Slower days in Sihanoukville – Beach, sand, water and feet

Catching up on a few other interesting topics besides the beach and how laid back the Otres Village is :-). I was thinking of a few things last night over my Chicken Lok Lak and beers.

Thing 1. I have no place to really be or time to get there any longer and when I go from a busy city like Phnom Penh to a sleepy beach village its hard to slow the pace down sometimes. I get used to tuk tuks taking me to all sorts of places, regular schedule of seeing the sights and sounds and people with the camera. A pace of things which while it’s not breakneck is faster. Now here in Sihanoukville, faced with a much slower pace of life I have to slow down. There is the ocean, the rather interesting group of people that live here, the food and beer. But wow! That ocean! That beach which stretches forever almost with water bath tub warm to walk in. I don’t swim much any more but the act of feeling sand and warm ocean water touching the skin and then slowly walking and taking photographs with the camera is never ending. Today, I’ll leave a bit later to enjoy the Thing 1 values and walk the beach in the afternoon to early evening. Get the steps in that make me feel good and take photos of the wonders of the beach, the little city life with dirt roads and friendly people, and then back for dinner to an end of another day of Thing 1 activities.

Thing 2. Writing longer content and having the time to do so. Now I have time to create more stuff. More written stuff. There’s a longer thing in there that sometimes I think wants out. I’ve pushed it to the bottom when I worked before. I had no real time to go off and just write or see where it would take me. Now I do. The times at the beach can catapult my writing back. I have written a few outlines for something longer that I won’t bore you with (yet). But its coming because now I have the time and ocean and sea breezes seem to be an outlet of sorts.

Finally Thing 3. The travel itself and looking at it. I guess at various times I think back on the 8 months gone and the places I’ve been to and am both thankful and amazed. I’ve watched others start and finish their travels while I was still in Vietnam. I watched yet others doing the long term travel count countries and continents. They are like badges of honor to some. You can read their bio’s on twitter like

30 countries and 5 continents in 90 days and still going

I don’t think I could do that pace. I move slower than that I fear. When I set this up for myself, I knew I did not want to just the road and have the countries enter and depart as the passport filled up. I don’t really want the passport to fill up. It’s fine the way it is now. Has an expired Vietnam visa and two Cambodian entries. So this Thing 3 has become not so much the travel which I still enjoy on buses and trains and airplanes; but the longer joys of being in-between and living. Strolling down the dirt street in front of my bungalow and getting the latte in the morning from the pretty girl that runs the latte shack, walking the ocean with no goals in mind, and then the beer and thoughts at night. Also the desire to create content is big for me now. Maybe a sub thing to this is the ability to find another place to go which sounds interesting and just booking that travel. I found Phu Quoc Island again the other day and decided I should splurge and stay a week at a nice resort there. Its a special economic zone so no real visa is needed. I found the mini-bus and the ferry ride back and a nice resort hotel to stay at for awhile.

In a final note of all this, I get to finally say goodbye to Bank of America. If you travel long term, do yourself a favor and do not get a BofA account. I decided to move my accounts to two banks and also had to wait to my social security direct deposit changed which took a few months. I have two checking accounts at completely different banks now. One is CapitolOne 360 for checking and a money market account. The other is Schwab. I truly think you want to have redundant accounts just in case something bad happens to a atm card. I also will never ever have credit cards again. They are the biggest rip off and scam and I am weak. I would just buy the thing on credit and then hate myself . In honesty I paid off two of them over 4 years because of my weakness. Never, ever again will I do them. If I cannot pay for a thing with cash or an ATM it ain’t worth it.

So, those were the things boiling up this morning when I walked to the Main Street to my local latte stand. Now in my room thinking that this day starts later today and I have a few hours before calling my daughter to perhaps read or write or dream. Maybe all three. No limits on any of them any longer.

Google Plus Goes Away

Goodbye Google Plus! Some would say the service was a failure and that no one used it but my news feed and friendships made there were much better than some of the crapola I see on Facebook. The technical merits of communities and collections and circles were very cool. I just wish LinkedIn would offer even a semblance of the filtering of news that Google Plus does.

I shared my photography albums from Google Photos to Google Plus quite often and had a collection there to post to which had over 4k subscribers so the idea that no one used it even in my small sample size is incorrect.

I started with it when it was announced back around 2011. Then it was a simpler thing and one could argue perhaps it was better then. Now with the news of the security breach and the end of the platform, one can cast about for a fitting replacement for what I think it did well.

One primary thing it really did well on was the signal to noise factor. I got more open source and technology news there in a threaded format that was quite easy to follow. I could create circles and subscribe people to them so I had circles like Friends, Android, Linux, Open Source. I could create collections and have content be posted there like my photographs. Facebook does not even come close to the signal to noise ratio. Sponsored posts, stupid news I don’t care about, ads for things I would never buy but yet there is no real way to opt out of makes FB a conscious decision for me sometimes. Unfortunately, most of the people on FB are true friends that I have known for years so I am not inclined to end posting or using that service.

The second thing was the integration with Google Photos. It was easy to “share” an album and create focused collections such as I did with photography. I also could manage the collections pretty easily and turn off comments if I so wished.

Another cool thing is the concept of circles. A circle is a sphere of influence and you could create numerous circles with different focus points and influences. I always thought that approach created more value than the FB approach which is to just slam your feed with stuff or you find a group to join. I don’t think FB groups are in any way comparable to communities in Google Plus.

Finally, it’s the people! I met great people there primarily in open source and Linux and even Linus Torvalds was present. I met a whole host of others especially in open source that became friends.

So whether you used the platform and service or not, there are alternatives to always consider out there but nothing simply takes its place. Facebook could never do that and LinkedIn could only hope to have the same functionality in how to create and manage feeds of news you want to focus on.

Goodbye Google Plus. You were a lot of fun and there were always more people with the hallmark on quality and approach.

Two weeks in Phnom Penh and Other Things

Two weeks in Phnom Penh have passed now. I’ve been having a pretty good time here with the food and photography and travel. In another two weeks I leave Phnom Penh and travel by bus to Sihanoukville where I will spend a month. Then another month in Siem Reap and a final month in Battambang and then back to Phnom Penh for a week and I leave for Singapore.

At that point, I’ll be the on road in Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand for 5 months. I only spend a short time in Singapore because its cost of living is so high. What I spend for a week in a hotel there would get me a month in Malaysia.

Candidly speaking, I’ve seen the low and high sides of Phnom Penh. There is a bar district right by the riverfront which I don’t like much. Seeing a bunch of people staggering around drunk by 7pm does not do much for me. I just find it distressing I guess and I’m glad I don’t partake of that lifestyle. The high side is the history and beautiful architecture, food, and people here. I’ve wandered outside of the city and you see a completely different lifestyle. Not poor but not rich or entitled either. People genuinely look happy out there and I’ve been waved at and told hello by so many different types of people. I think the high sides of life here outweighs what I consider to be the depressing side by a far distance. The cultures here are ancient and visiting museums or galleries you get to see the lives of people going back centuries. I love that stuff!

Then there is the food culture here. I think Cambodian people love to eat and drink and it does not have to be Kymer food. Pizza, burgers, whatever are good. Restaurants by my hotel do not have English speaking staff but going to them has become fun. One place I have gone to a few times is notable by the sound of the beer tops popping from the Angkor Beer bottles. Its one of my favorite places since the food portions are huge and the prices are not.

The final food type thing is the coffee culture here. Coffee here is a pastime and there are these small sometimes mobile stalls all around the city that sell primary iced drinks. The iced latte that this place has down the street is most excellent when I get done with breakfast and settle in for a morning watching news and reading.

I was giving some thought to budget and money the other day. Its really hard for me to track what I spend because I don’t really care any longer. I have money. There is food and beer and a t shirt every so often. There is the Grab Tuk Tuks to take to places. Everything is covered and the most important of all is that I don’t feel stressed on how its done or what I spend. If I have to go to the ATM I go to the ATM. Here in Cambodia the US dollar rules so if you just use those you are good across the board. You may get change though in Riel so you have to remember the exchange rules. I don’t mind because its roughly 4k riel to $1 USD. Pretty easy when you get used to it to figure what you got back.

There are a few safety rules here if you visit to consider. Do not wave an expensive iPhone around on the streets or hold it lazily in your hand. Do not hold an expensive camera in your hand. They can be snatched. Do not carry your passport and wallet. I advise to buy a cheap little coin purse you carry around USD and some Riel in. Secure backpacks carefully because people have had them lifted from Tuk Tuks.

This is the same in any big city around the world though. If you wander around carrying expensive stuff in a hand, it may be removed from you in Paris, London, Chicago or New York too. Just exercise common sense.

Anyways, I have had a great time here for two weeks. Got my visa extended to a multiple entry retirement visa so I can always come back here from wherever for the next year. I visited several markets and bought t shirts that actually fit! :-). Ate some really good Cambodian BBQ down the street at an interesting restaurant I may go back to. I love the coffee stalls all around the city just in the right place at the right time!

My next plans are pretty well set to end of the year and my initial trip to Singapore. I have 30 days planned out in Kuala Lumpur but after that I have 60 more days on the tourist entry visa to see Malaysia and I don’t know what I’ll do. I have a few places I want to go that I may do shorter trips to. I have plane tickets booked for Phuket from Bangkok and then back. I will find other places to go in Thailand as I go.

Then I get back to Phnom Penh in June 2019. I think I will stay here a few weeks and take care of some things and get a tourist visa to China. I will need to be back in September to extend my retirement visa another year. I truly believe that that the retirement extension of stay visa is the best deal here for the money. If you’re retired and considering leaving, take a look at the Cambodian visas. Does not mean you have to stay here. The countries here can be traveled easily. I will always want to get back to Vietnam but Thailand, Lao, Malaysia, all can be reached easily.

I would also conclude that slow travel will always win out for me to these places. I cannot see speeding up to increase the country or continent count. The pace I go lets me settle in and do things in each place or not. I don’t feel rushed or the need to reach some magical quotient of countries and days.

A word on the blog as well. This blog is not about being monetized, seeking a cash flow, ads, creating content someone else pays for and it never will be. It’s probably not good enough. I have been doing this for 20 years and I’ve seen it come and go. Blogging 20 years ago was completely different than now. To the pioneers then the written word was king. Finding other blogs that you could link to or comment on was a big part of the experience. Linking out or in was authority. Services sprang up like Technorati back then to capture the authority and create authority indices and what blogs were the most popular. I would not say we have descended or become less. People still write and create content and I admire those that do so for the love of the word. I also don’t feel that those that create content and get paid are wrong or less. Its only when the ads and products lessen to me the value of the word that I stop reading those blogs. I think we would all agree we do this to create content and then share it. Maybe some do it to increase the number of followers. Great! I don’t. If no one reads this blog, I am just as happy creating it because its my voice on my travels. I share it because it suits my values; not yours.

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.