Goodbye London, Hello Southeast Asia

Greenwich Park, London

After fourteen months of living in London I’ve decided it’s time to say bon voyage. It’s a city where something new happens on every street corner yet I gave very little attention to any of it. I did exactly the opposite of what I said I would do before moving there, so if I’m not indulging this truly great city then I’m just burning a hole in my pocket and that’s stupid.

Misusing my time and wanting to use my money for something other than rent is not the only reason why I’ve decided to say adios. There is another reason that hangs over me like a dull cloud, a reason that reverberates around my mind and sits in my stomach. It is something I can’t just turn off like a switch.

It’s the feeling I get when I’m not listening to that important, little voice at the back of my head, the one that’s asking the simple question: “Are you doing everything you can do to make yourself happy?”

Saying all this aloud makes me wince a little bit, but the desire to share my feelings with someone who might be able to relate to me outweighs the timidity of opening up.

My heart is telling me to travel, to get away, to move, to be on my own, create new memories and find new experiences that can’t be found from sitting in front of a computer screen. And that’s what I’m going to do for a little while in Southeast Asia.

After the chaos of our teenage years, we are told, if not directly then implicitly, that our twenties is the decade we carve out a career for ourselves; chasing promotions by staying late in the office and reaching target after target. Even if we don’t like our jobs we are advised to stick at it because it will be our golden ticket onto the property ladder. Our safe haven. We are supposed to consider ourselves ‘successful’ if we manage to achieve financial security, but what does it matter if in order to get there we had to sacrifice a fulfilled life? What really is success if we have to trade-off a chunk of our dreams and happiness to get there?

The most important quality that’s often lost is childlike joy, once the rigmarole of responsibilities becomes common ground in adulthood. Maybe it’s lost even before then. It’s sad. Where did the wonder go that was surgically replaced with kept-in-secret daydreaming?  What gave us the idea that this is a requirement for adulthood?

Thankfully, I think travelling helps preserve or get back that childlike wonder. Something we should never lose. NEVER EVER!

The last time I went away for a substantial period was in 2009 when I went to China to teach English, and since then I’ve been to some incredible places which have satiated my desire to see the world between study and work, but no matter how much I try to convince myself that these are enough; I’m only kidding myself.

For this trip, the desire to travel comes from an overwhelming urge to be by myself. It will not be about trying to see everything like many of my trips are often about. At the beginning I will be meeting Ruchi in Kuala Lumpa, from there we’ll go to Burma for two weeks and after that she’ll fly back to London and I’ll be left up to my own devices, as well as spending some time with family in Malaysia.

I want to know how I’ll handle getting lost, being truly exhausted and with no one to moan to, trusting strangers, language barriers, taking wrong turns, and generally all the stuff that adds some vibrant discomfort to travelling. Those moments will be interesting and rather like an endurance test to myself.

I’m excited. I need this change.

Can you relate to any of these feelings?



A travel & culture blog specialising in Scandinavia and the Arctic, peppered with the rest of the world in between.


'Goodbye London, Hello Southeast Asia' have 32 comments

  1. December 29, 2014 @ 6:18 pm R E

    In word: YES.

    Reply

    • January 1, 2015 @ 11:10 am admin

      Hi Rob :) You, me, and Ki should do something….

      Reply

  2. December 29, 2014 @ 6:44 pm Cegorach

    Good luck!

    I do certainly do feel like that in recent months. 2014 was a terrible year in many ways, perhaps not to me personally but things… accelerated.

    Already implementing some long delayed plans, but none include changing the place of living.

    That is brave/insane/marvellous/intriguing thing you’ve decided to do. I hope you’ll continue your blog from a different place.

    P.S. Do you mind if I recommend your blog as a nice guide to navigate through Europe? I think that your perspective might be useful for an American.
    Especially entries about Poland.

    My regards T.

    Reply

    • January 1, 2015 @ 11:25 am admin

      It’s great to read that you’ve already implemented some long delayed plans, I hope 2015 brings everything you want closer together.

      I’m extremely happy you would like to recommend your blog as a guide for Europe, thank you!

      Happy New Year!

      Reply

  3. December 29, 2014 @ 7:21 pm Claire

    I can totally relate to this, and everything you’ve said is resonates with me 100%. I’m living in London with my boyfriend, we have jobs that we’re doing fairly, well in with the opportunity the buy a house with a little inheritance. But we can’t stop feeling that we’re, to be honest, wasting our lives.

    Currently we’re in Berlin and we came from Poznan having spent 3 nights there, because we’ve got all this time off between Christmas and New Year and we can’t help but go away at every opportunity! And we’re trying to start a blog with ambition to be able to travel full time and share our experiences, and sustain extended travel periods.

    But there’s this feeling that, if we buy a house then yes, we’ll have an ‘asset’ and we’ll have something to fall back on in the future in terms of being more financially stable if we ever sell (we haven’t paid a penny into a pension yet and have no real savings – we just earn our salaries then spend them on we opening experiences). But we’ve had 2 houses fall through and we started trying 8 months ago. We feel we’re wasting time and money and it’s so hard to decide whether the head or the heart should override. Obviously we want the heart to and finances don’t matter. It’s more a worry of what the future holds and is this a sensible decision or one that will actually take away the best of our youth!? We don’t aspire to owning a house. We want to travel the world!!! The question is, what and when is tipping point? It’s definitely coming. I hope sooner rather than later and we need to take that brave step and follow in the footsteps on you and all the other inspiring travellers in the world.

    Hat off to you. I hope you have a fantastic time and I am jealous in the best possible way. Let’s just hope that I can comment a year or so from now and tell you we’ve been on the other side of the world for months!

    (PS – I’m commenting with my real name here but you might know me as mine and my boyfriends blogger name – The Finders Seekers. I’m the brutalist fan, and I’ll tag you in a Stary Rynek photo on Instagram in relation to a post I saw you upload a few weeks ago :D)

    Reply

    • January 1, 2015 @ 12:23 pm admin

      Hello Brutalist Babe! Thank you for your thoughtful reply, we definitely share many of the same concerns, eh?

      Getting a house might be a good move if you can financially do it – my friends did the same thing and they put it on Airbnb for someone to rent out for a year, and now they are travelling the world!

      I guess when it comes to buying a place we automatically think of settling down and drastically tightening the purse strings, but thinking of my friends traversing the world, it shows both are possible with a little out-of-the-box thinking.

      Good question about tipping point – mine came when I realised I wasn’t waking up feeling enthusiastic about my day any more. I think it really was as simple as that.

      Good luck with setting up your blog, let me know when it’s up and running!

      Reply

      • January 1, 2015 @ 2:45 pm Nigel Hywel-Jones

        Many years ago (very early days of email and internet) I was doing research in the south of Thailand. I met a British couple who were in their mid thirties. They both had successful city jobs and independently had bought houses when they met and married. They sold one house and used the proceeds of the other to support a round the world road trip on a monster BMW bike that just about carried everything they needed. I’ve often wondered how the rest of their trip went.

        Reply

        • January 1, 2015 @ 2:58 pm admin

          That’s money well spent!! It’s so interesting how people come and go so easily in our lives, especially when travelling, eh?

          But it’s so difficult now Nigel, I’m sure you know house prices have drastically increased, which might be okay if the average wage has increased but it hasn’t, at least not proportionally :(

          Maybe it’s time to move to Thailand…! hehe

          Reply

          • January 1, 2015 @ 3:08 pm Nigel Hywel-Jones

            Hi Shing, are you meaning you move to Thailand? I’ve been living here 25 years apart from a four year stint in Bhutan. If you do make it to Thailand in your SE Asian travels I’ll be happy to give you some insights based on my experience. My research has taken me pretty well all over the country. Safe travels Nigel

      • January 6, 2015 @ 10:27 pm Claire

        Hello! Sorry for the late reply! Finally settled back into the routine back in London and have a breather – though I’d rather not have a breather and still be off gallivanting!

        You’re right and we’ve thought that we could always put it up for rent… It’s still such a huge commitment though and we’ll have to think very carefully!

        I’m still trying to work or WordPress, argh! I have so much I want to write about and I need to take the time, clear the head, say no to invites for a week and just ark down and get my head round it! But I’ll definitely let you know when I’ve finally got it up and working. There’ll be a pretty large amount of backdating!! But 3 more trip coming up this year already so all the more incentive to crack on.

        And we feel like that now really. Perhaps if the house wasn’t on the cards then we’d have already reached tipping point! It’s just that that’s standing in the way. Count ourselves lucky I guess. But would love to buy a one way ticket for tomorrow!

        Will keep up with all your adventures :)

        Claire

        Reply

  4. December 29, 2014 @ 8:03 pm Brad

    Shing I can relate to those feelings and it sounds to me like you’re doing the right thing. I will write you more backchannel but just wanted to let you know that I thought your thoughts were very moving and I will in thought be traveling along with you on your new adventures in life.

    Reply

    • January 1, 2015 @ 12:42 pm admin

      Hi Brad, thank you for the well wishes, your comments are always greatly appreciated. I hope your 2015 starts with a bang!

      Reply

  5. December 30, 2014 @ 12:41 am Sophie

    I can definitely relate to this. After coming back from Hong Kong and trying to settle back into London life, it just didn’t work and now i’m living and working in China. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

    • January 1, 2015 @ 1:04 pm admin

      It sounds like you truly take charge of your life Sophie! I’m inspired!

      Reply

  6. December 30, 2014 @ 1:03 am Colleen Brynn

    I think you will be perfect in all of those situations. I’m excited for you – and I was very excited to read this post since I genuinely care about you. I hope this is exactly what you need. I know what you are talking about… that loss of childlike fun and giddiness. I was pondering that too lately, and I wonder why I don’t get lost in activities and games like I used to, without a second thought to anything else. So I’ve told myself that when that does happen (painting, writing, reading, whatever) to allow it to happen and unfold as it is supposed to. Sometimes I’m a totally dysfunctional writer or video editor or whatever but it’s heavenly to get lost in the task. All the best, and I’m always just an email away if you ever need someone to moan to!

    Reply

    • January 1, 2015 @ 1:53 pm admin

      I’m glad you picked up on the childlike fun I mentioned in this post, it’s so important isn’t it? But yet sooo easy to forget. Yey! I’m going to let myself get lost in stuff too!! We’ll be like Peter Pan :)

      Thanks for just being an email away, you’re the best! Looking forward to seeing what you get up to in 2015!

      Reply

  7. December 30, 2014 @ 8:22 am Kat

    I’m so proud of you Shing! Going travelling was the best decision I made this year, and I know you’ll consider your decision the same.

    Drop me an email if you want any tips for Myanmar, India or Thailand. Wish our paths could’ve crossed! X

    Reply

    • January 1, 2015 @ 2:00 pm admin

      Thank you sweet pea! I was so intrigued and inspired when I heard about your trip!

      I would love some tips on Myanmar and Thailand so I will drop you an email. Thank you xx

      Reply

  8. December 30, 2014 @ 9:40 am Heather

    And here I was hoping to meet up with you in London or someplace else in Europe in the coming year! But it sounds like you are doing what’s best for you and I wish you a bon voyage!

    Reply

    • January 6, 2015 @ 10:21 pm admin

      Heather, I will hunt you down in Latvia! (I love the word ‘Latvia’ never realised it until I said that sentence!!)

      Reply

  9. December 31, 2014 @ 8:07 am CL (RealGunners)

    I thought you’re just coming for vacation, but you’re actually saying goodbye to London for real! You’ve got family in Malaysia, so I should just say, welcome home! 😀

    Reply

    • January 6, 2015 @ 10:29 pm admin

      Haha, yeh Malaysia isn’t new territory for me but there’s still loads of S E Asia that I haven’t seen! Maybe we might bump into each other? 😀

      Reply

  10. December 31, 2014 @ 2:25 pm pam | a Blonde around the World

    What you say it’s so true! I personally noticed I lost completely my creative skills during these 9 years of work, and when I noticed it (not many months ago) it was like waking up and realizing “what the hell am I doing!!???”
    It’s good to hear that you are ready to move forward, will follow you during this new important step, and wish you all the best for this 2015! :)

    Reply

    • January 6, 2015 @ 10:44 pm admin

      You must have had creativity bursting from your seams after 9 years Pam! It’s amazing to hear that you changed direction, and now look! You’re living the dream! X

      Reply

  11. January 1, 2015 @ 11:24 am Nigel Hywel-Jones

    I moved to Thailand in 1989 expecting to spend a few years there before moving back to Britain. Thailand has been home ever since apart from a four year spell in Bhutan. Britain is now a foreign country. Whether you come for a few months, a few years or for the rest of your life South East Asia will be an experience.

    Reply

    • January 6, 2015 @ 11:10 pm admin

      No fixed plan, eh? That’s the best way. Thailand, Bhutan, the Solomon Islands – your journey through the world (and life) sounds fascinating! I think I’m going to go to Chiang Mai so if I do I’ll have to ask you for some suggestions if you don’t mind?!

      Reply

      • January 7, 2015 @ 5:24 pm Nigel Hywel-Jones

        As with you Shing much of my travels have been work related. To Thailand, Bhutan and the Solomon Islands I can add Australia, Brazil, Japan, Iran and several others. The only holiday countries have been France, Burma and Malaysia. For sure, if you want tips on Thailand contact me by email. My daughter grew up in Chiang Mai for the first 17 years of her life as Ma and Pa were based in Bangkok and working all over the country. She then spent the next four years with me in Bhutan (we left Ma behind to look after the ranch in Thailand) – quite an experience. Her boyfriend for two years was a cousin of the King of Bhutan! Mon will be able to give you very good advice on Chiang Mai.

        Reply

  12. January 2, 2015 @ 7:06 am Danni @Two Peas in a Pack

    It is so hard to make an unconventional choice.
    I am so happy for you. I like to think about what I will remember when I am old. Will it be all the parties and dinners I missed when I was saving money for this trip? Or will it be midnight sun of Iceland, Dancing all night in Portugal, skinny dipping in Spain, all the art and culture and food that this trip has brought us thus far?

    I’d say the later.

    So excited to read your posts about your trip.

    Reply

    • January 7, 2015 @ 12:42 pm admin

      Definitely the latter! Parties and nights-out are fun but not even a patch compared to everything that travelling gives us. I prefer saving my money for the truly life-enriching moments instead of the ones that will probably blur into one after a few drinks anyway!

      Reply

  13. January 4, 2015 @ 1:29 pm Silvia @ Heart My Backpack

    I’ll be making the opposite move probably this summer, from travels back to a more settled life in Europe, and just thinking about it terrifies me. I love how self aware you are, and unwilling to sacrifice your happiness. Excited to follow your travels – I’m heading to Burma in a couple of weeks and am excited excited!

    Reply

    • January 7, 2015 @ 12:46 pm admin

      Ahhh trading places! Interesting, I look forward to seeing what you do in Europe Silvia – I bet your definition of ‘settled’ is still very different to most people’s use of the word! 😉

      Oooo I wonder if we’ll be in Burma at the same time?!

      Reply

  14. January 13, 2015 @ 1:54 am Audrey

    That’s so exciting Shing! Sometimes a change of scenery can do wonders. I hope Southeast Asia helps you rekindle that childlike joy. :) Wishing you all the best in 2015!

    Reply


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