Growing up, I’ve always fantasised about living in different parts of the world like Paris and New York. The idea was as soon as I was done with a place, I’d pack up and move on. Who knew I’d end up doing something similar today?
In the last three years, I’ve lived on and off in Interlaken, Switzerland, for over 13 months in total (and counting). While it’s a ridiculously expensive country, it’s a painfully stunning country that you must visit at least once in your life.
Before coming to Switzerland, note that transportation is stupidly expensive. A full price bus ticket can cost 4 Francs, which is the equivalent of USD 4. To avoid unnecessarily wasting money on transport, planning your trip is key. Once you have an itinerary laid out, you’ll be able to see when you’ll need to take train rides between cities and villages, which will allow you to search for train passes that can save you quite some money.
I’ve been hoarding receipts to keep track of my expenses, mostly for tax purposes. While it’s good practice to keep track of money going in and out of my bank account, it’s not uncommon for me to find receipts from 2 months ago at the bottom of my bags and purses… along with melting cough sweets, pen caps and the occasional paper clip.
I’ve also been buying clothes according to the changing seasons. Before arriving in America, I was working from Switzerland and summer arrived without spring. It got hot fast. My long sleeve tops and cosy jumpers starting feeling heavy and soggy from my excessive sweating (I’m only human!). So, over one Saturday, I went to town and got myself some more breathable clothes, including a floral print asymmetric skirt that I am obsessed with.
After two years of long-term travel, I’ve discovered a few tips and tricks of my own to survive the great unknown. As I pack for my upcoming RTW trip, I thought it’d be fun to share a few things I’ve come to really appreciate while travelling.
Seriously, take these items with you and your future self will thank you.
This has saved many shoes many times (in Taiwan, in London, in Ireland). While they’re not difficult to find and this tip isn’t particularly revolutionary (to be fair, the rest of them aren’t mind-blowers either), I like to have a spare tube in my bag just in case of emergencies.
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.
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.