After living in Bristol for 10 months, I was eager for new and bigger adventures. I needed to step out of my comfort zone, again. My intuition pointed Asia as a destination. Somehow I thought that it was the right place to start seeking.
The adventure lasted for 7 months and I visited 7 countries. It was one of the most important and exciting experiences of my life.
It has taken me one year to digest all those experiences. And now I’m sharing the trip with you and some of the lessons I’ve learnt from it.
Elina and I landed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on the 2nd of December 2014. Our original plan was to find a flat and stay there for a while.
It only took us two days to realise that we didn’t want that. As soon as we arrived, we felt absorbed by the landscapes, nature, smells and the Malaysian culture. So we wanted to visit as many places as possible.
I got my first lesson just when I arrived.
Plans work well to give you a direction, not necessarily to take you to a destination. In most cases, plans don’t work if you don’t make them flexible. But in any case, I think it’s better to have one or several plans than having none.
Wasn’t it great to find that I was on the right path realising that my original plan was wrong?
During the first weeks wandering in Malaysia, we visited Ipoh, Pangkor and Penang. I remember those times as an adaptation period. Not just to Malaysia, but to a new lifestyle. I wasn’t on holidays, and I wasn’t a tourist. I was just working on assignments and travelling at the same time. Instead of having a flat, I was moving from a place to another, constantly. That was the first truly nomadic experience I ever had.
At that point, we already had time to meet some friends and get used to the heat, food, culture and wonderful nature.
After a while, we ended up in Langkawi. A small Island in the west coast of Malaysia, very close to the Thailand border.
We needed to rest a bit and start digesting everything that was happening. So we decided to book a room in a guest house for a couple of weeks.
The time we spent there was so fulfilling that we decided to spend another two weeks there.
We rented motorbikes and went all over the island, discovering the amazing nature Langkawi had to offer. Visiting night markets, chasing sunsets and spending nights in a bar by the sea singing songs under palm trees.
We also had time to go for a week to Koh Lipe, an idyllic thai island very close to Langkawi. There I had one of the best experiences of the whole trip. We became scuba divers, after an intense 40 hours course. I always dreamed of going to space, and diving was the closest I’ve ever been to be out there.
At that time, I learnt the second lesson.
The perception of how the time passes depends on what you do. When you live intensely, discovering and doing new things, you feel how time passes slower because you fill every second with value.
That time in the guest house in Langkawi also brought the opportunity to meet amazing people. I was surrounded by people that were able to talk 7 languages, people that had been travelling for 10 years, entrepreneurs and digital nomads, and locals who know better than anyone how to have fun and be happy.
I remember those conversations as pure gold. The kind of friendships I found there were new to me. I shared 3 or 4 very intense days with people from all over the world, talking about our lives, dreams and points and views. After those 3 or 4 days we wished good luck to each other, and then new people came and the process repeated. There was no time to spoil it. The depth of the conversations was astounding, and I learnt a lot from each of them.
That brought the third lesson.
The most interesting people I’ve ever met in my life share the same qualities. They are open minded, curious and excited about life and their projects. The depth of the conversations you have with them is proportional to those qualities.
After nearly a month in Langkawi, it was time to move on and be back on the road. We spent a couple of weeks traveling and we visited Cameron Highlands and Kuala Lumpur.
In total, we spent two months and a half in Malaysia. We started to feel that it was a good time to discover other places, so we moved to Thailand.
Arriving in Thailand felt like starting a new adventure. Thailand was very different from Malaysia. I remember being marvelled by seeing the beauty of the Thai alphabet everywhere and the depth and warmth of the green colour all over around.
We started from the southern islands of Thailand.
Koh Yao Noi, Phi Phi and Koh Lanta were extremely different even they are relatively close from each other. We spent our days exploring the nature . And of course, I kept working on my assignments.
One day, when I was working on a rush assignment for The New York Times, the electricity of the island cut off. It was 2am, and it was completely impossible to get electricity. And I only had an hour to send the illustration. Fortunately, my MacBook had some battery. I managed to finish the image with the trackpad since I couldn’t use my Cintiq. I was lucky to have a local sim card with an internet connection to be able to send the final image because, of course, the routers weren’t working either.
The fourth lesson I learnt came immediately.
Being independent and having resources that allow you to solve the unexpected problems is essential. Not only when you are travelling, but also in life.
After a month in the southern Islands of Thailand, it was time to move to Bangkok.
The time we spent in Bangkok was special, not only because the craziness of the city, but because Elina was coming back to Finland to work.
We spent 3 months in a half travelling together. It required more communication and planning than ever. I’m sure that the adventure made our relationship stronger.
In those three months and a half, I confirmed a lesson I learnt before. Relationships are like tandems. Both individuals have to get involved and give their best to create the best possible team. Communicating, planning, understanding are the essential elements of a successful couple.
Very early in the morning, we got two tuk-tuks, to different airports. Elina went back to Finland, and I continued my adventure alone.
My next destination was Cambodia.
I continue with the adventure in the next article.
Some pictures from this part of the trip
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