I’ve been back in the U.S. for a little over a week now (it feels so much longer already! My travels seem like a dream!), and I thought it would be good for myself to do a post on my overall reflections from my travel. At the halfway point, I wrote a reflection post; and just for the sake of closure, and for my own processing, I’d like to use the same format to look at the 2nd half of my trip (quickly) and also my overall trip.
SECOND HALF OF MY TRIP: (Nelson, New Zealand to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
- My first few days in Bali. I was overwhelmed by the heat and humidity and the touristy facade to EVERYTHING; and it being Thanksgiving, I was a little homesick, too. Once I hit Amed for the scuba course, though, everything turned around.
- The heat, humidity, pollution, dust in the big cities in both Bali and Malaysia. I missed the fresh, cool air of New Zealand.
- Getting tons of mosquito bites and even some allergic reactions to tiger balm (that’s my diagnosis, at least) on my left leg in Malaysia. I was so itchy for days it wasn’t even funny. The Malaysian mosquitoes were quite vicious (and that was confirmed by another traveler I met).
- Saying goodbye to New Zealand. I was so sad to leave that beautiful country.
- The biggest highlight (not only for the 2nd half of my trip but overall, I’d have to say) was getting my Open Water Diving scuba license. It was such an amazing experience from start to finish, not only because it was so fear-inducing and fear-conquering but because I was able to see beautiful aquatic life 15-20 meters underwater.
- The markets in Malaysia. Sights, sounds, smells, tastes (the ones I ate at)… all amazing.
- Cooking meals for my host family in Kerikeri in New Zealand. We ate so well together, and they were so appreciative. It was great fun.
- The food in Melaka, Malaysia. So mouthwateringly good. And like nothing I had ever eaten before. I wish I could have some now.
- Riding a scooter around Pulau Pangkor. It was so liberating and fun. I wasn’t even going that fast, but it was so nice to be going faster than walking speed and not be in a car.
- Traveling in Southeast Asia as a single, young-looking (because I look a lot younger than I actually am) woman raises lots of people’s curiosity and admiration. I was surprised by this because in New Zealand, it was quite common to find other single female travelers. In Asia, though, that was something that was not common, and I always had to figure out what kind of answer to give and was even wondering why they were asking.
- I am not a great tropical-region traveler. I always knew that I’m not good with heat and humidity, but being in Bali and Malaysia during their rainy season where I think the humidity was even higher than other times of year was quite a challenge. I kept hoping it would cool off in the evenings but it didn’t. And my spirits were definitely a little lower as a baseline because of the humid weather. If I could travel in a tropical area and always have a pool or ocean to jump into to cool off, I think I’d be much better off.
- Bringing some laundry detergent with me was a good idea. I was washing some of my clothes almost every other day in Southeast Asia because 1) I didn’t have a lot of clothes and 2) I was sweating profusely each day and didn’t want to be a smelly person.
OVERALL 3 MONTH TRIP
Overall it was an amazing trip, and I didn’t experience ANY mishaps, accidents, dangerous moments. I was pretty good about staying alert and not doing anything too risky (except for diving, but that was with an instructor, and it didn’t seem dangerous to me), so I was OK. So the only lowlights I can really think of that stand out were
- mosquito bites
- the over-tourism of Bali
- some of the traveler’s guilt I felt in Bali and Malaysia, especially the poorer areas
- As stated before, I think the scuba diving course, staying in Amed at the Geri Geria Shanti Bungalows, and meeting the amazing people there was a highlight. I will never forget those first days diving in the amazing reefs and the shipwreck. It was truly amazing and life changing.
- All my WWOOFing placements were great, and I am still in touch with most of the people and hope to go back someday. I learned a ton, got to really get my hands dirty (literally), and got more in touch with nature than I ever have.
- Seeing lots of sunrises and sunsets in all three countries was wonderful. I was basically awaking with the sun and sleeping when it got dark, rarely using an alarm clock at all, even when I had things I had to do. I was outdoors most of the time, and I really enjoyed that– the hiking, the walking, the exploring, getting to know new flora and fauna.
- FOOD! Both in New Zealand and Malaysia. In New Zealand because so often it was organic, fresh from a garden or a farm and often homemade. In Malaysia because it was just soooo good. I wasn’t crazy about the food in Bali.
- I really, really enjoyed traveling on my own, and I don’t think there were any moments that I felt like I couldn’t do something because I was by myself. However, I think it would have been enjoyable to have a companion at various points to celebrate the high points together (or even to have some company when I was homesick over Thanksgiving.). On the one hand, I’ve really gotten to enjoy and value solo travel, but I don’t think I’ve been put off from traveling with someone(s) for ever. It’s nice to have someone to reflect with at the end of the day, to talk through decisions with, and to enjoy the good times with. I think that’s why I really enjoyed the places where I met great people with whom I could talk and connect with.
- Keeping an open mind- being ready to meet new people, try new foods, go down new paths- is important to me for travel. I could have planned everything before I left, down to the hour, but I didn’t have the time nor the energy to do that kind of preparation. So I ended up figuring out my general itinerary a few weeks in advance and then went day by day.
- Tripadvisor is a great resource for accommodations. The reviews that I read were accurate for the most part.
- Having a Schwab account with ATM card was a HUGE asset. No ATM fees anywhere, and I could withdraw any amount of money from any ATM machine.
- I went the cheap route for as much as I could but splurged here and there– last dinner in a town, the scuba course, last hotel for all my travels. Those splurges were nice treats to myself, especially when I had gone budget for everything else, including walking that extra mile with all my baggage instead of getting a taxi.
FOR THE FUTURE
I know travel is always going to be a part of my life, as it always has been. I’d love to go back to New Zealand and explore more of the North Island and the southern part of the South Island. I’d also like to try WWOOFing again at some point if I can, maybe somewhere else in the world– Italy, France, Japan…
So to wrap things up, here’s my itinerary:
- Landed in Auckland from Los Angeles. 1 night.
- First WWOOF home outside of New Plymouth. 10 nights.
- Wellington with a family friend. 2 nights.
- Seresin Estate in Renwick. 15 nights.
- WWOOF home outside of Christchurch. 9 nights.
- Wanaka. 3 nights.
- Franz Josef. 3 nights.
- Punakaiki. 2 nights.
- Nelson. 4 nights.
- Wellington. 1 night.
- Intercity overnight bus. 1 night.
- WWOOF home outside of Kerikeri. 8 nights.
- Auckland airport. 1 night.
- Ubud, Bali. 4 nights.
- Amed, Bali. 5 nights.
- Sanur, Bali. 2 nights.
- Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 2 nights.
- Pulau Pangkor, Malaysia. 2 nights.
- Melaka, Malaysia. 2 nights.
- KL, Malaysia. 3 nights.
TOTAL: 86 days
- 3 countries
- 16 towns/ villages/ cities
- airplanes, trains, boats, scooter, taxi, buses, cars, bicycles
- almost 2000 photos and short videos
- three pairs of pants, two pairs of shorts, some t-shirts and tanktops, my Keen shoes, a pair of Tevas, and other clothing
I’m happy to share more detailed tips and information for anyone that’s looking to travel to these places. Ask while I still remember! Leave me a comment!