Thursday, May 31, 2012

Crashing At Hostels Is Like Camping - Inside The City

When I travel it's always on a budget. I'm not independently wealthy, sorry to say. However, I can find ways to make money stretch. One of those ways is looking for dirt cheap accommodations. 

Hostels are one of the most affordable options but cheap comes at a price too. Basically, think of staying in a hostel as you think of camping. Out in the wild there will not be room service. If you want towels, soap, breakfast, coffee, blankets, toilet paper, etc. when you go camping you must pack accordingly. If you want even more such as your own bathroom with a shower, well then, you better bring an RV. Hostels work in much the same way. Now, that isn't to say that you won't have anything provided. Basics at a hostel are a single bed in a shared dorm room. Breakfast consisting of toast and jelly plus juice is also common. Above and beyond that you should be prepared to share a toilet and shower down the hall. You may be given a towel but don't expect it. Forget about soap & shampoo on your pillow! Bottom line you are paying rock bottom prices for a place to hang your hat. If you want all the comforts of home don't go camping and don't travel. Take a vacation and book a hotel.  

My room at Paradiso Hostel in Kuala Lumpur. This is less typical of the room I normally book. Notice that only one bed is present. I consider it a treat to afford a private single room.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Batu Caves Probably = Batu Graves

Yesterday was a reminder just how fragile life can be. Luckily, tragedy was averted when timing probably saved my friend's life. 

My friend Steve and his girlfriend took me up to the Batu Caves here in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. He and I climbed up to the top and explored for a bit while I stocked up on photos. After which, we proceded to make our way back down the seemingly infinite staircase. Just as Steve had reached the bottom, a woman had lost her balance and came crashing right into him from behind. The impact knocked him down the remaining few steps he had left in front of him (luckily it was just a few). 

I was lagging behind a bit and did not see the collision because I spent half the time looking at my feet  while carefully negotiating each step. The incline is so intense that I felt like I would fall right off the hill at any moment. Apparently, that is exactly what does happen to some people. As I gazed up to see how much further I had left I saw the human pile up and realized my friend was part of it. I'm happy to say, at least on this day, lives were spared. Had Steve been higher up that hill it could've meant his life! Anyone would likely crack their head open tumbling down those concrete steps. Fortunately, that wasn't in the cards and Steve walked away. The girl, crying and seriously shaken up did as well. Once I caught up with Steve at the bottom and could tell he wasn't seriously injured I felt a sense of relief but in that same moment I couldn't help thinking how it could have gone much worse. The experience left me wondering how many people call the caves their final destination in life.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Traveling Has It's Advantages.

In a recent post I mentioned not being on vacation. That is because in my opinion full time travel isn't a vacation it's a lifestyle. One, that at times can be just as challenging or more so than any other lifestyle choice.  

Most of us know how to save enough funds to take vacation complete with adventure and or a much needed reprieve from everyday life; all the while surrounded by the familiar comforts of home at a nice resort or hotel. 

What it is to travel means something else. It means removing yourself from what is familiar. It means budgeting and sacrificing comforts in order to learn and grow as a person. Travel also means reacquainting yourself with all the things you thought you already knew through a whole new experience. For example, laws and beliefs are different from back home. The every day things such as crossing the street, getting a haircut or grocery shopping are no longer rote operations performed at scheduled intervals. Everything requires engagement of the brain just like when you learned it the first time. 

So, what are some advantages? 

First off being engaged fully in life is an advantage of it's own! There are many others as well but I won't post about them. I'll let you think about it a little. I will share my favorite aspect... 

If you've planned right, then you will regain your time and it is yours to use how you like. The number one thing I like about travel is not having to give up my time to someone else. For example, this lifestyle choice is one where work is a means to an end not an endless search for a paycheck. Also, it means if you grow tired of a place you move to the next without a lease that obligates you to stay put.  I could go on. Simply put full on travel mode means my time is my time and it's the best part of this way of life. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fast Forward A Week Later - KL.

                                     Vagabond or vagabozo? 

Wow, what a first week!

 First off, I get lost whenever I go out. Sidewalks here just run out all of a sudden every few blocks. Plus, street signs are clearly some insidious eastern plot to drive westerners crazy from going in circles (which they seem to point you in on purpose). There doesn't seem to be a price on a lot of things. For example going out to eat I cross my fingers every time that the bill isn't triple what I expect. When grabbing from the ala-cart it seems they just make up a price when you stop eating. Even when I go to a pub or restaurant with a menu and prices listed I still have to be careful of the old bait and switch tactics usually reserved only for electronics and car salesman back in the states. I nearly lost it though the other day when I went to purchase a beer at a pub called the Library. The menu listed some choices I pointed to the beer I desired and the cheapest price next to it. FYI Malaysia isn't cheap and beer especially is stupid. My order was a 1664, half pint 26MYR (about 8.70USD). Told ya! The shit aint cheap! Anyway, I get the bill (the bar back is also bringing me another beer) and it's 38MYR (you do math) all I know is it equaled me being PISSED! I nearly reached over and chocked the little fucker out. It wasn't until I calmed down and realized that while I had spent 50% more I actually got 200% more for the buck. So, Don't get me wrong deals can be found but it's work. I realized it pays now to double check by having them repeat back to me what they understand it is that I actually want. Dealing with street vendors to haggle a good price over any of their cheap knock off shit is also work and another can of worms all together. I'm staying away from them. There seems to be no good deals to be had. If I truly want something than I'll just have to surrender to paying US prices for it, but only if there is something out of this world is there reason to bother, and that's just not likely from the street vendors. Taxis are another mystery. Every one has a sign on the car saying metered (metered cabs have set and cheaper rates). None of them actually are metered, and talking to the cabbie you find they want about tripple the price for a ride off the meter. Needless to say I've done a lot of walking! Taking the monorail seems okay, but at night it's down right depressing to look at some of the people on there. I don't know if it's that they are poor it's just that they are disgusting with their hygiene. Come on already if you can afford a token for the rail you can afford a little self dignity and put on some clean clothes over a showered body, just my opinion. Poverty is not an excuse to be gross. Otherwise stay home.

Okay, now that I've got that off my chest... I know I've left out a bunch but that's fine. Who reads this shit anyway? I'm happy to say my confidence is building. My learning curve is solid. Also, my attitude is improving. "Always look at the lighter side of your life".

 What's next? I wonder!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Reflections Of Another Year Gone by... well almost.

10 months in on 2 years time off (If that's what you call it)...

I started my latest excursion July 2011. It's now May 2012. What's come of it so far? I suppose it's all in how I or anyone interested would look at it.

If I were to try to glamorize it, I might talk about things like: how I have crisscrossed my own country from west to east visiting friends and family in New Mexico, California and the Pacific Northwest, then bounced around the east coast on Amtrak having revisited New York and adding Massachusetts to my list of places stopped in all while passing through places like Road Island and Connecticut.

I also filmed up in Vancouver BC and I'm currently in Malaysia the start of my Asian tour.

That's the summary version in a good light. Here are a bit more of the details:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

*Vacation or *Soul Searching? Kuala Lumpur - day one.

Malaysia day one...

Today I went for a walk around Bukit Bintang. I didn't stroll too far. I just inched my way around the immediate area to get a feel for where I am. I had the all too familiar feeling which I've come to have time and time again throughout my life stemming from the following questions:  Where am I? What am I doing here? Where is my life going? Why? What next? What do I want? What is the point? Is there a point or purpose to all this / life? 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Travel nerves are in one piece... so far.

Notes from Michael's mind... 

 I leave tomorrow morning for Kuala Lumpur. So far so good with my anxiety. It's interesting to me that even things we as people want to do and find ourselves enjoying when we do them, can actually cause such feelings of complete terror and anxiousness. Equally intriguing, is that once I find myself out there doing what I love the feelings go away and the crazy things I imagine going wrong don't happen. Advice to self: do my best, live, enjoy and don't worry so much.