First Two Weeks of Nomading: A Retrospective
I’ve been two weeks here in Malaysia. That’s also two weeks since I left my home country, Indonesia.
At January 20th, when I was sitting in the airport in Yogyakarta to start my journey, a lot of feeling hit me. It’s hard to describe. It’s like a mix of excitement, fear, and sadness. I was so excited because this was what I really want and I was going to realize it. I was afraid because facing the uncertainty is scary, even more so with this much uncertainty. I was sad because I knew to realize this I’ve got to leave something or someone. Nevertheless, the excitement overpowered all the other feelings. And when I was in Kuala Lumpur, the only thing I felt was excitement.
Personal problem aside, my first few days was great. I met a lot of people in my hostel dorm. We talked a lot about things. From a Spaniard, French projectionist, Jordanian startup founder, German traveler, Dutchman, I got a lot new perspectives about the world and its people, cultures, and problems. I can imagine if I don’t travel alone, I would sleep in a private room, and I won’t talk to stranger much, and ultimately I would miss a lot of those conversation, fun, and new perspective.
Having been solo traveling all the time, one thing that I’ve learned is that meeting and talking to people is really great experience. I used to be really shy before I start traveling. But now, talking to people, looking for a beer buddy, or looking for people to do some activities seem easier. It just feels natural. I think if solo travel taught me one thing, it’s that meeting new people is not scary, in fact it’s awesome. I’m still introverted and I need some time alone, but definitely I’ve grown up as a social creature.
I’ve been in two cities so far: Kuala Lumpur and George Town. Kuala Lumpur is a big city, and it’s expensive. On average, I spent about RM 8-10 per meal there. Also, the metro there is really expensive and could add up quickly if I’m not careful. One thing that I really love from Kuala Lumpur is the park. A lot of big and immaculate parks there. I really like spending time alone to write or read in the park in the afternoon, or running in the morning.
George Town. What can I say. The food is amazing and cheap. On average, it’s around 1/2 to 3/4 the price of Kuala Lumpur. Transporation is also cheap here, as George Town is rather small city. By far, walking is my preferred way to go somewhere in George Town. And if it’s outside the city I could just hop on RapidPenang bus, which is super cheap compared to Kuala Lumpur’s train. The vibe here suits my taste: old, full of history, and not as hectic as Kuala Lumpur. So far, my favorite reading and writing spot here is at the George Town’s esplanade. Although I would only go there in the late afternoon, as the sun here is unforgiving. The temperature at 5 PM can reach as high as 35C.
Now let’s talk about the other essence of being digital nomad: work. I work as a freelance software developer now. Before I start traveling, I’ve got an agreement with my previous employer to be a contract worker.
Working in the road is not really hard per se. Granted, I’m still learning this trade, but so far it’s been smooth for my standard. I don’t have any traditional benefits from working in an office or being an employee, but look at the other side, working like this is already a benefit. And for me it is the ultimate benefit I could get. I won’t generalize, and I know that won’t work for every person, so I could only tell my experience with this.
These past two weeks, I’ve been working mostly in a hostel. The hostel I slept in Kuala Lumpur has a perfect communal area for me to work. Unlike another hostel, not many people were in the communal area, and most of the time I was the only one who was there. Maybe it’s boring for people in vacation, but for me it’s perfect. And working there means that I could save a lot of coffee shop money.
This week, I work in George Town, Penang. The internet here is not as good as in Kuala Lumpur. I’m still trying to find a good coffee shop to work in. Yesterday, I tried Starbucks in 1st Avenue Mall, and it’s horrible. The internet was really slow, and it’s limited for just two hours. Needless to say, I won’t come back.
As for working time, I tried to be very discipline with it. I work a couple of hours in the morning, then couple of hours in the afternoon. Because I work in a team, I tried to be as synchronous as possible with the team, and so far it’s working well.
However, I tried to be as flexible as I can. If something exciting arises, like someone invites me to explore the city together, I don’t mind to delay the work. I see that as a borrowed time. And of course I will pay it back, be it in the night, or even at the weekends if it’s necessary. I’m not afraid to say no to someone’s invitation if I realize that I still have a lot of responsibilities. The big picture here is that I want to preserve the balance.
I’m still learning from this new experience, so when I’ve gathered more and more experience of living on the road, things will converge, and I would more or less mastering this kind of life, be it about working habit, traveling habit, or many other things. I won’t put a lot of mind on that, I’ll just let the life guide me. I will just follow to where the excitement is.