My Next Adventure: The Asia Jaunt

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I’ve been planning it for months.  I’ve been alluding to it and dropping more and more hints. I’ve told my family, my friends, and several of my favorite travel bloggers.  Now, it’s time to tell the world!

Later this fall, I leave for seven months in Southeast Asia.

Image: WarzauWynn

How It Began

If you remember my 26th birthday post from August, I alluded to a time this past January that changed everything: I lost my job, I lost a lucrative freelance job, my long-term relationship ended, and Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat went to a Republican.  All within two weeks.

I’m always looking for signs in my life, and I took this as a sign that it was time to move on from Boston.

After a particularly rough day, I texted my sister.  “Do you want to move to NYC or LA?  Or anywhere?”

“nyc probably”

“[Old freelance job] folded today. I now have nothing keeping me in Boston.”

“well you wanna move to nyc in august?”


And with that, we started planning a move to New York, slated for when our lease ended at the end of August.

I was so excited to move to New York, but there was something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on that made me feel uneasy.  And then it hit me.


During this whole time, I was saving for an eventual RTW — savings that were eventually eaten up by credit card debt.  I paid that debt off in January and began to save — hard.  I knew that a RTW trip would be years away, so why not spend it in an awesome place like New York City?  Sure, living in New York would make it harder to save money quickly, but it was still NEW YORK, right?

Then why was I so sad?

I felt like there were no options.  I couldn’t afford a RTW trip.  I couldn’t teach abroad on a yearlong contract because of a close friend’s wedding in summer 2011.  At my new job, if I never took a single day off, I wouldn’t have even earned two weeks of vacation by the end of the year.

Travel was so far out of my hands, and I was miserable.

Then after a sobbing mid-workday phone call with my mom in the spring, it hit me — what if I went to Southeast Asia, but for only a couple of months, and came back in time for the wedding?

Holy crap. That could work.

Image: Rene Erhardt

Why Southeast Asia?

I’ve already traveled through much of Europe, North America and a bit of South America.  Southeast Asia has always topped my list of destinations, and it was the largest part of my RTW itinerary. As Uncornered Market recently pointed out, Southeast Asia is an ideal destination for first-time backpackers.

Southeast Asia has excellent infrastructure and a well-worn backpacker trail (most popular with Australians and Europeans).  Southeast Asia has incredible food and so many sights.  And, most importantly, Southeast Asia is CHEAP.  Really cheap.  Cheapest-region-in-the-world cheap.

There is so much to see in Southeast Asia that I want to see — Thailand’s beaches, Bali, Angkor Wat, Halong Bay, temples and massages and street food and beach parties and temples and wonderful people — that I know I would love to stay in that region for a long time.

I know that staying in one region for so long may sound counterproductive for a girl who yearns to travel the world, but this reply that I received from Lazslo on the Thorn Tree made me think:

I honestly think that in your case, the best time for an RTW is never!

RTWs are mostly for those who want to rush around the whole World in a limited time, typically people who have never travelled overseas before.
There can be exceptions, but the above seems usual.

Since you are already making great, focussed choices by concentrating on specific regions like SE Asia and the Balkans (both among my favourites!), you may have realized that you see more by seeing a more limited area at a time, rather than trying to see “The World” in one go.

While I want to reiterate his point that there are plenty of exceptions to typical RTW travelers, and I know quite a few of them, I think he makes an excellent point.

Image: mr clearview

How I Saved The Money

In short, living a miserly existence.

For several months, I’ve been living on about $1,000 per month (excluding rent).  I canceled my gym membership (which broke my heart), brought my lunch to work every day, and limited my nightlife.  I took my car off the road.  I never traveled.  No extras whatsoever.  I can’t even remember the last time I bought clothing.

My final rent check went out on July 1 and I’ve been saving the additional would-be-rent money since.

And I found ways to make more money: ratcheting up advertising on my three sites, taking on quite a bit of freelance work.

By early August, I was burning the candle at both ends, working all day, working on my site and doing freelance work all night, only eating if I remembered to.  I slept four hours a night during the week, lost 20 pounds and most of my social life, and developed new back pain.  Once I moved home and my mom saw my work habits, she was horrified.

But it paid off — I plan to arrive in Bangkok with about $9,000 in the bank, of which $2,000 is saved for “reestablishment funds” when I come home.  I plan to continue working from the road, though obviously not as hard as I am now, to earn more cash.

Image: Stuck in Customs

The Plan and Itinerary

The trip will begin before the end of 2010 — not revealing the date just yet.  I arrive in Bangkok.  After some time in Bangkok, I’ll likely head up to Chiang Mai and explore northern Thailand from there, then head over to Laos, crossing from the south into northeastern Cambodia, and make my way back to Bangkok for Christmas.

After that, probably Vietnam.  Southern Thailand, both coasts.  Then down into Malaysia, using Kuala Lumpur as a base for several cheap Air Asia flights: first to Sri Lanka, a place that I’ve dreamed of visiting for so long, then to the Philippines.

After returning to KL, I will make my way to Singapore, then Bali.  Next, it’s back to Bangkok, and on my way home, a five-day stopover in South Korea.  I return to the States in the spring.

And of course, I’m well aware that this itinerary will probably change quite a bit!  I’d also love to add Hong Kong and Macau if possible.

Things that will NOT be missed: Full Moon Party on Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand; tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos; cruising through the islands on Thailand’s Andaman coast; zip-lining through Bokeo Nature Reserve, Laos; sailing through Halong Bay, Vietnam; TONS of cheap massages everywhere I go.  God, I love massages.

So, do you plan to be in the area anytime before the summer?  Let’s meet up!  I’m already looking forward to meeting several of my travel blogger friends.

Image: Fadil Basymeleh

The Long-Term Plan

I want to make this work long-term.

It may seem ridiculous to say that, especially since I’m only four years out of college.  But after spending years in Boston’s competitive internet marketing scene, I’m ready to try a slower-paced career that leaves me happier, healthier, and with the autonomy and location independence I crave.  Doing this means giving up a lot of securities and luxuries, but I’m ready to try it.

I run advertising on my three web sites and I am currently developing more.  Between that and my freelance writing and web work, my goal is to create a sustainable income that will allow me to make enough of a living to live in cheap places around the world.

I’m sure it will take a long time, and I’m positive I’ll require outside employment along the way.  But I’m working hard, and I wouldn’t publicize this if I didn’t think I had a decent chance at succeeding.

Image: Stuck in Customs

This Blog is Going to ROCK.

This blog will absolutely continue — and it will be better than ever before.  I read about 80 travel blogs, and I’ve learned from them what works and doesn’t work when blogging from the road.  Some blogs turn AWESOME once they hit the road.  Some, frankly, don’t.

This blog will continue to have targeted, specific posts — a post on street food in Singapore, or on the Pak Ou caves outside Luang Prabang.  I don’t want it to grow into “This is what I did today in Chiang Mai” or have posts filled with “Then I met a friend at the hostel, and she was cool, so we walked around, and it was fun, and then we met another friend…” Nobody wants to read that.

I want this to become a resource for travelers, especially solo female travelers, so I will be adding travel guides and advice to the site as well.

In short: INTERESTING POSTS.  USEFUL POSTS.  QUALITY POSTS.  FREQUENT POSTS. And you know that I’m not afraid to hold back!

Sadly, I won’t be able to continue with recapping #TNI every week, and my best of the week feature will probably be downgraded to once a month.  But I will continue to acknowledge outstanding blogs on a regular basis.

So, if you haven’t yet, please subscribe to my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, or become a fan of Adventurous Kate on Facebook.

I hope you come with me on my journey!

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70 thoughts on “My Next Adventure: The Asia Jaunt”

  1. Congratulations on making a decision. I think your plan to focus on one area during the time you have now is much better than trying to take on the world and run yourself ragged in the process. There is MORE than enough to do and see in Southeast Asia for years and years on end. And being able to take it slow will allow you to take more in and enjoy the process more (catching a new bus every couple of days gets old after a while).

    I’m really glad our article helped assure you this was a good decision. I think it’s great (and cute) that your mother also commented on the article – it will be great to have her come visit you in Bangkok and give her a taste of the life you’ve worked (and saved) so hard to create.

    Congrats again!!

    1. That is cute — I had no idea she commented on your post, too!

      Thanks very much! I’m so very excited. And still a bit afraid of running myself ragged in the process, trying to see everything on the face of the Earth, but I hope to find a few great places where I can just chill out and relax for awhile. 🙂

  2. Kate — I am SO VERY EXCITED for you! This sounds amazing and absolutely life changing. I can’t wait to keep up with all your adventures and learn (and lust…) about all the spots you plan to hit.

  3. You’re going to have an amazing time! I went there a few years back for a month and hit up most of what you said; loved it! Wish I had the 7 months to spare! If you’re looking for cheap AND laid back, check out Koh Tao, that was my favorite island (north of Koh Phangan via boat). We stopped there on the way over, and the way back! $9.000 will be MORE than enough for sure! Best of luck!

    1. It makes me happy to hear you say that about the money, Andy!

      For Thai islands, I didn’t have Koh Tao on my itinerary because I don’t intend on diving. But I have heard really wonderful things. Maybe I will consider it after some Koh Phangan madness!

  4. Really happy you are about to hit the road. And I’m sure you’ll make a great go of your project. If there is anything I can do on either front, don’t hesitate to email me. Congrats!

  5. Congratulations! Sometimes it’s the bad things in life that push us to do what we really need to do. You’ll love South East Asia for all the reasons you mentioned. It’s really beautiful there.

  6. This is so AWESOME Kate! I know you’ve been planning for quite awhile and I’m so excited that both of us are finally making our travel goals happen! Also exciting: New Years party in Bangkok?

  7. Living a miserly existence suddenly becomes worth it! Nice one Kate – congrats. I’ll be lucky to get 25 days in SEA over Xmas but can’t complain. If you get to the Philippines, make the effort and get to El Nido in Palawan – you won’t regret it…

    1. Thanks, Christian!

      I would LOVE to go to Palawan, but I’m not sure I can do it within the 21 days the visa allows me. I was planning on Manila, the Cordillera (Banaue, Batad, Sagada), and Boracay. It sounds like a beautiful place, though! We’ll see…

  8. So glad you have finally shared with the world! I, of course, have been excited for you for months. You are going to have such a blast – I can’t wait to read about you chillin’ in the treehouses with the endangered monkeys! 😀

  9. Congratulations! This sounds phenomenal! I looking forward to reading your blog as you prepare and once you’re on your trip, from the female traveler prospective.

  10. How exciting! I’m so happy for you! I’m currently in SEA for an indefinite amount of time and hope that our paths will cross at some point along our travels! Take care and happy trails!

  11. I’m just going to repeat what everyone has already said, Kate: CONGRATULATIONS! I’m super excited for you! (Even if you will now become one of those traveling bloggers that I am envious of! Haha.)

    I think you’re decision to spend your 7 months in one general area is a great one. That’s how I’d want to do it, instead of trying to cram too much in at once.

    Can’t wait to start reading about your adventures from the road! I’m sure it’s going to be fantastic!!

  12. Kate- I look forward to seeing the direction your blog takes as you set fourth on your journey through Asia. I already look to it for a source of inspiration for achieving something great. Also- thanks for sharing your thought process and woes as you made such drastic cut backs in your life to achieve your goals. Sometimes I feel like a real loser when my friends are like, come out with us and I don’t want to because I don’t want to spend the money…I have other plans too and I’m saving

    1. Michael, this comment means so much to me! Thank you! I’m so glad that this blog inspires you!

      The past several months have been very difficult. I don’t know how I endured some things as long as I did. But I’m glad I did. This is a LIFESTYLE CHANGE, and I’m very happy for it.

      Keep going. You’ll make it!!

  13. Yeah, congrats!! I’m sure I will see you over there. I leave in 2 days and I can hardly wait. There’s a party in Bangkok December 28th, if you can make it. I can send you the link if need be.

    Congrats on your plans! Asia rocks 🙂

  14. How exciting!!! I love how you turned a spate of bad news and luck into such an amazing opportunity. It sounds like there couldn’t have been a better time to take the plunge. I’m also really impressed with your mad savings skills! I’m working on trying to cut back and save on travel, but it is so hard (I love my gym membership, too!). You are going to have an amazing time, and I look forward to reading about your adventures!

    1. Thanks so much, Emily! I LOVED MY GYM SO MUCH!! I’ve never loved fitness, but then I found Healthworks Back Bay, a REALLY nice women’s gym, and fell in love. I miss it…

      I hope you end up traveling soon! 🙂

  15. Stoked for you. SE Asia seems to be calling my name as well! I’m still not quite sure what my plans are, but I’ll figure them out. Anyways, good luck on your adventure! Lifestyle changes are fun, exciting, but also very scary at the same time. Looking forward to reading your blog entries!

  16. Kate, this is unreal. All I can say is, GOOD FOR YOU. What an amazing experience this is going to be! I am inspired (and jealous!!) that you are finding a way to make this work and do what you love to do.

    I’ve only spent a couple weeks in Asia, and we limited ourselves to Japan (after all, Japan itself can take WAY more than 2 weeks), but I am DYING to go back. If flights weren’t so expensive/long, I would make travel to Asia a yearly (or more!) priority, so I think it is awesome that that’s where you’re going! Can’t wait to see updated.

      1. You wouldn’t believe how many people basically told us we were crazy for doing it. “Japan? That’s…….interesting.” And those were the polite people! We had some people who flat out told us they couldn’t understand why on earth we’d want to go there, and that we’d regret it. I think it was a combination of people just not being familiar with travel to Asia and the fact that SO many people suggest you do a “relaxing” (in my mind, boring) honeymoon with nothing but sunbathing and drinking. There’s nothing wrong with beach time and fruity drinks, but personally I’m more of a “go out and adventure” type of gal.

        Of course, I have made sure to spread the news far and wide that it was without a doubt, hands-down, the BEST vacation I’ve ever taken. 🙂

  17. Sounds like a trip of a lifetime! It’s one of my favourite places to be. Philippines often gets overlooked but its my all time fav. So many islands, so little time!

    Good luck 😉

  18. Eeeeeeee! So exciting! I can only imagine all the thoughts that have been running through your head and that excited, giggly feeling you get when you have an AWESOME secret! Very much looking forward to reading your posts on the road – and love that you’re going to be focused on useful resources as opposed to the “daily journal” of your travels (although I’d be happy to read that too!) – will make it really useful for anyone planning to head to SE Asia.

    Reading this has made me more confident that I should definitely make some travel plans that I have in the bag a reality. There’s no time like the present to follow your dreams, right? So, thank you!

  19. Sounds good, we’ll be in Chiang Mai for the whole of December (well that’s the plan atm) so we should be able to hook up there and of course at the bolggers meet up in Bangkok on 28th 🙂

  20. Congratulations! How exctiting! We’re juat about to (today, probably) book our flights over to South East Asia for a two month expedition before we tackle South America. So, I’m going to be religiously glued to your blog to get some good tips. And, thanks for the travel blog bundle – You;ve just quadrupled my daily reading! (and, I was rather chuffed to see myself in the list, so ta very much :))

      1. Flights booked *trying to control manic grinning while at work *!

        We’re going to be flying into Bangkok on the 2nd July and out of KL on the 6th July. It’d be great to meet some fellow bloggers over there 🙂

  21. Hi Kate: Congratulations! Do enjoy your journey to Southeast Asia and if ever you drop by Manila, feel free to contact me. we can meet up for a cup of coffee and a tour of Manila. Cheers!

  22. I am so inspired your get up & go attitude. My dream is to travel the world. I have lived the straight & narrow tradition life for 31 years. I am a teacher by trade, worked full time for a few years, got laid off for 2 years, started working again this year & started making some money again. I don’t know what the future holds for as far as work is concerned for the upcoming year, but I am now planning to spend a month or so in SE Asia (Cambodia & Vietnam). I will spending much of what I have & coming back home to a bank of about $4000. I will definitely have part time work and I am no stranger to working 2-3 jobs to make a live with 2 years of unsteady work. Many of friends are thrilled that I doing this, however, my family is less than encouraging about my trip because of my unstable employment on return. I have my own place & have bill, but no outstanding credit debt. How can I help mother, (the difficult one) feel more comfortable about my plans? She is kind of putting a damper on my excitement.

    1. Kelly, tell your mother that this is the decision that you have made. You’re 31 — old enough to make decisions for your own life! One thing that reassured my family was that I emailed them every day, and I email them every day when I’m traveling on my own. Maybe this would help your family.

      Give it time — I’m sure she’ll get better.

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