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.

Almost the weekend – Talks with family, places to still go and the Fuji X100F

I was able yesterday to pick up the Fujifilm X100F camera. I had really forgotten how ideal the little camera is for mobility. Combine the size with the wonderful fuji colors and its so much more for me. I am going to get the XT2 fixed but will be selling it to a friend in Vietnam. The size difference is significant for someone interested in small backpacks and daypacks and having a smaller footprint in my travels on buses and stuff. I read an interesting article and had commented on it before about the X100F being the 2018 travel camera. Primary among the things for me are its size and the fact by its included lens there is no desire or need to carry a whole bunch of other lens. You have a really nice camera that is self-contained. It has the beautiful film simulations and the wonderful retro yet functional look of the Fuji line.

So I am glad to have it back! In a way, even though it cost me some money, I am glad to have the camera back which gave me so many memorable trips and the one I picked up to learn on before. Since I am still learning the X100F I think is very nice for the novice photographer since its menu and options are easily found for the most part. I also have the manual in PDF format on my iPhone. I can always look up something with a few basic steps.

The other main thing with all this camera stuff is to find a camera shop that focuses on Fuji gear here in Phnom Penh. The owner is very accommodating and works to provide his customers with a great sales and post sales support environment. Since I am more or less living here, finding a place in my home base that will support my needs with the camera is very nice.

Last Weekend and Days…

Amazing that my last weekend is coming up here in Phnom Penh. I’ve had a wonderful time here and I think I got to see what I wanted including walking the streets with the camera, going to museums, parks, and palaces, and wandering the riverside eating and drinking. I probably spent a bit more money than Vietnam because I really enjoy the downtown part and restaurants. Since I don’t count or budget, its not a thing that stops me.

I had some breakfast here this morning and cooked my own over easy eggs which was fun. The hotel here is just a home to me in so many ways. I am exceedingly blessed and lucky to have found the La Lune Hotel and the wonderful folks that work here. Now since my favorite coffee stand is open again its time for some of her delicious iced latte and a few hours in the room before venturing out. I would like to find a small bag that could carry the camera and batteries and stuff so I will head over to the Central Market and wander around there later today.

The nice final thing was a 30 minute phone call with my daughter. I don’t blog much about family here but it was very nice to catch up with her. She is a unique individual who has her own life but sometimes still sounds like my little girl. It was nice catching up and then setting a regular time to call her. Things have not been so easy there for awhile but I think we got past some of the past tense things and moved on to her doing most of the talking and telling me about her life and asking whether I would ever return. I think she gets the reasons why I won’t.

To do all the calls and stuff though, its so much easier using a service instead of trying to do international calls on my SIM card. Most of my family does not do WhatsApp or Viber or whatever. So a service and platform is needed that bridges the gap. I use Google Voice on my iPhone and it now supports dialing without hangouts its truly a complete VOIP tool that can be used from laptop, tablet, or phone. I think the only real limit is you have to get the number in the states. Perhaps VPN will work to get the service; not sure. The real reason though to have it is the ease of voice mails and calls and texts and Voice will send you transcripts of messages and alert you to texts. The iPhone rings when I get a Voice call and the number is a US number. Maybe the last and greatest thing is its free. I can get the bank alerts and 2FA easily to it. But believe it or not AirBnb will not use it since its a VOIP number. I don’t use that service much. I don’t see the value when I can find the hotels I like on booking.com or Agoda. Maybe if you want a nicer condo or apartment or some kinda thing you use it. I’m interested in the cheaper places then what I see on Airbnb.

Closing this out

I kinda wanted to write a blog post like a daily activity log of what I do but the truth is since I am not a digital nomad and not on a year long gap year thing, none of those rules apply to me. I have no job to find a coffee shop to do or be concerned about. My days and my ideas belong to me. Its a wonderful thing to have the moments back.

Now its the morning in my hotel room with the iced latte and I’m considering the morning which stretches out before me. I have relatively few days left here and I accomplished what I set out. The Visa extension of stay, the touring around the city and its unique museums and palaces and the city streets and people. All have been so good for me. My next stop is by the beach so I will be able to work on my longer story content in the mornings with an iced coffee by the beach. Walking and investigating still takes primary focus for me so I will find places to investigate either along the beach or between different towns. I look at Sihanoukville as a different thing though so life will change and slow down by the ocean. Phnom Penh is a busy town, international in scope, lots of attractions and traffic in-between going and getting there.

I’ll close this out now and hope you all, dear readers, have a wonderful day or evening; wherever your timezone finds you.

Wow! Second post in one Day!

Just a short note because I heard back from my agent that was working on getting my 1 year multiple entry retirement visa through the Cambodian Immigration system. I get my passport back tomorrow with the extension of stay 1 year retirement visa included. What this means is that I can enter and leave Cambodia as I want for the next year. It opens the remaining months I will spend here through January and then I’ll get back here in June after Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. I’ll spend a month or so here and get my Chinese tourist visa going and then visit China July and August next year. September I pay for another year of the retirement visa and then I leave for Vietnam in September. I’ll winter over in Vietnam from September through end of the year and see friends there. Planning on visiting Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and taking an ecotour in Can Tho with a friend there.

The main thing here is that this gives me the ability to live and return to Cambodia but as I want. I also have a home here now in the LaLune Hotel so will always come back here and stay. The people here are so sweet and kind and do things for me like invite me to dinner and order pizza for me and just take care of things for me.

This is the big step I knew I had to have when I left in March this year. I could not get a retirement visa in Vietnam and would have had to leave every 90 days and get my visa stamped if I got the year tourist visa. That’s just too much. Cambodia is much simpler and I think they really want my retirement dollars and tourism.

So… Yay! Big milestone for me comes through tomorrow morning when I get the passport back.

Looking for a Small Camera Doodad and not Finding It – but Finding so much more instead

Today I set out to try find a cheap little thing for my camera that I wanted. I wanted a Shutter release button that screws into the shutter on the XT2 and makes it a bit easier to use with the finger. These things cost about $9 USD and I could buy one at amazon and then have it shipped here but that would be almost $100 USD for a $9 gadget. So I figured there must be a shop here that has them. Nope. I tried about 5 camera shops and showed pictures and no one has them. I wonder where people go for smaller doodads like this here in Cambodia.

I could also buy one on Ebay but the problem is shipping time. It would get here to Phnom Penh after I left for elsewhere. I could find an online website that is here and have them ship it and I have not given up on that yet. Then I don’t pay the freight for the international shipping. But… If they don’t have them in Phnom Penh which is the big place here, I might as well wait and get it Singapore which I am pretty sure has them. It goes to show that you can get any number of T shirts or other doodads but some things just don’t show up yet I bet people buy them somewhere that I don’t know. I may go to Central Market or Russian Market tomorrow and try again.

After mission unsuccessful I walked home to the hotel. It was a warm day today and I stopped for water once at this random place with a bench. I’ve done this in so many cities on so many walks and just about every city from Osaka to Da Nang to here has a 24 hour market with a bench in the shade. If you think about it, walking to see a city is seeing the city firsthand. When you stop for the break the city gives you a microcosm view of itself. The little coffee stand next to you. The security guard smiling and nodding. The traffic hurrying up. I sat there for a bit reading nonsense on my phone about US politics and not missing it too much. Is all that BS really going on there? I feel removed by steps and stages from it all and life has boiled down to simplicity. Breakfasts in the morning and beers at night and the days spend wandering whatever city I hang my hat in. I also think when you leave like this, baggage of so many kinds remains behind and some take longer to depart the scene I found a few that persisted a longer or shorter time and I present then herewith for your disagreement.

  1. Guilt. I had a sense of guilty pleasure in Japan and I felt I had to pinch myself that I had finally done it. That was back in March. It was a sense of disbelief and I reckoned then it would take awhile to get red of the guilt.
  2. Happiness with what I have. Its also taken awhile to get happy with what I have and have not. I read so many other blogs of people that leave for a year or six months or are digital nomads or whatever. No matter what, they have to work. There are days where they can be the true wayfarer but location independent work has the word “work” in it. Mine does not. Its taken awhile get the happiness going on what I have.
  3. Money and tracking. This made me terribly unhappy to track my expenses yet I read hugely complex methods of tracking every last dime. I think people do it for the best of reasons but it boils down the places to the costs. Was so and so expensive? Why was lodging more here and not there? Did I really get the cost for that tour and grab tuk tuk ride? I say the hell with that. You are gonna spend what you spend whether you have that steak dinner or the Banh Mi one night. Give yourself a break. Trust yourself. Break free from the forever financial tracking. You are supposed to be experiencing life anew. I did feel I should be responsible so I did the tracking thing for a month. I did not feel good about it. I stopped.
  4. Being alone is not being lonely. I thought for awhile that solo travel would be a lonely thing even though I am a solitary type person. We are not slivers across the the night and I overcame that feeling after only one loneliness thing in Vietnam.

Those are some of the things which persisted that I was concerned with at one time and dropped like so many hot potatoes after awhile. I just go now. Two more weeks here means travel soon to the next place and a month there and then another month and another. Then Singapore and that travel and vagabonding. Ninety days in Malaysia. Sixty days in Thailand. A week or a month back here and then China and finally Vietnam for end of the year and the holidays.

So if you are gonna travel perhaps none of my 4 things resonate and you feel the need to track every last expense for some reason. Maybe you have guilt. These things have evaporated and when I sit out in front of my lovely little hotel in the evenings with the beer and talk with the hotel people, I have gone beyond the gap year and reset people, the digital nomads, the others. I know there is a difference because I am me and they are they and never shall we meet. There is too much difference because even a year is rushed to me and 40 countries in 90 days does not tally well with my amazing country count of 4. Four places that I experienced well months at a time. I’m convinced that this kind of travel means better times and a more relaxed endeavor.

Its about what I wanted to see on this beautiful and warm day as I sit in the hotel room thinking about the dinner time in a few hours with nothing to do and all afternoon to do it. After the 5 mile walk and the sweating and feeling that wonderful feeling that all these systems are go. And perhaps that’s the final thing. The forever walking to see places. So many years I have been doing it but now th walking is so different and I love it. Its like a final thing that I cross over and become even more as the solo traveler that I am.

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.

6 Months in Asia – Travels, People, Thoughts

Tomorrow I will have reached 6 months on the road. I left California and work on 1 March and flew to Japan. I’ve been in Vietnam now for just shy of 6 months and have made my way from north to south starting in Hanoi. I have pretty much stayed a month in each place besides Hanoi where I spent three months. I did that to give a bit of stability to the traveling and to allow me to really see that sprawling, wondrous and captivating city where old and new battle each day. The old quarter ends in many directions and you see sedate bigger streets with government buildings, museums, shopping centers and wide sidewalks.

Traveling south I next went to Ho Chi Minh City for a month. I really loved it there. I stayed in a homestay and was treated like family with home cooked Vietnamese food for dinner, free beer and water bottles, ice cream, laundry service. I walked around all those days and pretty much feel I did not see a lot of the city because its so big. If you go to the Saigon Skydeck you can get an approximation about how massive the city truly is.

From there it was to Da Lat in the central highlands for cooler temperatures and the chance to visit waterfalls, coffee plantations, flower farms, and embroidery factories and artisans.  I stayed in Da Lat for 30 days and had a great time there. Its a slower pace and there is not a traffic light in the whole city. Its also cooler and I needed a jacket for the evenings as it dipped down to the 15s and 16s temperature wise. It started raining more as my time was getting done. I departed for two nights back in Ho Chi Minh City because I had changed my plans to get to Da Nang to see among other things the Ba Na Hills and the fabulous Golden Bridge. I did those things and am on my last two weeks here in Da Nang. I have one more tour and then will get a Grab and go to the Marble Mountains for a day.

I also took side trips. While in Hanoi I went to Hoi An and Hue. In Saigon, I went to Vung Tau on the Saigon ferry for a few days. Finally while in Da Lat I went to Nha Trang for a few days. I’ve tried to do at least one side trip to a place each place I have spent the month or longer. Its worked out really well for me.

But now my time draws nigh and I am in my last two weeks in Vietnam. On 15 September I fly back to Ho Chi Minh City for one night and then the next day fly to Cambodia. I’ll be touring Cambodia for 4 months. A month in each place I want to visit. My plan is in February  or so to fly to Thailand or Malaysia and tour around.

I will have a year long multiple entry retirement visa in Cambodia so I can use there as a home base and float out to other places while coming back every so often. Travel within the region is very cheap and the multiple flights I will want in February will run about $300 US for all of them.

A few things changed for me as my time in Vietnam has gone on. I have met some of the most wonderful, charming, gracious people here who are now my friends.

So the travel as a solo traveler has been very good! I have not felt depressed or anxious but did feel alone and lonely one time in HCMC. Ice cream and a mall helped out quite a bit. I’ve felt welcomed and accepted here for what I am. I am not a round the world traveler or a digital nomad or a reset or gap year person. I am just traveling to places I want to go at a very slow pace. I have nothing that requires my attention in any one place besides Vietnam. Nothing holds me or bars me going where I want. Each place has been a positive sum game for me and I have felt refreshed and invigorated from a rather stale 20 some years of doing IT and program management. The leaving and retiring has also meant that all debt and property not needed is gone. Not having debt is a huge thing given that for 10 years I was horribly in debt. Divorce came along and struck really hard and there were some years which were really horrible for me. The spirit though is indomitable and I guess through persistence, some luck, and a bit of help with the debt, I came out the other side in 2017. I knew then that I would retire and leave after one final frustrating project I did for the company. A 7 month project was condensed to only 3.5 months due to stakeholder requirements. We did that and met it but in the process having two service vendors and cloud data center providers, new identity management and security requirements, new load balancers, something that had never been done before using all those; left me completely wiped out. I told my group VP when he asked me almost daily to re-think my retirement it was no good. I was just burned out and the tank was empty.

Now I find myself on the cusp of another change. I’ll leave Vietnam and begin another chapter. A slow meandering chapter which will have me settle in Cambodia for a year. Do the things I love doing. I am not into how many visa stamps I can get or countries to visit. The

Asia has become home for me. Its what I expected and suspected before. Its a simpler life. Things cost less and sometimes things don’t work. Wireless access sometimes is hit or miss in some places. It does not matter. Its all there for me and the path slowly wanders and me, being the vagabond, sees how it turns and where it goes but its up to me to just follow or change it.

I hope you enjoy the next chapter of this thing. It will be interesting, fun, sometimes painful, and with plenty of good food and beer along the way. Its with a new camera now and less possessions since I minimized yet again and dropped down to half of what I had. Getting things like laundry done for $2.00 a week means I don’t need a lot of stuff.

So welcome and I hope you find a thing that fits and maybe as your time goes, you will see life on the road is not 45 countries and 3 continents. Its not a week in one place and then 20 others. At least for me, its not. For me, its that slow and gradual movement that gives me the best feeling. I don’t need more passport pages or visa stamps. What I really need I have found. The solo traveling has become the most important and then finding this select group of people that are there for me. That has been one of the nicest finds on this journey.

Perhaps you too will look at the road with yearning and take the path less traveled on and maybe that will make all the difference!

Know where you are and where you are going…

I was thinking this through during my beach walk and return this evening. What are the necessary and required things of a life? My mentor RWR only told me a few pieces of life advice. I think he thought what would work for someone else would probably not work so well for me. He told me to

always know where you are and where you are going

I carried this with me from the days of doing prehistoric archeology in the Mojave Desert both during work as a Project Archeologist at Edwards AFB, CA and on the weekends when he and I escaped to a butte or lonely dirt road wandering through those mysterious foothills north of Edwards heading perhaps toward Bakersfield or Tehachapi. Its where the desert meets the foothills and the ecology starts ramping up. You can tell there is more water there and less people disturbance.

I always struggled to know where I was going. I knew I never wanted to give up archeology (then). It was like he told when asked that it was the

most fun you can have with your pants on

But the practice of it when I got let go at Edwards was pretty nomadic. Especially with a wife working at a hospital then and a baby that would come later. I was driving all over the state for an environmental engineering company. Working in Barstow and east of Sacramento and all points in-between.

So I knew where I was but where I was going?

That was kinda hella tricky. I just had no grasp of what would happen next besides the beer blast on a Friday after work at the hotel with all the archeologists, the biologists, and the ultimately crazy guys our geologists.

So what does this have with being on the road you ask. What possible connection can it have with travel which has been the predominant thread that this blog has spoken to? It has a few. One of the things that doing archeology professionally led me to was stopping in the late 1980s or early 1990s and moving for some God forsaken reason to IT. One of the advantages though was I suddenly knew where I was going. I knew I hated doing Program Management of complex projects my last few years and I knew I would leave. If you have done IT you probably know that it sucks. If you don’t, you should. I did multi-million dollar infrastructure and data center recovery, relocation, virtualization projects that drove me crazy at the last place. So for sure by that point, I knew where I was going. I was getting the F outa there.

My main message here is that often we travel through times in our lives without really knowing. That beer in the evening in the middle of the Mojave Desert with a bunch of like minded individuals while not yielding the where I was going part gave me this sense of wonder. If you have never done archeology in a field class or as a profession you will have no idea. Its not work really but it has sometimes a really bad impact on the body. Witness the RSI in my elbow from digging up human remains all one summer for PGE. Those damnable dental picks and the fragile human remains and my friend telling me to be careful all the time until we got tanked up at the hotel on beers.

It all helped me find where I was going. Now I know where it all led. It led to a room in Da Nang Vietnam and thinking back on the travels and travails of a life spent in a passion and another part spent laboring in IT. Now I know the rest of the story about what RWR told me.

Am I finally happy? Yes. I lived through IT and loved through archeology. One a passion and damned hard work and the other sometimes boredom and drudgery and horribly hard work as my projects went GREEN to RED with no stops in-between. I hated that. But it took me to 2018 on 1 March and leaving all of it behind.

So sleep well dear readers. If you know where you are and where you are going, you got it made. RWR said so.