Author Archives: James

Monkey Beach: your perfect getaway from busier areas of Penang

Penang isn’t viewed as a hotspot for tropical resorts. Spending a few days in the Georgetown area will show you why – a densely populated place featuring urban development right up to the waterfront, you can only imagine what the water is like.

Up and down the east coast, residential, commercial, (and across the strait in Butterworth, industrial) development makes going in the ocean a less than appealing prospect.

The west coast, while much less developed, is also not a great place to go for a swim. This part of the island features mostly mangroves – great if you’re going kayaking, but not so wonderful if you are looking for a paradise beach.

The north coast is the best option for those seeking relaxation on Penang. Yet, peace and quiet is at a premium here as well, as resort areas like Batu Ferringhi are rife with mass tourism developments, and watersports (like jet skiing) is a very popular activity here.

Think you’ll have to board a ferry to Langkawi to find your beach? Hold up just a minute. There is a spot I need to tell you about.

Introducing Monkey Beach

 

I first became acquainted with this hidden gem during my first venture overseas in 2010-2011. After asking the owner of the homestay where I was staying about Penang’s best beaches, she expressed a great deal of enthusiasm for Monkey Beach.

Not everyone was convinced – a young Swedish woman decried the presence of trash on its shores. I wavered on whether or not to go before deciding to see it for myself.

After a few moments of doubt, I decided to go. I’m glad I listened to the locals over the subjective whims of a fellow foreigner – otherwise, I would have never discovered this underrated spot.

Getting to Monkey Beach

Monkey Beach is situated within the bounds of Penang National Park, which protects the flora and fauna found on Penang’s mostly unspoiled northwestern corner.

Whether you are in Georgetown or Batu Ferringhi, you’ll need to hop on Rapid Penang bus #101, as this route terminates at the front gates of the park.

After signing in (admission to the park is free), you’ll have two options.

The easy way

Take a speedboat to the beach. This will take about five minutes, and will cost about 20 RM ($4.90 USD/$6.30 CAD/£3.65GBP/€4.15EUR) each way, though prices may be negotiable.

The sweaty way

Hike through the jungle along the coast. The walk will take about 75 minutes each way, and will take you past a beach where Universiti Sains Malaysia has a dock and a marine biology research post. Keep on the trail past this point – this is not Monkey Beach.

The third way (what I do)

Hike in, cool off at the beach, and then take the boat back. You’ll save money over the easy way, and you’ll earn your swim on the way in!

Monkey Beach: one of the most special places in all of Penang

I’ll be honest: activity at Monkey Beach has picked up over years. There are vendors who never around before, and instead of being able to count other travellers on one hand, I had to use two hands on my most recent visit.

Despite this, Monkey Beach is easily one of the most chill places on Penang.

Go for a swing on a tire, or read a book while relaxing in a hammock. The choice is up to you!

There are plenty of excellent photo ops up and down the beach. Just don’t do I what I did on my first backpacking trip and put your camera in the pocket of your swim trunks. Despite a rice bath back at the homestay, its sea-soaked circuits were fried beyond repair.

As mentioned above, there are plenty of food/drink sellers here now. Don’t expect a deal – you’re paying for convenience here.

Ready to leave? Find a boat captain (who may be having a midday siesta – remember, this beach is quiet most of the time) and strike a deal for a return trip to the front gates of the national park. Do NOT pay more than 20 RM if you can help it.

Ever been to Monkey Beach on Penang? Tell us about it below!

5 Travel Tips for the Young & Broke

Go out and travel while you’re still young. You may not have a lot of money right now; You may even be broke. But travelling at this stage in your life provides a number of benefits.

For one, once you get back, you can choose to re-enter the workforce without any issues. Plus, as compared to older travellers, younger people are more willing to trade inconveniences for the experience. You can get by with staying in hostels and cheap food.

Also, the experience can make you realize that you can still have fun even with limited funds available at your disposal. Gathered here are a number of travel tips for the young and broke from visa consultants based in Dubai.

1. Consider the costs

Before you hop on a plane or make travel arrangements, you need to do your research. There are plenty of areas around the world where you can stay for cheap but you need to know where they are first.

Find out what the costs are for flights, food, accommodations, acquiring the necessary permits and visas and other major expenses. You will also need to consider having a separate fund for smaller expenses such as entertainment and souvenirs.

2. Stay flexible

Having an open itinerary can come to your advantage. Don’t be too rigid when it comes to your travel dates, where you should go and what you want to do during the trip.

Peak travel dates can vary depending on the location. When you choose to travel to Spain, for instance, the date may coincide with the annual running of the bulls. It would be a fun cultural event to watch and experience for yourself but it won’t do your wallet any favours.

Determine when the off-peak dates for travelling are before you book your tickets or accommodation. Airlines and accommodations are more willing to offer deals, discounts and promos to entice more people to travel during these low months.

3. Create a travel fund

After getting the gist of how much the trip will cost, you can use that amount as your goal. Allocate a small part of your paycheck to go into your travel fund. Do this on a regular basis. This way, you can pay for your trip using your money and not rely on credit.

4. Live like the locals do

You may not be staying long in the area but living like a local allows you to live even with limited funds. For instance, you can save more by staying in a person’s home, dormitory or hostel than in a hotel. There are websites that will allow you to get a short-term rental in a room or bed space. Check their distances to where you plan to go.

At times, lodges near a tourist spot may cost more per night but will help you save on transportation costs than staying in a room kilometres away from where you want to go.

When it comes to food, head to the nearest local market. There you can immerse your senses in the different sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures. Local markets are great places to try out the local cuisine without draining your funds.

If you are covering large areas during your trip, use mass transit. Take the train, bus or whatever mode of public transport the locals use to get to your intended destination. By compromising on comfort and convenience, you can get to your destination at a fraction of the cost of a taxi ride.

5. Work overseas

If you plan to stay long in another country or region, you will need to find a way to support yourself financially. You may need to get advice from a consultant to see what types of visas or permits you will need to apply for work.

Depending on where you plan to travel, you can find a job as a farm worker, au pair, bartender or tour guide. The money you earn may not be enough to pay a mortgage but working can help you earn enough money to travel around.

With the number of options available, you don’t need to be rich to be able to travel around. Follow our advice and soon you could be off to a brand new adventure.

AUTHOR BIO

Bevan Berning is an Immigration professional and owner of Pathway Visas, an Immigration Agency dealing mostly with skilled immigration to Canada and Australia. Bevan’s enthusiasm for the industry has kept in the Immigration field for the past seven years. Bevan is South African by birth and has been residing in Dubai for the past eight years.

My life over the past year + what lies ahead

A tall pint of Castle Lager ... the perfect way to end a day in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa in June 2017.

A tall pint of Castle Lager … the perfect way to end a day in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa in June 2017.

Guys!

It’s been a while since my last status update, but since I am back in Nova Scotia, Canada for the holidays, I managed to find the time needed to put my thoughts down on digital paper. Here we go…

What have I been up to?

A digital nomad meetup in a thatch cabana restaurant on a lake near Chiang Mai

A digital nomad meetup in a thatch cabana restaurant on a lake near Chiang Mai

Rewind to this time last year.

I began my latest odyssey the same way I had begun others: by setting foot in Thailand for the umpteenth time.

This time around, I had a number of goals in mind: to tick off two more continents off my list, to meet up with digital nomads in Chiang Mai and expose myself to a variety of disciplines, and to grow my business while travelling at the same time.

I nailed two out of the three. Over the past 13 months, I set foot in Africa (South Africa only – next time, I will notch more countries, I promise!), and Europe (travelling from Turkey to the UK overland).

In the Digital Nomad Capital of the World (TM), I hung out with everyone from drop shippers to graphic designers, broadening my horizons and adding a client in the process.

HOWEVER … I did NOT grow my bottom line. In fact, I elected to take a step back this fall in order to move forward in the long run.

The scariest decisions are often the most important ones

Cool view over downtown Khaosiung, Taiwan. However, when you're facing down an all-nighter to meet a deadline, it kinda sucks the joy out of it...

Cool view over downtown Khaosiung, Taiwan. However, when you’re facing down an all-nighter to meet a deadline, it kinda sucks the joy out of it…

I made the difficult (yet necessary) decision to release a client with whom I had done extensive business over the past four years.

The steady work they provided had made the money part of my life easy, but over the past year, its volume conspired to suck up almost every bit of free time I had.

To allow myself the time needed to grow as an entrepreneur and to restore my sanity, I had no choice but to part ways with them.

Don’t misunderstand me – they were professional, paid me promptly, and most interactions were cordial and pleasant. But, they had come to lean on me so heavily, it was affecting my quality of life, as well as my ability to run and grow my business.

I’ll be honest: this was one of the scariest business decisions I’ve ever made. But it needed to be done, as I had slowly but surely morphed into the overworked employee I once was – only with a nice view of the beach.

Where am I now?

Havre Boucher on a warm autumn day. As I write this, it's colder, wetter, and the leaves peaced out a long time ago.

Havre Boucher on a warm autumn day in 2015. As I write this in November 2017, it’s colder, wetter, and the leaves peaced out a long time ago.

As mentioned in the intro, I am back in Canada for the holidays and most of January. I get two months to enjoy the darkness and silence of my basement bedroom, family moments during Christmas and New Year’s, and a long-awaited college reunion in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Fam: the older your parents, siblings, relatives, and friends get, the more important it is to spend time with them. As such, I am looking forward to the hangouts coming up in the weeks ahead.

So … when are you hitting the trail again?

I foresee more than a few of these in my future...

I foresee more than a few of these in my future…

There are many quotes about travel out there that expound upon the importance of seizing every moment life gives you.

Accordingly, I won’t be lingering in Canada for long. Not long after my college reunion wraps up, I’ll be boarding a flight to Mexico!

I’ll be spending most of my winter in Playa del Carmen, a city on the Yucatan Peninsula. Populated enough to provide every creature comfort a person could need, but without the hectic nightlife of Cancun, it is the perfect hideaway from winter for someone like me.

While I will be mostly staying put to focus more intently on business development, I’ll head over to Nicaragua at some point to chill out for a few weeks on the Corn Islands.

A Caribbean paradise which remains unspoiled by mass tourism, it cast its spell over me last time I was there (2015), so I can’t wait to return.

Additionally, a good friend of mine gets to call this gorgeous place home. During my visit, I am sure there will be more than a few nights where we will get to share some Flor de Cana and cokes in person.

Main mission for 2018: trying out a new home base

Trying out Edmonton as a home base: I lived here once before when I had a 9-5 job. Loved leaving the daily grind, but I did miss this place.

Trying out Edmonton as a home base: I lived here once before when I had a 9-5 job. Loved leaving the daily grind, but I did miss this place.

Once May rolls around, I’ll be hopping on a plane back to Canada, but instead of heading back east, I’ll be Alberta bound – to Edmonton, specifically.

Thought I was setting up a base in Atlantic Canada? That was the plan initially, but as the test period unfolded, Fredericton turned out to be too small for someone who craves access to a wider range of urban delights.

Don’t get me wrong – it has plenty to offer those who love smaller towns (population ~60,000) – culture, tons of microbreweries, festivals, a scenic river, and more.

There are many advantages to settling there, but if you are seeking the advantages of settling in a city of a million people (wider access to services, restaurants, deeper dating pool, etc), you’ll be let down in the long run here.

Edmonton has many of the things that drew me to Fredericton, but with a deeper bench with regards to the latter city’s qualities.

What’s more, it is close by to the Canadian Rockies, a burgeoning food scene is emerging, and taxation is much lower here than in the east.

Because of this, I will be testing out as a home base for the remainder of 2018 and into 2019. Beyond then, I will be making plans to see the sixth continent – Oceania – but that’s too far off in the distance to discuss at length. Next year, things should be much clearer, so stay tuned!

Dear readers: what have you been up to recently? Let’s re-connect in the comments below!

Experiencing the best of Thailand on a budget

Photo by CC user Jonas_Mittag on Pixabay

Photo by CC user Jonas_Mittag on Pixabay

Want to get away from your stressful everyday existence? We all do from time to time, but one glance at our bank balance leads many of us to believe that escape isn’t possible. This is a common misconception, as holiday travel has never been as cheap as it is now.

Below, we’ll show you how you can experience the best of Thailand on a budget – once you get a taste for this intoxicating country, you won’t ever be the same again!

Book a cheap flight

Any trip to Thailand starts with the booking of the flight which will take you, your family, and/or your friends there. Jump online and review all the options available for Mumbai to Bangkok flights, or from wherever you happen to be in the world.

Price will be one of the key considerations, but also be sure to check departure/arrival times, connections, and the amenities available aboard.

Arriving past Midnight may force you to negotiate with Bangkok taxi drivers, some of whom are known to rig their meters or drive hard bargains with tourists unfamiliar with the local going rate for flat fares.

If you get to BKK at a reasonable hour, you can take advantage of the Airport Rail Link, a train which will take you from Suvarnabhumi Airport to the centre of Bangkok in about 20 minutes for 45 baht (₹88/$1.36 USD).

Favour guesthouses and hostels over hotels

Thailand is well-known worldwide for the value it provides visitors. From activities to food, you won’t have to take out a loan to afford a holiday here.

The same applies to lodging, as Bangkok is home to some of the most competitively priced luxury hotel rooms in the world. If you are really minding your money, however, we recommend booking rooms in guesthouses or boutique hostels.

These accommodation types aren’t the fleapits they were a generation ago – a considerable number of them have gone upmarket in recent years. They come with private rooms which have plush mattresses, fresh linens, fridges, cable TV, and other perks.

However, you get to take advantage of the social atmosphere of a hostel, as you will have access to common areas, which often come with bars, comfy seating, high-speed internet, and a slate of planned activities from one day to the next.

With private rooms starting at 600 baht (₹1,170/$18.50 USD), going this route will help you save cash while maintaining a level of comfort befitting of your holiday.

Go north

Many Mumbai to Bangkok flights are packed with visitors eager to head south in pursuit of Thailand’s fabled beaches. However, know that the cities of the north contain worthwhile cultural attractions core to the identity of the Thai people.

Not only will you have a chance to tour uncrowded temple sites in places like Sukhothai and Chiang Mai, you will find that everything from accommodations to meals will be cheaper in the north.

A hostel whose private rooms cost 900 Baht (₹1,760/$27.50 USD) in a place like Koh Samui will sell them for around 500 baht (₹975/$15.25 USD) in Chiang Mai.

While lunch can cost as much as 230 baht (₹430/$7 USD) on the beach at Railay Beach, a healthy Thai lunch in the centre of Chiang Rai can be had for as little as 60 baht (₹120/$1.90 USD).

Travel to unsung islands

Have your heart set on a paradise beach? Of course you do. Instead of traveling to places like Phuket or Koh Samui, though, consider heading to lesser travelled isles like Koh Chang (the one in Eastern Thailand near the Cambodian border) or Koh Lanta in the south.

These places have beaches which boast plenty of room even in high season, idyllic tropical scenes out of your wildest dreams, and reasonable prices.

In a country with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to tropical getaways, you lose almost nothing going off the beaten track.

Tips for Buying a Vacation Home in Another Country

Buying a Vacation Home in Another Country needn't be a challenge

Wouldn’t it be great to have a little place in another country that was all your own? Waking up to rolling hills or sandy beaches every day? Plus, many other countries have property values and a cost of living that is far less expensive than it is here in the states. If an international vacation home is something you dream of, keep these important tips in mind when you are ready to buy:

1. Compare several areas

International markets don’t all move up and down at the same time. You will find that the housing market in one country may be seriously inflated at the same time another has excess inventory. Instead of focusing on a country, think about the environment and the amenities you want. For instance, someone who wants a place on the beach may have the best luck looking at places in Mexico, the Philippines and other countries, as well.

2. Consider the places where your dollar goes farthest

One of the great things about traveling internationally is the chance to get more for your money through differences in currency value. If you pick a place where the currency is weaker than the dollar, you can enjoy more house for less.

3. Think of all the amenities and features you’d want

Sometimes it’s easier to narrow down a location by choosing what you want in a home. A garden you can tend during extended stays? Night life in walking distance? A view of hills or water? Make a list of your dream amenities and features before you look.

4. Figure out how you are going to finance your purchase

In many cases, bank financing may not be available. Mortgages like those that are available in the United States are not common in many parts of the world. In areas where bank financing is available, there may be restrictions on foreign buyers.

While a bank loan may not be an option, there are other ways to get the funds together, and budgeting strategies remain largely the same. Borrowing on your first home’s equity may give you the funds that you need for your home abroad. Others choose to use funds out of their retirement accounts. In still other cases, it may be possible to find seller financing in the country were you want to find a vacation home.

5. Learn the real estate processes of the region

In many parts of the world, there is no MLS service. To ensure that you are seeing all the properties that fit your needs, you should probably work with more than one real estate agent. Licensing requirements for real estate agents may be different than in the states; in areas where there is no license or where agents don’t get a lot of training, look online for reviews before settling with an agent

6. Research average housing costs

In an area far from where you live, it can be hard to know what’s a good deal and what prices are inflated. See if there are local sales records available. You should also study listings for awhile and break down the cost per square meter for the sorts of listings you like. This will help you know which prices are in line with the average.

By finding answers to the big questions early, you can be better prepared for the house hunting and buying process. The time you spend preparing can add to the anticipation and the excitement of finding your international vacation home.

Making the most of a winter holiday in California

Los Angeles is the perfect place to go on a winter holiday in California

Photo by CC user ahhdrjones on Flickr

Want to escape the worst aspects of winter in North America? Have you considered planning a winter holiday in California?

With electrifying cities, enchanting coastline and soaring snow-capped mountains, a trip to America’s most exciting state will serve to recharge your batteries during what is normally the most depressing time of year.

Looking to travel in comfort? Don’t put up with the hassles of staying in a hotel, as there are plenty of California vacation rentals available from San Diego to the Napa Valley.

As such, there is no shortage of luxurious spots throughout the Golden State where you can make yourself at home after an exhausting but satisfying day of activities and sightseeing.

With amenities ranging from outdoor pools and hot tubs with privileged views, to state-of-the-art electronics and furnishings, these villas will make your downtime during your California

That being said, let’s explore what California has to offer you this winter.

1) San Diego

If warmth is a priority for you and your traveling companions, be sure to base yourself in the San Diego area.

Average day time highs in January are in the mid 60’s Fahrenheit (about 18-19 degrees Celsius), but temperature can get up well into the 70’s (23-24 degrees Celsius) on the warmest days.

The ocean is a bit chilly for swimming in winter, but surfers will be perfectly comfortable if they don a thin wetsuit, as the water is typically in the low 60’s (about 15-16 degrees Celsius) during the coolest parts of the winter season.

The San Diego Zoo is a great option for families, and after dark, the Gaslamp Quarter has plenty of restaurants and nightlife options for adults looking to live it up.

2) Los Angeles

Those looking for a high-energy holiday in California will want to search for a villa in Los Angeles. Whether you want to go star hunting in Beverly Hills or on the streets of Hollywood or enjoy theme parks ranging from Universal Studios to Disneyland, there are plenty of options for travelers of all interests.

Traveling surfers will love the opportunity to match wits with local wave shredders on Huntington Beach (aka Surf City USA), while culture hounds will have their days filled by hopping from museum to museum (don’t miss the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Getty Center, or The Broad).

3) Napa Valley

If you are going to spoil yourself during your time in California, be sure to spend several nights enjoying America’s finest food and drink in the Napa Valley.

Winter is the low season in this popular gastronomic destination, meaning that those that come here at this time won’t have to cope with the crowds that pile into this peaceful paradise during the summer and fall.

When you aren’t admiring the view of rolling hills and vineyards from your villa up in the benchlands, enjoy a variety of winery tours, dine in a number of exquisite restaurants (seven of which possess Michelin stars), or soar above the valley in a hot air balloon – the possibilities are endless!

Penang – Pretty Much The Best Visa Run Destination Ever

Penang is probably the best visa run destination for those coming from Thailand

Penang’ is the best visa run destination for nomads and travelers in Southern Thailand, as it has no shortage of attractions to discover while your passport is getting stamped.

After spending a week exploring Koh Samui, it was time to leave Thailand, as my 30-day exemption had run out. If you are in the south and you are looking for a great place to go on a visa run, Penang is an easy choice, as its combination of culture, drool-worthy cuisine, and historic attractions make the island the best visa run destination for those hanging out in Southern Thailand.

Butter Chicken and Naan, Penang, Malaysia

Char kway teow, Penang, Malaysia

Succulent Pork Chop, Penang, Malaysia

As one of Southeast Asia’s best food destinations, you can bounce from Indian to Chinese to Malay and Western food – and all of it for just a few dollars.

Door in Penang, Malaysia

As much as your meals here will be a star attraction, the sheer joy of walking around Georgetown surpasses it.

Door in Penang, Malaysia

As common as these entryways appear to its lifelong residents, their weathered appearance gives them a presence that the impersonal, unspectacular doors back home could never muster up on their own.

Archway, Penang Malaysia

Archway, Penang Malaysia

Archway, Penang Malaysia

Meng Eng Soo Temple in Penang Malaysia

The buildings here are not only gorgeous, but they are also custom-built to protect you against the elements. They feature overhangs that shield you from the intense equatorial sun, as well as monsoonal downpours that would otherwise soak you to the bone.

Chinese Temple in Penang Malaysia

And that doesn’t even cover this UNESCO-recognized town’s main attractions, as there are Chinese temples like the one shown, in addition to the Clan Jetties, which are so detailed that they will get their own post (stay tuned, it’s coming up very soon).

Love Lane in Penang, Malaysia

Iron street art, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Penang Malaysia

If you only have time to see one thing of note on the streets of Georgetown, make a sport of hunting down the stunning twisted iron sculptures that tell the story of this port on the Straits of Malacca. With 30 or so scattered through its Jalans, you’ll be spending some serious time outside – don’t forget to put on some sunscreen before heading out.

As mentioned earlier in this post, there’s more to come from Penang – have a question about this popular destination in Malaysia? Ask away in the comments below, as I’ve visited the island twice over the past six years.

Traveling to Koh Samui for the first time? Here’s what you can expect…

The view from my ferry's bow while traveling to Koh Samui from Don Sak pier // photo: James Shannon

The view from my ferry’s bow while traveling to Koh Samui from Don Sak pier // photo: James Shannon

Thanks to my super-long break from blogging, the pictures that I have taken from my Asian and Latin American travels have been collecting dust on my hard drive.

However, now that I have gotten the hang of running the day-to-day aspects of my business, I am finally making a commitment to get back to documenting my never-ending pursuit of excitement!

Although the trip in this post occurred over three years ago, it makes sense to go back in time given how long I have been ignoring this site.

After flying to Thailand on a whim and securing the first client for my nascent business, I was already running out of time on my 30-day visa exemption. While I had to leave the country to secure a proper visa, I decided to see a part that I had not seen on prior backpacking trips.

Many have derided this island as being the Gulf of Thailand’s version of Phuket. As much as I had loathed Patong Beach when I was there, traveling to Koh Samui was necessary in order to know this place for myself.

Chaweng Beach, Koh Samui, Thailand // photo: James Shannon

As it turned out, Chaweng Beach (the most popular resort area on the island) was quite the busy hub, but it wasn’t the in-your-face circus that Patong had been.

If you are looking for a place with all the restaurants, bars, and services you could ever want, paired together with a decent beach, you’ll want to base yourself here.

Chaweng Beach by day, Koh Samui, Thailand // photo: James Shannon
A spot like this wouldn’t be my first choice for some R&R (for me, that’s Koh Chang), but for many folks, it works well as a home base to enjoy one of Thailand’s finest islands.

While I stuck around this area more than I wanted to (bloody cold … I had bad luck that year with tropical islands and being ill!), I did eventually get around the island on a guided tour.

Koh Samui // photo: James Shannon
While many tours on Koh Samui are worth the cost, be sure that they leave out the monkey show.

This exploitative attraction nearly ruined the entire day, as its cruelty overshadowed the other worthwhile sights that the guide had shown us.
Wat Phra Yai, Koh Samui, Thailand // photo: James Shannon

However, there was one cultural highlight that had me walking away impressed: Wat Phra Yai (Big Buddha Temple).

Wat Phra Yai, Koh Samui, Thailand // photo: James Shannon

Boasting several gigantic Buddha idols and other icons of Buddhism, it was a refreshingly Thai corner on one of Thailand’s most hyped islands.

Wat Phra Yai, Koh Samui, Thailand // photo: James Shannon

Have any questions about Koh Samui? Been there yourself lately? Share your queries/perspective in the comments below.

Greetings from Chiang Mai!

Back in Chiang Mai, the digital nomad capital of the world

So … it’s been a while since I’ve updated the Pursuit of Excitement. You probably thought I’d given up on the digital nomad life? Wrong. I spent much of this year working harder than I ever have before, driving my freelance earnings to new heights. While I had to focus hard on that to make that happen, it made me realize how much I miss blogging.

And here we are.

What happened between January and now? I spent more than half a year in my old college town of Fredericton, re-connecting with friends, settling my tax situation (the CRA actually owed ME money … funny that), and restructuring my online banking to make offshore bill payments easy and simple.

Lonely Beach, Koh Chang. Paradise.

With those issues settled and my wanderlust returning, I flew out to Western Canada in October, saw more friends, and then left for Thailand in November. After spending some time in Bangkok and Koh Chang (my favourite Thai island), I’m back in Chiang Mai (whoo hoo!).

Over the next 5 weeks, I look forward to networking and meeting fellow digital nomads, and getting back into the habit of blogging again, along with putting the toe in the pool with regards to other projects (e-books, learning to code, exploring the idea of starting new websites, etc).

Let’s see what happens.

Quick Safety Tips When Traveling Solo to Manila

Traveling Solo to Manila is perfectly safe if you follow some common sense tips

Photo by CC user Alvin js5 on Wikimedia Commons

Going on a solo vacation can be an exhilarating experience. You have full control of your own schedule, meaning you can move from one place to another at your own pace. While it’s not as scary when hopping from one state to another, it can be much scarier to jet to a different country on your own, such as the Philippines. Known for its sunny beaches and welcoming locals, it’s one of the best places to go on a budget.

But before you decide to book a stay in affordable hotels in Manila, you need to keep a few safety tips in mind when traveling on your own—especially if it’s your first time going solo. Let’s discuss a few ways you can stay safe no matter what island you decide to visit.

Always Be Mindful of Your Belongings

Tourists are hot targets for a lot of pickpockets. You might own some nice accessories, but wearing them while weaving your way through a packed area such as Divisoria may not be the wisest thing to do. Make sure to keep your bag’s straps on you at all times. If you must put your bag down on the ground, secure it by placing it between your feet, with one strap wrapped around your foot. For your valuables, you may want to invest in a waist pouch, but make sure you tuck it away properly.

Try to Stay Awake During Transit

Once you get onto a train, taxi, or bus, resist the urge to fall asleep, even if you’re exhausted from your itinerary. Unfortunately, you don’t have a travel partner who can watch out for you while you rest, so you need to be extra cautious about your surroundings. You never know when somebody might steal your belongings while you’re snoozing away. At the same time, you might end up sleeping and missing your stop. In the Philippines, you need to tell the driver where you want to be dropped off, or else they’ll keep driving on. If you have a tendency to nap despite your best efforts to stay awake, you might want to invest in cable locks and a mesh protector for your bag.

Learn as Much as You Can Beforehand

Always do your research before going to any particular location. For example, the way you conduct yourself in the U.S. may not go over well in the Philippines. And while you may be exposed to unusual food or practices, the worst thing you can do is to show clear distaste for any part of their culture. Some countries consider certain types of clothing to be offensive or unacceptable. You should also memorize a few useful words and phrases in the local language so that you can ask for help if you need to. In addition, do some research about any facial expressions or gestures that might be considered rude in that area. The last thing you want is to accidentally get into a fight with somebody without even knowing why.

Keep Information About Your Trip Private

While it’s wise to inform your friends and loved ones about where you plan to go and when you expect arrive, you shouldn’t share that information to just anybody you meet on the street. You’ll want to withhold any info about where you plan to go, as well as where you’ve booked a room. Don’t let any strangers figure out that you’re on your own, either. If you have to, pretend you’re waiting for somebody else. Otherwise, people might end up using what you’ve told them to track you down and steal your belongings. This isn’t to say that you can’t trust anybody in another country. For instance, Philippine locals are particularly friendly and helpful, especially when you’re asking for directions. Still, when you’re all alone in another country, it still pays to be safe than sorry.

In Short: Do Your Research and Stay Alert

By putting in enough preparation, you’ll find that traveling solo isn’t all that frightening. You might even gain deep, personal experiences you wouldn’t have had on a group trip. Keep all of these tips in mind and you should be able to stay safe and sound on your next trip.