Watching a sunrise in Gili Trawangan, Indonesia
Travel Diary

RTW Progress Report: 6 Months

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– Last updated on February 5, 2019

That famous Bon Jovi song goes something like Woah, we’re halfway there. Woah..

Wow, I’ve reached the halfway mark of my journey and it has been one of “time flies” situations. In the past 3 months, I’ve gotten out of the South East Asia region and into South Asia, Africa and the Middle East!

It was also in the last 3 months that I started to feel the dreaded burn out long term travelers always complain about. It’s real, folks. Very real.

Without further adieu, here are my responses to the same questions from my 3-month report:

(Click on the arrow on the right of the question to reveal the answer!)

Countries Visited So Far?

Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Myanmar, Singapore, India, Morocco, Kenya, Tanzania and Israel.

Countries Visited This Quarter?

Myanmar, Singapore, India, Morocco, Kenya, Tanzania and Israel.

Favorite/Least Favorite Moment?

I love this question! My most favorite moment in the last 3 months had to be sitting on the rooftop of the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel and looking down at Singapore’s picturesque skyline at night. From the ground, the skyscrapers look like they are reaching the heavens, but from the roof of the Marina Bay Sands, you actually look down on them! Big thanks to you my friend, Anthony, for hosting me that weekend and making me his +1 to an event that gave me access to that rooftop!

The view from the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore at night

On the other hand, my least favorite moment happened in India. My girlfriend, who was traveling with me for a week in India, and I had just gotten out of the long night train in Jaipur from Agra when we were harassed to no end by taxi drivers. They saw a couple with a bunch of bags and immediately turned on ATTACK mode like a pride of lions going after prey. Wave after wave, we said “no” the same drivers repeatedly and one of them, in particular, kept coming back after we turned him down at least 15 times already. The badgering was relentless and it caused me to blow a fuse and eventually scream at him to leave us alone. I like to think I’m a calm person but the taxi drivers waiting at the train stations are the closest things to the love child between a mosquito and a gnat. UGH!

Most Surprising Thing?

Without a doubt, the most surprising thing this past quarter was how stupidly expensive Israel was. Everything from transportation, tours, accommodation to food was all way more than what I had paid in all the other countries I had been to so far. I had no plans of visiting Europe on this trip so the sticker shock hit me really hard when I arrived in Tel Aviv. So much so that even the many Europeans I met in Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem were surprised at how expensive it was!

Sunset at Tel Aviv beach, Israel
Tel-Aviv beach

It came to a point where I was choosing between food or alcohol. After coming from South East Asia where I couldn’t spend my money even if I tried, it seemed to evaporate rather rapidly in Israel. Hostel dorm beds were ringing at 20 USD/night, a basic meal coming in at around 10-20 USD and 10 USD beers at bars! I didn’t have a chance to travel in Europe yet, but when I do, Israel will have served as a good lesson in sticker shock.

Thing That Blew My Mind?

At the breakfast table in a guesthouse in Yangon, Myanmar, an American family who just rolled into town the night before were getting acquainted with all the guests, myself included, when the conversation naturally steered towards travel.

All of us swapped travel stories from various places in the world and the Dad shared his family’s motto, which was from a Marco Polo quote, that read:

“An adventure is misery and discomfort relived in the safety of reminiscence”

Everyone at the breakfast table nodded their head in agreement because it was true! MIND BLOWN!

Thing That Was Easier/Harder Than I Thought It Would Be?

I spent a month in Morocco and I was very nervous about going there at first because I had heard that absolutely no one spoke English. The languages spoken there were French, Moroccon Darija (Arabic) and some Spanish. My French was non-existent after studying it in high school for 4 years and I was failing epically at learning Spanish.

My first few days in Casablanca were spent as an AirBnB guest of Alice’s wonderful apartment. She is a UK expat teaching in the city and she pretty much gave me the lay of the land and put me at ease. I busted out Google Translate on my iPhone, brushed up on some really basic French and everything got a lot easier after that! As I spent more time in the country, I did find a lot of English speaking people and I was fretting for nothing.

Horseman in traditional garb in Morocco
A horseman in traditional Moroccan attire

Conversely, the thing I found a lot harder was the pollution in Delhi, India. Growing up in Sri Lanka, I thought I knew what to expect of this metropolis. Oh, how wrong I was. The pollution came from so many fronts – sound, visual, smell, physical, that it became so overwhelming.

Couple all of that with the monsoon rains, Delhi seemed like hell on earth for me. It became so unbearable that I would escape to the glamorous malls, which were the polar opposite of what it was like outside, for an entire day and never want to leave.

Traffic in New Delhi, India
The hustle and bustle of Connaught Place in Delhi, India
Favorite Meal?

I had been in India for only a day before I met with my girlfriend who was also as my guide. She was very familiar with the New Delhi area which helped a great deal. We went over to Khan Market where she took me Khan Chacha and I received a blessing in the form of a Mutton Kakori Roll, succulent meat wrapped in a thin chapati that was covered in so many wonderful spices.

Dining at Khan Chacha in Khan Market, New Delhi, India
The look on my face says it all
Favorite Accommodation?
Mixed dorm in Wildebeest Eco Camp, Nairobi, Kenya

Affordable accommodation for backpackers is hard to come by in Kenya. With Safaris being big business bringing in so many Western tourists, the country as a whole hasn’t had to cater to backpackers. Luckily for me, I found Wildebeest Eco Camp just outside of the Nairobi city limits.

The camp has dorm rooms starting at 15 USD and the best part is that the dorm room itself is in a large, cozy tent! This was glamping at its finest and I was glad it was affordable for Kenya. I tried to extend my stay once and the dorm tent was full up. Instead, they pitched my own private tent out in the lawn for an even more intimate experience. Waking up to the sounds of birds and greenery everywhere truly made this place an oasis!

Favorite Sight/Landmark/Place?
Taj Mahal in Agra, India

Everyone has seen images of the Taj Mahal but I promise you it is 100 times better in person! I couldn’t believe it. It was one of those times where I froze in awe when I set my eyes on it. The intense heat in Agra will snap you back to reality but it was truly a sight to see.

From the inlaid marble to the lore of the monument, it was an amazing experience. Now I need to figure out how to come up with one one for my girlfriend who demands I get her one…

Favorite City?

This was a tough one, but this has to go to the wonderful island of Zanzibar!

Yes, I’m cheating here by mentioning an island but every bit of the island is amazing. From Stone Town’s amazing old town to the beaches of Nungwi and Paje, I found paradise on that island.

Fishing boats in the water off Stone Town, Zanzibar
Fishing boats off the coast of Stone Town
Favorite Splurge Purchase?

I only had one thing on my itinerary while I was in Kenya and that was going on Safari. After looking at some tours online, my jaws dropped when I was seeing 4-day tours in the 1,000 – 2,000 USD range. I tossed and turned and even had several conversations with my girlfriend about whether or not I should splurge on these expensive tours. My daily budget is set at 50 USD per day so a 2,000 USD tour is a pretty big chunk of change of the trip overall. It was all too much and I ended up abandoning the idea altogether.

That all changed when I met a fellow backpacker at the camp I was staying in who had just returned from a 3-day safari in the Maasai Mara. The best part was that the tour she went on only cost 300 USD! I contacted the company the next day and booked myself on the next available tour!

A lion walking in the Maasai Mara, Kenya
Well, hello there!
If I Could Do Something Over Again…
Crew at the Sand Bank in Zanzibar, Tanzania

There’s something magical about Zanzibar and I hated leaving after only 8 days. I could very easily have spent a month there. After growing up on an island, I’m quite partial towards beaches and the island had the very best I have ever seen in my life. True story!

The biggest reason I regretted leaving is the connections I made at the Stone Town Hostel in Zanzibar City (Stone Town). The hosts, Maria & Edward, were fantastic and the guests staying there were all amazing individuals!

I savored all the conversations, beers and adventures I had with everyone and was envious when a lot of the people there were staying for weeks or months and I was taking off in a few short days. After 6 months of travel, it is becoming very apparent to me that all of this travel stuff boils down to the strangers you meet along the way who leave such a lasting impression on your life!

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Nico Atienza

Chief Storyteller

An expat remote worker based in Colombo, Sri Lanka with a penchant for window seats on planes, travel, and technology that makes everyone’s lives easier.