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 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.

Wandering Country Roads – Thinking of Other Places

Sunday here in Da Lat so I went for a walk. I never quite know where I will end up but this time was so cool! I went down this road past the coffee shoppe I go to for late breakfast on Sundays. Just a small diversion though. While at the coffee shoppe, the manager sat down and we talked about Vietnam and the cities and his life for almost an hour. He told me about growing up in Hue and some of his goals early on. He started out wanting to open a coffee place in Hue but plans changed so he did other things. Then he moved to Da Lat and started working with the place I go on the weekends. We talked a lot about food and the cities of Vietnam. Both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are interesting to a lot of people but to him they are crowded, full of motorbikes that drive crazy, and the rush of a real commercial and market place. Hanoi is a bit less but its traffic seems to be even more focused.

Anyways, after talking for awhile, I embarked on the walk. Da Lat is on hills so you end up walking up and downhill quite a bit and it feels really good! I had not seen the country side around the city and the big roads slowly dissolve to small country roads. Less people walking and only the occasional car. It was quiet out there today and it gives a person time to reflect and consider while seeing these windy little roads and no horns blaring and city rush. I also took some pictures of the change between the city and the residential and almost country areas I had reached. Today, with its wondrous weather, cooler temperatures, and different sights to see creates a lot of the value I find in staying longer in places. Its not so much the rush to see the historic and tourist sights. Its more to see a city in its non tourist and native state. Quieter, more peaceful, lesser people. No cars and motorbikes. Just fun little country roads to walk. Here’s the latest photo album for Da Lat.

Now back in the hotel room with some cold water and the fan going, I’m left to speculate and wonder on a few things which have caught my attention reading the news this morning.

  1. Retiring in Colombia looks pretty interesting. Costs are very low and the retirement visa is pretty easy to get. I could easily qualify for the long term visa there. Its no big deal getting there from here for me. I just wonder whether I would find the same value at a few levels there as I find in Asia. My core values in Asia are the people, the culture, the food, the history and how the countries all touch. As an example in Asia, traveling between Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Lao is easy. Just a cheap airline or railroad ticket. I could easily go back to Hanoi and see some friends from anywhere and it would not really cause any problems for me.
  2. Infrastructure for the solo traveler in Asia is pretty established. I am not sure if its the same in Colombia. Here in Vietnam, simple things like getting a SIM card, finding restaurants, long stay guest houses or hotels is very easy. Traveling between countries and within is easy if sometimes a bit uncomfortable but flying trumps all here. Hopping on a Vietnam Airlines flight or AirAsia is cheap, easy, and quick.
  3. Visas look doable in Colombia and that’s a big deal to me. I don’t want to settle in a place where its a stretch to get a long term visa. Cambodia to me still wins out as far as ease and it meets the other criteria of travel between places I love, etc.

So with all the choices of going or staying, the feeling of freedom is huge! Would I leave Asia for Colombia? Maybe I would go for awhile. I have the rest of this year pretty well planned out and I started outlining next year to get an idea of what I would need to do.

Between the quiet country roads and the hotel room with the fan going and the cool temperatures, it feels like all needs are met. Its fun to consider another place and even do some research on it. Being so much a vagabond means that no country is a barrier to me. I can go as I please and stay longer in the cheaper places and shorter in the more expensive ones.

Life is good!

The Elusive Life of the Wanderer – Vagabonds will go!

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

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

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

lives of quiet desperation

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

But are there rules?

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

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

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

the tank is empty. I have no more to give

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to Ho Chi Minh City – reflections and thoughts

My last day was a transit type of day. I had some breakfast along with a few other Austrlian expats at the same place as yesterday and then relaxed for a bit in the room. I had to check out at noon so had them call a cab for me and went to the Ferry dock and had some Vietnamese coffee there and waited.

The ride back was a little over 2 hours and it was smoother than the ride going so no evident signs of sea sickness. I have to admit to feeling happy to get back to Ho Chi Minh City. I thought a lot about the expatriate population and how just about everyone down my street and in all the hotels were expatriates. It was hard to find local cuisine since all the places seemed to cater to the expats. I think the location I was in is one of the community centers.

Now that I’m back, I have less than 2 weeks left here and some things to do. I’ll be heading back out tomorrow to walk the city and take photographs. I may walk down to the Saigon riverwalk area and go the opposite way and see what I can see.

I also set a few dates for things so I don’t miss them as the time ticks down. I must get to Chinatown this next week and I think that will be a full day. I also must get over to the museum of history which is a good walk from here. Both of those are day long events since the Chinatown area is huge and I will want to see all I can by walking. The museum has an area beyond it I want to see so I will go exploring there as well.

As I traveled back, I was thinking quite a bit about solo wandering. I guess because seeing all the expats in Vung Tau made me realize there are so many ways of doing things. People see the world and turn on all different realities. There are those on the limited tour type trips. The longer stay people. The RTW people. The gap year or reset people. I’ve been reading a few blogs of the different types. Its healthy I think to question the steps I take and what I expect out of them. I could just leave Vietnam and then take another year long tourist visa and come back and live for up to a year and leave on visa runs every 90 days. I’m sure a lot of people do that. But there is nothing compelling for me in that. I would just settle down in a place and hang up the wandering shoes. I believe in what I’m doing and the pace at which I’m doing it. I have this basic plan of things and places. Some random but I have to say there are things that are not. I have specific dates for things. I have to leave Vietnam by 16 September. My visa runs out then. I will want to go by then. Cambodia calls for a year. I know without ever being there I want a lot of time in Cambodia. I want it to be a home base for me to support other travels into next year. It has the basic stuff I need and prices are reasonable.

So I pretty much knew I could never be an expatriate and find a place to settle in and call it home. I have to wander the roads and walk them and take pictures and prove out my lifestyle. I waited too long for all this to simply take one of the lifestyles and call it quits. I cannot see a year from now but I do know that I will be still moving slowly but through Cambodia or perhaps in Laos or Thailand or even flying on to India.

So all this reflecting stuff kept me busy on the 2 hour catamaran ride. I realized that solo travel is not for everyone. Its okay to have doubts and question things. I have realized though that there is nothing for me in the states either. No home, car, job, people that really care if I am there or not. Children grown, friends moving to their beats of life. I don’t want work any more. That tank is empty. So I know that this kind of travel is the best for me. The slow movements of months or so in each place. I get to get a sense about the life in a place. Walk the city streets, sit by the beach, drink a coffee or beer. But I know at some discrete moment out there I will leave. That’s okay too.

If you travel and you wonder what its like to go with no end in sight; its a heady thing. Being in Asia is a wonderful thing. Having time to walk and take photographs and see the things leaves me open to question critically the paths. Like today I knew that I would not settle down in some place and heed the siren call. My call is down the street, around the corner. On that bus going to Da Lat for months. If you are on the road, I wish you happiness and sadness. Success and failure. Wonder and disappointment. Most of all don’t lose the questioning. You need polar opposites I think to know the value of the thing you are doing. Its okay to question and have doubts. I do.

The Hobo’s Realization – Travel is not the means or the end

Its been four months since I retired and have left the states. All told I’ve been to Japan, Hong Kong, and Vietnam. In Japan, I visited Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Osaka and was fortunate to ride the Shinkansen Nozomi Line since I had pre-bought the tickets prior to leaving. In Hong Kong, I only had about three days to wander around. Then there’s Vietnam. Way back when I decided to spend six months in Vietnam. I wanted to start out in Hanoi and then travel south on the train but also do shorter trips here and there combined with my walking and photography hobby. I spent three months give or take a day in Hanoi and also did a few day tours and then longer trips to Halong Bay, Hue, and Hoi An. Each place has something that I will remember. In Halong Bay it was the first day’s sunset and sharing a beer with the tour manager as we watched the sun go down.

In Hue, it had to be the history and wonder of the palace and the day tour I did to see the three tombs I got to see. I also found some really good local food plus had one of the best Indian dinners and a burger there.

In Hoi An, it was walking in the evenings in the city with the lantern and lights going full force. It was nice not having a lot of scooters zooming around but in retrospect I could have done something else and been satisfied. I liked Hoi An but I was not after getting a suit or clothing and that’s really what its about there.

Finally Ho Chi Minh City. Initially I decided to spend three months here but then changed and decided to go to Da Lat which is in the central highlands and have cooler temperatures and spend my last few months in Vietnam there. I redid my travel plans a few times to what I wanted. Cancelled airline tickets, found a hotel in Da Lat to stay in longer term and then started doing the shorter trips out of Da Lat again.

I was thinking back on how things have gone because a friend asked me how I could possibly be gone forever. There is a certain mindset to traveling solo in the way I am doing it which is completely different than the usual tourist or RTW or digital nomad or gapyear person. Its not that I don’t have goals or things I want but I found a few things which I just take for granted now that took me a bit to get to.

The first thing is losing the sense of rushing. I don’t want to rush to places only to spend two weeks and move on or a month or whatever. Rushing through a place leaves you with a memory that is rushed. You don’t recall that day where you did not have an agenda or a must or shall do. I lost the sense of purposeful travel with goals and places and things I must do.

The second thing that took me a longer time was not working. I never thought it would take so long to sink in after so many years that I do not have to work! I never have to work again. My life is encompassed in not working at all and just taking the steps and the wandering each day provides.

Another thing was minimizing things. I am not a minimalist and will never be. But I did get rid of things, donated things, selected the remaining things that I thought would work. Some things did but others were left behind or tossed or given away. I had to redo a few things which seemed like good fits like how to charge devices and have my ex-wife ship me new things. Clothing was another one. I thought at first that jeans were the way to go. Do not take jeans to Southeast Asia. You will burn! So I minimized and re-bought things in Hanoi which seemed better. Things of mine now should fit into a Tortuga 45L outbreaker backpack and a fake North Face duffel. And they do. So just proclaiming I am a minimalist is not true. I have never been one. What I am is a realist. I cannot pack two laptops, 5 phones, 14 t shirts, and a expensive set of toiletries. All that goes bye bye.

The final thing is finding value. Sometimes its best when you think there is no value to consider what it is that you have instead of what you don’t have. Its worth re-thinking on that after a beer or a big Vietnamese dinner at the homestay. What is it that is valuable in my life? What are the things that I find value in and how do I get them? I have to say that the things with no value were left behind much like I donated those shirts with collars, ties, shoes, socks, whatever it was. I was left with things I do value. Between this one and the one above, I think you find the golden mean.

Traveling is not this…

I’ve dealt with a few ideas since I retired. One is traveling. I’ve come to realize that what I do is not traveling. I don’t have itineraries and plans and agendas or real bucket lists although I did write down things I had to do in Hanoi. Traveling seems to have a meaning of getting to and from a place. When I traveled for business before, there were expectations and requirements. Must do things. The company wanted things from me if they paid for travel. Rarely did those things and what I really wanted line up.

So I tossed out the idea of traveling on 28 February. But tossing something out and not being reminded or feeling grabbed by it are universes apart.

I’m left with what this is. Upon reflection this is that purposeless wandering with camera in hand I have always wanted. The steps taken each to find a thing and the tired feeling in the legs after doing more steps. The taste of that one cold beer or ice cream at the Vincom Center or wherever. The random steps ensure that this is purposeless. I am empowered to be random. I can turn a direction. Go down one of those mysterious Hems in Vietnam and see the guard smiling and waving. See some of the mystery of the Old Quarter in Hanoi and District One in Ho Chi Minh City.

All these things separate me from the traveler. Trying to put them into words with someone on a schedule of 30 countries in 45 days is hard. If you are hitting the road, perhaps you should read what Robert Louis Stevenson said about travel,

I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.

Its the moving that counts folks. If you move with purpose you may miss the little random life things that are tossed up at you. My advice?

Try to slow down. Don’t just be a minimalist because it explains away things. Be a realist. Can you pack the 10 pairs of shoes and 20 t shirts and jackets and all that in a carry on bag? Look at your expectations when you hit the road and dash them all to bits. Start with a clean slate and don’t re-think them all. Forget the goals. Delete the bucket list. Be that random person you know you can be.

Most of all; slow down. That side street may not wait for you.