundaries or comfort zone but the you that perhaps is hidden away lurking and sometimes wanting to see a new thing. You are retired but you are not limited. You move slower but who the fuck cares? Doing a thing to do it and learning from the doing is something. You may feel uncomfortable in Cambodia or Thailand. So find a thing you can do that stretches your value to self. For me, its this slow and sometimes purposeless travel. For you it may be a train trip or cruise.

Take a chance. The you in you deserves it.


Visas and Travel – always do your homework; don’t be me

Kind of a note if you are thinking about going to Phu Quoc Island and you are going to ride a mini bus from some place like Cambodia and not fly in to the airport. While Phu Quoc is a special economic zone and is visa free, getting to the ferry in Ha Tien is not. You need an e-visa to get to there on the bus so you can catch the ferry to the island. There is a lot of mis information about how this works but you can get an e visa in less than 3 days from Vietnam and list Ha Tien as your entry and exit point which is all I want. It costs $25 to get a 30 day visa which is single entry. You get a downloaded e visa that you present to customs when you enter Vietnam at Ha Tien. I could have flown in and skipped it since arrivals at the Phu Quoc airport are covered by the exemption. That flight costs about $400 and takes the same amount of time that taking the mini bus does but the mini bus is only $25.

So here are the steps if you are doing a land thing to Ha Tien and then catching the ferry:

  1. find mini bus service to Phu Quoc. Easy to find online. You will pay for the entire trip bus and ferry.
  2. Get the hotel defined beforehand much as possible. The e visa application asks where you are staying in Vietnam.
  3. Get an e-visa from Vietnam that lets you land in Ha Tien and depart. The official site is easy to use. You will need a photo and passport capture in JPG format. You will pay $25 in VND for the e-visa. It takes up to 3 days so plan accordingly.
  4. Print out the e visa and take with you when you go
  5. Have fun in Phu Quoc!

For me, I may or may not go since I kinda skipped the e visa step until the last minute. If I don’t get to go there, will hop a mini bus next week for a week to Kampot. I have positive vibes that I will get the visa and I will go. Still have the three days including leaving on Monday. I think I will get the visa tomorrow when I am on my day tour of the city here.

The main message is always do more and more homework when it comes to crossing international boundaries. I finally emailed Vietnam immigration and they told me what I needed to do. If I don’t do the trip, no big deal besides the hotel I already paid for and the travel. Perhaps $200 lost. I don’t like that too much but its my mistake so live and learn.

We’ll see if I am packing to go to a tropical island next week or what. No matter what, I leave the following week for Siem Reap and it appears my Fuji XT2 camera will ride the bus there to meet me. Its coming back from Fujifilm Singapore all fixed up.