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Travel

With three nationalities just in my immediate family, I was born with traveling in my genes. Now, as an adult, I still value the travel lifestyle. Besides just having an innate curiosity about the diversity of beauty on this planet, I also believe traveling connects me with humanity and pushes me to further levels of self-development.

10 Reasons You Should Housesit

Tyler and I have enjoyed our year of traveling all over the world, and we’ve gotten lots of questions about how to do it. Housesitting has been perhaps the biggest way we’ve made this dream happen, so here are 10 reasons we think you should housesit too!

1. Free Accommodation

The rest of my list may not really be in order of importance, but I feel like this one deserves to be at the top. If you’re looking into long-term travel, housesitting is perfect precisely because it offers you a way out of a gigantic accommodation budget. You can see the proof yourself in our breakdown of expenses from our first five months of travel in Europe. Not all housesitting gigs are equal– some longterm jobs ask for you to cover utilities– but all the ones we took were free of cost on our end. Of course, it was also free of cost on the homeowner’s end, so we weren’t paid either. Fair exchange in our opinion though!

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Thean Hou Temple in Kuala Lumpur

Chinese New Year in Kuala Lumpur was magical. We made it up to Thean Hou Temple after our quick stop into a random temple a few days earlier, and this time we were truly transported into another world. We had received recommendations to go see a few Chinese temples during the holiday, because they would be extra festively decorated. I suppose I can’t compare it to a Chinese New Year actually in China, but I thought it was pretty fantastic as is.

We arrived late in the evening, getting out of our Uber just as the heavens let loose with a massive downpour. #justourluck But it ended up clearing rather quickly, and although we didn’t quite get a sunset on that cloudy evening, we did enjoy the lanterns twinkling at dusk. We stayed until darkness fell completely, before heading home again.

But back to the arrival: it was wet and involved a little shrieking and scurrying, but we got a good look at the front as we scaled the three flights to the top deck. We caught a glimpse of the garden, pictured below, where all the Chinese Zodiac animals were displayed as giant statues. And then we got to the top, where we were shocked to see the KL skyline all around us. The temple had seemed so hidden, on a hill and inside it’s jungled barrier, but once we climbed above the trees we had a far-reaching view. Naturally, the cameras then came out.

 

Thean Hou Temple 2016 - 1 of 12 (3)Thean Hou Temple 2016 - 1 of 12

 

Thean Hou Temple was built with structural influences from Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. Fun fact: it was completed during my birth year, 1989! It is dedicated to Goddess Tian Hou, but other goddesses are also represented.

Another fun fact: we didn’t actually know any of that when we went. I just googled it all (;

We went partly for the intricate architecture and definitely for all the lanterns.

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Exploring Petaling Street in Kuala Lumpur

Most of the time we lived in Kuala Lumpur, we were just normal people. We went to the grocery store, to the park, to all the malls. We threw conformity to the wind and walked almost everywhere, but besides getting some strange stares from Malaysians in their cars, we all ended up at the same places. The local coffeeshops, the Chinese place, the Indian place.

A few times though, we tried really hard to be tourists and check off the must-see attractions in KL. We arrived at the perfect time for lots of festive fun, because mid-January was the kick off of many Chinese New Year celebrations. We enjoyed a full month of brilliant reds and dancing dragons. During this time, we decided to make our way downtown to check out Petaling Street, a famous street in Chinatown.

It is your standard shopping district, with plenty of knock-offs and cheap finds. But it is fun to wander and explore. There are several interesting buildings in the area as well, including a beautiful Chinese temple. When we arrived downtown that morning, we were surprised to see that Petaling Street was rather empty. We quickly realized that, just as the market doesn’t keep standard business practices (hello fake bags/shoes/watches), it also scorns regular business hours.

 

Petaling Street- Chinese Temple 2016 - 1 of 19 (1)

 

Not put off, we went exploring around the area first, content to wait and circle back in once it was bustling and humming with full activity. After getting a little lost looking for an ATM that would accept our card, we turned around and saw a bright red temple right across the street! We decided to duck in for a look around.

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Batu Caves, Malaysia

One of our first real “tourist excursions” in Kuala Lumpur was to Batu Caves. Like I mentioned in my post a few weeks ago, we had been urged to go visit in our first couple of weeks in country because an internationally known Hindu festival was taking place. We ended up deciding not to go during Thaipusam, and personal beliefs aside, we were glad we skipped the crowded festival because we couldn’t imagine visiting this place when there are a million (!) other visitors there with you. With a little extra space to breathe and explore though, it was a really fascinating introduction to Malaysian landscape and culture.

We arrived mid-morning and the sun was already blazing. We meandered in slowly, taking in the bright colors and clusters of people. Tourists and devotees alike were wandering around snapping selfies and checking out the stalls along the open square. Since we weren’t really interested in doing either, we headed straight for the stairs leading up to the caves.

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Kuala Lumpur in iPhone Photos

We arrived mid-January and immediately felt at home in the city. I couldn’t get enough of the heat; Tyler surprisingly acclimated. Tyler couldn’t get enough of the food; I found some favorites myself. And both of us were immediately smitten with our two new animal charges. These pups were adorable and just as snuggly as I was anticipating. Our homeowner graciously took us around town in the week before she departed, showing us all her favorite malls, restaurants, and cafés. She also introduced us to an ecological nonprofit where we ended up volunteering weekly, getting our hands dirty in soil and community.

We stayed for a total of three months, a shocking quarter of our year abroad. We felt both at rest and in constant motion. I soaked up the heat radiating off the streets, driveway, houses, like a chameleon sunning myself on a giant rock. But I also took in a lot of the city from behind tinted windows, in a blessed cloud of air conditioning, as we were chaffered in the back of countless Ubers. And as we rode along, I studied the streets we zipped through.

I liked the stained cement walls, the dilapidated fences, the crumbling sidewalks. And I especially liked how the jungle seemed to be fighting back against the encroaching civilization of its land. Green fingers stretching and creeping over any corner of construction they could claim. Kuala Lumpur was a place in which I felt deeply at home, despite the many daily occurrences that reminded me there was so much foreign here.

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On the emotions of moving (again)

Moving dredges up deep emotion in me. A state of turmoil over all the change. And despite possessing what I consider to be a very astute and self-aware personality, this type of change seems to put me in a fog that hides the real reasons for my stress and impatience and tears. It isn’t until the dust is settling and I’m waving goodbye to my most treasured sense of home– our house in Marion, our best friends in Alaska– that I realize how hard the move was and how there are feelings deep in me, tied to the move, that have caused my recent string of bad days.

Now imagine me “moving” every few weeks. It’s complicated has never been a more accurate descriptor. For Tyler and I both, this year has been eye-opening in ways we weren’t expecting. Last summer, we looked each other in the eye, shook metaphorical hands, and hopped onto the emotional rollercoaster ride of our lives, trusting in our pact to put up with one another no matter what. At times we’ve gripped each other white-knuckled and screaming– in alternating joy and fear– and at other times it seems that last August we accidentally slipped into two different cars on a dual track. While one rose up, the other plummeted.

Our relationship has been through the ringer this year. While I think it’s a natural stage after three years of marriage– part of the growing pains of two becoming one– I also recognize the stress that nomadic living has introduced into our lives separately, and how that inevitably affects us together.

Moving dredges up deep emotion in me. A state of turmoil over all the change.  And it turns out, it does the same for Tyler when we move at this pace. While I stress about the future, he struggles in the present. I wonder: are we making the right trade-off; what will we do when we stop moving at 100mph and have to confront life in one place; will I regret this? Tyler is too drained to think at all. He simply sits in his emotions and feels them weigh him down.

The emotions of moving aren’t as intense as when we’ve spent significant time investing in one place, but they come at us much more frequently. It’s been an uphill battle to develop empathy and practice patience with one another during this time. It seems we ought to understand the other’s feelings, but sometimes that fog makes one rather short-sighted. I’m thankful we can say we’ve held– if only barely– to our unspoken pact and continued to grow and love one another.

After having passed the halfway mark in year two of travel, we began hesitantly looking to the future. In the past two months, we’ve dreamt up every possible scenario for year three. We’ve talked about jumping ship completely and returning to “average life” earlier than expected. We’ve talked about extending the nomadic journey and drifting around a bit longer. We’ve run numbers and assessed motives. We’ve considered career paths and business proprietorship. We’ve been over it all… and we still aren’t sure.

We know we need a break from the rollercoaster though, so we’re going to disembark for awhile. We already have booked flights back to the States for an Alaskan reunion in the fall and family time during the holiday season. And for now, we’re shuffling through the practicalities of setting off for our next destination.

We say goodbye to Asia in less than a week, and we return with open arms to Europe. This time, we’ll be exploring some countries in the south– Turkey, Greece, and Italy. These places have all been at the top of my list for Things to Be Excited about During Year Two, so I can feel my morale slowly building for these last few months of moving. So many good things to look forward to; I know it will be worth it!

How do you handle moving? Will you be around for us to see you during our family-and-friends tour this fall/winter??