New Blog Series – Retirement, Asia, and Traveling Forever

I’m starting a series of a few blog posts on retirement and living and traveling. The purpose of this next series of posts are to define how you can do better if you are living on fixed income if you have a mildly adventurous soul and are able to adjust to cultural change and thrive. Here’s an article that got me thinking about just how far US social security retirement will carry you. So what do I hope to convey that adds to the balance of information for people? That’s the topic of the next few posts. Here are the posts upcoming. Each one will be linked and presented and hopefully at the end of the next few posts you can see what retirement means, your choices if you travel, and how some freedom can work if you are retired in places that cost less.

  1. Retirement and Travel in Asia
  2. Making Life better with limited funds traveling in Asia
  3. How to go slow and see more
  4. Visas and Passports and places that offer more for less
  5. Bringing it all together. Being old does not mean you sit at home wondering

I came to the conclusion that more needed to be done after talking with a variety of people in Vietnam and Cambodia about retirement. Retirement is supposed to be the good times folks. You are supposed to be able to take a breather, find a new thing, do a new thing, and perhaps find a new way of living. Maybe even finding a new partner if you are socially inclined. I am a solitary type so I solo travel but perhaps its not meant for you so you want something more.

Another thing I hope to convey in the series is that a person is never too old to find a new adventure. I answer questions about aging a lot on Quora about aging and travel. I think people reach their retirement years and get complacent or believe they are XX years and cannot possibly hit the road. I think fear plays a great role in this. Fear of both the known and unknown. There also is the difference of a place like Vietnam or Cambodia. Some of us are simply not made for having our senses assaulted by change. We’re more comfortable with the known yet often the known will cost more, mean you live less, and perhaps even threaten your possessions.

I am gong to write each of the blog posts above sequentially each week. So the retirement and travel in Asia post will come next week or late this week and I will then publish one in the series each forthcoming week.

So anyways, if you are interested in what a tomorrow may look like; stay tuned. I’ll continue to write my regular travel posts about life on the road in Cambodia and what I see and link to photography I do. Maybe instead I will create a static page in WordPress for this work. I think perhaps a static page would be easier to manage and let there be a difference in content.

Friday in Da Nang – Food and beer and blogging thoughts

Its Friday night here in Da Nang. I went out for a really nice American breakfast this morning at a place called the Happy Heart Cafe. Hearing impaired people work there and produce some really nice food. I had the American breakfast this morning. Then I walked the city taking photographs which I won’t share because I am still practicing with the new camera. For dinner tonight, I walked over to Banh Canh Nga and had a bowl of Banh Canh and the fried dough called Quay. The Banh Canh noodles are different than the normal pho or other noodles. They seem almost al dente in their taste but have this rich flavor. The soup or broth is probably a family secret much like Pho. Its really a great noodle dish and having the Quay bread dough fried up with it lets one dip the bread sticks into the soup and the result is great! As I sat there this evening, a Vietnamese man and wife joined me at my table. We shared no common language but the language of food prevailed. They ordered more Quay and we shared another order. We all laughed at trying to eat the Pork with bone in. The husband went to get a fork which seemed easier. I just used my fingers. I don’t think there is an approved way with many Vietnamese foods of what to use. Vietnamese people seem to just want to get the food and beer into their systems and don’t care about propriety or methods.

So we sat there and laughed and they ordered more of the Quay. They put all of it on my plate and I divided it up into half and gave half back to the husband. He smiled and immediately attacked it! It was a fun moment in a local restaurant and the employees there were happy to see me. The waitress showed me the English menu and prompted me to order the Banh Canh. So of course I did. But there are meat choices so I went with Pork. The entire meal came to about $3.50 I believe. I think the Vietnamese man and wife paid for the extra order of the dough sticks.

If you get something like Pho or even Bun Bo Hue, get the bread sticks too. They make the meal very nice and are served hot. If they don’t have them ready they will not serve cold ones.

Then, after…

Then after was a stop along the riverfront for beer. I sat at the Waterfront Bar and Restaurant and as usual talked with one of the waitresses who told me about her growing up in Da Nang and wanted me to stay longer so I could come back for more tall Tiger draft beers. She tells me that life in Da Nang is good but that a lot of the workers are from other places in Vietnam. She’s a warm, funny, and I have to admit rather cute young person so I enjoy flirting a bit with her and making her laugh. I will sit there and watch the evening settle over the Han river and the dinner boats ply up and down the river serving their expensive dinners and drinks to probably the Korean and Japanese tourists.

So I sit and drink and probably get a bit shit faced. Its okay because that’s what the Vietnamese do on Fridays too. I found this one place next door to a restaurant I went to that I have to visit where the beer flows and food comes out and the guy rushes around serving people six packs of beer iced up in buckets. I may have to talk my Vietnamese friend from here to go there before I leave.

So that was my Friday. Now I sit in the room with the fan and AC going and I can hear the evening traffic motoring by. Life has become so different it seems and perhaps its the cans of beer I bought at the market talking. But I told someone on twitter that life has become real since I left. Traveling with no end becomes something completely different and I’ve found a large community of like-minded people on twitter. I think the travel and vagabonding community is well integrated and communities are easily grown and chats spring up that I really want to do.

One of the sidelines always is blogging. People there want to have successful blogs and produce something of value. They want to create. But creating is not enough. They want readership and comments and uptake. It used to be called authority way back when when blogging was in its youth. People now blog and write posts on instagram and tweet and reference all of them. Its an interesting revolution to observe and how people wish to communicate. Simply writing blogposts is not enough. Having 30 ads and writing product reviews will not avail. The folks on twitter that write the blogs are way ahead of you. They already know about how to create and market and sell and produce value.

But all of that is fine for them. My line is drawn on the blog. I don’t want ads or product reviews or partners or any of that. This blog has the pure words. Nothing separates them. Its like it used to be way back in the day when blogging was something else and we all did it to link to another blog and show our interest. Go back and look at blogging Ca 2000 or so. You will see a different reality. Did it evolve?

I wonder sometimes after reading some blogs on wordpress.com.

A Day’s Relaxation Considering Photography and Life

I spent a quiet day today. No long walks or places to see with the camera. A few things regarding the photography thing occurred to me today as I sat in the room and did some personal stuff.

There’s a wide variance between someone that takes photographs and a photographer. A person that simply enjoys recording the passage of time and space and does that digitally has a need to perhaps learn to do that better because its a part of the human condition to want to get better. Unfortunately, the flip side of that is comparing oneself to some established photographer you happen to see on twitter or facebook. You may think,

why can’t I do what that person does? Am I just not talented or have the artistic or photographic ability?

Then I think some angst and depression sets in. We have lost the sense of fun-ness of the thing. We perhaps get mad or angry or sad that we do not seem to progress. But applying this to me and I have done this; I am not a photographer. I am someone who merely enjoys cataloging his world and travels and does that with a real camera. No one pays me for services nor do I keep a blog with only photographs or submit them or do anything with them. So when I see Person A and her amazing work, I want to suddenly learn. Its like being a child in some ways. You pick up a new thing to do and the next thing is wanting to be good at it.

Often that hobby or pursuit is dropped when you don’t feel you have met the goal or when you measure yourself against some established person you have not progressed. Its a shame really because when I go through with doing the photography on my walks I always wish to do better and sometimes, just sometimes, it intrudes on the fun part of things. But I think; this is part of the human condition. We pick up a thing and want to do it better. We want to get good at it. Then on our blog we can label ourselves as having a Lifestyle, Travel, and Photography Blog. Perhaps we do some SEO (whatever that is) and some ads and some affiliate programs. This blog won’t ever do that. It doesn’t have “wanna be” syndrome.

I faced the same thing with the photography I don’t wanna be a photographer. I want to enjoy it for what it is. So what do you have to learn? Well, enjoying something for what it is and could be does not mean you don’t learn. But learning is one thing when done for your own needs and another when you are doing it to compete. When you cross over to competing, then comes the measurements and perhaps the failures. Its easy to say,

Hell yeah I’m a photographer! I shoot in RAW and have a subscription to Lightroom and Photoshop. I can create tone curves and edit my RAW files like anyone’s business.

I read this blog about having fun doing photography and a pretty well established photographer, perhaps a pro, admitted that he had thousands of images sitting around waiting but yet no interest in doing it. He had lost the essence he admitted. The “why” of it had left. He felt you only get that back with a new camera when you have to figure it out.

What happens though if I drop all that pretense and just say,

I just wanna have fun. Images they be good and bad. My frames will rule or suck. I’ll get better but its based on my own measurement and not comparing myself to person B.

I was guilty of this with the FujiFilm X100F. I wondered how long I was supposed to go about this before I got better like person B or F. Well, the answer is never and I realized it today. I do the photography not to be a photographer but to have fun and learn for its own sake. Just like blogging as I’ve written before. If you sell and have ads and have SEO optimized thangs, good on you. I may stop reading your blogs when the ads get disruptive. I want your words not your ads. I want to measure your writing and not what you wanna sell me by click throughs.

Give it some thought. I have today.

Six Months on the Road in Vietnam, Japan, and Hong Kong

This is the sixth month of vagabonding so slowly, ever so slowly it seems sometimes, in Southeast Asia. I’ve been to Japan, Hong Kong, and Vietnam. My tourist visa here in Vietnam runs out mid September so August is the last full month. I feel pretty fortunate to have seen so many places, met some really nice Vietnamese people, taken photographs of day after day of walking the cities. Something about that walking has been so important to me. There is the health part perhaps of doing 5 to 7 miles most every day of the week but there is more than that. There is the sense of “being there”.

The roads that have let me travel them have criss-crossed both the map and my memory. I remember these small side streets in Shinjuku, the alley ways in Hong Kong, and the Hems in Vietnam. All three are microcosms of life. They each have social, economic, and cultural value. I think they create a local culture for the folks that live there. Why travel out to buy small grocery items or get your hair done when there is a place two doors down with a person you live next to. Perhaps have tea with. Maybe a few beers. Its a richer context than any I ever saw in the states.

Now being at the 6 month window, I took a longer walk today to reflect on the meanings of the travel, how enriching its been, once how lonely and sad I felt, but mostly how just about every fucking thing in my life has changed. There is nothing that’s the same as it was living in California and working each day. Everything has spun on its axis and given me yet another view of the months.

The other thing which I feel I am getting better at or at least asking more questions about is photography. I will never be a “photographer”. I don’t line up shots and care about composition. What I do care about is liking the photography I do by walking each day. Its a perfect hobby for someone that walks every day I think. You don’t have to be good or even want to be good to have a real camera. You can simply want something that’s different that expands your world and gives you a digital view on the places you’ve been. I chose one camera. You may choose a different one. Kudos to you! The primary thing for me is the exploration of streets and people and seeing how nature and sky and clouds all interact to give you a view of a day. It matters not that you have walked that way before. You know that everything changes every minute.

A final thing is the solitary travel itself. There is a certain value to being on one’s own, finding my own way, not being beholden to anyone out there. Its independence of knowing I can turn left or right and no one is there to argue or dismiss the decision. But I think its not for everyone this solo vagabonding. You may do a week or a month in a place like Europe and think you got it nailed. Sorry! But Asia has its own rules and its not the same. You will have to learn it all over again but with new rules.

So, as August starts and I have a few day tours and trips lined up out of Da Lat, I’ve realized that its not the far flung future when someone asks what I’ll be doing next year. Truth be told, for decades I was responsible to have the answer. It was,

I’ll be working of course. I’ll be responsible of course. I’ll be accountable of course.

Now those words don’t hold up. I’ve lived this times and came out the other end. In September, it will be time to move along out of Vietnam and that will be bad and good. I truly love this country and the people but nothing stays static and I have other places to get to. Cambodia awaits with new adventure and museums and monuments. I’m sure the FujiFilm X100F will be happy to click click those pictures too. And my feet and legs will be tired but they’re willing to go yet another mile and see whatever awaits to the left at the turn ahead.

The Elusive Life of the Wanderer – Vagabonds will go!

I’ve felt that the true wonder with a life spent slowly vagabonding is that the places you stop take on a character. Each unique and colored with its new own experience. Moving slowly allows you to say “tomorrow” to things. Days slow down like now in a coffee shoppe in Da Lat. I can stay with the latte and kindle and look out the window at the daily life of the city. Scooters, vegetable carts, people old and young. All are there for the slow vagabond. Life itself slows down when you let it.

Maybe the faster pace works. The 30 countries in 45 days. Perhaps the escape is needed. Or perhaps you business travel and your time is not your destination. Maybe you are an expatriate or nomad. I met a few expats before. I’ve seen the nomads too. Life is at a different pace for both. Then there are the true wanderers. Those that move to no one else’s needs.

If travel is the goal and that’s what I read on Twitter these days with a new community I find myself in; life spins it’s chance wheel and perhaps you find the way and means. For every one vagabond I have met there are others leading those

lives of quiet desperation

as Thoreau would have said. How to find things of worth and then upvote them? Become another person because you secretly have the wanderlust. I fear many people that retire simply stop. Travel is an obsession but not a reality. It’s sad I think. Right when people are freed from the chains of work new limitations take hold.

But are there rules?

So what is this unhealthy fascination with rules? I think it all comes from the decades we spent in work and school. Work tells you that you have responsibility and accountability for things. School teaches you how to get there with easier steps. But soon you are indoctrinated with values and mores that you will need if you step in the workaday world. You know them.

  1. Be on time
  2. Be considerate
  3. Be responsible
  4. Be accountable
  5. Be modest
  6. Be there
  7. And there are more and you know them because you lived them

But after some dog years you figure out that work is not all its cracked up to be. I told my boss,

the tank is empty. I have no more to give

Our group VP asked me every day to reconsider. Age, he would say, is not an issue for someone like you. We trust you and want you to stay. Of course by that point I knew there was no way I would stay. I knew that life awaited out the door from Mountain View, down the street away from Program Management avenue and data centers and servers and misbehaving applications and cloud vendors.

Upon reaching that vaunted view, I found that this is not a rule free thing. There are rules that are there. Perhaps we agree so we move toward them willingly.

What are the few, if any rules, of wandering and vagabonding? I’ve figured out some and there are not many.

  1. Lodging. I cannot just trust to arriving at a place for 3 months and not having a firm grasp on lodging. I want a place that will take the longer stay and then get out of my way.
  2. Food. Well, food is important. I like food. I like to eat.
  3. Money. Without money you do not get the first two things but you have to be careful with this one.
  4. Connections. Do you need them when you wander? Family, friends, relationships?
  5. Possessions. All that stuff you have. What do you do with it?
  6. Closure. If you are going to leave forever, you have to have closure on things. You cannot leave a car, house, possessions behind. Close those things off before you go.
  7. Needs and Wants. Well, this is the superset. You have them. Do you need the first 5 to reach the sixth?
  8. Wandering itself. Do you ned to have all 6 to go?
  9. Solo or group mode. What’s your choice?

All of the other things like choosing a backpack, deciding on clothing, do you pack for a week if you are gone for years, do you want a simple or complex life? Check in or carry on? Blog or write a journal? Active on twitter or facebook? All of these may bring value or cause you pain and may do both. There are huge communities out there of expatriates that can help. Travel forum sites to help you learn. Nomads, vagabonds, RTW, gap year, whatever experts that can assist. The question always is do you need all that?

Here’s the final things if you are retired like me. Can you actually do it when you are old? Will all those younger backpackers make room for you? Are there places in the world where you can live cheaper and have more fun?

I’ll give you a hint on these. Yes to all. Being old has no real bearing on doing a thing. Perhaps you move slower. That’s okay. Backpackers and RTW and digital nomads and gapyear people are all after something too. Finally, here’s a hint on the places that are cheaper. You can live well in Vietnam on your retirement just with social security. Take my word for it. Your room in the hotel may not be 5 stars and your food may be street food except a night or two in a week when a burger and fries, Indian food, pizza, or whatever calls you. I started doing a budget in google docs for everything What a waste of time. If you want a real downer after a few beers out and a nice bowl of Pho or an expensive dinner in Hanoi Vietnam (expensive for Vietnam), then just get that spreadsheet out and ruin it by suddenly feeling the guilt. I can tell you that I have spent no more the last 7 nights than $3.00 for dinner and I get a lot of food. Forget the language barriers too. Menus have pictures. So, yes; you can go cheaper and have more fun and meet engaging and fun people from Vietnam.

Give it a shot if you are about to retire is my advice. What’s the worse that can happen? What’s the best?

Solo Traveling – there is no book or tips or tricks. Sorry.

I think there is a single, solemn voice of the solo traveler or vagabonder. Sometimes when I’m out walking, I can barely hear it. Many believe that the solo traveler must reach lonely moments or times when all does not line up or things become desperate. This is true. But I want to discuss the other times. I think there are a few things the solo traveler gains by their travel.

  1. The sense of being there. There are no interruptions. In the coffee shoppe, eating a bowl of Pho; walking a street in Hanoi. You are there. There is a more immediate sense of being there without having to explain choices or rationalize the why and how of things to another person.
  2. The feeling of belonging. Yes I am only one but I belong. Not to a group of fellow travelers or backpackers. The bigger and wider thing lets me join. Its the world out there that perhaps welcomes me with either a raindrop or a change in plans.
  3. Changing things up or down. There is no one really to explain to when you want to change things up. The solo traveler can just make a change and perhaps reap the rewards or pay the disadvantages.
  4. Responsibility and Accountability. I don’t like those things much. I subscribe to the philosophy that the less responsibility I have the better I am. I also don’t like accountability. I don’t like owing another person something that may change the entire thing.
  5. Choosing not to. Sometimes the best choice is to choose not to. Not to do a thing which did not impress you or make you want more. Choosing not to is a big thing; but it leads to another…
  6. Choosing to. This is even bigger. Its like 3 above but with power. You have choice!

Finally, the big gorilla in the room is whether you are okay with solitude. If you are gregarious or fun loving or an extravert you may suffer when the road and its impact strikes. The road less traveled may become a hell on earth for you. If you need someone around a lot of the time; a hand to hold, lips to kiss, a meal to share; you may not be so good at this. Perhaps you will be though. Its hard to pronounce a sentence on anyone and say they would enjoy the solo movement instead of the group decision.

Give it some thought when you plan a trip or a backpack thing. Could you, would you do a solo trip? Perhaps a shorter one to see if its your cup of tea. Maybe you will find out you hate it that you need those lips to kiss and that hand to hold or that companionship to feel.

That’s okay too.

I’ve found that during the quiet times over a coffee or after two beers that a truth emerges for me. A thing I wondered about, cursed, hated, wondered about has had another element added. Its like a lens of a thing has opened and let you see it with a different filter. I must confess that I have never been good around a lot of people. I have done better being alone. So when I decided to retire and hit the road in Asia solitude was not one of the things that worried me. I did have some thing though and perhaps if you consider traveling solo these may be interesting.

I worried about money. Did I have enough money and what is enough money to keep my life going? My take is you worry about it you don’t have enough so after a few days I realized trying to keep a budget of meals and money spent on fun and travel and tours it was worthless. Getting rid of that elephant on my back was huge! It meant money could be dismissed.

I was concerned about the pace of my travel. Was I going too fast, too slow, just right? Since I’m by myself I have no one to satisfy but I have learned a thing abut this. There is no too fast or too slow. If you are uncomfortable with the speed you may be going too fast. Slow down! You will only remember the border crossings and visa permits and nothing in-between. I also arrived at meaningful pace of things which relates to the first thing. In places that are expensive like Japan or Singapore, I would spend limited time. In places that are more reasonable like Vietnam or Cambodia I would spend longer. Of course, Vietnam has a wondrous array of things to do across the country for those spending time.

I worried about choices I made of technology. Everything from the Mac laptop and iPhone to the backpack I’m carrying. What I found out with the Tortuga Outbreaker 45L backpack is that its perfect for what I do but I read a lot of reporting on different backpacks. Unfortunately, the only way you can find out a technology will work sometimes is by using it. Just be careful with electrical and USB things. Different countries use different voltages so be careful out there.

So, the $100 question is,

could I do this solo travel thing?

The answer is I don’t know. Sorry. Crystal ball does not show me what you may be scared about or excel at. You could do a shorter trip and be fine and hit the road for months and be weary of it. Let me ask you a question.

Do you talk to yourself or sing songs to yourself?

Its not important if you do or don’t. I do. I have sometimes longish discussions as I walk on a day or perhaps create new lyrics to some old rock song. If you don’t, no big deal.

Doesn’t help much define whether you would be good or even be able to do this, does it. Don’t believe the blogs that say just try a shorter trip as a solo traveler. There is nothing the same as a week in Colorado and a year crossing Southeast Asia. There are no books and no authors and no tricks and no tips.

Sorry but its the way it is to me. You may find out a month into it you are good! You may find out 4.5 months into it some loneliness or sadness and you need a coping mechanism. May I suggest ice cream in a mall or walking in a market in Hanoi? Its not the other people that will do it for you. At least not for me. It was the finding of a thing so different surrounded by new sights and smells and food that seemed to make the difference.

Final question,

should I try this solo travel thing?

Yes and No. Yes you may enjoy it. No. You may hate it.

Sunday Reflections on the Road – Not less traveled but more remembered…

I’ve been blogging and walking my way across a few places in Vietnam. Have walked and photographed Hanoi, Hoi An, Hue, Ho Chi Minh City, Veng Tau, and now Da Lat. I toured also around many temples, burial sites, and took a boat on the fabulous Halong Bay. I was thinking today about how fortunate I am to be able to do this. I have less than 60 days left here so each day seems kinda special.

I’ve also answered questions on Quora a few times about how I did this, what it means to me to be doing it, how age is really no factor in fulfilling your dreams. Sometimes it just takes longer to realize the dream and then while you look at it, it all changes. After all, that’s how dreams are. A friend of mine, Mikka Luster, has started a blog post that is a prelude to his Camino pilgrimage. This is not just a hike from what I see. Its a finding of the way, of losing and gaining oneself in the process. You walk your allotted miles in a day and perhaps end at a hostel with others on the voyage. There is perhaps a sharing of ideas and ideals.

To me, its interesting because its not just a walk or even a vagabond from the city to the park or to the lake. I have never done the Camino and I doubt I will but my view of it is that people do this to find a thing, lose a thing, gain insight, lose for a moment or two the corporate vision. In other words, reboot and recycle. We all need this.

For some of us its the pilgrimage of the Camino and its Way. For others perhaps like me its the daily rambling and the feeling of the legs being tired, the camera battery low, the SD card with images I found along the way. The goal with all this is not to find a thing. Its not to reach some goal. Its the pilgrimage of the Camino and for folks like me its the walk in the city. Come rain, hail, wind we can all still put one foot in front of the other.

What It All Really Means (if anything)…

What it all means is that it has no meaning. I don’t do this to find meaning. I am convinced that if I did this only for meaning, I would have quit by now. Maybe there is truth beyond meaning. Maybe there is blogging because you love how words look next to each other. Perhaps you do photography not to become the next big image master but to explore and record the passages of a day with those steps. Its why I don’t shoot RAW and why come good or bad the images are mine. I also don’t edit photographs that are in RAW format. I want to get better but I want what the camera offers and its effects and limitations.

Kinda like my limitations and effects I guess. I’ve met a few people that are on the road for different reasons. Some of us do this because its the answer to a question never asked but always silently there; poking us in the ribs. Perhaps sullenly demanding we acknowledge its there. Others do this for other reasons. Perhaps financial or work or they have a travel pattern that works for them. Bravo! I say.

Remember as you put your feet in front of one another that others have walked the Camino and found their Way. Its a religious and spiritual thing as much as a physical one I believe. Perhaps you will hit the road and decide that there are things beyond your ken that silently demand you learn of them. Maybe you won’t.

I’ve become convinced that the life of the solo traveler is not lonely nor is it just being alone. I read once the difference between loneliness and solitude,

loneliness is being along and hating it. Solitude is being alone and loving it.

Perhaps you are not a solitary traveler. And that is okay. Maybe you are not a traveler at all and that is okay too. But when, at the end of the day, you ask this,

was today worth it?

There is an answer. It can be No.

The many skylines of Ho Chi Minh City – a small tour

I thought you all may enjoy what the skylines look like here from a few vantage points. I did visit a museum also today but photography was difficult and it would have gotten in the way of actually seeing the amazing historic artifacts. I’ll wrap things up in the post with some thoughts about the Museum of History here in HCMC.

Here in a montage is the city for your enjoyment.

You can see that the sky was kinda threatening looking today as I ventured around the city. It rained a few times this morning but the rain here is interesting. It will rain heavily for about 30 minutes and then stops for some time. Usually I have enough time to get to a place for ice cream or a beer and then it starts up again. Now its raining again and I just got back to the homestay. Cool timing!

Museum Notes

I went to the Museum of History today and really enjoyed it. It covers from the prehistoric to historic periods really well and the artifacts are amazing! I guess being a past archeologist, I really like to see the stone working and carving the most but the ceramics were just beautiful too. The rooms were darkly lit but light played across each artifact so it created an interesting view but hard to take photographs of. I don’t think they favor cameras there so I just stopped. I think that this is one of the must see museums if you come here. Its easy to get to and the hours are like other museums and historic sites. They open until 1130am and then are closed until 130pm for lunch break. then they are back open again to 5pm or 6pm.

I would say that if you are a history buff and want to get around here you have to see the Independence Palace, the City Museum, the War Remnants Museum, and the the Museum of History. They are all located kind of close to each other so you could do this in a few days. I like to spread the museum visits out a bit so I enjoy them more.

Other things, thoughts, ideas or whatever

I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about solo travel or vagabonding. Since I decry the term travel I will say “Solo Vagabonding” instead. I’ve read a lot of blogs from people wanting to try it, asking questions about it, wanting a way to find out if its for them. I think a bit about it since I’m doing that and its come to me there are no yardsticks for it. You could do 10 test trips in Europe or the United States and come to Asia and it may not work for you. Things are just so different here. There is no way to know if you are gonna be good at it. But lets be honest here. If you are by yourself, who are you worried about impressing, making happy, etc? What do you think the biggest challenge is for solo travel or vagabonding? Could you do it for the rest of your life? If you found yourself able to chuck it all behind and leave forever; could you do it? Lets just say that all barriers were removed and those were financial, family, organizational, functional, technological and you were given the opportunity to leave but it had to be by yourself. Could you do it and never come back?

What do you think would be your obstacles and what would you gain? Forget about being lonely or having a downer day once in awhile. I have those. Some ice cream and a beer and a crowded mall often work. This is more basic. Could you do it? And if you could would you?

Unfolding Days and Reasons to create – see what you think!

While here in Ho Chi Minh City have been staying in a homestay which is a rather fun experience. I have a room that I think is pretty nice with a great AC which is really appreciated. The cable TV gets some English channels. Then there’s the food. The home owner believes I just do not eat enough food because she fills my plate up numerous times with homemade Vietnamese food. I cannot tell her “No” really because it just happens anyways. So I eat! She sits and talks with me. Sometimes she asks me where I went that day because I told her I walk every day with the camera.

The homestay experience is pretty cool since you live in a real home with the family there. Boys, girls, parents, etc. Its an interesting experience. I think if you want to experience what its really like, the homestay thing is good! She also does my laundry every day. I’ll be setting out one change of clothing she will do and return to me in a day for free.

There is plenty of privacy here too. Once I go upstairs to my room, that’s it. She gets back to her husband and kids and mom and I watch some TV, perhaps look at my photographs for the day and start deciding what I should do the next day.

A fun thing here has been finding a new coffee shop each day that has food. I found a great one today but its a bit of a walk so tomorrow there is one basically around the corner which I will try. I do have a few which I really like a lot. I will probably go back at some point to them but there are so many here that I can be here 30 days and not really go back to one.

Sitting at the K Mart and thinking…

It seems some days I stop for water and perhaps see a thing which strikes me and I will sit on the curb and watch people going by, take photographs of what I see, think about things. Today was no exception. I was thinking through what I’ve done since I left the states. My time in Japan, Vietnam, Hong Kong. I started this whole thing on 1 March leaving the states after retiring. I had wondered what it would be like to stay longer in a place. For me, longer is three months to a year. I am not interested in racking up the countries and stamps in my passport. What I really want to do is live in a place and settle down a bit. I did that in Hanoi. Its worked well for me.

Then I can do the shorter trips like to Halong Bay, Hoi An, and Hue. I get to get away to a place, see the sights there, do the same stuff I like doing but during shorter getaways. The trip to Hue was a great one for that. Soon after that trip I was leaving for Hong Kong and then I would ride the train from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City.

I will do short trips in Da Lat when I get there as well. I already have two planned.

So what this has left me with is a consideration of how things have worked, what my expectation was, whether I would want to ever do something more with the blog, and whether I would want to. For how things have worked, I’ve not made many huge errors. I understood how the visa process worked here and knew I had to leave for a visa run. I also had an idea about what I would do in Vietnam and the places I may want to go. Some places I added later.

Then there’s the final question about the blog and its place. I asked this question because I was reading a blog post over on Lets Vagabond and they mention turning the blog into something more than a travel blog. Perhaps a resource for the vagabonder to understand the ways and means they employed to break free. But I think there is even more than that. People are genuinely curious about what it takes from a planning perspective I think. What to do about things like mail, banking, phone service, US phone services. I think what is probably needed is a resource type site which can provide a deeper level of information for people departing their current situations and perhaps taking on the wanderer role. On top of that, there are the ways and means to get around in a new country, ways to plan the travel and maximize the resources that are provided for travel in Asia. I sometimes think a spreadsheet or table type thing that would let people browse the choices and make decisions that they may end up changing later but the resource base is there.

I have never seen a resource site tailored to people leaving forever. A life spent wandering sounds romantic and carefree and fun. And it is. But my belief is that you cannot leave the things at home to happenstance. The plan for leaving must be as good or better than the one you designed for the new place.

I also think there is a danger of over planning where you try to satisfy all the uniqueness by answering the question one woman asked me at a Pho place in Hanoi,

Where will you be a year from now?

I had no idea.

Getting back to this blog…

Now getting back to this weblog and some closing thought since I have been rambling on for awhile. My blog, Mikes Thoughts, is not meant to be a travel blog even though I blog things about my walks and places I go. It really is meant to encapsulate the life of this Mike. Goods and bads, Thoughts from a one time anthropologist and archeologist and program manager for large IT companies to a retired old guy that gets his kicks wandering roads that turn vigorously left and right. I don’t have ambitions for this blog to be anything more than it is. I want to be able to use it to communicate and create and if you choose to read it, good! If you don’t, I really don’t write this assuming you will read it. I do this more for myself. Perhaps I am the blogger cut from the old threads. Back when I started, bloggers created content. We did not have the monetization, branding, affiliates, ads to concern ourselves with. We simply wanted a place I believe to create. And it becomes like I’ve said before the 5 pound chicken and the 10 pound egg thing. You get constipated and upset and irritable if you don’t create. Its not so that 500 people will like your blog and follow it. Ask yourself, what is the real reason you do this? List it out. I have always done this to create and put words next to each other. The wandering thing and leaving the states happened to come along after I started the blog on wordpress.com.

So those were the thoughts during and after the walk today and perhaps some have been percolating around for awhile. I wanted to create a post that is not about my wandering so no link to photographs today folks.

Give it some thought though why you do this thing. Do you know the history of blogging and perhaps you’ve read some of those founders so to speak of the platform. Its come so far and its so different now. But for me, its the same. I write these things to create and place the words next to each other. I will leave it up to others to lift them higher an create resource content that can be used to help or guide or even transmit the knowledge. I just like to create the words. If you choose to read them, welcome. If not, I don’t really care. I don’t do this for you. Sorry.

90 days in Vietnam – Thoughts of the time spent on the road…

A day of transition awaits me today folks. I decided to take it easy today, enjoy my last day in Hanoi with some breakfast at Joma’s Bakery in the old quarter and generally get ready to go. Its dawned on me that I have lived here in Hanoi for three months give or take a day. I’ve been on this slow vagabond since 1 March when I first left for Japan. On 16 March I left for Hanoi. In the spirit of recollection and memory, a few of the highiights of the last months in no particular order:

  1. Japan! Japan was definitely a highlight. There is something about the country and the places I went this time which were magical. I truly love Tokyo but being able to visit Osaka and Hiroshima was key! Also wandering each city for 5 to 6 hours and thousands of steps with the Fuji camera was great. The weather was kind of transitional for Japan but about what I expected. Springtime is cold, rainy, sunny, windy. In other words like it is when you go outdoors! The walking in Japan was really good and a few I remember was walking to the Akihabara down almost deserted city streets and then coming upon the electric lights of technology town! Another memory were the two times I stopped for beer and lunch in the Lion Beer Hall in the Ginza. I have been to that place since the 1970s so its special. Another big deal was seeing the Atomic dome and park in Hiroshima. There is something that is key there folks. A thing we have to remember. These weapons are not meant for diplomacy or bargaining. They are terrible things and the power unleashed will destroy us. Yet another thing was riding the Shinkansen trains on the Nozomi Line which is the fastest and most express line. Traveling from Tokyo to Hiroshima was just cool! A final thing was Osaka. Its so big that 4.5 days does not do it credit. But yet I am not sure I will get back any time soon.
  2. Vietnam! I have to say that Vietnam is a special place in so many ways. Its people are kind and generous and fun. They love to eat and drink. Socialize in the afternoons at coffee shops and in the evenings at Beer places. The highlights had to be the daily walking of Hanoi. Rarely have I seen a city day after day for months like what I have done here. Usually in the past its just been a day or two. This stay was a longer excursion on a daily basis. Very cool to just set out with camera in hand and go a different direction. Another highlight were the side trips and tours. I loved seeing Halong Bay, Hoi An, and Hue plus the day tours I’ve done. But the big thing is I am not done with Vietnam. I’ll get back and get more highlights and things done.

Someone would say what about lows or things that were negative. There have been those things. I have been scammed with clothing a total of one time here and do not like the nature of some of the high pressure tactics of those selling rides, tourist doodads, and other things. I think they do a disservice to the tourist industry here in some regards but on the other hand, the same things happen in other places so its a mixed bag. Nothing else notable on the negative side has happened. I did not ever get food poisoning or even sick here.

Now how about some key enabling things which have made my trips better? I think one of the things is always getting a prepaid SIM card in each place. In Japan, getting the NTT Docomo data card meant a lot of freedom from the constant hunt for wifi. Having pre-bought the SIM for Japan meant it was ready for me when I landed. A second thing was having the Shinkansen tickets already. Much easier to navigate the amazing Tokyo Station with the tickets in hand.

Here in Vietnam, I think the same kind of things with a few differences since I am staying longer. I bought the Viettel SIM card which renews every month with plenty of data on it plus a real phone number. I have used the number one time here and tend to use WhatsApp or the Hushed App these days on my iPhone. Also having the initial room booked here was a good thing and also working on booking the side trip tickets on Vietnam Airlines was key. I would highly recommend two travel booking sites. Those are Agoda and Booking.com. Both work very well here! For Asia travel, I recommend you looking at 12go as a combination travel site throughout Asia. Its made it easier to do some farther out planning for Cambodia and also buy bus tickets when I wanted to ensure I could get tickets to different places there.

Summary Thoughts and Ideas

I’ve come up with a few. Be sure if you can to have a single source for your plans. I tend to create notes in Ulysses but the primary app is Google Calendar for me. It gets booking emails from the agencies and airline companies, lets me put in holding dates for things, and do attachments. The beauty of Ulysses though is the richness and ability to transfer information from a journal or inbox or idea to the blog folder or group and create a blog post like this one in mere minutes. I can also work offline if need be.

Another thing which is good for me but may be bad for you is traveling slowly. By slowly I do not mean two weeks in a place. I mean months in a place. The requirement is to do your Visa homework and ensure you understand the legal ramifications and what you need to do to get that long stay Visa. As an example Vietnam requires a departure after 90 days and then I get the rest of the time. Other countries may have different requirements. I suggest getting an account on ExPat.com and checking out how the fora work there and reading the excellent posts by long term ExPats in the places you may want to go. I have understood a few of the vagaries of the Cambodian Visa process and my ability to easily get an retirement extension of stay thanks to that community.

To stay long in a place does not require a plan for the day to day. I believe you stay long in a place to not have a plan for that. What you want is the freedom to declare a direction to walk, a place to go, a thing to see. I also believe others that may be RTW type travelers or backpackers cannot do this. Their time is limited or perhaps they have a more extreme set of needs for seeing places. All of this is about your needs and expectations though but also with some baseline research done on whether what you want to do can be done in a place.

For me, and I am but but an experiment of one; the long stay vagabonding and living in a place like Hanoi has set the stage and proven out what I expected. For me, this is the way to go!

Enjoy your time on the road. Be the best vagabond you can be. See you in Hong Kong!