It’s been over 100 of the best days of my life. Here’s 7 things I wish I had known on Day 1:
#7 NO it’s not that easy to ship stuff home.
Congrats on being accepted and committing to the most life-changing journey of your life! After the honeymoon phase wears off and the reality sets in that you have to pack your whole life away into a 30 kg or less checked bag and 7 kg carry-on, you may begin to panic.
In order to combat the feelings of separation anxiety, you will tell yourself that “you can always send it home later.” You will attend Pre-Remote Year info sessions that will nonchalantly state that it’s normal to ditch stuff along the way #NBD #LIES.
Here’s the reality:
- It’s expensive to ship stuff home. In Vietnam, a fellow remote paid $200 to ship 2 kg home – that’s like 4 pairs of jeans. Other land-locked countries can be even more expensive!
- It’s expensive to not ship stuff home. International airlines will charge absurd overweight baggage fees per kg. Anywhere from $40 to $125 one-way is pretty standard for an extra 20 kg; However, some airlines are pay per kilogram overage. On one travel day, Qantas charged us $30 per kilogram, and I was 10 kg over the limit. Luckily I was traveling with the group and another remote took my extra carry-on for me. Trade beers for baggage fees!
- It’s really annoying to ship stuff home. Finding a reputable post office and trying to converse with someone who doesn’t speak English is a pain in the a**.
- The separation anxiety is way worse shipping stuff from a foreign country than leaving it at home. It’s rare to find package tracking in foreign countries, and you’re constantly stressed your bag will get stuck at customs or lost like the Titanic.
The Net Net: Leave it at home, you can always have someone bring it later.
#6 Backpack or Rolling Carry-on? – Not as controversial as Boxers or Briefs.
The million dollar question: Do they really weigh your carry-on?
The answer: The odds are far far higher that they will if you have a rolling carry-on than one that you carry.
I have seen “backpackers” with 20 kgs or more stuffed into a backpack and most airlines won’t even bat an eyelash. If your rolling carry-on looks like it could weigh more than 7 kgs, 9 times out of 10 they will exploit that and make you weigh it.
Sent home from Australia
Last Travel Day Backpack – Shoe be everywhere
The Net Net: If you can’t beat them, join them.
#5 They sell shit you don’t need everywhere in the world…until they don’t.
I stocked up on all the wrong things. 99% of things you can buy in the US can also be bought in most developed cities around the world (including tampons for all you ladies out there wondering!).
Here are some items that are much trickier (at least in Asia):
- Sea Salt Spray – Shout out to Zoe Weiner and all those curly haired girls (Carin, Kathrin, and Kara – I see you) that would give away their first born to have some in their life. Straightening your hair in 100 degree heat and tropical humidity is futile; however, keep in mind there’s not really a market for this product as Asian women have straight hair.
- Foundation for darker complexions – Asians are obsessed with being as fair skinned as possible so if you have a tricky shade to buy for stock up! You may have to adjust to a darker shade because you will get a lot of sun here.
- Shoe sizes greater than 7 – This is another Asian quirk. It’s really hard to find larger shoes sizes even in department stores and malls.
- Latisse (and other niche products) – There’s a lot a fake stuff in Asia so if you’re paranoid that the products you are buying might be counterfeit, you should just bring extra!
- Proprietary Charging Cords (such as for Fitbits or Cameras etc.) – Just because they sell the brand doesn’t mean they sell the accessories a la carte. If you can’t live without it, you will likely end up re-buying the whole product.
The Net Net: If it is something you use every day, bring an extra – you won’t regret it.
#4 The shoe game is hard. Dirt & packing space are not your friend.
Paved sidewalks are a luxury in Asia and if you’re headed to anywhere worth visiting – odd are you will be getting dirty!
The struggle becomes – look cute in sandals and ruin them or look so-so in tennis shoes. Well now you don’t have to choose!
When you only have room in your luggage for 4 pairs – Here are my footwear favorites:
- The perfect all-weather bootie: Jeffrey Campbell Hunt the Plains Boot in Navy Suede! I get so many complements on these. They go great with dresses, shorts, skirts, and pants and are super easy to keep clean.
- The Strappy Strong Statement Sandal (The SSSS): I ended up breaking down and up picking up a pair of Birkenstocks my first week in KL because my cute dainty strappy sandals were getting wrecked by all the dirt and construction. If the hippy vibe isn’t your thing, a thicker strapped gladiator sandal is the way to go! Bonus points for if they slip on and off. It gets surprisingly annoying taking the 2 mins to put your shoes on after visiting a temple, entering a guests home, or going through airport security.
@michellewimmer – Is that you looking fly as always?
@allisonbrookeahr – Templing Shoe Game is alway #OnPoint
- The going out in the day or night shoe: For when your tired of wearing flip flops to the clurrrb, but would like to be able to get use out of them during the day too. These I am currently on the hunt for, but @stylepalate has nailed it! The Dusty Tan color is key for keeping them in good shape after a night of drinking, and the heel height is perfect for day or night. Hers look something like this –
- Lastly, a pair of tennis shoes you love – Being active is an integral part of traveling. Taking care of your body through physical exercise is key when ingesting copious amounts of cheap, delicious food and dealing with the mental stresses of being abroad. I ended up ditching my old uncomfortable pair of running shoes in my second month in Vietnam for these Adidas Pureboost Xpose shoes, and it was the best decision I’ve made so far on the trip!
The Net Net: It is possible to travel and look fly while doing it.
#3 You are never home in the “Base City” and will constantly question whether it’s cheaper to go rogue.
Traveling on Remote Year is a beast unlike any other you’ve ever experienced. It’s not normal by any means. “Side-tripping” is the art of planning 3 to 7 day – weekday or weekend trips to other cities near your home base. All while maintaining your day job!
To give you a feel for how insane your schedule gets – Here’s what I’ve been up to so far (sidetrips bolded) –
Month 1 (Kuala Lumpur): Las Vegas > Hong Kong (Layover) > Kuala Lumpur > Penang > Kuala Lumpur > Bali > Kuala Lumpur > Tokyo > Kuala Lumpur > HCMC
Month 2 (HCMC): HCMC > Hoi An > HCMC > Hanoi / Ha Long Bay > HCMC > Phnom Penh
Month 3 (Phnom Penh): Phnom Penh > Kuala Lumpur (Layover) > Sydney > Melbourne > Bangkok (Layover) > Phnom Penh > Siem Riep > Phnom Penh > Otres Beach (Sihanoukville) > Phnom Penh > Hong Kong > Phnom Penh > Bangkok
Remote Year got me like –
A few people have left the program to do things at their own pace and that’s totally understandable. Others are planning on opting out for a month or two in Europe to be able to explore on their own terms as well.
The Net Net: You will be tempted to find cheaper options to fund your side-trip habits (such as…)
#2 The couples discount isn’t just for couples.
Once upon a time (after a reputable Cambodian spa experience)…
With the couple’s discount you still get the flight, workspace, and events covered, the only difference is that you share a bedroom. It’s pretty low risk – there are couches in every accommodation, and it’s rare to have 80% occupancy because everyone (including yourself) will be gone on side-trips. I won’t even see my roommate this month because we’re out of town on separate days. Greg and I were the first ones to take advantage of the couples discount, but now several other remote “couples” have followed suit.
The Net Net: $400 a month goes a long way for side-trips.
#1 Remote Year works really hard to make sure you have a kick-ass experience.
They tell you they will cover:
- Workspace with Fast Internet
- Travel between cities
However, Remote Year has gone so much above and beyond that:
- City Managers – 2 to 3 locals that are staffed by Remote Year to help answer our questions and take us around town. They have been immensely helpful in recommending where to eat, shop, spa, how to travel to other cities, etc. and have made transitioning to a new city each month so much easier.
- Track events – 9 to 12 local curated events (day-trips, meals with locals, cooking classes, museum visits, wine/food tours, ziplining, sunset cruises etc.) all FREE and included in the price of your monthly $2000 (or $1600) fee. These have been awesome in getting us ingrained with the local people and experiencing authentic (non-touristy) aspects of the city that we are in.
- Seamless Travel – It is so nice that they take care of transportation to and from the airport on big air-conditioned buses and help us through the logistics of travel day such as SIM cards and General Visa advice. Big props on making traveling with tons of luggage seamless and enjoyable. Also, if you give them advance notice, their travel team can re-arrange your travel day to and from a different city and cover the equivalent costs.
- Free Food – Our Program Leaders are the best. They organize Midnight Breakfasts twice a month for night-shifters, Never Know Never Try food events to expose us to “exotic” local delicacies, and provide meals at City Preview/Town Halls/Junctions, and other Remote Year sanctioned events.
- Swanky Accommodations and Workspaces – If you want to learn more about where we live or work, head over to my friend and fellow Remote Sasha’s blog where she covers these in detail.
The Net Net: You may be able to do it cheaper by yourself, but traveling with Remote Year and the #Tramily is so much more fun.
It all started with The Epic Bali Weekend
Mixed with Classy nights with my KubLadies @ Dinner En Blanc – HCMC, Vietnam
When we roll, we roll deep @ Rooftop Bar – HCMC, Vietnam
And we hold onto those memories in our