A week to go — Singapore Thoughts, Malaysia Dreams, Thailand Wonder!

Its Monday morning here at my home base, the very nice LaLune Hotel in Phnom Penh. I turned in my laundry to the nice folks down the street and then visited the latte stand where I go just about every morning for an iced latte that is made so well! Today a bit later sees me going to the Joma Bakery in Phnom Penh for a late brunch type thing and walking around with the camera to capture some things I have not yet downtown. The Joma bakery is the same shoppe that I enjoyed so much in Hanoi in the old quarter. Menus are the same, quality is the same, and its really a nice place to stop off for a toasted bagel and cream cheese and a hot latte. I can sit there for awhile and meander mentally which is part of the joy of a coffee shop and bakery.

The real thing though is leaving for this city-state called Singapore in a week. I have not been back there since 2011 and I still have a few friends that live and work there so hopefully will catch up with them. Singapore is one of the places I rate highly as a limited or short term visit like Japan. Its a powerhouse economically but the beauty of the city streets, the multiple cultures that call it home, shopping, and technology make it a very nice visit. There are also zoos and gardens and museums and all kinds of stuff to see so I am looking forward to walking the city. I’ve thought often about going back since Singapore once formed a highly important part of my work life but even more than the past is the city itself I think about. Its a safe, beautiful, wondrous place to wander day or night. Then there is the food! One hotel I used to stay in when working out of Singapore had a really nice hawker center right next to it and these restaurants in a row by the hotel. But the best was the Royal Plaza on Scotts right off Orchard. I could wander out from there and reach so many places. I have Singapore for a week so there are lots of things to do both do and think about this last week before the doing of it. Being able to be free and just wander the city without some of the baggage in 2011 will be nice. Then I leave on the bus for 90 days in Malaysia!

I have these dreams about Malaysia and the places I’ve chosen for this trip. Its the chance to see so many different visions of Malaysia. I’ll start with Kuala Lumpur for three weeks spent wandering in every direction I can go. Then I catch a bus to Malacca for a few weeks to see a wondrous historic city with so many interesting ties. Then back to the north a bit for a few weeks to Port Dickson. Finally, I fly from Kuala Lumpur to Penang for a month. I am really looking forward to all the places but Penang and its city, food, cultures is something I have dreamt over for awhile. In 80 some days though I leave and catch a flight to Thailand!

I designed the Thailand trip not to try see it all but to pick places I wanted to see and experience from the beaches at Phuket and Krabi to Bangkok and Chiang Mai. I have 60 days to experience Thailand after a visa extension there and will finally end up flying back to Phnom Penh on 14 June for two weeks.

Dare I mention that after those weeks that I go back to Vietnam for 2.5 months? Yep! Back to a place of wonder to wander some more. I’ll get to see Ho Chi Minh City again, Can Tho and Phu Quoc Island for the first time, then my all time favorite city Da Nang and finally Hanoi. Then back to Phnom Penh but only for a few days because then I fly to Lao for three weeks.

2019 is almost full!

I will have a few weeks in Phnom Penh after Lao to renew my retirement extension of stay but then I will depart for the fall and winter time for months in Taiwan and the Philippines coinciding with Christmas this year. This fills up the travel bucket for the entire year and the only flights not booked yet are those to Taipei and Manila and on.

Its 2019 but thinking about 2020 is fun! I really will want to get to India and China in 2020 and also strive to get outside the envelope a bit and visit Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Dubai and other places I can reach. Maybe a trip back to the states then will form up for awhile.

The real thing is the freedom I have to go as I want where I want or stay longer. I’ve thought about staying longer in Vietnam by getting a year long tourist visa and living in Da Nang for some of it, Hanoi for some of it, etc. It may be a thing for me!

With the travel almost 90% booked for 2019, I will also approach my one year on this adventure the end of February. I flew to Japan on 1 March 2018. What a year it’s been! A wonder of slow travel that I encourage others to do especially if retired or considering it. Nothing should hold you back and you should not look back until you want to look back. I think the two main places to consider are Vietnam and Cambodia. You can find a quality and wonder of life in these two places which will keep you coming back for more. Vietnam has so much to see, the people are wonderful and genuine, and the country has great infrastructure for travel and its cheap. Cambodia has so many different looks and feels. You can visit Kampot for some laid back vibes and great food or go find Siem Reap for all the history. If you want a second quieter yet fun adventure check out Battambang. There is always the big city Phnom Penh to reach back to. You can do bus and flights throughout the kingdom.

In the end though its a first step to Singapore for me coming up! Its gonna be cool to get back and remember the older thoughts and then dream and wonder at my life traveling so slow but living in Southeast Asia.

Halfway to Singapore and then onwards!

Today’s the halfway mark for here in Phnom Penh. In a week point 5, I fly out to see a place I have not been back to since 2011. I have a week to go experience the city-state, perhaps get to the botanical gardens, walk the city streets, and find hawker stands for cheaper food. I may end up doing what I do in Tokyo which is just finding food at cheap noodle stands or convenience stores. One night in Kyoto I went to the hotel bar and had one draft beer. That came in at about $7 US dollars. So in the interests of comparison shopping I then went to the 7/11 down the street and got an entire six pack of the same beer for less. I don’t really go to the places to eat expensive or buy drinks in sky bars, or find the nicest places for both. I go to walk the cities, see the sights and let my Fuji camera have some fun. Each day of the 7 days there I will head in a different direction to see new places. But lets face it folks. We’re talking Singapore! The land of hawker stands and sitting out in the evening with a Tiger beer or whatever like the Singaporeans do. I could find the BBQ place I went to way back when or I could hop a ride to the Borders Books where I would hang out. I will probably do all those things.

But in a week I will leave because its part of the way to go. I never spend a long time in expensive places. I’ll take off the morning of the 8th day for my bus ride to Kuala Lumpur. I’ll spend the same for 3 weeks for a room as I did for one week in Singapore. I will also use up my entire 90 days of visa exempt travel there and see KL, Malacca, Port Dickson, and then fly to Penang. From there its to Thailand for 60 days with one visa extension after 30. I’ll get to Phuket, Krabi, Bangkok and Chiang Mai. I’m getting pretty excited to get going again folks. The weeks here in Phnom Penh have been nice and the relaxation and visiting the people at the hotel and also seeing the city, drinking and eating in the city, and just walking the beautiful capitol parks has been the best! But its the vagabonding part that grabs me.

I also booked 2.5 months or so back to Vietnam in June 2 weeks after I get back. Returning to Vietnam is a joy for me. I will get to Saigon, Can Tho, Phu Quoc Island, Da Nang, and Hanoi. I have all the travel stuff booked. But then to round out 2019 travels I get back for a week and take off for Lao for a 3 weeks.

When I get back it will be for a bit longer stay here in Phnom Penh. It will be time to get my retirement extension of stay renewed, get my tourist Visa for China or decide on another direction and then leave. I’d like to winter down in a warm place like the Philippines for the last part of this year. But honestly there are so many places and since I don’t mind returning to favorite places which I think Malaysia will be, who knows?

After 2019, I know I want this trip back to Japan but this time I want to go from north to south over the course of 90 days. It makes sense to spend 30 days on each island. I’d start in Hokkaido, then get to Honshu, and then finish up in Kyushu. 

For awhile, I played with the idea of going back to the states but the truth is that there is nothing for me there. I don’t have property, car, place to stay, something to do there. I would grow bored I think rather quickly compared to just taking off for some place like Siem Reap again.

I just was thinking today on this tour I did around the city about all that is out there and how 2019 is looking awesome for traveling slowly. I have almost the entire year filled up with my slow travels and once I decide after October this year what I’ll do for Christmas season, I’ll have a year of doing the things which have turned out the best for me.

So there you go! A year of Asia and returning a few times here to the hotel which is my home base and then getting back to Vietnam to see friends scattered across south an north. Eat some Pho. Drink some Saigon beer. Watch the sunset yet again in Da Nang or see the evening set in at the Hoan Kiem lake in Hanoi. All beautiful and wondrous and so much has changed in each place that it will be like seeing them for the first time.

I’ve come to realize I’m not interested or vested in country counting or reaching some plateau of places I’ve been. I value the moments more wherever I spend them whether there before or not. I think its more like living and making a mark in a place for the moments I give to each place. Never feeling rushed to reach some goal because I ain’t got no goals. Harvesting the moments that give me precious insight into a place. With a year coming up doing this thing, I’ve come to realize that is really what this whole thing is about. Not about traveling or even vagabonding. More about living and perhaps its like my mom once wrote,

Life is a matter of living making each moment count

Life is a matter of giving giving the right amount

Such it is!

2018 – The Year Ending and the One Starting

It seems a blogger must publish a retrospective blog post at the end of the year or on a blogging anniversary and often if you are more socially minded on so many followers or page views reached. I stopped caring if I ever did about how many people follow this blog or page views. But the end of the year deserves something I think. It deserves a statement of a life spent doing something that took almost a decade to reach. I won’t go month by month and will spare you the boredom of all the little things that occurred along the way. Here are just a few recollections or thoughts from my 2018. Perhaps yours are completely different and more meaningful. Mine are simply mine.

  1. The year 2018 was the year of finishing work for me. I reached the point in February where I could work no more even though I was asked to stay. I told my boss I had no more gas in the tank. In truth the previous 4 months of the project had exhausted me and took out any desire to continue doing program management. I told my manager this and he laughed and agreed that I should do what I wanted. On 28 February, I left working forever and on 1 March I left the states for Japan.
  2. The year also saw me realize that while it took 10 years almost to get through the pain of divorce and terrible debt and a lot of misery that 2018 was indeed a capstone of a thing which sealed up all those years of misery in a time capsule of sorts and buried it away. I had finally done a thing in 2018 which had been imagined and dreamt and wondered at. In the dark days before, things just seemed out of reach and so far away that however I stretched I would not grasp. Now I know what it feels like to grasp that reality because I’ve been living it for almost a year now. It feels both awesome and almost a fantasy at times. I realize that the year gave me a gift that was slow in unwrapping and had surprises still for me that the world of slow travel and vagabonding would be so interesting and exotic and different. My few locations ensured that. Vietnam and Cambodia have been that royal mix of things which have kept me stable for months at a time. Never rushed to reach another shore or for that passport stamp. Never working or taking one of the other titles like digital nomad and never needing to.
  3. Finally, the year marked a coming of age in other ways too. I was able to finally see the end of so many years of self imposed hell on earth caused by debt. The final debt for the car rolled off my shoulders in January and I gave my car to my daughter on 28 February on my way to the hotel by the international airport in SF.  There is a last material thing there which is the sum total of that coming of age.  A small rubbermaid container is all that remains of a life spent both in heaven and hell for years. Things that departed in the coming of age were things like goals and tasks and responsibilities. What remained was a free life of moments to see and walk and take photographs and travel slowly.

Someone asked me if they could do this. You cannot do what I did. What I did was mine alone. It was my 2018. What you can do may be better or different or perhaps you will decide to do nothing at all. If you punt though and you are sorry later the only blame to levy is at your house. When given the chance to grab life by its moments you may have decided its too risky or difficult or demanding. Perhaps what you would do is. What I did is not.

Goodbye to 2018. A wonderful year for the most part spent not working, not being responsible, not creating more tasks and goals that I would have to defer on. If you are getting close to a next thing perhaps you can find it on the road. I would have never found it back home. I was haunted there by failure and lack. Vietnam and Cambodia have given me so much in return. Perhaps your return is elsewhere. That’s why you cannot do what I did. Yours may be better! I hope so. 

Welcome to 2019. Hopefully a year for the better for all of you. Mine is.

Writing and the Fear of Retirement — Changes will Come

Its almost the end of times here in Siem Reap. Today I took a day off from the 7 miles walking almost every day and read a lot and worked on my story. I had spent time last night also drafting down the outline to a few sections so I could manage things easier. While the 11 step pre-writing process helps a person to drill down it soon becomes way too much when looking for a thing. It gets down to the following for me:

  1. Ideas, Plots, and Premises. I dedicate some pages to the idea and premises of my story plus outlining some of the conflicts.
  2. Characters. Its easy to lose sight of the characters when they’re stuck away in some note but I think you refer back to the characters to either add one that comes upon you in a blast of impression or when you want to check a name out. At this point, I still add a character or two because as I write, I think of someone who should be in that world.
  3. Writing or the Content. I’ve come to grips with the fact that I will go back and redo the first part. I’m up to 5 chapters now and the separations are when I feel like it. Since this is a draft, things may end up with less chapters or more.

I think once you get the first two things in sight the third can come but you don’t need to reach some ideal point. I dwelled on the ideas, plot, and premises for days. I had tried before writing to them but without the ideas actually written down. I failed. I think the important thing is to get them written down. They will change as will the plot. Writing seems to be an engaging and evolving process at least for me.

We’ll see how we do as I get more of the story crafted out. Now I’m sitting in the room with some beer and watching the clock kinda tick down on my last days in Siem Reap. I’ve been here a month and will leave on Saturday for another city in Cambodia. Then I get back to Phnom Penh and down to Kampot for some days.

Next year is a traveling year. I’ll be on the road from Cambodia most of it only to return for awhile in June to get ready to go to Vietnam and Lao and then in September to prepare for China. Busy times all around.

Retirement and Quora — Some thoughts here

I answer questions a lot on Quora about aging and retirement primarily because I think people that are young have this strange idea that when a person turns an age somehow they are really not meant for much else than coffee down the street and a slow walk in the park. There are numbers of ex-pat retirees here in Cambodia and others I have met in Vietnam that would tend to disagree. The truth is and I hate to burst the young folks bubbles that nothing changes just because an age is reached. We all want the same adventures and changes and relationships that you do. After all, we have all gone through more of life than you which does not mean we are smarter. It does mean we don’t drop all the dreams and focus on the nothing of retirement. Come on young people! Give us some ability here. We are not literally waiting for the final act here. Many of us decide to leave and find a new life. Sometimes the new life is in Asia or South or Central America.

The real truth is that it sucks to retire in America. Why? Because it costs so much. Everything you want and need or desire costs too much. So people get trapped in a life there that is not of their making and perhaps they’re afraid to change. Well you guys; change is out there and it’s always happening. But I think the main thing is others get trapped with the house and car and debt and either continue to work always thinking,

oh next year I will break free! I will take that cruise. I will remove all debt. I will find a new way forward

But next year never comes and they suffer the next thing. The next thing is fear. Or I should say FEAR. All in big letters. They are simply afraid of the first thing which is change. So they stay trapped because fear of change traps them.

I hope that as you get older you see that we are not just a bunch of decrepit coffee house wanderers. We all have the star stuff essence. There is still the hunter-gatherer in us. Its just buried under a ton of fear and fear of change.

Don’t let it be. Life is there for everyone. Age is no barrier. I did it. I am no hero. I figured it out. There is no secret sauce or conditions to be met. No book to buy or link to click on. No private club to join. Its you and what you want and not letting fear and fear of change conquer your life.

Thats all! Ain’t that enough? 🙂

Down Time in Cambodia – Time to Do Whatever…

Down time is good time I’ve come to realize. In my earlier incarnations of traveling, I only had 3 or 4 days to try to walk a portion of a city that I would feel joy and accomplishment in. In Vancouver I had 3.5 days. I ended up walking 7 hours a day because the city is so diverse and fun. It was the same in San Diego before that. Only a few days. Really the down time was the evenings over beer and food and I would study google maps a bit. I didn’t really care if there was a tourist thing I could miss if I ended up feeling that I had given the place my best shot. My work colleagues and friends then could not understand the walking each day.

When I retired in 2018, things changed. I had 3 months in Hanoi to wander the city. That has been my longest stay in one place yet. I was still new to the slow travel, long term stay thing so I gave it a lot to see all the wonderful, strange, funky, and fun places I could but I also wanted to see the out of the way side streets and alleys. I wanted to say at the end of the day I had seen what I wanted to see. I knew I had not seen all.

Preceding that Japan in March was 4 or 5 days in 3 places. Much the same as my previous walking excursions. I had limited time and then off on a Shinkansen to see another place before flying out of Osaka to Thailand and then Vietnam.

Down time has come…

The thing after 10 months on this slow hobo vagabond means I see parts of each city at a different pace. Like here in Siem Reap, I’ve done the tourist things like temples and museums. Now I am at the daily life thing. I walk the city streets to see how people live, what they do. It also means down time. That has been a particularly hard thing to get used to. I think it’s because I feel like I really worked hard those last few years at the company. I gave them all I had and by January of 2018 I knew that the tank had run dry. I could summon no excitement and only waited for the end.

Here’s the strange and profound part. When the end came for work and I had the down time, I had no idea what to do with it. Still I find myself kind of chomping at the bit sometimes. I take my 6 or 7 mile walks and see the city and get back to an air conditioned room and peace and quiet. No cars and people. And it’s still rather strange. I have realized to cherish the down time as well and I work at it diligently. I try to carve out time each day to do other things even if to read. Now I consider wanting to write some longer content. I think perhaps a story and a few ideas have battled in my head when out strolling the city.

It has become easier to accept the down time since there is no work that battles it each day. The hardest thing to c0me to grips with is that finally the days are all mine. There is nothing that must be done besides what I say must be done. And there really is not a lot there. I’m after learning a bit more about photography, walking each day, eating well, drinking a beer or two. Then I travel slowly to another place.

Someone in Vietnam once asked if I could go back to work. I don’t think so. I don’t have the drive and desire to ever give my time away again even for money. I have sufficient money to last me as long as I want it to. I can live how I want. I can splurge on a room or meal and there is no guilt or budget to track against.

Maybe the down time is the greatest adjustment in retirement. If you worked 30 years and suddenly all that is gone and you have no plan, I think life kinda spirals down and it is you and the window and the front yard. I’m forever grateful I got the down time and the “me time” and I fill it with experiences, ideas, and tomorrows I want. But slowly… Slowly… Slowly…

There is no hurry when you have time to spare. A meal or an adventure or a quiet afternoon carefully thinking about a thing to write or a book on the kindle. It’s all there. My down time is looking up!

Happy Thanksgiving 2018 – some thoughts and recollections

Thinking about a few things on Thanksgiving Day here in Cambodia. Not a holiday that is celebrated here; however a Khmer festival has been running for a few days called Water Festival. So its handy to have our Thanksgiving along with the Water Festival here where long boats take to the rivers to celebrate the reverse of current from the Tonle Sap. End of the wet season and beginning of the dry. Our Thanksgiving where we give thanks. A nice combination of holidays.

Speaking honestly, the last few years the holidays have become less for me. This is, however, the first holiday season where I did not have this huge project which hung over me and meant that I did not get the days off but sat on phone calls, in meetings, on my company cell phone with some network engineer and cloud architect in Colorado and Florida. A wondrous reprieve and perhaps a thing to be thankful for. Sometimes its a “pinch worthy” thing to remind myself that I do not have those things hanging over me any longer.

I also listen to people and read their blogs and accounts on twitter of their desire to travel the world, to be vagabonds, to find ways to become digital nomads, or perhaps to retire as an ex-pat in some foreign land. Another thing for me to be thankful for. While retirement income is no panacea and will hardly take you anywhere in the US, the truth is that if you want a change you can live comfortably and perhaps even well somewhere else. There are some things that I hesitate to call challenges. Cultures are completely different and how people act and react are different. Money means a lot in a cash culture like Cambodia. You have to get used to dealing with changes in how things as minor as your unlocked cell phone work. You have to find ways to get things done that are different and perhaps require a bit more work or at least different work. For food, there is no real challenge. Vietnamese and Khmer people simply love to eat and drink. Some boundary of a country drawn on a map does not impact what a person thinks of Fish Amok or Pho Ba. You may have to get used though to a different diet.

Travel may be different but it is cheaper. Hopping a tuk tuk to a place or flying is cheaper once you are here. Finding decent accommodation is easy once you are here. Finding ways around a city are different and learning how things operate in your new city or the one you are currently in are different.

Happiness is different as well. What used to make you happy may have been a house full of possessions, beautiful stereo equipment and large format TV, wonderful services a phone call away. In another land, these things are not what generates happiness. Its a simpler life where you gave up those things willingly to have something else. Happiness not tied to material possessions.

So all in all many of the things are so different but yet we are all human beings and we all share in some of the joys of being one. The smile that the Khmer children give me in the mornings and waves hello. When the Vietnamese gentleman in Saigon posed for me as I walked a small alley. Children in Hanoi shyly waving on the streets but wanting their picture taken. Beautiful young people in all the places saying hello, talking, laughing and finding the same basic joy in living. I had missed all that in the US. Something there was broken for years for me. It was the job and the stress of divorce and the aftermath. It was losing my friend Freelan and dealing with not knowing sometimes if I could leave. Then it was knowing in November of 2017 I would leave leave when I gave notice. As February rolled around and I knew that I would wake up on 1 March and not owe anyone anything, it was the supreme moment.

So all of this has made a difference and as I think back on this Thanksgiving Day 2018 it makes me realize that no matter where you are, you can make something better. Perhaps its not traveling slowly or finding a new country to kinda call home. Maybe it is. Maybe you are like me in some ways and want a sea change in your life. If not, it’s not a deal. You have a thing you want. You perhaps can see it glinting in tomorrow’s sun. It can be yours.

Then perhaps you can find the path to being happy. Life is not about sacrifice or giving everything away and adopting some minimalistic lifestyle which I happen to think is bogus. Its more about finding the path and then knowing what it takes to follow the path. If you have too many possessions, be a realist. You cannot pack the TV and the car and clothing as you go. So being a realist means they have to go. If you have suffered through the pains of a previous set of life events, they can be dropped but it takes so damned long sometimes. Nothing happens in a day and I’ve read that it can take years to get through all the stages of loss. So be prepared for that too.

Finally, chart your course and know that I have found the way to be happy on this Thanksgiving day in the Kingdom of Wonder. Its not a delicate path or one that requires huge amounts of work. There is nothing special to be done besides the goal you have to make a difference in your life.

You will notice I said nothing about friendship. There is a thing about friendship to me that sets the bar. If you want my friendship, I can be a loyal yet demanding and sometimes demented person. I am very egoistical, selfish, perhaps narcissistic. Those could be my better traits. I feel that a person must meet me at a place and give something of value and that the place I go to and the thing of value I have to give back is commensurate. To me, friendship is bartering a thing of value for a thing of equal value. You give me love. I give it back. You give me dedication, its back at you. You give little; don’t expect a lot from me. You don’t offer anything, its not friendship.

I’ve made and lost friends over the years because I have a set of requirements if you want in that palace. I have a few that are there but many have dropped out. They were not able to meet me at an equal place. It’s fine really. I don’t wish them any less of a happy Thanksgiving.

The reality is that I have found a thing I value and I know how to get from where I was to where I am now. Its not so much of a climb and you don’t have to sacrifice. You can find your warrior and move forward and become both less and more. Some of the things above were met and some I still am challenged by. A friend asked whether I wanted someone else in my life. Someone to share the holidays with. Someone to travel with. The answer is no. For the decades I gave to it, I gave to it. I reached the end of that rope and that climb.

So I’m thankful for what I have and have not. I’m thankful to never have to work and worry about money ever again. I’m thankful for the walks I do every day and the people I see. For my few friends, I am thankful for them. Life for me has again become something to be thankful for. I miss sometimes my boss Lee and his boss Payman. Both were friends and both helped me in so many ways realize my final goals which they really did not know until November of 2017 when I gave notice.

So if you want to chart a course and whether its down the street or flying to Asia, I’m here to tell you that with retirement and basic planning you can be happy too. I only talk about those retired because its my current path. There is no real secret to doing it. No special character or values you need besides the ones I elaborated above.

Mostly be thankful on this Thanksgiving Day 2018 for your have’s and have not’s. I am.

A bit of this and that — Ex-pat Lifeways and Friendships

What I’ve learned being on the road about the retirees and ex-pats in Cambodia is interesting. I’ve met or seen more than a few and there are centers or locations where they gather and live. I think Kampot is one such place as is Phnom Penh. I have not been to Siem Reap yet. That comes next week but I’ll spend a month there too so I have no doubt in my slow travel method I will see what the retirees and ex-pats do there.

In the hotel I stay in here in Kampot there is a sizable percentage of older travelers. People do not stay long in this hotel since the cost is higher. Its a short stay vacation type place although the property to me is just beautiful and the obvious attractions like free breakfast and a nice patio bar always win out. There are cheaper guest houses and if you are gonna stay longer probably you will find a room or apartment to take. There are costs with that as well. You have to have power and water and internet. These are monthly charges. As you settle in you have to buy food since eating out over the long haul may not suit your purpose but I have to admit if you eat local or street foods you can get by pretty cheap. I only eat a meal a day so I tend to just buy what I want and not really worry.

The other thing is I don’t think people travel much to other countries once they settle. Its a long term relationship between person and city and there is the community of retirees and ex-pats that will welcome you. Most cities have get togethers or meets to get the group together and socialize. I’m personally not into that and I don’t fit the mode since I don’t want to settle down because there is so much left to see out there and the slower travel mode I have adopted and adapted makes it easy to taste both short and long term stays in places. It also opens the door on getaways on buses or trains or even flying to a neighboring country like Thailand or Vietnam.

Meeting Others?

As I mentioned there is a larger population of ex-pats in many of the cities of Cambodia. Its not really a hard country to live in but there are differences one has to adapt to. I think the ex-pat and retiree groups kind of bond together to get others familiar with the differences and provide some bonding for new and long time members. I am not a social person and really don’t do well meeting other retirees and ex-pats on the road. I’ve met a few and there are so many obvious differences. One is that they all smoke. I cannot stand cigarettes or the smell whatsoever and restaurants here often allow smoking throughout. The other is there is a social bonding by being a member of the group that just being an American on the outside does not give. There’s not a private club but I think a lot of the ex-pats tend to want a recognizable thing so the weekend events are better than just meeting another person at a restaurant or bar. I met this person from an ex-pat forum in Phnom Penh and while he was interesting there is not a lot of mutual interest because I don’t intend on stopping or staying in a place long term. The visa to me here is an instrument of flexibility. If I did not have this one, I would find another place that offers a similar one like the Philippines. Staying put, like many do, does not provide a lot of familiarity to me.

I guess the other thing is the solo travel. I am very content to travel this way. I don’t need to be surrounded by a social group of ex-pat retirees on weekend visits to restaurants to meet, eat, and drink. I also don’t intend or want a local lady friend which is quite easy to get here by all accounts. Age disparity is just accepted here it seems like but its not something I want or need.

Finally, meeting someone on the road is different. Paths may never cross again and perhaps its okay. I don’t really want someone’s contact information or have a desire to friend them on facebook or follow on twitter. Its like the two ships crossing paths. Momentary greetings but soon the ships pull apart and each goes its own way. Some would say its a lonely existence but I would not accept that. There are those of us that cannot thrive in a solo adventure and then there are those that can. Meeting people at hostels or hotels or even meeting local people is not a big goal of mine. I have met a few Vietnamese people that are friends.

Final Note on the Butte County Fire

Sad to say an old friend that I have lost contact with over the past few years got burned out in Paradise, California and escaped with only a car full of things and his older daughter. I think his life there is over and he will hopefully not return because the city looks completely destroyed. I have not talked with him for years for a variety of reasons and how we would define our friendship could be questioned. But no matter what, I’m glad he’s safe whether he is in a good mental place now or not.

Will we ever talk again? I don’t know. I don’t feel like there is a pressing need. He has things he needs to do now. Being in Cambodia there is not a lot I could do anyways and we drifted apart for a number of reasons. The reasons are still valid to me and while I could give him a hug and tell him I’m glad he’s safe I don’t think I would want him back the way it was. I feel leaving the US forever kind of signaled that there are people out there I left behind for reasons. He is one. I wish him good luck and hope he finds some happiness and I’m glad he’s safe. But there is not much else there for me for him. I guess I am broken too with relationships. Perhaps the last thing with retirees and ex-pats for me is building any kind of meaningful relationship with someone or even not a meaningful one. I just don’t care any more.

I know I sound jaded or cruel or egotistical. Guilty on all fronts. I also am critical, somewhat obnoxious and selfish. Sorry folks. Those are my good qualities. Hit the unfollow button if you like. Won’t hurt me a bit.

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.

 

Traveling in 2018,2019 and beyond – basic ideas and what I’d like to do

I have a few upcoming day tours. I just booked the second one after looking around for a cheaper option than the initial one. The idea with the second one was to tour the islands around Sihanoukville by boat. I got a quote from one place that seemed rather high so then found a less pricy option that goes to all three islands, feeds me lunch, and pretty much lets me wander around the islands a bit. I am not after any big times on the tour. I just want to see the islands that I see most every day when walking along the beach.

The second tour I decided was this day tour of Sihanoukville. I wanted to get a small duffel bag I could use for side trips and found one at the market when I went before. I should have just bought it but I figured I would have to carry it all around where I went afterwards. Now I can have a bus to store it on because the tour stops at the market. It goes to a few other places as well.

That pretty much rounds out what I want to see here. When I get done with the tours I’ll be ready to get to Phu Quoc Island and the resort hotel for a bit. The stay on the island does not have some purpose or need. I think it was just a reaction to things I read online. I read about the beaches and the unique nature of the island and wanted to go see both. A bowl of Pho may be nice too :-).

After I get back I have about 6 days before I fly to Siem Reap. I’m really excited about that part of things. I have wanted to see Angkor and the other sites for a long time! I’ll spend a month there too because its just what I do.

After Siem Reap its the second largest city in Cambodia Battambang for a month. I don’t have a set of things there either which I want to do.

Finally in January next year its back to Phnom Penh for a week and then I take off on the Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand thing. That goes on for 5 months with no real goals after 30 days in KL and a flight to Phuket and back in Thailand.

Once its June and I have flown back to Phnom Penh, I’ll spend a month there to get my Chinese tourist visa and take care of some things which undoubtedly have come up that are easier to deal with in Phnom Penh. I am thinking that China is a few months of travel to see things and then I need to be back in September to renew my retirement visa.

I had looked at going back to Vietnam in September. Then I started thinking of this longer trip in Japan I want to do. I would like to start in Hokkaido and work my way south to Kyushu for as long as it takes. I can get 90 days of entry there. The Japan trip may push out a bit and I will spend the end of the year in Vietnam seeing friends there. If I went to Vietnam, it would be a week or so in Saigon, a few weeks in Can Tho Vietnam visiting a friend there. Then I would fly from Can Tho to Da Nang and spend time there. Simply because I love Da Nang and if I could just stay in one place it would be there. Then from Da Nang up to Hanoi to see friends for awhile and the fly back to Phnom Penh. That would kinda close out next year for traveling.

I even started thinking about after that because its fun charting out the places I would want to go given there are no real blockers to any of this. I would like to reach:

  • Indonesia
  • South Korea
  • India
  • Dubai
  • Morocco
  • Turkey
  • Egypt

Given how fast (or slow) I travel its likely I would only reach half of those in a year :-). Or I may speed up a bit or who knows. I could see doing the first three in 2020 but once I reach India its like Dubai is a gateway for me to the other places.

I have no interest in reaching Europe or Russia. No interest in Australia or New Zealand. A lot of this is due to cost of living in some of the places and I really have always felt that Asia and I are better suited to each other. This has really accelerated for me since Vietnam and Cambodia. I may have doubted before living a life of very slow travel in the countries I have chosen but after things like getting the year long retirement visa with no real effort, seeing how reasonable living is in Vietnam and Cambodia, meeting such very nice people; its hard to see wanting some kind of other life. I could never see going back to the States ever permanently. A visit would be ok to see my kids but the idea of living there is a turn off. I much prefer the day to day living where I am now.

I’ve had a good time here in Otres Village in Sihanoukville. I don’t think I will return here. I told an acquaintance I met from an ex-pat website that I am not into either standing still or moving too fast. Some places are good for a single visit and you leave enriched. Others are cosmic things and have ties. I’ve felt that way about Da Nang for awhile. As I read about Battambang I think it could be like that. We shall see.

Today I’ll walk the Otres Beach a bit later from south to north taking photographs as I go with the camera. Its a beautiful long walk and there are no private fence signs to block access most of the way. Then I’ll cut through at the north to a dirt access road and wander around there for a bit and head back. I’m on this schedule of walking and then eating dinner at about 6pm at local places that I like. We’ll see where the urge takes me this evening.

Thoughts on the Otres Beach – the moments versus the times

Yesterday here in Otres it was raining really good for most of the day. I was able to get out to walk a few times though. I walked down a few longer streets to see the country outside of Otres Village and then was able to finish the day by strolling the beach. Otres Beach is really made for taking longer strolls along it. Its a long stretch of sandy goodness that lets you walk along care free with feet in the sand and bath tub warm water. Its also a good time for introspection and some personal reflection.

I’ve been here in Otres almost a week now and have really two weeks to go since I’m going to Phu Quoc Island Vietnam the last real week here. The island is a few hour mini bus and ferry boat ride away and I booked a room at a nicer resort hotel to finish my time down here. When I get back on the 9th of November only a few days remain before flying to Siem Reap. But that’s then and this is now as my mom would say.

Lets talk now and some of the precious reflection because its the first real time besides perhaps in Da Lat when I felt this slow down and ability to basically stop and think most days. Otres has this laid back charm which leads one to want to think a bit and the beach just down the street is a powerful incubator for looking within while looking without. I came up with a few things while considering the travels and my life. I told some people before I am not a gap year, Digital Nomad, Round the World (RTW) person or ex-pat. I’ve been able to decide that these things are attempts to create life hashtags that explain the how of what you are doing but most often not the why. Many of these types of people travel either fast or slow or in the case of ex-pats perhaps not all. There is also a mentality I’ve found which lends itself to mobility of lifestyle and many really want social media uptake. Hundreds of likes on Instagram, lots of hearts and retweets on Twitter. The digital nomads focus on places I think which meet sets of criteria they have around connectivity, connectedness, and perhaps other digital nomads. The RTW person often collects countries and passport stamps as counts of success and ability. Then there are the gap year types which take a year or six months or whatever to find themselves.

I compare these worthy ambitions to what it is I bring and I find upon walking the beach that none of these define what I do and in fact what I do defies defining my approach in any of the types of travel I’ve elaborated above. There is a simple reason for this I think. Each of the type of traveler has a set of goals. Perhaps its to see all they can see or to find a year to spend enlightening themselves and then returning to the work life. Maybe its to find compelling places where digital nomadism can flourish and work can be done. All have goals to meet. Perhaps budgets to keep. Itineraries to keep even slightly. My vagabonding has no goals. There is no final or desired state for it. It simply is. This creates value and a new sense of purposeless travel that most or all of the classic types of traveler could not find or perhaps even want. In my case, its my ideal state. I realized this on my walk back in the rain on the beach yesterday. The second thing is most of these travelers have had to work or still work on the road. The income from the money fuels the travel or stasis in a place. That is not the case for me. I have no hours to keep on a clock or a thing to submit or worries that this or that will cause a problem with some budget I am carefully crafting.

I think the final thing is a more enduring yet hard to define state. Its the fact that time as an accounting has really ceased to exist for me day to day. I have a final day in a place that I have set but if I were to miss that, I would be out some small amount of money but life in Sihanoukville would go on. By killing off time and its inbound limitations and restrictions I’m left with moments. Moments are filled or not with things for me. Or perhaps each moment just leads to the next moment. I could leave now for breakfast down the street and get a nice two egg omelet for $2.50 and some hot coffee or I could wait. I could decide to not doing anything today or tomorrow. Time simply has stopped being an accountability device and I don’t believe for the most part the other types of travelers have that luxury. Most or all are driven by time.

So there you have it, a few things which differentiate what I do and sometimes reading the tweets and blog posts and instagram posts its obvious there is a difference. I can see how even the free wheeling digital nomads have restrictions. But I also figure I paid my dues for work and responsibility and goals and timelines and calendar events. I’ve reached the vaunted place in life of not having any of those and traveling slowly in places of my desire with no real financial, time, space or other concerns. Its liberating and I found that on the beach yesterday as the rain started a bit.

Now I know the ongoing value of reporting here and what the blog and twitter and even instagram do for me. Its not about building presence or membership or ads or certain types of content. Its about what I do and the fact that another retiree or retiree family could also do this. I answered a question on Quora the other day about happiness in life. Yes this is the time when I am completely happy with my life folks. Its all come together and fallen apart just like I wanted. Came together in 10 years of planning but then the falling apart happened after some time on the road. I realized in a coffee shop that none of it mattered. Perhaps that moment led to the beach in Cambodia. Moments are tied together with the thin filament of experience perhaps.

Nothing really changes with the blog with my realization. Its still a catalog of travels. I still post on twitter and have a minor following on instagram. Those are social media accounts I enjoy but they have really let me see the difference. Difference is good. Now perhaps it is time for a late breakfast this morning. Flip flops and shorts and a cap work well here.