What I Learned from my Sabbatical...
TOP 3 POST INSIGHTS
travelling is full of life lessons disguised as adventures.
Find like minded people.
Holiday flings should stay on holiday.
Food orgasms, spontaneous island trips, bad brazilian waxes, confronting self-reflection and holiday flings.
It hit me that I never actually wrote about my 2016 sabbatical! It was a rollercoaster of travel f*ckups, lonely nights and discovering the best street food. In short, the best 6 months of my life. So here's a breakdown of what I did, hopefully it will inspire you to take your own sabbatical in 2018.
How I funded it?
Saved around $13, 000AUD, plus retained social media work @ around $1,000AUD per month. This was enough for 6 months, AirBnBs and 3 star hotels (I didn't stay in hostels but I wish I did for social reasons). I also had some family and friends in Philippines, Singapore and Israel which saved me accom money). Asia is cheap as chips, my cash ran out when I went to Israel.
WHERE DID I go?
I had no plans, other than a three week boxing camp in Phuket. For me, the beauty of travel is spontaneity. However if you are much more of a planner, pick at least one country or city you want to go to every month.
Rediscovering my motherland.
Note: I'm going to skim Philippines as I spent most of my time in Siargao and here's a more detailed post about it.
I never knew how fun Philippines could really be! I'd always go on family trips and never really appreciated it from a tourism perspective. That being said, limit your time in the city and go straight to the islands. Manila is good for shopping, Cebu is good for food but nothing compares to the beauty of Siargao, El Nido, Coron, Palawan, Boracay and Bohol. My favourite island is Siargao (TBH I've only been to Siargao, Boracay and Bohol, but I've heard El Nido is DIVINE).
- Don't make any long terms plans with a holiday fling. I planned with to go to El Nido with someone and it absolutely broke me when I told him I didn't want to go anymore. You never know what could happen in the 6 weeks you're apart. I ended up reimbursing him money we spent on flights and accom. It was horrible because this person was such a great guy. I just knew I couldn't go on holidays and be the same person I was with him the second time around.
- Always have a flight out of the Philippines. I got stuck in Thailand as I wasn't allowed to board my flight to Manila without an outbound ticket.
- Everyone is tryna make a peso. I got gypped taking a taxi to the airport. The dude told me there was a 900 peso toll charge... he even had a fake laminated paper to prove it! I paid him because I didn't know any better. I later found out there was no toll... lol.
Vietnam & Cambodia
Fresh food, lonely nights and bad brazilian waxes.
Ho Chi Minh (aka. Saigon) is a mecca for food lovers. Everything from rooftop BBQs, fresh salads to street pho will have you dying for more! However, NEVER...EVER get a Brazilian wax here. OMFG, the pain was next level. The beautician I had used paper instead of cotton strips. So just stick to the food in Saigon!
In terms of accom, I stayed at Zoolut Stay 271 (in District 1) which was around $40 per night for a private room. It's a minute walk to Ben Thanh market which is super handy for groceries, tailors and other tourist stuff. The ladies at the cafe even let me bring my own vegetables, protein powder and made my breakfast shakes every morning. In Cambodia, I was lucky enough to stay at a gf's place in Phenom Penh.
This was probably the most loneliest period on my trip. I would work from the hotel's cafe, go to jazz bars by myself and just hit the gym. The loneliness urged me to go out and meet new people. For eg. I went to a co-working space, met a girl who then took me to pole dancing classes! I also went to Toastmasters and made friends there.
- Don't get a Brazilian wax. For reasons stated above.
- Give shit a go. I went pole dancing a couple of times and it was hella fun. I also joined a gym called X and reconnected with my love for kick boxing!
- Do a cooking class: I did one in each city. Saigon Cooking School which I'd rate 9/ 10 and Phenom Penh which I'd rate7/10. Both had market tours where you bought your produce.
- Find like-minded people. I went to a Toastmasters session and met this American teacher. She took me on her bike to meet some other expats. Then we all went to this random restaurant in Saigon. We drank, ate and laughed the whole evening.
the holy land (and eating everything in it)
I remember sitting in my room in Vietnam, contemplating the last leg of my sabbatical city. Spend another 2 months in Asia or 3 weeks in Israel? Ok I won't lie, I ended up in Israel to see a holiday fling (but also to see friends who became my brothers!). The fling died but boy did I enjoy eating my way around this country.
Everyone freaked out when they heard I was going to Israel. Is it safe? What about bombings or terrorist attacks? When in fact, Tel Aviv is one of the most safest and progressive cities in the world.
My highlights were going to Carmel Market and eating everything from falafels, crepes, halva and baklava, eating all different types of hummus at Hummus HaCarmel, Tel Aviv Museum Contemporary of Art, Jerusalem and eating almond croissants at Bread Story in Dizengoff.
- Eat Hummus and Halva all day every day. This was my dream. I definitely learned to appreciate hummus on a whole new level after going to Hummus HaCarmel. Same for eating Halva. Who knew you could eat pistachio, salted caramel or Oreo Halva?! OMFG. Delicious.
- Holiday flings have an expiration date. That date is the day you first say goodbye. When you meet on holidays and have the most amazing time, it's human nature to want to recreate that experience. But it can rarely be duplicated in someone's home town. Because it's not just you two and a handful of mates anymore... it's work, cultural differences, language barriers, protective friends and more.
- Not everyone will kiss the ground you walk on. You might be a goddess in one country and be seen as 'the help' in another. We all have different cultural biases which is totally normal! There's a lot of Filipinos who work as care givers and cleaners in Israel (and I give my hats off to them for the grind). So needless to say, I didn't exactly have everyone holding the doors for me.
If it's one thing I've learned, it's that the world has so much to teach us. I was pretty nervous going on this trip and had no expectations to meet life long friends, eat the most amazing food and experience the perils of 'holiday flings'. But in the end I think I learned more about the type of person I want to be... god that sounds wanky. I'm referring to attributes like being polite, respectful of other cultures, curious enough to try new foods and try new things etc. My sabbatical was almost like an eye opener to the person I could be and a life I could create.
So what are you waiting for? When are you going to take your sabattical?! xx