After so many questions, I am going to describe how a trip evolves for me. This process has been refining itself since my first trip out of the US in 1988. At that time, I had no idea what to expect and no experience to rely upon. In hindsight, I don’t even remember what propelled me to make that jump? I feel it was something simple like, “I’ve never really traveled outside the US and it’s time to do so”. So, I picked Cancun for my starting point (not a great idea), put stuff together in my backpack, and flew off. I understood about three phrases in Spanish, didn’t have any itinerary, was traveling on a tight budget, and was immediately swamped by Cancun! Swamped and shocked actually!
At the airport, I was completely paranoid about getting ripped of by the shuttle driver. I had no reservation and most of the other passengers were staying out on the hotel strip. The first monstrosity I witnessed was a 30 foot tall black Santa Clause statue outside a Denny’s….NOT the Mexico I wanted to visit.
Suddenly, I was the last person on the van and the driver was boldly trying to help me in spite of our language difference. Since I couldn’t pronounce “hostel” in Spanish (el albergue juvenil), the driver stopped at what he thought was an inexpensive hotel. It was way beyond my price range. Hand signs and crude numbers exchanged, he drove me into Cancun proper, stopped in front of a hotel and went inside to see if they had a room in my price range. They did, I was grateful, I took my pack and went up to my room.
I came down 20 minutes later to find a bank and bus station (I wanted to leave immediately). The driver was waiting in his van to make absolutely sure I was OK. Hmmm, the concern about being ripped off turned to deep appreciation for this helper Angel who showed up.
That is how I travel, who and what shows up for me and what I know I can count on. With that background, I’ll proceed.
Now, over 20 years later, here’s a bit of an overview of how I travel.
First, I literally feel pounced upon by an idea. I’ll carry it around for a few days to see if anything develops. In this case, I asked the question in July, “where would I go if I was taking a Grand Adventure?” Immediately, the name Borneo popped in. I got on the internet to see for certain where it was? I’d heard it referred to as the adventure capital of SE Asia when I was in Bali several years ago.
Next, I picked up a couple books on traveling in SE Asia. I knew I would have to fly international to Singapore but then what? And the SE Asia tour guides give sample itineraries, a great way to get familiar with a country and travel options.
Reading is educating, education about culture, food, resources, beaches, lodging, unique features and developing a sense of what it takes to get around. I soaked up my education of Borneo, realized how close it was to Bali where I wanted to return to visit the healers I had met, and expanded my horizons. Again, I listen inside to what feels right and engage in full fledged “possibility thinking”.
Evolve, tumble, churn and poof; clarity emerges. Once familiar with Borneo, I expanded my search to include opportunities in mainland Malaysia, the neighboring Indonesian state of Sumatra (my favorite coffee), Borneo’s neighbor to the East Sulawesi (great diving and snorkeling), islands to the South (home of the Komodo Dragon) and where they all fit in relation to Bali.
Suddenly, a overview plan emerged. I don’t force it choosing to go inside and listen. I’ve had thoughts of going to Copper Canyon, Indio Maiz and Rio San Juan in Nicaragua, traveling down the East coast of Costa Rica to Panama, wandering about Panama, visiting the sister city to Machu Picchu in Peru (Choquequirao), exploring Iguazu Falls….and more. Nothing gelled, no “poofing” occured yet I learned a lot about those places in doing my research.
Now, I’m eight days from departing for a three and a half month exploration of Borneo, Mainland Malaysia and parts of Indonesia. At this point, I don’t have reservations for hostel or hotel, have not booked any tours, don’t have plans per see once I get on the ground. What I do have is a sense of my priorities: experiences I want to have, places I’d like to visit, foods to experiences, conversations and connection with fellow travelers, and a general sense of how I want to travel. Once I hit the ground, rest up from the 40 hours of travel getting there, and explore Kuala Lumpur, everything will fall into place and I’ll be off wherever the next step leads me.
I’ll see places I haven’t heard of or planned to see, walk in forest and on beaches I don’t know about yet, travel and hang out with new friends from all over the world, sample cuisine that’s a blend of Indian, Malay, Chinese, Indonesian, Thai, and other local cultures unique to each locale, and keep a smile on my face through it all. My intent, listen and savor. The details will all take care of themselves.