Nowhere With You

Our Last Full Day: What I Learned From One Year of Travelling

Monday December 21, 2015 (Indonesia, New Zealand, Planning, Preparation, Video)

​Looks like we made it! It’s December 20th here in beautiful Canggu, Bali. Pronounced “chang-goo”. Although we haven’t exactly had the gorgeous cloudless weather we had hoped for (it’s been pretty thunderstormy!) we’ve still managed to get a few surfing sessions in. Not that either of us have really successfully surfed a wave, mind you. But we did paddle around a lot and make several reasonable attempts. I had my fair share of underwater screams of frustration. Surfing is not easy.

I got ambitious and decided to update the Journey map to show us returning all the way to Toronto. We don’t technically fly until very early tomorrow morning (3am… ugh!), but it felt like a good time to do it. Bali to Seoul to Beijing to Chicago to Toronto. Straightforward, huh? Oh, and I’ve just updated my budget spreadsheet. Is it really worth it at this point in the trip? Questionable. I’m nothing if not a dedicated completionist. That’s not really a word, but I use it a lot. At this point on Sunday morning, our last full day of travel, we currently sit precisely 41.88 CAD under budget. Success. We’ve got one lunch and one dinner ahead of us and we’ve been generally keeping each of those under 20 CAD. I think it’s safe to declare mission accomplished on the trip budget. The spreadsheet works! Three cheers for math!

We’ve been spending our time here in Bali doing what we do best: relaxing. We have a monstrous, air-conditioned room with a pool outside our window. It’s about a ten minute walk to the beach. We met some friends (Mark and Rasa) who we've been dining with frequently. Life is good. We’ve been sleeping in to try to heal our bodies of the reasonable amount of damage caused by excessively eager surfing attempts. Sandra cut her foot on a rock underwater. My shoulders are aching from my feeble excuses for paddling into moderate surf. We've both got bruises from laying on top of the boards. We deserve a break, right? Right?!

I’ve been taking almost no pictures. Please excuse me – I feel like I've got enough! I do promise to update the blog at some unspecified later date with our remaining video footage. There's a lot! One of our biggest problems is that my laptop hard drive has run out of space. We can’t load the GoPro footage onto it to do the editing. Once we’re home we should be able to fix that problem. But for now we’ve gone almost entirely dark on the media front. Sandra has grabbed a couple of shots with her phone camera but mostly we’ve just been doing… nothing. It feels great. Getting geared up to head back to Canada, to see our families and to celebrate the holidays with them. It’s exciting!

I spent some time thinking about how I might try to convince people that I’ve developed work-related skills throughout this trip. I am currently unemployed, after all! And I do recognize the trepidation with which one might approach a potential employee who decided it was a great idea to quit his job and travel around the world for a year. People are going to ask me: what did you learn? Here’s what I’ve come up with.

Workplace soft skills gleaned from a year of travelling (in no particular order):

  • Organization: Our trip has often required us to perform divine feats of scheduling. What times are flights available? What time is checkout? Where can we put our bags after we checkout? How are we getting to the airport? How do we transfer to our accommodation on the other end? Should we get a SIM card in that country? Do we require visas? What documents do we need to apply for the visa? You get the point. It’s exhausting. The list of questions and potential pitfalls is seemingly endless. We’ve become masters of the calendar. We’ve yet to miss a flight. I hope I didn’t just curse us there... The point is, Sandra and I have both acted like world-class project managers over the course of the trip. Dependencies galore, dealing with uncertainty, and critical path. Workplace skills, right?
  • Conflict Resolution: Have you ever spent every day of the year with a single person? Maybe. Were you given some time apart due to things like work and social obligations? Probably. Although I believe we’re coming out of this trip an even stronger couple than we went into it, it goes without saying that we’ve had our fair share of conflict. I’d say we’re a bit better at sorting out our issues promptly and figuring out a way to move forward. Because having to sit for most of a day on a bus with no toilet is a lot more pleasant with somebody whose company you’re enjoying than it is if you’re not on presently on speaking terms.
  • Tolerance: Sometimes things haven’t worked out the way we planned. We hiked for hours in an endless downpour next to stunning waterways -- stunning, that is, when the sun’s lovely rays shine down on them. Sometimes an “I pooped the bed” version of Ian has to sit on a rock-hard bench in a sweltering train car in India for five hours while a local family commandeers the floor space with their restless, sleeping bodies. The same goes in the workplace. Kind of. Things don’t always work out the way you’d like. It’s just the nature of the beast. But now we’re a bit quicker to close our eyes, swallow, take a deep breath, and hopefully crack a smile. I sincerely hope we’re able to maintain some of the patience and tolerance we’ve picked up along the way.
  • Teamwork: Pop quiz, hotshot. You’ve just arrived at the only grocery store in this small town and it's closing in eight minutes. It’s 7:52pm, you haven’t had dinner, and you’re going on a seven hour hike early the next morning. You need dinner for tonight, a breakfast for tomorrow, and enough food and snacks to get you through the hike. Go. To thrive in situations like this you really need to play to the strengths of your teammates. In the grocery store, I’m good at finding deals on booze. Sandra’s good at the rest. So I am the designated “carry the basket” guy, and Sandra runs around madly throwing food items at me to carry to the till. I’m also the “stand at the front and pay while Sandra grabs some granola bars” guy. We’ve explored our strengths and weaknesses and make the best use of them that we can. TEAM. BUILDING. EXERCIIISE!
  • Straight Up Programming: I’ve had some downtime during the trip. And some of it was actually used to improve my technical skills! When I got frustrated trying to find a set of songs that would perfectly match the length of our GoPro video compilations, I wrote a program to search my iTunes library and suggest combinations that matched the video’s running time. I wrote another program to help me construct a Christmas gift. Perhaps you’ll see more about that later on. The point is, I haven’t let all of my coding skills atrophy. Perhaps I can hold up these small projects as beacons of genius and inventiveness in a job interview situation. Wish me luck.
  • Goal Setting: This entire trip has been an extended exercise in goal setting. Where would we like to visit? What do we want to see? How can we enjoy our time as much as possible? We decided we wanted to spend a year travelling together and we made it happen. Is that a great example of making a plan and executing it or what?!

So there! Anybody think I can successfully pass of this one year trip as an epic, self-guided work training retreat? Fingers crossed.

I think that’s a wrap for now. We’ll have one more lunch here (there are some great restaurants!), and then we’re going to be packing up our bags for the last time. Thanks to Christmas we’ll be coming home with a bit more stuff than what we started with! I don’t think I’ll miss living out of a backpack too much at this point. A thousand apologies in advance for the relative dearth of presents you may be receiving from us this year. It’s not from lack of love, but from solely from a lack of back strength. We owe all the lovely people in our lives a big hug for their patience, understanding and support throughout our trip. You'll be getting one next time we see you.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

Tag: Indonesia


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