Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Phase II Wrap Up

I’m sorry it’s been a bit since I last wrote an entry. I arrived in Tbilisi, Georgia on 21 July 2019 and have been having a wonderful time making new friends. My experience so far is summed up as “I have a thousand friends in Tbilisi; I just haven’t met them all yet.” That said, this post is not going to be about Georgia.

The way I see it, I owe you the following posts: a reflection on the past year (i.e. this post), an overview of what has changed in my backpack, a look forward to Phase III, a post about arriving in Georgia (covering the first month or so), and a post about people visiting me in Georgia (covering this past month). Expect them in the coming weeks.

Start: September 14, 2018, by flying to Los Angeles.

End: July 20, 2019, when I flew (overnight) from Denpasar (Bali), Indonesia to Tbilisi, Georgia.

As a reminder, Phase II was meant to be more freeform than Phase I, which rigidly followed train and boat schedules. In this spirit, I’m beginning Phase II in Los Angeles and ending it in Bali - both places I didn’t expect to visit.


My budget as set in my earlier post was $15,000 for the whole thing. I’ve been avoiding doing the exact math (and may continue to avoid it), but I’m somewhere around $3,000 over budget for the whole thing. Part of this is due to making plans in June / July instead of starting the new phase when my money ran out, but a bigger part is not being as thrifty as I could be.



Countries Visited:


  • USA (Los Angeles, Honolulu)
  • Thailand (Bangkok, Phuket, Koh Lanta)
  • Malaysia (Georgetown, Kuala Lumpur, Cameron Highlands, Malacca, Langkawi, Labuan)
  • Singapore
  • Brunei
  • Hong Kong
  • Philippines (Manila, El Nido, Coron, Angeles City)
  • Japan (Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto, Tokyo)
  • Australia (Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane*)
  • Indonesia (Jakarta, Jogjakarta, Denpasar)


MISSED OPPORTUNITIES:

I really wanted to bum around SE Asia some more (Northern Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, & Vietnam) but didn’t have the time and money available. I did a poor job of timing the seasons, so I missed out on New Zealand. When the opportunity to go to South Korea came up, I was already crunched for money. I did a bad job of scheduling and missed Mt. Fuji. I forgot Couchsurfing existed and missed a lot of the Philippines. Oh, and I really should have spent a few days in / around Kota Kinabalu.

WHAT WOULD I DO DIFFERENTLY?

The problem with this question is that I was really in need of a place to stay and not travel for a few weeks in November and May. Had I more energy, I should have changed hemispheres and flown from, say, Kuala Lumpur to New Zealand or something in November. I should have planned my routes better, generally. I should have drank less in places where beer was expensive. I should have taken a slow train from Osaka to Tokyo instead of the bullet train so I could see some of the smaller cities (and Mt. Fuji).

I’m tempted to say I should have bought plane tickets in advance every two or so weeks out, but I don’t think that would have made for the same experience (though it would have been cheaper). I’m debating doing that now in Phase III, but so much of my travel has been unplanned bus adventures that I am loathe to lock myself in.

HIGHLIGHTS:

I have a penchant for focusing on the negative, so I wanted to make sure and hit a few things that were really good in the past year. The first thing that comes to mind is all the writing I’ve done - whether in the Bangkok City Library, next to a swimming pool in Coron, or at the Summer Camp outside Brisbane, I feel like I’m doing a better job of letting go of my internal editor and getting stuff on paper.

Making new friends is always a highlight for me and I’ve made a lot along the way. The story I keep telling, however, is that of going into a random karaoke bar in Osaka and sitting with a bunch of old folks singing their hearts out. They spoke no English and I didn’t speak Japanese, but none of that mattered - singing and drinking and laughing were the important things and there was plenty of all three.

Finally, getting to explore cities has been eye-opening. Every city sings a different song - whether it’s the gritty diesel of Manila, the indifferent human wave of Melbourne, or the European saunter of Georgetown, everywhere is a little different. I know a lot of travelers don’t like cities, but I really, really do - and it’s been great to see how humans everywhere are simultaneously different and the same.

All-in-all I had a delightful time. I’m glad a few friends from Philadelphia visited me and I’m glad I was able to meet up with people I’ve met along the way. It’s been a wonderful year - ups and downs all included.

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