Malaysian flag on Pulau Langkawi

8 Things I Learned Travelling in Malaysia

In January of this year, I set foot in Malaysia for the first time with a sense of adventure and a desire to go exploring.  What I found was a country which felt familiar, yet challenged my western sensibilities. I fell in love with Malaysia’s people, its natural beauty, and its unique place in history.

Not everything about Malaysia is perfect.  There are infrastructure deficits – most notably open sewers in some communities which leave you gasping for air.  There is petty crime which – like anywhere – stems from some people just not having enough to get by.  And while a variety of religions can find acceptance in Malaysia, the country’s government is decidedly regressive on social policy like LGBT rights.

Looking back on Kuala Lumpur's skyline from the grounds of the Royal Selangor Club.
Looking back on Kuala Lumpur’s skyline from the grounds of the Royal Selangor Club.

Malaysia made a big impact on me during my month criss-crossing the nation.  Here are eight of my biggest takeaways from visiting the country.

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Backpacking Budget Savings and Splurges

Now that I’m back in Canada and am looking over the things I bought for my trip through Asia, I’m starting to think about the areas where I could have saved some money. Whether it’s discovering you’re a different kind of traveller than you really are or not being as reliant on a piece of gear as you thought you might be, there are always budget cuts you can make in hindsight.

Further, there are some things I wish I would have spent more money on before leaving.

Here is a breakdown of the areas I wish I would have saved (and splurged) on.

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Episode 28 – Nomadic Matt on Budget Travel

On this episode of the show, we take a trip in the Gone John time machine back to April of last year.  I was just starting to produce my then-new travel podcast, Boarding Call (which is a damn fine show which you should check out if you haven’t done so already), and I had just scored an interview with someone who I didn’t realize at the moment would be a huge inspiration for the trip I’ve embarked on.

Matt Kepnes – aka Nomadic Matt – has been travelling since 2008, and penned what the BBC has called the “bible of budget travel” – How to Travel the World on $50 a Day.  He was on a cross-country tour of the United States to promote the latest version of his book when I Skyped him last year, and the result is the interview that’s in this week’s episode of the show.

I always knew I wanted to travel.  While close friends who’d been backpacking helped push me over the hump, it was Matt’s advice, and book, and blog which were the catalyst for me to believe I can afford to do this (because the alternative costs just as much, if not more).

As this leg of my adventure draws to a close, I wanted to revisit this interview.  Matt’s advice has been sage, and has gone a long way to helping me stretch my dollars abroad (while also teaching me to not be pennywise and pound foolish).

If you know a young person who is keen to travel, get them Matt’s book.  Inspire the spark of curiosity in them to go explore the world.  You won’t regret it.

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

There’s a saying attributed to many people, but has long been a mantra of mine when it comes to creative endeavours.

“It’s a marathon… not a sprint.”

If you expect anything to work overnight, you’ll be sadly disappointed.  If you try and move too fast, you’ll miss the bigger picture.

And despite having clung to this advice through much of my professional life, when it comes to my travels I seem to have forgotten everything I know about pacing myself.

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Onward, Oh?!

I knew at some point during my adventures toting around a backpack I’d encounter this one small issue, but I just didn’t think it’d happen before even leaving Japan.  I’m talking about the need to have an onward ticket to get in to a country.

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