A collaborative post.
When you start considering how you could travel long-term, your first question will likely be about destination. The chances are you’ll consider visiting various locations in one trip. And, ultimately, that is the joy of getting away for long periods. For your first extended stay, though, you may want to consider sticking to one location.
This might not be what you had in mind, but it would be a fantastic stepping stone for this new sort of travel. The fact is that going away for extended periods is a very different beast. Jumping into a multi-destination trip on top of that can be too much for anyone. By taking long-term travel to one destination, you can adjust to the differences without having to jump between countries. That alone could be a lifesaver.
But, that does beg the question of where you should choose for this first long trip? In reality, any destination out there could serve for this. But, some are better than others. Areas such as Thailand and Malaysia, for instance, are popular among backpackers for various reasons. It’s the latter of these we’ll be looking at here.
As well as having a nice ring to it, a month in Malaysia could help you develop some fantastic long-term travel habits for future explorations. To help you along the way, we’re going to look at a few of the main lessons you could learn during your stay here.
Lesson #1: The power of the itinerary
When you’re traveling for a week at a time, it’s easy enough to wake up with no real plan and still get plenty done. When you’re traveling for more extended periods, going without an itinerary is madness. It’s a sure way to stress, wasted days, and missing out. If you’re hopping from one country to another, this could even lead to missed flights and all manner of trouble. What’s more, having an itinerary ensures you arrive at and leave accommodations on time without having to think about it. Without one of these, your whole trip would be a juggling act, and you can bet you’d drop at least a few balls.
A month in Malaysia would be the ideal exercise in the use of an itinerary because there’s so damn much to do there. From the bustle of Kuala Lumpur to the quiet of the Cameron Highlands District, there’s plenty here for you to see. Without once needing to get on a plane, you could quickly fill a month with this trip. And, the only possible way to make sure you see everything is to write out a detailed plan ahead of time.
- Top destinations
First, make sure to take note of the areas you want to visit. Within Malaysia, these should include:
And that’s just to name a few. Do plenty of research ahead of time and make sure you include any areas which interest you.
- Length of stay in each
Once you have your list of destinations, it’s time to settle on a length to stay in each. Naturally, some destinations will serve a longer stay better than others. Big urban areas like Kuala Lumpur, for instance, could easily take a week or more. By comparison, areas like the Cameron Highlands would be doable in three days or so. A fantastic way to help decide this would be to consider…
- What you’ll do in each area
Once you know where you’re staying and how long you’re staying there for, you can start to develop a plan for what you’ll do in each area. Writing this down before you go can both help to dictate the lengths of your stays, as well as making sure you don’t miss out on anything in each location. During a stay in Kuala Lumpur, for example, most people aim to visit iconic locations like the Petronas towers and the Batu Caves. During your stay in Selangor, it’s worth taking time for destinations like Kuala Selangor and Seapang District. Once you’ve written out your desired excursions in each area you’ll be able to see a day-by-day guide of how long you need in each area. Thus, your itinerary will be born.
Lesson #2: The accommodation question
During short-term trips, there’s nothing to stop you booking into a hotel or even a hostel. A short stay in a hotel isn’t going to cost all that much, and a few nights in a hostel wouldn’t hurt anyone. During long-term trips, though, the same methods become inaccessible. No one could afford a hotel for a month or more. Equally, no one would want to sleep in hostels for that long. It’s more important than ever for your accommodation to become a real base when you’re away for a long time. That’s not something you’ll ever achieve in a hostel. Instead, then, consider your alternatives. One fantastic option would be to rent somewhere for the duration. The chances are that this will work out at around half the price you would pay in a hotel. Hence why it might be worth looking out for a rental condo in Malaysia. Admittedly, this would restrict you a little regarding moving around. But, by creating a base, you may find it much easier to feel settled and keep homesickness at bay. If you’re set on free movement, it may be worth turning to shorter term rentals like those offered on Airbnb. Again, these work out much cheaper than a whole-hog hotel would. They are fantastic in that the leave you free to move around for the duration of your stay. Remember that this is your chance to test things out. Different things work for different people. You just need to decide which option is best for you.
Lesson #3: How to get around
During short trips to new destinations, many of us use taxis to get from A to B. That’s not a problem when you’re only in a place for five days. But, any longer could see you driving down the road to bankrupt if you travel this way. This is especially the case in destinations like Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur often ranks top on the worst taxis list, and you need to be adept at haggling to avoid extortion. Throughout your trip, then, getting around this way is sure to cost you. This is a lesson you would benefit from taking forward with you, as Malaysia is far from the only country with this problem. During your longer stay, you would be better either renting a vehicle or getting your head around public transport. In Malaysia, for example, buying a ‘Touch ‘n Go’ ticket could gain you credit and save you fumbling for cash. There’s also a mass rapid transport line through Kuala Lumpur. This provides access to many key tourist destinations. Malaysia also boasts of pretty good bus services, though you’d struggle to get around this way when in rural areas. Either way, a little research is sure to show both the cheapest and easiest transport methods available.
Lesson #4: What about work?
The last and perhaps most important lesson of all is that of working while you travel. When you go on a week-long vacation, earning money while you’re away doesn’t even come into things. But, working through your trip is essential if you want to stay away for a month or more. You can certainly bet no employer will pay you for that long taken off work. What’s more, a trip of this length can become pricey. You need some way to balance that. We’re sorry to break it to you, but that way is usually to pick up temporary jobs wherever you go. That may sound simple enough, but you also need to make sure you’re staying on the right side of the law while you do this. The majority of countries don’t allow you to get a job without groundwork. In Malaysia, for instance, you’d need to apply for a work permit with your employer before starting. The same rules apply for most countries you can think of. To get around that, you may want to fund yourself with travel writing or a blog. In that instance, use this Malay month to see whether this is financially viable. Remember that you need to cover the costs of everything, from excursions to food and board. If you struggle to do that during this month, you might need to settle on a work permit after all.
So, there you have it. Four lessons from your month in Malaysia. You don’t need to stick to this destination to learn these things, either. These are long-term travel issues you’ll likely find in any destination of your choosing. So, don’t hesitate. Book up a month-long stay and get ready for those lessons. This year Malaysia; next year a whole continent!