Welcome to Working in Asia, a series featuring people doing all types of interesting jobs throughout Asia. Some people work as English teachers, escorted tour leaders, masseurs, or run their own companies. The opportunities and options for work are endless in this part of the world! If you work in Asia and would like to be featured in this series, please contact us.
We are born to see patterns.
Recognizing a human face is so hardwired into our brains that we begin to search them out wherever we glance. We see faces in the clouds, in the stars, pieces of toast. The randomness of each has been commonly misconstrued as a sign from the heavens.
“LOOK! I found the face of Jesus on this piece of toast! Isn’t that amazing?”
“Are you sure your mind isn’t just seeing what it wants to see? Plus, you really burnt that toast.”
“What, so Jesus can’t be black?!”
In 2014 we celebrated our third year of adventures in Asia. Three years of living, traveling and working in a part of the world that we have fallen in love with the more we get to know it. This year we worked for four months, unexpectedly traveled for seven months, and spent the end of the year in California with our families and friends.
Here’s a look back at our highlights from 2014.
A glimpse into our expat life in Mudanjiang, China, circa 2011.
After five months of travel I now understand why people try to do this endlessly. This is the longest trip we’ve ever taken, and I am addicted to living this lifestyle of freedom with just a backpack, flexible plans and my partner in crime. I love not knowing what each day will bring, or even what day it is. (Tuesday?) I relish the choice to do what we want when we want, and to be open to new experiences and opportunities that come up throughout the day.
Over the years we’ve learned that the more time we spend in one place the deeper our connection to it becomes.
We love seeing beautiful places, meeting people different from us, trying local foods, and getting out of our comfort zone. That’s what travel is all about!
Unfortunately, travel can be expensive and quick whirlwind trips during vacations from work often left us exhausted and out of money as we tried to squeeze in absolutely everything we could into a short period of time.
Over the years we’ve learned that slow travel is more our style. It allows us to get to know a place well, develop relationships, and try even more food! We are also able to space out the things we want to do, and do more things off the beaten path.
In tracking our expenses, we’ve also learned that slow travel saves us money.
Here are our tips on slow travel and ways you can stretch your hard-earned cash and gain a deeper cultural insight by extending your stay in one place.
Get to Know a Place More Deeply
On the sunny surface of the beaten tourism path, you are shown a packaged version of what tourism companies and sometimes even the government want you to see. Yes, still do the “must-do” activities and see the “must-sees”. They are popular for a reason! However, once those things have been checked off of your list, there is always more to learn about and explore. Get off the beaten track and check out neighborhoods not recommended in guidebooks, talk with local people, eat at street stalls (the more popular they are with locals the better), or even volunteer somewhere. These are some good ways to find out about what is really going on in a country, the good and the bad. Those unique interactions are usually what stick out most to us when we look back at our travels.
Have Unique Experiences
Traveling slowly has given us the opportunity to form relationships with local people and expats that we probably could not have done if we were only in a place for a few days. We have been invited to weddings, funerals, local festivals, and people’s homes to share meals. These are some of the most outstanding memories of our travels, and we feel so fortunate to have had these cultural experiences with new friends.
Eat Better Food, Usually for Cheaper
The longer you stay in one place and get to know the locals or long term expats there, the more tips and tricks you learn. One of the best things you can find out is where to eat delicious, inexpensive meals. When we breeze through a place in just a few days, it can be hard to figure this out. We have found we can cut our food budget down by a quarter or even half once we know where to find the good, cheap grub in town.
Save On Drinking Water
We are water guzzling fiends! ABH-Always Be Hydrating is one of our many mottos. In a lot of Asian countries tap water isn’t safe to drink and the cost of bottled water quickly adds up. Instead, we buy big jugs. Water jugs that is! We either ask someone at our guesthouse for assistance or just walk around the neighborhood to find a store that sells them. Then we bring the jug to our room and refill our bottles as needed. This trick has saved us hundreds of dollars over the course of our travels and stopped us from accumulating so many plastic bottles.
Save On Accommodation
When you first arrive at a place, it’s hard to know where to stay or if you’re getting a good rate. After a day or two staying in one area, we make sure to have a second look around at other accommodation options. Once we’ve found where we want to ‘set up camp’, we get to bargaining. A majority of hostels are willing to negotiate a lower rate the longer you plan to stay. We were able to get our beachfront guestroom in Otres Beach, Cambodia down from $12/night to $8/night because we planned to stay for a week. We ended up staying for nearly three! That savings really cut down on our living expenses for the month. If you plan to be in a place for a week or longer you can also look into renting an apartment. Airbnb.com is a good place to start.
Save on Activities and Transportation
During the first couple of days in a new place we like to explore on foot. We take long walks around town, meet people, and get ideas on what there is to see and do. If we have specific ideas in mind for a place we want to go or activity we want to do, we try to gather information on different ways to make it happen. If we can avoid an overpriced tourist bus to somewhere by figuring out how to take local transport or renting a motorbike and going on our own we’ll try that out instead. This has saved us from being overcharged on numerous occasions and has lead to some interesting transportation experiences.
Not only does slow travel end up saving us money, but by making a place our temporary home we get to know it more intimately. Don’t get us wrong, getting out and traveling for any length of time is fantastic! However, we’ve found over time that a slower traveling pace suits us.