I’ve been doing this whole work and travel thing for almost two years now and it wasn’t until April 2017 that I started doing it legally. The fact that I didn’t have the right paperwork didn’t even occur to me until a friend and I started talking about taxes and EPF and all sorts of adult things that I hadn’t thought about before.
I began where every millennial begins, by hitting up Google. I was surprised to find very very little information about digital nomading as a Malaysian. Apart from learning that I had to get a business license to operate legally, there really was nothing more. What about declaring my income for tax purposes? What sort of business license should I get? Do I also require a business bank account? How about investing my income? How do I do all this without breaking the law? What is the legal requirement pertaining such work arrangements? Bloody hell, where do I start?
Can I be honest for a second? Money is the one thing that fuels my travels. Without it, it’s almost impossible to travel.
When travelling, money is always tied to the idea of opportunity cost. If I splurge in one area, I can’t splurge in another. It’s a constant trade-off that I need to justify to myself over and over again. These days, I spend more on accommodation because I work and travel meaning I want a good night’s rest and quiet and comfortable space to work in the day.
In my opinion, not enough people talk about money – how they make it, how they save it, how they spend it, how they use what they have to make more of it etc. While I’m obviously not an expert, I thought I’d contribute to this super important conversation about money, and the money habits I practice while travelling.
I visited Lisbon in November of 2016 and it was my first time exploring Europe in over a year. I was giddy with excitement, not quite knowing what to expect.
I packed my bags the way I used to and it felt right. The way my backpack didn’t sit on my hips but rather on my butt because of my height, how I shoved my large packing cube into the bottom of my bag before shoving the smaller one on top; the way I put on my “uniform” – plain t-shirt, black jeans, beat up sneakers, hoodie and coat, my scarf secured on top of my backpack in case I get cold, hair tied up in a bun.. It was a ritual I hadn’t performed in a long time, one I did before setting off on an adventure.
I spent Christmas week of 2016 in Barcelona and it was a Christmas like no other. It was the first time I spent the holidays not surrounded by friends and family. Instead, I was surrounded by other travellers and backpackers from different continents who were just as curious about the world as I was.
Unlike the rest of Europe, it was sunny and warm in the day with the city bustling just like any other. At night, a little cooler and quieter, it’s only when you turned into a small street off La Rambla that the feistiness of Barcelona’s nightlife hits you. Even over Christmas, the Catalans were committed to long nights out, singing and dancing along to Spanish or Catalan songs I’ve never heard of.
St Patrick’s Day was spent cooped up in a French cafe in Galway working hard. Despite the rain and watching passers-by battle the wet wind, I wanted to join in on the parade, the fun and the costumes. I couldn’t have been happier when I striked off the last thing on my to-do list, dumped my laptop back at the hostel and ventured out into the streets at 7pm.
The streets were sprinkled with soaking wet trash, rain was drizzling at an angle that made sure everyone’s face was constantly sprayed; buntings with the Irish flag flapping furiously in the wind decorated the streets and drunk Irish were everywhere. Watching them chit chat in the drizzle, hold hands, make out or just run from one pub to another with their friends made me very very jealous.
For this first time in a while, I felt very very very lonely.
A Danish term defined as “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.”
– Anna Altman, The New Yorker
I learned about the word when I first travelled to Copenhagen two years ago. Our guide said it embodied the idea of cosiness, that feeling you get when it’s cold outside and you’re sitting indoors by the fire, in a comfy chair with a thick blanket over your lap, a hot chocolate and a great book in hand.
Now as ideal as that sounds, the chances of me booking to stay in a hotel or Airbnb with a fireplace is slim to none because this girl doesn’t have cash like that. Plus, carrying books while travelling the world is a waste of backpack space and too heavy to carry around. Let’s not even talk about those thick wool blankets that you see on Instagram with #hygge.
Many cities have travel passes catered for tourists who want to see as many things as they can within 2 to 3 days. If that’s you, get those because you’re probably going to get a bang for your buck, plus discounted entry to some sights and attractions.
But if you’re like me and prefer to travel slowly and spend a week or two in a city/town/village, you’re better off getting a local travel pass. In London this is the Oyster card, in Dublin it’s the Leap card. In KL, it makes no difference.
Typically, you’re charged a lower rate per trip and passes are often accepted on all public transport including the tube, rail, buses and trams.
If you travel with me, you’re bound to see a pair of knickers literally hanging around somewhere drying off. Or a pair of socks or a shirt or something.
Travelling light means travelling with less which also means travelling with less underwear. My limited supply of clean undergarments has gotten me into the habit of simply washing them every time I have a shower.
I’ve just watched a play at by Macha Productions called Entitled that discussed how welfare cuts are affecting and will continue to affect millions throughout the UK and Northern Ireland. The play also featured a guest speaker Lynn Carvill who discussed how reforms like these disproportionately affected women and children.
The play was nothing short of powerful and incredible, giving me a good kick up the arse to do more for the communities I visit. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, so what better time to start than now?
I love sending postcards and letters and especially rude birthday cards. With less than RM10, I love that you can make someone feel special in such a simple way. There’s really nothing more special than snail mail from the other side of the planet, despite Facebook messages, Whatsapp, emails and the rest of the lot.
I often find that I struggle with words, figuring out what to say to the people I’m sending them to. It is sort of ironic since I write for work and run a travel blog (I’m using the word “run” rather loosely here, you fake it till you make it and all that jazz.) But I love sending them with big fat I love yous and I miss yous written all over them. I might not be eloquent in my letter writing, but I know that my recipients appreciate them anyway.