Category Archives: Our Travelin’ Tips

Our 8 Travel MUST haves…

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I would like think that that this isn’t my first rodeo when it comes to travelin. I felt like I have done a fair amount of traveling, but I am still learning new stuff about it every time we travel. Big trips out of South Korea or the small weekend trips exploring this beautiful country. Here is our compiled list of things we learned (sometimes the hard way) we won’t travel without.

#1. PLENTY of cash.

This seems like a no brainer, right? BUT how do you know how much money to carry when traveling? We didn’t want to carry a massive wad of cash in case it got stolen. We already feel like walking targets since we stick out incredibly. Tom and I also completely take for granted the massive amount of ATM’S here in Korea. We have it so easy when we need to take money out. Go a few blocks and you’ll find an ATM. Most of the time you can even find your specific bank. We had grown so accustomed to easy ATM access. WELL, panic set in a little when we were shocked to find out that an ATM was no where within 10 miles- and it was known to not have “money” most of the time… we were forced with no other choice, but to take a taxi even further in search of a workable ATM. Let’s just say after many failed attemps the ATM decided to spit out some moola at us. Just in the knick of time as we didn’t have enough cash on hand to pay the taxi driver for the ride out to the ATM, and we owed our accomodation facility some dough. WHEW! It was a close call that we won’t take again. SO, lesson learned. More cash.

Malaysian currency.
photo from stockpro.com

#2. Hiking shoes.

We love hiking. We love staying active. I forsee many more incredible summits in our future whether in Korea or out our hiking shoes are a definite travel MUST have.

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#3. My E-reader.

I can’t tell you how much I love reading. When Tom bought me the Barnes and Noble E-reader (the Nook Color) as a gift it was love at first sight 😉 I had almost ANY book I wanted right at my finger tips. I love it for traveling as I am often reading more than one book at a time, and it is compact/lightweight. This past trip I finished the book The Boy In The Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and The Fault In Our Stars  by John Green (loved them both!) Currently reading: A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving.

photo from engadget.com

#4. Toilet paper!

So.Yeah. This one. I should have known since many places in Korea there is none. BUT how annoying is it to pack a roll of toilet paper when you have limited space in your backpack? Next time, small tissue packs will do..please and thank ya.

#5.HAND SOAP.

Finding hand soap in Malaysia was just about as easy as finding a needle in a haystack. Again, shouldn’t have been a surprise. For a gal who wears contacts which requires touching my eyes to take the contacts in and out… let’s just leave it at- hand soap is a must have for all the contact wearers’ of the world. 

#6.Our awesome (and new!) backpacks. We are totally official backpackers. They are the real deal.

Here is Tom’s:

Tom's new hiking backpack- name TBD

Tom’s new hiking backpack- name TBD

Mine is very similar only smaller and it’s red. Her name is Rosita.

#7. Plastic Bags

One of my favorite things we travel with AND oh so amazingly handy. For wet clothes, stinky clothes, to keep things dry like our cell phones or a map, to store bathroom cosmetics. Seriously, amazing. Tom thought of this one. We had and used quite a number of them this past trip. It’s important to note that we don’t buy new ones we save bags/reuse bags.

#8. BATTERIES.

Again sounds simple. This one we learned the hard way. There was no small shop in sight when we got to the river for our safari. We learned that our last safari trip on the river would be one where we would have a non working camera since our nikon runs on 4 double A batteries. SHOOT! I told myself that we would never be “those people” who ran out of batteries on a trip. Luckily, we met a Malaysia native who was on a business trip, and she SO kindly gave us her spare batteries. She mentioned she could go buy more later. After thanking her over and over we made a mental note to always have a spare set or two of batteries. I am so glad we found her because the next safari Tom spotted the wild orangutans!!!!

photo from drivesouthafrica.co.nz

What are your travel must haves? Do you travel with plastic bags too or are we just that weird?!

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How we traveled Malaysia on a budget…and still had an amazing time!

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Wow!

It’s been quite the week as all of my kiddos returned to school for the second semester. I have been running around like a mad woman trying to get used to my busy busy schedule of teaching again. The kids will go from September to December before they take 2 1/2 months off, and start a new school year in March. I really wanted to blog this week, but it got pushed back as lesson planning took the front seat. Have I mentioned before that time flies here?!? The weeks turn into days and then months. It’s crazy to think we have been here 5 months already.

I wanted to share a bit more on our trip to Malaysia and how we kept it relatively low cost while still doing everything we wanted to do while there (Kuala Lumpur, Climbing Mt. Kinabalu, River safaris, orangutan sanctuary, and kota kinabalu island exploration!)

1. The biggest cost of savings for our trip was simply (or not so simply): AVOIDING tour companies like the plague.

Tom and I soon discovered the things we wanted to do were about 3x the price if we went with a tour company rather then doing it ourselves. I strongly feel as if the money would not stay in the local economy if we had booked with a large tour group (although that is not always the case!) Yes, the convenience is there if you want to have your trips all planned out. There were more downsides for us to go with a tour company such as: being on a time crunch & a bit over priced. We found that we could see sights ourselves while being much more cost effective. There are (I am sure) tour groups that are awesome. My point is that this trip they weren’t right for us. For example: A trip to the pouring hot springs was MUCH cheaper if we found a way to the place, and paid a small fee to get in. Ok, yeah. So we had to hitch a few rides (don’t tell our moms! hehe) which brings me to my next point.

2. Hitchhiking!

We had NO idea if it was common in Malaysia. BUT when the bus dropped us off 15km from where we needed to be with not a taxi, car, or phone in sight -hitch hiking was our only option. We met two awesome Malaysian fellas who picked us up and took us the almost 9 miles we needed to go. They wouldn’t take our money, but offered up some great conversation, and tips on how to get back to our lodge for cheap. Let’s just say it ended with more hitch hiking where an awesome Chinese family and a retired American couple picked us up and took us where we needed to be. I don’t recommend always hitch hiking, and I sure wouldn’t do it in the USA, but man it was pretty awesome AND we met some crazy cool people along the way.

Just a hitch hikin' ;)

Just a hitch hikin’ 😉

and lots of this...

and lots of this…

and more walkin... :)

and more walkin… 🙂

3. Unique places to stay.

We stayed in some incredible places. I wish I could tell you that it was my awesome planning that lead us to these incredible places we stayed at BUT that is not  the case. We used hostelworld.com quite a bit to book cheap/safe places that we could get our own room, borrowed a lonely planet book from a guy on a bus, and sometimes just searching around online . Another way we cut cost even further when it came to lodging was booking private rooms with a shared bathroom.

Lavender Lodge in Kota Kinabalu. We used the hostel world app to find this gem! AND only a 15 min walk to the ocean :)

Lavender Lodge in Kota Kinabalu. We used the hostel world app to find this gem! AND only a 15 min walk to the ocean 🙂

Eco friendly and 20 min walk from Mt. Kinabalu's headquarters- Mt. Kinabalu Lodge!

Eco friendly and 20 min walk from Mt. Kinabalu’s headquarters- Mt. Kinabalu Lodge!

My favorite place we stayed at- Paganakan Dii Tropical Resort. (found this gem in the lonely planet book we borrowed from a random guy on a bus!)

My favorite place we stayed at- Paganakan Dii Tropical Resort. (found this gem in the lonely planet book we borrowed from a random guy on a bus.) Made from recycled materials. We learned if they don’t have available rooms (during busy season) you can camp here for FREE!

Paganakan Dii Tropical Resort

Paganakan Dii Tropical Resort

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Enjoying our morning tea.

Enjoying our morning tea. Paganakan Dii Tropical Resort.

Hangin in the main lodge area. Paganakan Dii Tropical Resort,

Hangin in the main lodge area. Paganakan Dii Tropical Resort,

Sukau Greenview B&B- our last night in the rainforest!

Sukau Greenview B&B- our last night in the rainforest!

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Sukau Greenview B&B

Morning breakfast view! Sukau Greenview B&B

Morning breakfast view! Sukau Greenview B&B

4. Eating as the locals. Enough said!

Chinese for lunch! Porridge with chicken :)

Chinese for lunch! Porridge with chicken 🙂

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5. Keepin’ it local.

We shopped at markets and when we DID do a “safari tour” we decided to go with a local guy where we knew the money would go right into the local economy.

Exploring Central market in Kuala Lumpur and the market in Kota Kinabalu

Exploring Central market in Kuala Lumpur and the market in Kota Kinabalu

Do you have any tips on how to keep a budget while still doing all the things you want to see/do while traveling?

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” Lao-tzu

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It’s really quite easy.

If you have been following my blogs you probably know how much Tom and I adore Korea. I recieve messages and comments literally daily with people commenting on how we are making this possible, telling us they are jealous, and asking how they can do it too.So, I’ve decided that I would dedicate a blog post to tell you just how EASY it really is, that anyone can do it (including you!), and tell you a few reasons why I love our life so much.

Let me start at the beginning. During my 5th grade year my dad joined the Air Force. Which meant we moved from the midwest United States to England. For 3 years my family extensively traveled Europe. When we moved back to the states it was to California. During the middle of my sophmore year of high school we moved to the small town of Marshfield, Wisconsin. I didn’t know it then, but I believe the years as an Air Force kid sparked a desire within me to see the world. After high school I had dreams of going to school in California, but felt limited because of out of state college expenses. I choose University of Wisconsin La Crosse, and decided to pursue teaching. After about a year of college I grew extremely restless. I studied abroad in the Fiji Islands for 6 months, and had an extremely hard time coming back to Wisconsin to finish my college years. I wanted to see the WORLD! I’m sure glad that I stayed in Wisconsin or I probably wouldn’t be married to my partner in crime today. For those of you who don’t know Tom he is a true midwest  all American boy at heart.  When we started dating again I didn’t care about my dreams to see the world any longer, because without him I didn’t want to travel the world anyway. When we got married I figured we would be in the U.S for the rest of our lives…

and then he surprised me!

I don’t think it happened over night. We would have long talks about seeing the world, and what life meant to us. We prayed a lot about where God wanted us to be. Slowly, I think he just began to see how big the world really is…On facebook, I would see pictures of our friends from college who had moved abroad…and I would share with Tom. I think deep down we both were seeking adventure, and needed change. Let me break it down for you in the most transparent way that I can:

* We are currently both English Teacher’s in South Korea. Stress is low, and most importantly each day is FUN!

* We moved to Korea 2 1/2 months ago.

* We sold lots of our stuff or donated it. It was extremely liberating.

* We will be able to travel extensively!! First up? Malaysia.

* We will pay off ALL of my college debt by living here…and it’s $35,000 dollars. On top of this we can SAVE  money!

* Most importantly. Both Tom and I agree that this is the BEST decision we have ever made. Living in Korea not only is spectacular, but because of this opportunity we will be enabled to volunteer/travel for an extended period of time after we leave South Korea.

So why don’t more people do it? Well, I don’t know. If I had to take a guess though I would say this:

1.Fear of leaving comfort-  They have security back home. They have built a life. Leaving comfort is scary. Taking the jump is the hardest part. What about responsibilites? Kids. Jobs. House. I want to tell you we have met people who live in South Korea from the U.S or Canada, and they have kids! We have met people who have just graduated college to those who are past retirement age…and I am not kidding. We have met those who are married, in relationships, and those who are single. They have shown me that it can be done with a family! I have no idea what our future will bring- but leaving comfort was such a blessing to us!

2. The unknown Is it safe over there? What do you do with all your belongings? How do you know you will get paid? These are just a few of the questions we have been asked. I’ll keep my anwsers simple. YES. It is safe. I feel more safe here in Korea than I did back home. There is a very low rate of violence crimes. When all that jazz was happening with North Korea- It was just ridiculous if you ask me. All media sensation. I felt ZERO threat! Our belongings- we sold them or donated. Some stuff that we couldn’t part with we are storing in a very small storage unit, and Tom’s parents were so kind to store our wooden bedroom furniture. How do we know we will get paid? We work for the government in public schools. So, there is no worry or concern about recieving payment. It’s easy.

3.Finances- Many people have debt bogging them down. Especially newly graduated students, not to mention bills, car payments, house payments etc. We didn’t own a home so that part was easy (but we have met people who do still have a house back in the states!) We sold a car. We kept a car in storage. So how are we able to pay off debt, save, AND travel? Well, the schools provide us housing. They reimburse us for our flights out here, and back when we are finished. We get paid once a month. Our landlord pays for water, internet, and cable. I get $100 a month for “commuting-to-work.” Our expenses here include food, $150 a month for our two iphone bills, and any money that we spend on travel…which leaves us a lot of flexibility to save, pay off debt, and travel.

There are many recruiting companies out there to recruit English teacher’s to teach abroad. We went with Canadian Connection, because they came highly recommended to us by our friends. It was completely free on our end, and all we had to do to get started was apply! Tom and I are both really happy we went with Canadian Connection. I hope through my post I was able to show you that it CAN BE DONE…if you really want to make it happen. This life we are living is too good to not be shared! I understand that living abroad is not for everyone, but for those who are intrigued/curious  I wanted to show one way that it can be done.

The journey begins with a single step.

Each of our jouney’s look different, and I think that is what makes life so special.

I want to know… what does your journey look like right now?

The view from our journey...

(photo credit to Orman’s)The view from our journey…

oedaldo