Even though February was a day longer than it usually is this year, it still felt like the month flew by! The reason it felt fast was likely because I picked up my pace after a pretty chill January. After a few weeks checking out Bali with my little brother, I sped up even more in Myanmar, where I packed most of the country’s highlights into two weeks. I’m happy to be bouncing around a bit quicker, because I won’t lie to you – I fell into a bit of a rut in late January/early February.
Why? It was a combination of having more time to reflect on all I’ve done since October, a bout of homesickness (my first ever), and trying to figure out how to make this life permanent, or if I really want to be “on the road” 100% full time. This is partially why I didn’t write as many posts for the blog this month, because I’m still figuring out where to focus my attention as a freelancer. While I’m so grateful that I get to travel at all and I’m still having a lot of fun, I’ve started to realize I’ve not been traveling with much of a purpose lately – and I want to change that.
But more on that later. For now, check out the highlights and lowlights from February, with a breakdown of all the costs along the way.
Countries Traveled To: 3 (Vietnam, Indonesia & Myanmar)
Places Traveled To:
- Vietnam: Hanoi
- Indonesia: Bali (Sanur & Ubud)
- Myanmar: Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay, Kalaw, & Inle Lake
Distance Traveled: 8861 km (5506 miles)
- Plane: 7727 km (4801 miles) on 4 flights
- Train: 627 km (390 miles) on 1 train
- Bus: 277 km (173 miles) on 2 busses
- Boat: 230 km (143 miles) on 1 boat
Total Money Spent: $3571 (up from $2619 last month)
This was a pricier month primarily because I did a small group tour with Intrepid in Myanmar, which I paid for far in advance luckily. I had two big entertainment expenses as well that brought the cost up, but they were worth it!
Accommodation: $825 (down from $868 last month)
I was able to keep this cost low, despite shelling out more for better rooms when my brother was with me, because I spent a week at a fantastic, quiet hostel outside Ubud in Bali that cost me less than $7 a night! The dorm overlooked rice fields and was situated next to a much pricier yoga retreat where I was able to use the facilities for a small fee. I feel like I got the fancy yoga holiday for a fraction of the cost! (If you’re heading that way, the hostel is called Rama Sita Home Stay.)
Transportation Costs: $752 (up from $524 last month)
I’m still in awe of how cheap it is to fly around Asia on carriers like Air Asia and Jetstar. My most expensive travel cost was $197 from Bali to Yangon, via Kuala Lumpur, and I even booked very last minute.
Also, this month I discovered SkyPicker, a new airline booking tool that cobbles together itineraries on budget airlines around the world. If you don’t mind arriving at a connecting city, getting your bag and rechecking it on a different airline, you can save loads of money. Plus they check you in for your flights and send your boarding passes for you! Soooooo nice.
Food: $624 (up from $370 last month)
I loved all the Indonesian food, but it was a slight step up in cost from all the cheap haven of Vietnam. I also treated my brother to a fancy meal at a beach club in Seminyak, which was totally worth it!
Entertainment: $1236 (up from $643 last month)
Flying in a hot air balloon at sunrise over Bagan in Myanmar was one of the best things I’ve ever done, so the $400 I shelled out for it was well worth it. Combine that with the day of diving I did in Bali and the group tour in Myanmar, my entertainment expenses were outrageously high this month.
Necessities: $132 (down from $215 last month)
Laundry, toiletries, tips, blah blah blah. Here’s a tip for saving money on laundry while traveling – make sure you find a place that charges by the kilo and not by item. It makes a big difference!
NOT INCLUDED IN MY BUDGET: As always, my monthly bills….travel insurance, health insurance in the US, cell bill, student loans, car insurance, etc. These bills add up to less than $700 a month.
Favorite Place: Inle Lake, Myanmar
A glassy blue lake spread out under distant mountains, fringed with hundreds of traditional villages, Inle Lake deserves it’s “must-see” status in Myanmar. Despite the touristy nature of certain parts of the lake (I’m looking at you, “fisherman” who only pretend to fish for tourists as they leave Nuangshwe) there were bits of it that felt like stepping back in time. Cruising along serene floating gardens and our canoe ride through one of the lesser-visited villages hanging on stilts over the lake were highlights that come to mind.
Favorite Moment: Ballooning over Bagan, Myanmar.
I wrote a gushy (almost embarrassingly so) post about my experience flying in a hot air balloon over the temples in Bagan. I won’t apologize for my romantic language when talking about that morning – looking back it still feels like a dream – but I understand if you don’t want to hear even more about how amazing it was. Instead, have a look at my video from that magical morning. I think it sums it up nicely in 1:30!
Shittiest Moment: Food poisoning…..twice.
I got food poisoning in both Bali and then worse in Myanmar, less than a month after a bad bout of it in Vietnam back in January. I finally caved, admitting defeat of my “iron stomach” and taking the antibiotics I’ve had in my backpack for over a year to knock out whatever had been plaguing me. It seemed to do the trick for now, but I do have India ahead, so I’m not gonna get too confident just yet.
Funniest Moment: The overnight train from Yangon to Bagan.
The skull-jarringly bumpy overnight train from Yangon to Bagan in Myanmar was certainly an adventure, but it got us there in the end, so that’s all that counts right? Sure. But I still could have done without the sparking ceiling fan. (Read all about it here.)
Weirdest Moment: Attacking monkeys.
Bali’s Monkey Forest is a super popular place for visitors in Ubud, but I really wish someone would have warned me that these monkeys aren’t exactly known for their hospitality. The 600+ monkeys that live in this protected area may be cute, but they also like to pounce on visitors, unzip their backpacks, snatch food out of their hands and search their pockets for more. Walking through it was actually terrifying…..
Most Meaningful Moment: Spending a week with my brother in Bali.
It was so good to see a familiar face and hang out with my younger brother Nick for a week in Bali after traveling solo for six weeks. My brother and I went snorkeling and kayaking, checked out the rice terraces outside Ubud and wandered the monkey forest in terror. We may have argued a lot (as brothers and sisters do) but I think we bonded just as much on our first trip just the two of us. And plus, I also got to feature my brother’s photos in my first ever guest photographer edition of Sunday Snaps! (I think he’s uber-talented, but I may be a bit biased…)
Coolest Person I Met: Sarni, my 16-year-old guide on Mount Batur.
I thought I was an over-achieving teenager, but Sarni put my 16-year-old self to shame. She leads five hour climbs to the top of Mount Batur in the morning before she goes to school. She hopes to use the extra money she earns to go to college someday. Oh and if she wasn’t in good enough shape from her before-school job, she also plays soccer and basketball in the afternoons. What. a. badass.
Best Thing I Ate: Nasi Goreng in Bali
I had several variations of this classic Indonesian dish – spicy rice with a fried egg, typically served with some variation of chicken with peanut sauce, shrimp and shrimp crackers – and every single one was delicious. And I’d never even heard of it before I got to Bali! Just looking back at the photo of my Nasi Goreng from Lilla Pantai in Sanur is making my mouth water….
Biggest Accomplishment: Watching the Sunrise from the top of Mount Batur, Bali.
Nothing feels better after a challenging uphill trudge in the dark than being rewarded with a jaw-dropping sunrise like this one. Read about that morning here, including the story of how some thieving monkeys stole my breakfast (the bastards).
My Favorite Photo: My 7-year-old boat buddy at Inle Lake.
On our canoe trip to a local stilt village, our paddler brought her daughter along and she sat in the front, helping her mom navigate. So cute!
- Hikes: 2 (Mount Batur, Bali and Kalaw, Myanmar)
- Dives: 2 (in Bali!)
- Yoga Sessions: 2 (Ubud, Bali)
Well I managed to sneak in some yoga in Bali, which is good, but I could definitely use a few more of my three favorite active adventures next month! And even though I only did a day of diving, what a day it was. Bali has fantastic underwater life – just check out this video I tossed together from the day:
Here is what I read this month:
- Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling – I read the 4th and 5th books in the last two months, so I decided to continue it…..because I love HP, and I can never get enough.
- Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling – Well I had to finish what I started, right? #Always
- The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – I’d been meaning to read this book, so I was thrilled to swap for it in a hostel in Hanoi. It won the Pulitzer for Fiction a few years ago, and for good reason. It’s an epic novel and a very well written story about a kid named Theo who, because of a bizarre (and kind of implausible) series of events, steals a famous painting and then later has his life turned upside down because of it. I liked it, but it is long….almost too long I think. But if you’re into thrillers, literary fiction and art history, it’s worth a read.
- The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli – I know it sounds really complex, but this guy explains why we think the way we do and how we can improve our ability to think clearly using short, easy-to-read stories illustrating the thought processes that we’ve developed as humans over thousands of years and how they are bad for us now in the modern world. Awesome book, I read it in only a few days.
- The Promise of Pencil: How An Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change by Adam Braun – This is a fantastic book for anyone who is looking to make a difference in the world, but isn’t sure where to start. Adam is the guy who started Pencils of Promise, a non-profit that builds schools in impoverished areas around the world. He was only in his mid-twenties when he started and the idea for it was sparked after a backpacking trip in Asia (hello!) so this book about how he got started really resonated with me and came at just the right time. I’ve now begun looking to change the focus of my travels to be more purpose-driven – but more on that later. For now, read this book!
I’m now in Bangkok, resetting for a week in my favorite big city in Asia and preparing for my upcoming three weeks in India. I’m feeling apprehensive about the next month, if I’m being honest. I’m conflicted because I’m eager to finish my travels in Asia and see my friends and family (I’m heading to the UK and US afterwards), but I also have been wanting to go India for a long time and I want to go into it with the right mindset. I hope it’s as fantastic as I want it to be!