Wow, it’s been a while! I haven’t posted in so long I’ve forgotten the damn password to the website. I’ve been busy though, I also have buckets of other excuses up my sleeves and down my trousers, making themselves generally unwanted, but none that really stack up when I honestly think about it. I’m going to chalk my absence from these hallowed pages up to pure laziness and just letting time get away from me since I’ve taken a break from travelling.
For those playing along at home, I’m still based in Singapore, been here now for almost 2 years. It’s the place where I’ve temporarily traded in life on the road for something more sedentary and ultimately as boring as it’s been financially beneficial. The last two years have been a microcosm of life for many people, life does it’s thing, gets in the way. One thing leads to another and in what seems like a blink suddenly you’re left wondering what the hell happened. A wide-eyed deer in the headlights of the hourglass, waiting for the impact of the last grain.
How easy it is to just let life take the wheel. To let go and arrive at your destination, wherever that might be. Our best intentions aside, without regular sanity checks, honest interventions and regular stops to check the ‘map’ it’s kind of easy to get lost in the day to day and let the weeks slip passed in something of a daze. It’s not always a bad thing either, we are, after all, creatures of habit.
I moved here 2 years ago with only a few half thought through goals in mind: Live in another country, take a longer break from travelling, touch base with my career and do some short term trips throughout South East Asia and Asia using Singapore as a base. Then one thing led to another (as above) and it’s now been 2 years, life’s ambushed me in a big way. I’ve experienced life in South East Asia, eaten my fill of Chili Crab and been kicked in the family jewels by Dengue Fever, I also got engaged, bought a house and am now looking down the barrel of a mortgage.
“But soft! What hypocrite through yonder window doth break [his promises]?” I hear you say. “Aren’t you that same idiot who was always banging on about travel, quitting your job to see the world, never letting ‘real life’ get in the way etc.. etc..?” Well.. err.. yes I suppose I am still that same person, here’s why I’ve sat put for a while and why I think it’s been truly valuable for me.
Why I have been (mostly) sedentary for 2 years, taking a break from travelling.
5 Reasons why I’ve been taking a break from travelling
Reason 1: I was craving routine
After a long time of moving around, the constant novelty does get old. Something I’ve talked about it at length already, but don’t just take it from me, there’s lots of stuff out there about travelling for too long, like this post by a fellow travel blogger. When you first set out on a trip I know nothing could ever be further from your mind. It might be the most wonderful feeling in the world, setting off on some grand adventure, the road disappearing off into the sunset with nothing in front of you except possibilities, but it’s true. Sometimes you just realise that you’re a bit sick and tired and no longer care about the best time to book hotel rooms.
Too much of anything can be bad, even awesome things like travel. Try eating a whole block of chocolate at once if you don’t believe me. There are times that travel can suck harder than a big night out in Geylang (the Singaporeans reading this know what I’m talking about.. hey.. hey..?) It’s a grass is always greener humdinger and after 12 months of travel, I needed to get some routine back into my life. I just felt that I needed somewhere other than my suitcase to call home for a time.
Ask anyone who’s travelled long term and the same points get raised. I think this is often why long-term travellers tend to travel more slowly and will often base themselves in the same spot for months on end. The other thing that makes a routine/base appealing is the ability to pursue various hobbies and interests, that would be impossible to take travelling with you long term. Trust me, taking a guitar case basically anywhere with you sucks and the guitar’s already a semi-portable example of a hobby. Forget it if your musical calling is the double base or god forbid, the bagpipes…
End of the day a base gives you the time, space and inclination to pursue interests or hobbies that are often not portable. Aside from the people, it’s these interests that are in the end what adds colour to life. For example, I practice HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts), love it, I get to hit people with swords and pretend I’m a badass. It’s also a pursuit known for the sheer amount of gear it requires to simply avoid being killed. Being based in one place for a time has been greatly beneficial to the practice for me.. Also, trying to explain to airport security why the giant steel sword in your bag is ‘sporting equipment’ would get old pretty fast.
Reason 2: To re-establish a career
I’ve always been a massive proponent of quitting a career to travel the world but this doesn’t mean that you just need to keep going forever, never to return home and integrate back into daily life again. I’ve always said a career can be picked up right where you’ve left off, which is exactly what I did. In fact, my move to Singapore has been professionally and economically one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life, even as I take a break from travelling and get back into a routine. Living in what’s essentially a tax haven does tend to stoke the bank account; as well as look fantastic on a CV for when I do eventually return home to live more permanently. Basing myself in Singapore has allowed me to check-in with my career again.
Reason 3: Real-estate
Taking a break from travelling has also enabled my fiancee and I to get into the property market. I’m feeling very adult and all that now being a home-owner, but at the end of the day, owning a home has always been on the Bucket List. With the economic booms of our move, what better time than now? “But how will you travel with the mortgage now?? You’ll never be able to travel again!” I hear you scream. Chill Winston.
I’ll explain the economics of travelling with a mortgage in a separate future post in great detail, but for now, I’ll just say that there are lots of ways this can be managed, based on a combination of the below, but stay tuned for that one if it’s of interest.
- Earning while abroad
- Saving like a MOFO
- Trip length & managing losses
Reason 4: Living overseas & new experiences
Simply put, I’ve always wanted to live overseas, it’s another tick off the Bucket List. While I haven’t yet achieved the related goal of learning another language while being here (see ‘laziness’ above..), I’ve had some wonderful experiences living in South East Asia, as I’ve taken a longer term break from travelling; it’s been an amazing base to stick to for a while. Although Singapore’s not winning any awards for its thriving culture (well, none that I know of..), there’s still interesting parts to the country. Parts that can be understood and discovered only through the slow process of ‘cultural osmosis’ that seems to happen when you stay put for a while and really get to know a place.
Like for example, do you know where to get the best Roti in all of Singapore and possibly even the whole world? I do, and it’s right here. BOOM!
Singapore’s also been my base from which to see a whole lot more of Asia. In the past 2 years, I’ve been to the places listed below. So while yes, because of the demands of a professional job I haven’t been able to travel long term to these places. I have managed to squeeze a decent number of shorter style trips under the belt, while still taking a longer break from travelling.
- Nepal (4 times)
- India (2 times. Including a road trip from Delhi to Mumbai)
- Perth (4 times to see the folks)
- Malasia (KL)
- Indonesia (Jakarta)
- Taiwan (Taipei)
- Hong Kong
- Bali (3 times – Bali may as well be an outer suburb of Perth these days though..)
- Thailand (Krabi – Just got back in fact!)
Reason 5: Day to day life just seems to get away from you
Despite the first 4 points, I do feel that maybe I still haven’t used this time to its full potential. I could have done more, seem more, worked harder to hit my goals sooner etc.. I’m as guilty as any for letting the days slip into one another and letting time pass me by. I get that once you find your groove somewhere, it’s also hard to lever yourself out of it. Been there and experienced a groove so well oiled and arse polished that it took some substantial mental prodding to lever myself free.
Taking the first step is really hard and there’s always a legitimate excuse to hold you in place. Just one more pay-cycle, one more contract or one more project etc.. The other part of the equation is the friends and the people you meet along the way. It’s the relationships that ultimately make taking a big life step like leaving a country, a really hard one, but just like a career, they will always be there for you when you get back. The question is, are you staying for the right reasons or because you’re scared or find leaving too uncomfortable?
It’s why Monday is the most dangerous word in the dieters vocabulary, it’s the cold rainy day that gets in the way of starting to jog. It’s that extra round of Doom you have to play instead of starting your Literature assignment (ok, I really get this one.. the new Doom fucking rocks..). I get it.
So what’s the plan now then?
I’ve hit some of my goals while taking a break from travelling, but my feet are starting to get as itchy as hell (and no, it’s not some form of vicious tropical fungal infection). I’m not wholly ready to hit the road again just yet, I still have some t’s to cross and some i’s to dot in Singapore before we get our leave on:
- Kick the mortgage firmly in the nuts
- Professionally I’d like to establish a slightly stronger foothold
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I think what I’ve come to realise is that whatever reasons you have for not hitting the road, as long as you can clearly see the deadline, the light at the end of the tunnel firmly fixed in your future, you can work towards it and most importantly are motivated enough to stick to it and not let the days get away from you.
End of the day, we moved to Singapore with some clear goals and some clear objectives, some of which we’ve hit, others are still various works in progress, and yet others we try and practice every day, like just having a great time! Taking a break from travelling has been as important in my life as travelling itself has been. Moving to Singapore has been a rewarding and interesting experience, and I’m eager to continue on here for a time. Yet those feet are starting to get restless, crawling one toe at a time towards the walking shoes of inevitability. Each time I pass the wardrobe, I can hear the siren-like call of my backpack beckoning to me from the darkness…
So where to next?
- Thailand in September & October
- The Philippines, in October but also January next year to finally get my Open Water diving ticket
- Hong Kong, in November
- Japan & Australia in December/Jan for some snowboarding adventures and Christmas
- Cambodia, early next year
- Eastern Europe, the next big trip begins next year!