1 YEAR IN ASIA: ups and downs + how much does it cost?

One year in Asia. 12 months. 365 days. I cannot believe I’ve been here so long. I can’t believe that exactly a year ago I boarded a plane to Sri Lanka and decided not to come back. That I finally fulfilled my greatest dream I’d been postponing for ten years.

Dream of travelling full time, leaving with a one-way ticket and living for a while somewhere in the world.

That dream required courage.

I’m slowly updating my whole year, and you can find the monthly posts here! (Not all yet, but be patient!)

No one will live your life for you

Today I know I did the best thing I could ever do for myself. It cost me a lot of sacrifices, get out of the comfort zone, tears, dilemmas, doubts and fears, but I know it was worth it.

The body and soul are itching. Waves are calling. You can’t stay in one place, and the world is waiting to be discovered. However, I just couldn’t do that earlier. Too many commitments kept me in Poland.

But I was not honest with myself. I did not live as I wanted to. I can fool everybody around you – your mum, grandma, uncle, but you can’t deceive your soul. You cannot pretend your entire life that the waves do not call when they do call.

I just couldn’t pretend that getting married and having my apartment is what I dreamed of with all my heart when every cell of my body screamed that I do not want this stable and safe life.

I closed all chapters. I packed my backpack. I left.

Fear, anxiety, doubts

Of course, I had them. This trip was terra incognita for me, although I have been travelling – shorter or longer – for about ten years. But now I was throwing myself into the deep water, with a limited budget (who leaves with only $1200 in the account without a plan to come back?).

What if something happens at this end of the world? What if I run out of money? What if…? Or if…? Fears will always be there. Anything new you will do in life – fears will be there ALWAYS.

The only way to eliminate your fear is to do what scares you. Our fate prepared for us so many unpredictable and stressful situations that we cannot avoid them. We have to face them.

Life starts where fear ends. As you know, this is my motto. Today I can add that it’s easier for brave people to live, despite all the difficulties.

year in asia
Street art in Georgetown, Malaysia

Ups and downs, or lemons and Martini

It does not mean that this year in Asia was easy for me, despite all my courage.

It was… amazing. Full of new lessons and experiences. New. It has put me to the tests, nerves and tears, and later gratified. First poured a bucket of lemon juice on me and then served me a <artini bath. 😉

But I do not regret anything. I know I did the best thing I could ever do for myself. Every experience, even the most bitter one, was an incredible lesson for me. Doesn’t matter how many times you fall, but how many times you get up.

When life gives you lemons

One of the hardest moments I can count is the missing my home. My family, especially in difficult times when I felt I should be there and was stuck here. I miss my family home with the garden, my room in the attic, full of shelves with books and souvenirs from the world… My bathtub. Omg, my bathtub. M Y B A T H T U B.

I miss Poland. In January I longed for sitting under a blanket by the fireplace with a glass of warm beer (yes, we do that in Poland!), and in June for dawns by the Vistula River in Warsaw. It still hurts when I write this. I miss gingerbreads from Torun and grilled traditional cheese called oscypek with cranberries in the Tatra Mountains. I long for Polish food, for the Polish landscape. For the Polish countryside and summer.

For long conversations with friends.

What can I do about it? Nothing, except that I Skype with my parents, sister and friends whenever we can. And when someone arrives in Asia, I ask to bring me something. And that I also plan to return to Poland for summer when I have enough money for the ticket and few months there. (Because I’m not planning for a while to go back for good.)

year in asia
waterfalls in Laos!

What is more, my health also gave me a hard time. I had twice very painful and disgusting wound infection in my leg, as well as staphylococcal skin infection, and spent several weeks on antibiotics. Let’s not forget about a gazillion of colds, because I could not get used to the air-con for months. I rarely have a running nose in Poland, and here my body sometimes is overwhelmed. But thanks to this I learned a lot about it and its limits. I do not downplay any, even small, strange symptoms.

In October I lost my wallet with all payment cards, personal ID, driving license, my SIM card (I need it to transfer money from my accounts)… In January and February, I fell into minor financial troubles. What did it give me? Well, I could now provide you with workshops about emergency situations. What if you lose your travel documents? How to get out of the financial pit and continue your beloved travelling at the same time? I could do a master’s degree in that topics. 😉

And I have to say it aloud – I failed as a digital nomad. I didn’t work on my blogs enough, although before I left, I had grand plans. I did not organise any female trip this year either. Why did this happen? That’s because I was moving TOO MUCH and TOO FAST.

 

Now I know that to succeed in this field you can’t just travel. You need to find a golden mean. For instance, when you’re on the road for a week, you have to work hard the next week. That is why it is best for me to travel alone – because nobody complains that I work on my blog instead of going out at night after a long day of sightseeing. Or I do not get drunk because I do not want to have a hangover in the morning because I have another text to write from cooperation. Alternatively, I still like to travel with other travel bloggers / digital nomads. Because we understand each other, motivate and learn from each other. To succeed, you need to surround yourself with the right people.

All these were lemons. Fortunately, I’m not stupid, and I learn from them. This trip gave me valuable lessons, although I admit that my ass still hurts after each fall.

When life gives you Martini with Sprite 😉

Fortunately, there were more positive situations this year than the negative ones. At least I learned to appreciate these bigger and smaller joys and successes. 🙂

I visited seven countries, including six new ones: Sri Lanka (I was there before as you know), the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, Nepal, Vietnam. I do not count Cambodia because I was only doing my Vietnam visa there and saw practically nothing.

year in asia
Tea estates in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

I experienced a lot of amazing adventures. I was surfing; I was rafting. I took a bath under the picturesque waterfalls in Laos. In Malaysia, I was amazed by the fantastic food and looked for graffiti in Georgetown. In the Philippines, I snorkelled in the turquoise waters of Palawan and climbed the volcano, as well as saw the life in slum dumps and the creepy street parade for Halloween. I watched the sunrise in the Himalayas and wandered around the old part of Kathmandu in the morning. I was an extra on a movie set in Saigon!

Finally – I settled down for a couple of months. I have a base here to see more of Asia! (I’ll write more about this in a moment.)

I have fulfilled my dream of travelling and living abroad. I got to know my character better. I began to appreciate my strengths and accept the weaknesses. I started to listen to myself and do what I need instead of satisfying others against myself. I quit smoking🙂 (that’s an achievement in a country where you pay a dollar for cigarettes!).

I wrote a guidebook and improved as a travel advisor about Sri Lanka.

I turned to reading books regularly, which made me realise how much I missed it. You know, I used to be such a bookworm that I could read until 3 am. I read everything and everywhere, but after high school, I simply ran out of time and energy. When I left, I took a Kindle my parents gave me. During the year I read such huge classics as Anna Karenina, The Karamazov Brothers and Les Misérables, as well as some shorter novels: Dracula, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility or Wuthering Heights (this one the third time already). For the first time in my life, I read with tears in my eyes The Little Prince.

I learned not to plan my journeys, but to go with the flow. At the same time, I haven’t forgotten my goal of making money from travelling. Slowly but consequently I’m working on it.

And finally – I met many amazing people. We admired the sunrise and sunsets together. We drank, danced, had fun. We talked for hours about serious and trivial matters. We cried with emotion and grief. We watched movies together, swam in the ocean, had bonfires on the beach. We stole each other food from the plate. We went to the cinema and karaoke. We drank cheap wine. We walked barefoot. We slept in the hammocks under the palms at noon.

In fact, a place is just a place. It’s the people that make it unique. The people who become your family for a moment, a few days, weeks or months. The people that make you grow. The people you’re going to break up with, but you know you’ll meet again somewhere in the world. For sure.

My year in Asia was good. One of the most beautiful periods of my life!

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Plans for next year of my travels…?

I have some in my head, but – as I mentioned – I do not want to plan anything for sure. I will stay in Vietnam. I will explore some of this amazing country. Besides, I’m going to see a little bit of Asia – I’m going back to Manila in October, and I want to visit Hong Kong, Taiwan, Brunei…

I give myself time to rebuild my budget and improve as a digital nomad. Besides, I’m waiting for my Sister, who will visit me in November. 😀

I’m going to read more (there are a few travel reportages and some classics in the queue) and work on the regularity of my writing – in the end, that’s what I want to do for a living. I want to expand my blogs, especially the English one.

 

Oh, and let’s not forget! Exactly in half a year and a week, I start the next decade of my life 😀 I will celebrate my 30th birthday somewhere in Asia, so I want to work on myself and my goals more. So I can congratulate myself on how well I end being a twenty-something-year-old, and I’m starting my thirties. 🙂 And since I told you so, I cannot give up. 😉

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When I make my annual summary, I always say that the passing year was good. Each year is better than the previous one. Why is this happening? That’s because I want to learn and grow. Improve and enjoy life.

I spent a year in Asia. I fulfilled my dreams, and I stopped postponing them for later.

That is my recipe for success. I’m happy. 🙂

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One year in Asia: how much does it cost?

Money often is taboo. Everyone wants/needs to have them, but not everyone wants to talk about them. I decided to publish how much my year in Asia cost me and where I got the money from.

year in asia
A beach in Muine, Vietnam

First, however, I will tell you my two secrets:
1. I left Poland with only 1200 USD;
2. my key to success is SLOW TRAVEL and work with passion.

How do I travel? I use local transport. Usually, I eat in the cheapest eateries or street food. Since I live in Saigon and I cook for myself, although it is a bit more expensive than street food. (My pants do not complain though because I lost 7kg when I stopped eating rice or noodles for breakfast.) Sometimes I will go out to a party, to the cinema or just somewhere with friends. But I don’t spend my money like crazy.

But the most important (and probably the higher cost) is accommodation. Why did I visit only eight countries during the year? Due to my plans to travel and work at the same time. Besides, I often just overstay somewhere, because I like the place, even if there is not much to do. 😀

You know, it’s not like you travel for a week and later try to catch up with your work during one day. It’s more like that: you travel for a week – you work for a week. After four days of sightseeing, you spend four days in front of the computer. And when you travel for a month or longer… well, you have to work every 2-3 days, because putting off work for a month brings more harm than good.

Working on the beach ;)

For three months (in Colombo, Manila and Kuala Lumpur) I used Workaway. It means I worked in hostels in exchange for accommodation. Such work usually takes about 5h a day, five times a week. Thanks to that I had the time to work on a computer, know the city where I was staying better and go for short weekend trips.

Where do I get money from? From my passion. I belong to those people who took the risk and decided to live from travelling, although it is damn hard.

The first year, however, despite all the mistakes I made, looks pretty good. My account is positive, although for a few months the balance of my account was a red colour. It’s because of the bad actions I took in December – February. I had enough until mid-March. Then I decided to settle in Vietnam for a long time. I give myself time to earn extra money, work on a blog, and slowly explore Asia.

So what do I do that my passion gives me money? I write travel guides, travel articles, sometimes in two languages. I am a travel advisor. I organise tours for female travellers. I run two travel blogs – in Polish and English. Also, I am teaching English now, although I can’t say that I love it. But I love buying flight tickets using the money I earned from teaching English. 😉

But answering the question: How much did my year in Asia cost me? I say: On average, I spent about 580 USD per month. I would like to remind you that I left with 1200 USD only.

Here I will just mention that while working in hostels I spent on average 490 USD per month. I know that it will give you and 250 USD, it depends on what you do, where you go, what you visit, etc.

On the other hand, when I actively travelled, I even spent 830 USD per month. And that was a mistake – it was necessary to live a little more economically. It is possible!

But when I was leaving I had 1200 USD, and on average I spent 580 USD. The next question is: how much I earned since I planned to work from the road travel to work? I answer: on average I made 650 USD per month.

Yes, I made more money than I spent. Where did my financial problems and red balance come from then?

Well, I admit that most of the money I earned already in Saigon… (And it’s not only from teaching English.) It’s also a good lesson of life on the move. Instead of thinking: Ah, I’ve been working so much in the last two months, now I’m going to treat myself!, it is better to think: I have extra money now but in two months I may have none. I should save it for later. That was my mistake. I spoiled myself too much.

About money, I could talk for hours. How to prepare financially for your journey? What did I spend money on before I left? How much money should you have if you don’t plan to work or even use Workaway? How to manage your budget while travelling and why it is so important?

Maybe someday I’ll write about it. When I have enough questions for this topic. 😉

Meanwhile, I’m going to work to make money for my trip to Manila in October! The second year at the end of the world has just started! 😀

year in asia
The Himalayas, pic by Scott Herder

2 comments

  1. Amazing! Thank you so much for sharing this Hanna 🙂 Your trip and lifestyle is so me and inspires me to sought after it as well. I’ve travelled to 30+ countries and find myself returning back to Sydney with fresh motivation to have a life on the moving. But slowly and surely I get sucked back into the rat-race and now I’m on the hunt for another 9-5 job. I know I have enough money saved to go off for a year as it’s been my goal to try Workaway and WOOFng and just earning enough to get by. Because that’s where I”m happy. I now have depression and fighting what I really want deep down. I don’t know when it is I’ll take the leap, what it is I’m trying to escape from, and why I just won’t go now? I honestly say that I haven’t felt happy since i returned from Bali in May. I usually don’t live life with regrets and just go with the flow, but I felt lonely in Bali and didn’t have motivation of where to go next. So I came home.

    Your blog speaks to me so much, I wish I could meet you in person!

    • Thank you so much, Julia, for your comment. Sometimes it is difficult to find exactly what we are looking for but I believe that with time and some trials you will get there. Try different things, meet people, search for places but don’t give up! It’s not an overnight success, it took me 10 years to understand what I want and where I want it. I really believe you will find your path too!
      Hopefully we will meet in person one day! 🙂

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