Confessions of a nomad: memories worth keeping (part I)

When you travel with an open heart and open mind, travel is never boring and it has definitely played a big role in broadening my horizons beyond just being able to say “I’ve been there!”. Of all my travel experiences, here are some highlights of those memories: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The craziest: going skinny dipping (at night!) in a very conservative country (Cambodia) and having to borrow clothes to get home cause mine were stolen. Tip: swimming in the ocean at night amongst glow in-the-dark plankton is totally worth it.

The scariest: riding a motorbike for the first time in Sapa, Vietnam for a day. I rode along highways full of large trucks to get to narrow, windy roads through breathtaking rice fields. It took me a few hours the morning of to keep myself from chickening out of these plans and then it took a lot of energy to stay calm all day. Result? It was totally worth it! I would do it again in a heartbeat.


Very happy, a little relieved and a little sunburnt after my day in Sapa

The riskiest: hopping on the back of a motorbike of a guy I just met for a short ride in Krabi, Thailand. I really do mean “just met”. I was walking to a party and a guy getting on his bike to go the same way offered me a ride. Definitely the opposite of what you’re taught about taking rides from strangers, but he dropped me off at my destination with no issues and I had a great night!

The grossest: eating raw sea urchin at a great sushi place in Manila. I love sushi and this place served me some of the best I’ve ever had, but I really had trouble with the texture of sea urchin. I had more trouble with this than with eating balut or fried crickets.

The most thrilling: ziplining in Costa Rica through the trees and across deep ravines. I am very much afraid of heights and so I found this equal parts nerve wracking and thrilling. The scariest part was switching lines on a tree platform high above the ground and the best part was flying through the air on the Tarzan swing.


Here goes! The Tarzan swing in Costa Rica.

The most underwhelming: The 30 hour train ride I took in India with my Dad. I was really excited for this ride (from Goa to Agra) because I expected the scenery to be beautiful. In actual fact, it was not at all photo inspiring. Luckily many other parts of the experience were great – like the time my Dad expressed curiosity about a snack being sold in the aisle and next thing we know we’re each eating a deep fried banana pepper. Delicious for me, but not something my Dad would have ordered for himself.


No window views, but I did get a picture of dinner on the train.

The sickest: getting an ear infection from spending so much time swimming in the ocean on Otres beach in Cambodia. Have I mentioned how much I love the beach? This infection started right before I returned home so I waited to get treatment in Canada. By the time I got to the doctor, I had an inner and outer ear infection and a high fever that resulted in a few delirious days in bed when I got home.

The most challenging: hiking the Everest base camp trek in Nepal. This was particularly challenging because I didn’t train, I hadn’t fully recovered from a sciatica injury, I caught a cold on the trek and I struggled with the altitude despite taking preventative medicine.


Exuding confidence on the Everest base camp trek

The most life-changing: attending the Tomorrowland festival in Belgium. This was an experience of a lifetime full of beautiful music and beautiful people. I’ve never felt so free as I did dancing all day in crowds of happy, like-minded people to uplifting music. Have I mentioned that I love to dance?


I think this sums Tomorrowland up nicely

Stay tuned for more confessions of a nomad . . .

Life on the road: a backpacker’s lesson in want vs. need

All long-term backpacking trips begin the same way. They begin with the chore of packing your life up into boxes for storage and selectively choosing what items are deemed worthy of the coveted space in your backpack. This process can be particularly eye opening. It’s a valuable lesson in want vs need.

Selecting what to bring with me on my RTW trip was a chore that I relished. I read and reread travel blog posts: lists of the essentials you need, lists of the things you think you need but don’t really need and how to stay fashionable on the road. Gone were the days when I brought old clothes with me to wear on backpacking trips. I learned my lesson there – pictures are forever. And when a trip is this long, it’s not just a trip anymore, it’s my life! For this reason and because I wanted to travel carry-on only, most of what I brought with me was newly purchased. Picking what to bring so that each piece was a versatile as possible was fun and definitely worth the time. For example, a well selected tank top can do time on the beach, in the gym and in bed! I’ve been very happy with what I brought. As for exactly what I bought and brought, that’s a whole other post.


My well loved Minaal backpack.

Once on the road, I had to resist the urge to shop. This was easy for me at first. I’m generally not big on tangible souvenirs. What was hard to pass up were the things unique (or uniquely affordable) to a country: tagine cookware in Morocco, leather and diamonds in Pakistan, spices in India, silk in Cambodia. . . the list really does goes on. Knowing that I literally could fit nothing more in my backpack worked for a while, but eventually I stared to get creative and found space I didn’t even know I had. Once I hit Thailand, the urge got too strong and I justified some new beachwear. In Vietnam, I succumbed to the thrill of getting a bespoke suit made. By this time, I’d accumulated enough stuff that I had to spread to two suitcases. Luckily not a problem for flights, since my initial bag still fit carry-on requirements.

Now that I’m setting up shop temporarily in New Zealand, the call of want vs need is feeling especially strong. I’ll be here for six months to a year and this feels much more like setting up a new home than being on a backpacking trip. Even though I’m working again, I’ve been asking myself plenty of tough questions in my quest to save as much money as possible for the rest of my trip.

Can I manage with one bath towel or should I buy two?
Two, cause my apartment is humid
Do I need Egyptian cotton sheets or can I live with this cotton/poly blend discounted set?
Discounted set will do
How many different outfits do I really need for six months of office work?
About two week’s worth
Do I need a warmer jacket for Auckland winter?
Nope, I’m Canadian
Do I need a proper full length mirror in my room or will this almost-full-length $30 mirror do?
See picture
Do I need fancy teas a la David’s Tea or can I live with grocery store brands?
A compromise – some of both to keep me from frequenting Starbucks


Almost-full-length mirror and outlet mall dress.

In some ways, the strictness with which I’m currently wielding my budget is tougher than back when I was a student. It’s really put into perspective what had become easy decisions for me. I used to have no problem justifying 800 thread count, Egyptian cotton sheets. Now I’m shopping only at sales, outlets and second hand stores. In Canada, I used to have serious trouble shopping second hand or even vintage. Now I’m seeing the value and beauty in someone else’s unwanted clothes. I’m less picky about exact style and more interested in something functional, flattering and affordable. I’ve also been inspired by a new friend who reminded me that reusing clothes is good for the planet.


Warm and pretty discounted sheets and duvet.

Surprisingly, given that I’m trying to buy only what I need in New Zealand and not splurge, I expect I’ll have trouble repacking and letting go of many items when I leave. I’ve managed to find affordable, quality pieces that suit my style and I already anticipate sending a package home to Canada on my way out.