May 2016


It was a long travel day waking up at 3 am in Melbourne to catch my connecting flight in Sydney at 9:50 am to Auckland. I was pretty nervous I was going to miss my flight to Auckland because I was cutting it so close with a different airline. Jetstar is infamous for being late, but I took a chance because I knew it was the first flight of the day and I really had no choice since I was dealing with computer stuff over the last few days.

The timing ended up working out perfectly and I arrive into Auckland in the early afternoon. The airport is much smaller than I remember for being a big city in New Zealand. I didn’t see an area I could buy a SIM card, but in a way, I didn’t want to either knowing I’d only be around for 24 hours.

I had the option of taking the Skybus to the city and then catching a bus from there to my Airbnb but I was feeling lazy having my heavy dive bag. I couldn’t reach my host because the wifi was weak at SYD airport. So I had to wing it and hope he was home. I kept asking the taxi how soon before we’d get there. The cab was WAY more than I thought at about $100 NZD, about $70 USD. Ouch!

I don’t know that I’d normally choose a Chinese man as my Airbnb host but he said he was gay-friendly so I thought he might be pretty outgoing. I arrive at an apartment in a very residential neighborhood and it’s not as centrally located as I thought. I tried ringing the intercom but no answer. The taxi driver allowed me to use his phone and my host just got to the gym but said he’d turn back around. He arrived after 10 minutes and let me up to his apartment. It was on the second floor, and he helped carry my dive bag upstairs.

His place is clean, but I wasn’t as excited as I was about my stay in Melbourne. He shows me my way around and said he’ll be back in a couple hours. I get settled and noticed he had a bathtub. He didn’t mention where the hot tub was so I opted in for second best. I don’t remember the last time I had a hot bath outside of the massage I had recently at my Bali hotel, but it was really hard to relax at the Bali spa because I wasn’t sure how long was appropriate to stay after a massage.

I forgot to buy shampoo because I was trying to reduce weight in my bag and so I figured he wouldn’t mind if I used his. The water was piping hot and I just laid there soaking. I exhale long and hard. This feels amazing. I wish I had a bubble bath, but it’s good enough. I lied there thinking about my last few months on Flores Island and how exhausted my body really was from all of that hard laborious work. Being a divemaster is almost slave work, or maybe it was the company I was working for being overly demanding. Who cares. It’s over and now I’m in beautiful Auckland for a day, but I’m almost too tired to explore.

I let the water run out of the tub and then turn the shower on washing the rest of my body a second time. I turn the water off and see a squeegee off to the side and decide to be nice and squeegee the ½ glass door that covered the shower area.

The lights are still off in the apartment so I decide to venture out. I hate venturing without GPS. I guess I don’t hate venturing. I hate getting lost and like being efficient with my time.

There weren’t many close walking options to restaurants but Yang said there was a Japanese restaurant across the stop light. I decide to go there since it’s dark, wet outside, and I’m feeling lazy. I read a few reviews on Google about their service and food. It didn’t seem too impressive and rated 3 ½ stars out of 5 but I decided I’d go with it anyway.

I arrive and ask if I could take a seat at the sushi bar. She said they were full with reservations but had a place for me outside if I wanted. I accepted and she said she’d even put the heat lamp on. I started with a ½ dozen raw oysters and an assortment of sushi. Both were okay but not anything worth mentioning. I also requested a large hot sake. I didn’t feel like getting fancy tonight. Usually, I’d pair it with an Asahi but it was $8 and didn’t seem worth it when I could get a 6 pack for that in the States. I am still hungry and order some of the pork belly. It was okay. Then I ordered a plate of rice and minced chicken to go. I ask for one more saki while I wait for my to-go order. The food eventually comes out and I ask for the check. I ask a second and third time – eventually saying that if I didn’t get the check in two minutes I was going to walk out. That was after 30+ minutes of waiting of course. I understand all the reviews about the service. Needless to say, I finally got my check. This was the first time I acted in a very Western manner. If I were in SEA, I probably wouldn’t have said that. Funny how we acclimate to what we’re accustomed to.

After dinner, I walk back home and into my room. I hear the TV on in the living room and try being social with Yang. I ask him if there’s a place I can pick up wine around the area. He suggested a local convenient store next to the Japanese restaurant and then a supermarket about 10 minutes walk away. I decide to make the run and stop by the first store but they didn’t sell alcohol so I walked to the market about 10 minutes away. I was a little buzzed from the sake so it was a fun dancing sort of stroll. I get there and decide I was going to drink Porter Ale instead of wine. I pick up a bag of nuts for a late night snack as well.

I get back to the apartment and Yang is still there. I sit at the dinner table and try sparking up a conversation asking him if he’s from Auckland. He then tells his story how he’s from a small tribe in China. Fascinating. He has a Kiwi accent. He then shared his story about how he always loved learning English from middle school and kept practicing and getting great at speaking it. From that opened up opportunities for him to Bangkok and then his friends eventually brought him to Auckland where he’s been for the last long leg of his life. He gets a call in the middle of our conversation. He’s speaking lower as if he didn’t want his conversation to be heard and then excused himself into his room where he stayed the rest of the night. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say it was his boyfriend. I continued to listen to his Chill sessions music playing from his super large 70” flat screen. Then I decided to go back to my room and put on a movie via Amazon Prime (rental) and called it a night.

The next morning I wake up around 8:30 am and pack my things. I make myself a coffee and see Yang. I tell him I’ll be out between 11-11: 30 am. I guess he has someone coming in at 2 pm. I finish up earlier and call an Uber just before 11 am and decide to leave early. He helps me carry my bag and that was that. A very polite and also a private guy.

I never bothered to plan out my travels from the beginning. Maybe I was still feeling a little burnt from my last job where planning for others was a huge role I played. So by the time I hit the road, I just decided to wing it. I didn’t put together a budget. I didn’t set a time for how long I was going to be gone. Instead, I said I would just go with the flow according to my comfort level and see how long it lasts me. It’s more fun that way, right?

I can hear all the Type A personalities disagreeing with me right now.

I didn’t set any goals or budget because I wanted to see what level of comfort I couldn’t live without. What I learned is that I’m not in my twenties anymore and some luxuries are now very important to me – like having a nice meal and a bottle of wine – or finding a comfortable short-term apartment during parts of my travels to offset some of the sometimes annoying shared living. I learned that I had gotten too comfortable to some of the modern luxuries that as much as I tried to be a responsible budget traveler, I just wasn’t being real with myself. I had a nice job with a nice apartment in the city and that is something I have become accustomed to. Maybe because I know how great some things are means I don’t want to continue missing out on those things just because I want to prove I know how to be a budget traveler. Sure, I can rough it from time to time but the reality is that I don’t always want to! It’s not a rat race to see who can go the longest but instead, a personal journey of oneself and I don’t feel guilty that this is the traveling style I choose.

What I learned about myself is that I like getting mani’s and pedi’s abroad. I want to get my hair done. I want to buy a new dress to feel pretty. I like my down comforters when I travel. I want to buy that better than the average bottle of wine and complement it with cheese and charcuterie. I do like roughing it when it’s for the sake of adventure, but that’s about it!

Malaysia is proud of its diversity. Not only is its culture and heritage a rich combination of Malay, Chinese, Indian and European influences, but its biodiversity is also something that lures visitors from all over the world. Beaches, forests, lakes, and mountain trails all abound in this beautiful nation.

It is no wonder that adventure travelers have a myriad of choices in Malaysia. They will never run out of exciting things to do. Here are the top three places that adventurers will surely love when travelling to this Asian destination:


This magnificent park in Sarawak is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visitors can go on jungle hikes, trek into caves, ride a raft in the river, and do home stays with native tribes.

It is home to the largest network of caves in the world. Deer Cave is the largest cave passage that has been discovered in the world thus far. It is home to free-tailed naked bats. Clearwater Cave is the longest underground river system in South East Asia. The marvelous Sarawak Chamber is the largest underground cave in the world.

Mulu is also home to stunning karst formations called ‘The Pinnacles,’ a formation of limestone rocks that jut out like razors. Hike on a 2.4 kilometer trail that’s 1,200 meters steep to enjoy wonderful views.


Climbing GunungKinabalu (Mt. Kinabalu) is challenging enough with its elevation of 4,096 meters. The world’s highest Via Ferrata (iron road) is also located on this mountain in Sabah. The highest point on the route starts at 3,400 meters and takes the climber to a height of 3,800 meters. Traversing the Via Ferrata is not for those with a fear of heights. Climbers will be walking on vertical surfaces and crossing valleys on cable lines. This death-defying route has steel cables that can hold up to 3,000 kilograms of weight.


Located in Pahang, Malaysia, this park is home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world. Visitors are truly amazed as they trek or take a boat ride through the dense forest that contains amazing flora and fauna. Being about 130 million years old, the diverse and complex ecosystem never fails to amaze visitors.

These are only the top three adventure places in the diverse and beautiful Malaysia. There are many more places to discover, which makes this tropical country a great place to visit.

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