Working remotely for TrekkSoft on a nearly full-time basis has been both a blessing and a curse.
It’s been a blessing because I’ve got to use the rest of my time to travel and explore the world or work from home in my pyjamas without fighting through the morning traffic. It’s been a blessing because I get to structure my days according to what’s important to me, and that includes taking two-hour lunch breaks every Thursday to hang out with my Ahmah.
It’s also been a curse because I tend to feel disconnected from my team and the life they’re having in Interlaken (yes, the FOMO is hella real), the friendships they’re building, the cheese they’re having and the mountains they’re climbing. It especially sucks when I’m not around for birthday parties or Christmas parties or when a friend needs more support than a phone call.
I’m currently on an idyllic island off Banda Aceh with a full moon over the sea, sitting in my room trying to get over a tummy bug. I think I shouldn’t have had that whipped cream that came with my fancy and way-too-sweet lychee drink last night.
Anyway, when’s a better time to write about things I’m looking forward to then when I’m in pain and require a good distraction?
Here’s a list of things I’m looking forward to in 2018:
We’re two weeks into the new year and I couldn’t bring myself to write one of those heartfelt “I had an amazing 2017 and here’s to greater adventures” posts. As much as I tried to recall all the great moments in 2017, the constant news of death – death of my grand aunt, death of quite a few friend’s parents, death of people I’ve known since my days in SIBKL (that’s the church I grew up in) – it coloured 2017 in a way I’ve never experienced before.
There were times when I was fortunate enough to be physically present to share the painful burden of grief, and there were other times when all I could do was send strings of texts to friends at home telling them I was sorry.
I burst into tears by the River Aare as I sat down to read a friend’s eulogy. I cried by the stairway outside our office while on the phone with another friend as we both realised the permanence of death and the fragility of life. I watched friends hold back tears too many times last year to ignore it.
Death was evident in 2017.
This whole digital nomad thing requires a lot of energy. Like, a lot. I’m constantly juggling full-time work, navigating new destinations and figuring out new routines, planning my next trip and staying in touch with people I love… plus I write for Wait A Minute Now and really really really want to grow that. So, unfortunately, Next Train Out took a back seat.
Since I’m home and am on a TEN-DAY holiday, I thought I’d catch you up on what I’ve been up to, where I’ve been and all that.
I learned this recipe from My Green Roots back in university and it has brought me nothing but comfort and envious glances from other backpackers – a great way to make new friends, really.
The recipe uses tomatoes that keeps the broth light, while adding turmeric, ginger and cayenne pepper which gives it a slightly spicy kick and a warmth that’s perfect on cold summer nights.
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.