Happy June! Hope you’ve all had an exciting first half of the year. I can’t believe that we are already half way through another year around the sun. I thought it was about to time to write about part 1 of our travelling full time experience with you.
This is our first shot at living a “location independent” lifestyle – something I had been pondering for a while. It’s been an exciting, thrilling, exhausting, but ultimately surreal past few months. We’ve stayed in a treehouse in Sri Lanka, been bar-hopping in Barcelona with friends, been wine tasting in Thailand, visited beautiful temples in Malaysia, and we are currently exploring the beauty of Vietnam. This is my story on living my travel bliss.
Our Experience Travelling Full Time
We left South Africa at the end of January with no set plan, but we knew that we wanted to travel more. Well, initially we had a “half-plan.” Up until about November last year, the plan was to settle in Barcelona for a while so Peter could work a full-time job. The idea was that we would be based in Spain and travel around Europe. At that stage the idea of travelling full time wasn’t an option.
We had just returned to South Africa after spending over a year in London. I had been working remotely (online) since March 2018, but Peter left his full-time job in the UK and we returned home. Our plan was to spend Christmas at home and then settle into a sunnier part of Europe – Spain. But, something wonderful happened while we were home in South Africa. A remote work opportunity came up for Peter. Initially we weren’t sure if it would turn into a permanent job. So we stuck to our original plan.
We decided to take a detour via Sri Lanka on our way to Spain. We had been wanting to visit Sri Lanka for a while so we thought we would take the opportunity before we settled into a routine in Barcelona. While we were still in South Africa we booked flights and accommodation for Sri Lanka and our flights out of Sri Lanka to Barcelona.
Fairly soon after booking flights to Barcelona we realized that Peters new remote job was pretty permanent. This meant that we would be able to travel full time. But having already booked flights to Barcelona we decided to spend a month there. We’ve spent every month in a new country since.
We’re still figuring out this travelling full time thing, but here’s our experience so far.
Where We’ve Been?
During our time in London we travelled a lot throughout Europe. Since we had already seen so much on that side of the world, we were very keen on the idea of travelling somewhere new. Travelling full time was now a real possibility and Southeast Asia was high on our travel list.
But since we had already booked flights to Barcelona, we thought that we would spend at least a few months in Europe. That was until we decided to check flights out of Barcelona to Thailand. The rest, as they say, is history. We are currently exploring Southeast Asia and will be for the next few months. Here’s where we’ve been.
When we first left South Africa at the end of January, Sri Lanka was going to be our holiday destination before we settled into a new life in Barcelona. Of course, everything has since changed. Sri Lanka was life-changing, in many ways. We had no idea what this incredible year had in store for us. But the highlight and best surprise for me was getting engaged at sunrise on the beach in Unawatuna.
Nothing will ever top that moment! But Sri Lanka as a whole is one of the most incredible countries that we’ve ever been to. The people, the food, the vibe, the beaches, the natural beauty – it’s all just magic!
We spent 2 weeks in Sri Lanka and travelled from Colombo down to Unawatuna, stopping in Bentota and Hikkaduwa along our way. Colombo, being the capital city, wasn’t all that fantastic. But the rest of Sri Lanka was incredible! Bentota is home to one of the most beautiful and peaceful beaches that we’ve come across. While the South of Sri Lanka features some stunning beaches of its own, they’re usually quite crowded. Bentota is a lot more tranquil and perfect for escaping the hustle and bustle.
One of our highlights was staying in a treehouse in Hikkaduwa. This was one of our bucket list items and the experience of a lifetime. We stayed at a local establishment called Chami’s Place. It was a very simple setup, but everything that we could have asked for. It felt so secluded, like we were on a remote island in the middle of the jungle. We only stayed here for two nights, and ended up wishing that we had booked for longer. But hey, it’s an excuse to go back again.
We also really enjoyed our stay in Unawatuna. There is so much you can do around there and we ended up spending two days in Mirissa. The main beach in Mirissa is perfect for swimming – there’s not many rocks and the waves are perfect. Mirissa is also where you will find the Instafamous Palm tree forest. It’s absolutely beautiful and a great place to watch a sunrise or sunset.
Sri Lanka was the first stop of our travelling full time adventure. Our trip ended with our engagement in Unawatuna. It was the perfect end to an unforgettable trip and the perfect start to a new adventure.
Spain – Salou
In mid-Feb after our two week Sri Lanka Adventure, we took our scheduled flight to Barcelona and settled in Salou for a month. How did we end up in Salou? Well, when we realized that we had the opportunity to live the full time travel lifestyle, we figured that there was no reason for us to spend a month in Barcelona. We had already been to Barcelona before and decided to check out a different part of the country.
Salou is a beach resort town found along Spain’s northeastern Costa Daurada, and it’s beautiful. Only about an hour and a half bus ride from Barcelona airport, yet it feels like you’re in a different world. So serene and peaceful, this blissful town was just what we needed to settle down for a bit and figure out what was next for us.
Although we were based in Salou, we spent a lot of time in Barcelona. During one of our trips, Peter’s backpack was stolen. We were going to be staying the night with friends in the city. Thankfully there was nothing too valuable in the bag – just a few clothes and toiletries…….oh, and our apartment key. Fortunately it didn’t turn out to be a huge issue and we arranged a new key the next day with little hassle.
Another mishap? Peters bank card got scammed and we had tons of money taken out of our account. Luckily the bank was extremely helpful and we had all funds returned to us within a day. Despite these little mishaps, we spent a wonderful month in Spain.
This was our first taste of the digital nomad life, attempting to juggle between work and traveling. I found a month to be the perfect amount of time to be in a place because it allowed us to “slow travel.” We got into a great routine of working during the week and exploring in the evenings and on the weekends.
We have friends from home who arrived in Barcelona for work while we were there, so we spent a lot of time in the city with them. We also ended up popping over to Germany for the weekend for a friends 30th birthday. That’s the beauty of Europe – you can book a last minute flight to just about anywhere.
Salou was so quiet during the time we were visiting. It was still winter and many establishments weren’t yet open. But during the summer, things really pick up here. It’s home to Spain’s top theme park PortAventura, which unfortunately wasn’t open during our stay. There’s also a great beach, beautiful promenade area scattered with palm trees, and the Salou fountains to check out. It’s a beautiful little town and perfect for a short summer getaway.
Thailand – Pattaya
While in Salou and checking out our options on where to go next, we decided on a whim to make our way across to Southeast Asia. You know what they say, “now is as good a time as any.” Since we had established that we were now full time travelers, there was no reason not to. So we booked a flight to Bangkok in mid March and will be spending the next few months in Southeast Asia.
We spent the first month in Pattaya, a city on Thailand’s eastern Gulf coast. A city apparently known for its beaches, that didn’t impress us. But thankfully there is a lot more to this vibrant city than just the beach. We stayed in a stunning apartment block equipped with a rooftop pool and a gym.
Having a gym in the building was great. I had spent the month in Spain following my own exercise routine, but I love burning calories on the treadmill. It was great to get back into a fitness regime.
We had now established a pretty rigid work schedule that really works well for us. We spent a good amount of time working in the pool area which had plenty of work space available. Most days we were in and out of the pool, in between working.
But, of course, it’s not just about work. Here’s what we got up to.
Our favourite experience here was the Pattaya Floating Market. Thailand is notorious for its floating markets and Pattaya is actually home to the biggest and most popular one in the country. It’s also known as the four regions market since it features goodies from the four main regions of Thailand; Northern, Southern, Central, and North Eastern.
You can find some beautiful arts and crafts here, but the food is what it was all about for us. Just about anything that you can think of you can find here. I’m not very adventurous when it comes to food, but just looking at all the different delicacies was enough for me. We spent a good few hours at the floating market and it was definitely one of the best things that we did during our full time travel month in Pattaya.
Another great experience that we had in Thailand was at Silverlake Vineyard. Coming from South Africa, I am a wine-lover and always up for good wine tasting. Silverlake is hidden away in the beautiful mountainous areas on the outskirts of Pattaya. It’s a great place to escape the madness of the city, and the views are beautiful. While you certainly can’t compare it to the Cape Town wine region, it’s great for a day out in the countryside.
Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur
The next stop on our traveling full time adventure was Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Looking back, we wish we had explored more of this exquisite country. Trying to juggle full time travel and work certainly has its challenges. Kuala Lumpur is a great city, but we definitely could have done with less than a month there (even while working). We’ve heard from plenty of travel bloggers, and seen on social media, that Malaysia has some beautiful islands to explore. Penang, Tioman, Tenggol, and Mataking island are some of the highly recommended places to visit in Malaysia.
We did have a great time in the capital, but it’s a place that you should probably spend no longer than a week at, possibly two weeks, if you also work and travel. One of the top things to do in Kuala Lumpur is visit a rooftop bar, and it’s also one of the things that I was most excited for. Unfortunately it seems to be very overrated. We spent, what felt like hours, googling the best rooftop bars in KL and the whole process was tedious and not very helpful.
Almost every single bar that we came across had some terrible online reviews. They all said the same thing. Drinks were watered down and horrendously overpriced, the place was crowded, and the service was bad. I’m seriously not exaggerating when I say that every bar we checked out had reviews like this.
We ended up at a new and less-popular one on the outskirts of the city. It was alright, but not great and I wouldn’t recommend it. The views weren’t all that good, which is at the end of the day is what you want at a rooftop bar. But who knows, perhaps we should have tried out one of the more “popular” ones.
There are many other wonderful things to do in and around this multicultural city. Here’s what we loved.
We loved exploring the city center of Kuala Lumpur. It’s such a fascinating city. The best part is that there is a walk through eco park right in the middle of it all. It’s a rainforest featuring several nature trails and a forest canopy tour – surrounded by views of the high-rises. The canopy walk is currently free, although they may start to charge a small fee in the future. But if you’re in the city you should definitely check out this forest area.
Thean Hou Temple is also a must-see in Kuala Lumpur. You have more than likely seen photos of this stunning place on Instagram. In reality, it’s even bigger and more beautiful than I had anticipated. The detail that has gone into this temple is so intricate and the end result is exquisite. You only need an hour or two here so you can easily fit it into a busy day.
The Batu Caves is one of the other main attractions in Kuala Lumpur. While this place is certainly worth a visit, it’s not as breathtaking as those Instagram photos make it seem, unless maybe if you get there early and miss the crowds. It’s a very interesting temple, but the monkeys here stole the show. They are not afraid of people at all and they are everywhere, so you need to watch out for them. But for the most part they’re super cheeky and cute.
Lastly, you cannot leave Kuala Lumpur without checking out the Petronas Towers. You can get views of these twin buildings from various areas all around the city. But, some of the best photos can be taken from inside the KLCC Park. There’s also a pretty water fountain display here and in the evening you can watch a fountain show in front of these iconic towers.
We are currently in Vietnam, the third stop on our Southeast Asia and travelling full time adventure. This has been our most exciting stop so far because Vietnam is one of the places at the top of our travel bucket list. We spent two weeks in Hanoi and are currently experiencing the beauty that is Ha Long Bay.
Two weeks in Hanoi was a little too long, but since we’re living the full time travel lifestyle, it worked out well for us. But for anyone visiting Vietnam for vacation, 2 days in Hanoi is enough. Maybe four days, if you have a strong interest in history. It is a fascinating city and there are plenty of cool things to do, but Vietnam is all about natural beauty. The landscape; including mountains, sea, valley’s, rivers, highlands, lowlands, it’s truly exquisite.
As for Halong Bay, well we could stay here forever! You know sometimes when you hype yourself up so much about a place and then it ends up being a little bit a disappointment, Halong Bay was not one of those places. Rather, it was one of those places that exceeded even my wildest expectations. I love this place, and I may never leave! Just joking, but it really is so beautiful.
While Hanoi itself does have a lot to offer, our favourite memory from the city, was actually a day trip that we took out to Ninh Binh. Hanoi is crazy busy and noisy, and it was so great to escape into the countryside for a while.
We did the Hoa Lu Tam Coc tour, which was amazing. Ninh Binh is a beautiful mountainous area in North Vietnam, only about 100 km (two hour drive) from Hanoi. Featuring hundreds of limestone cliffs scattered across rice fields, rivers, and caves, this region is often referred to as “Halong Bay on land.” It’s a very serene and laid back area, exactly how Vietnam should be experienced.
We did the Tam Coc boat trip here – through the caves and surrounded by beautiful scenery. This was my favorite part of the trip. It was so peaceful! We also took a bike ride through the rice paddies, which was so amazing! I don’t even know when last I was on a bike so it was a little scary. But you know what they say about riding a bike. As soon as I was up and going it was as if I had been doing it forever. This was also an incredible experience, with phenomenal views.
Of course, the highlight of Vietnam is Halong Bay. We will be spending two weeks here and it’s been great to get away from the craziness of “city life.” We plan to do one of the islands cruises on the weekend – the reason everyone comes to Halong Bay. In fact, most tourists don’t seem to spend much time in Halong Bay/city itself. Usually visitors spend a night or two in the town and then embark on a one night or two night cruise and head back to Hanoi.
What’s Next For Us And Travelling Full Time
We’ve still got a week left in Halong Bay and then we’re flying off to the Philippines! I am so excited. The Philippines has been on my bucket list forever, and it’s one of the top ten places that I want to visit. I can’t believe that this dream is about to come true. So be sure to keep following my journey (I update Instagram regularly).
After the Philippines we are thinking of heading back to Thailand to check out Phuket. We’re so thankful that this travelling full time lifestyle gives us so much freedom. We’re planning as we go and are pretty much booking about a month or two in advance. Bali, Singapore, Cambodia, and Laos are all on our list of places to visit during our trip.
We need to be in the UK for a wedding in November, so as of now our plan is to travel in Southeast Asia until sometime in October. We will then head back over to Europe for a few weeks.
After the UK we plan to head back home to South Africa. We will be getting married in Cape Town in March 2020 so we have quite a lot to organize. I’m hoping that three months will give me enough time to sort things out. But who knows, many things could still change and that’s what I love so much about the full time travel lifestyle.
How I Feel After Almost 6 Months Of Travelling Full Time
I feel extremely blessed that we have this opportunity and am so happy to be exploring so much of Southeast Asia. But, I also realize that this isn’t something that we want to be doing forever. A few years ago, sitting in an office job, I thought that the life of travelling full time was “living the dream.” And while I would choose this over an office job every time, I know that there will come a time when we want to settle down.
I miss my family and my friends so much. And I never thought I would say this, but I do miss having a bit of a routine. I know there are people who travel full time for years on end, but I now can’t see us being those people. We don’t have a set plan yet and we will definitely continue travelling full time, until we feel like we have had enough. I found this great article from Never Ending Footsteps, about why she stopped travelling full time. Although she was on her journey for a lot longer, I can already completely understand and relate to most of what she talks about here.
Travelling will always be a passion of mine, and I will keep travelling as long as I can. But we would love to settle down and have a base to travel from in the near future.
As for now, we are making the most of this incredible opportunity that we have been given. Just two years ago this lifestyle was still a big dream to me. It all fell into place so much quicker than I could have anticipated.
At this point in time I am living my dream and every day I thank God for that!
Keep In Touch
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to get in touch with me. I hope that I can inspire others to follow their hearts and live their dreams.
I will write an update post towards the end of the year so keep an eye out for that. Until then, may all your wildest dreams be realized and these next few months bring all the happiness and joy that your hearts desire.
Love and Light always
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