This has been a very strange trip from even before it began. When I first won the round trip flight from Malaysia to Korea, I was stoked because the school we were working for was such a waste of our time and energy, I just figured, great. We can work until March, Hanane will get to take a trip to go see her mom, and I can recharge my zest for life by wandering around Asia a bit and seeing a couple new countries. I might even get some surfing in, visit some old friends, make some new friends, and find us new jobs in Korea or Malaysia. Cool. So I bought the ticket to Malaysia.
A few days after that we found out Hanane was pregnant. A week or so after that we were both fired from the school because they refused to honor the agreement of getting Hanane a residence permit and we refused to let them screw us since it could have meant a big fine or her being deported. In the process of firing us, they also evicted us since they were the landlords of our flat.
So, that was the beginning. Hey, I won a trip to Asia BUT my wife’s pregnant, we just both became unemployed, and we just both became homeless. Yeah, not the best way for a trip to begin.
When all of this came down, it was early December 2010. After talking with Hanane, we decided that the best course of action was 1) for her to go to Morocco since her tourist visa to Turkey was nearly expired 2) for me to look for better jobs in Turkey 3) for her to spend some time with her family while I tried to sort things out.
I started applying for jobs teaching and traveling all over Turkey to check out the schools and towns. After a promising interview, I went to Antalya only to be low-balled a salary for even less than I’d been earning in Manisa. No way. I went to Izmir and talked with a couple of schools. One new school really wowed me and offered me an hourly wage that made me feel like it would work. I accepted. The only problem was that they neglected to mention that the work wouldn’t begin for four weeks and when it did I would only be working 4-6 hours per week. After living in a cold apartment shared with a couple of 21 year old heavy metal musicians for nearly a month, I figured it out. Teaching in Turkey is a dirty business. All of the schools I talked with lied or misled me to get me to accept a job.
Even though I’d been househunting in Izmir, making friends, and thought we would be staying there, it wasn’t going to work. I had a couple of promising offers from Malaysia and Saudi Arabia but the contracts were either two or three years and each time there was a problem in the conditions that made it unworkable. By this time it was the middle of January and the truth was that it was going to cheaper and less torturous to simply do a little wandering around while I waited for the trip to Asia at the end of February. There was a part of me that thought I should just cancel the trip but three things prevented me 1) I’d made an agreement to make a video of Korea for the blog I’d won the trip from 2) I’d paid for the tickets to Malaysia already 3) Despite my best efforts I didn’t have anything else going. Okay, a fourth reason too, I’m a little bit selfish and greedy – I wanted to go on this trip. I admit it. Even if it meant my wife would be pregnant and staying at her parents house in Morocco.
To be fair, she had been sponsored by the US State Department to take a course at the University of Oregon (online) for promising non-American teachers. The course was important and she needed to be somewhere where she could access the internet every day from early Janauary until mid-March. Also, I made sure she had money, internet access, and was going to the doctor and taking her vitamins.Plus we talked by Skype, facebook, or other electronic means nearly every day. Still, I felt the entire time that I should have been with her, should have been providing her with a house of our own. Also, she had this to say “You better go on this trip or you’ll just be miserable and blame me for it. I don’t want you sitting around the house driving me nuts and being sad about a trip you didn’t take.” She’s a smart woman.
I set off from Izmir to Istanbul and had some small adventures in the Balkan states of Bulgaria, Serbia, and Macedonia. Most importantly, I made some connections that allowed me to actually earn more than I was spending during this time. Travel was actually paying more and costing less than a sedantary lifestyle in Turkey. Well, except for Serbia which I pretty much just didn’t like at all.
From the Balkans, I made a mad dash to Morocco to surprise Hanane with Valentines flowers and an eight day visit. She was still in the midst of her course so we didn’t get as much time as we wanted but we did get to see each other and spend some time together. It made me happy to see the little snowball where her flat belly had been before.
Leaving Morocco, I took the cheapest means back to Istanbul which turned out to be RyanAir to Rome and then Pegasus Air to Istanbul. Less than $150 U.S. total from Fes. Not bad.
In Istanbul, fortune smiled again and somehow I landed a three month gig that would provide a small apartment and decent pay when I returned from Asia. At this point, the option was to sit in Morocco doing nothing and wait or to take my trip, come back to Istanbul, earn some money and have a chance to build a life in Turkey.
You know for sure which option I took. The problem was that going to Asia by myself and knowing my wife was home pregnant and that we didn’t necessarily have any sort of security for the near future didn’t really make me want to spend money or have exotic adventures. Each time I thought about spending, I thought about my wife sitting pregnant at her parents house where her back and body were sore from not being able to relax and the changes of pregnancy. The last thing I wanted to do was to take exotic jungle treks, enjoy my time on Balines beaches, or go out pubbing or clubbing with new friends while she was suffering and then to rub it in by blogging about it.
So, I did my best to make this an incredibly economical trip that would pay for itself in contacts, in business opportunities, and in cold hard cash. While I wasn’t able to make it as short term profitable as the Balkan trip had been, I did succeed pretty well at what I set out to do. This turned out to be essential since when I left Turkey, I opted to leave my cold weather jacket at my friend’s place…with my main bank card in it. Oops! Good thing I can travel cheap.
I managed to earn about half of what I ended up spending during the time I traveled. I went to Malaysia, Korea, back to Malaysia, to Singapore, then to Indonesia, and finally back to Malaysia and back to Turkey for less than $700 for 28 days. During that time, I had a lot of adventures, visited many cities, and ate a lot of delicious food.
What I didn’t do was go to beach resorts, go out for big drinking nights, take multi day jungle treks, or take any cultural courses. I avoided these things for a couple of reasons 1st) those I mentioned above 2nd) those things just aren’t as much fun when you are alone and I want to share them with Hanane and 3rd) I was trying to do this in a way I could feel good about.
Finally, one other thing got in the way of this trip. When I arrived in Malaysia on the first day, I met a girl from Sweden who had been bit by monkeys, got pneumonia, got conjunctivitis, and was sick with the flu. She was telling her horror stories and asked if I had any. I admitted I didn’t. Like a curse, these words came out of her mouth “Someday you’re going to get really sick when you are traveling. You’ll see, it’s a total bummer.”
Within 48 hours I was running a huge fever, hallucinating a little bit, and creating so much snot that my body became severely dehydrated. For the rest of my trip, I was varying degrees of sick. EVery time I thought it was gone, I relapsed until finally one night in a bed in Indonesia, I really thought I might die.
One thing for sure though, I didn’t go to the fucking hospital. But, as a result, I didn’t quite have the same intrepid spirit that I usually do or the energy to hike, hitch, or explore as much as I usually do. Also, since I was sick, I didn’t want to interact with strangers as much with things like couchsurfing or host-stays or even visiting old friends. I didn’t want to get other people sick.
All told though, not too shabby. An average of $25 per day including food, transport, airfare, visas, hotel/accommodation, and some entertainment. Not to mention I bought some presents and some cold weather clothes in Korea, a new pair of pants, and a couple of shirts when the ones I had with me wore out. Like the clothes that I discarded along the way, at the end of this trip, I am wore out.
So, as a word of explanation for those of you who are reading this. Despite my best efforts, I wasn’t able to keep things up to date on Vagobond so over the next few months expect to see posts about Korea, Morocco, Turkey, Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and where ever else the winds might happen to send me. While it’s sort of fun to keep things in sequence, I’m just going to write about things and never mind if it’s in order or not. For those who want to keep track, it went something like this so far Manisa, Istanbul, Manisa, Antalya, Izmir, Ephesus, Selcuk, Kusadasi, Izmir, Istanbul, Sofia, Pernik, Belgrade, Nis, Skopje, Sofia, Istanbul, Casablanca, Fes, Sefrou, Fes, Rome, Istanbul, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Sokcho, Samcheok, Andong, Busan, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Batam, Jakarta, Bogor, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Istanbul. There were a few other places in between…but …oh well, enjoy because I’m sure there will be more even though right now I don’t feel like going anywhere. :) I’m just happy to be back in Istanbul, my new home town.