My Journey in Southeast Asia

Josh Voydik

The End of the Road & the Start of Another

Josh at BKK Train Station

My journey in Southeast Asia is coming to an end.

I leave back home to California in one day, and my excitement feels like rebirth. When traveling without a real itinerary, staring into the face of the unknown, dealing with humans from a completely different culture, with limited capital and resources, you learn a lot about resilience, persistence, patience, adaptiveness and compassion.

Describing the experience as “rebirth” is probably a bit hysterical and over the top, so a better way to describe my feeling is an intense re-appreciation for my life, the friends and family within it, and the nuances that make it both so fascinatingly ordinary and extraordinary.

My adventures in Asia have changed my perceptions about the world around me, as all travel tends to do. I envision my slow travels as integral puzzle pieces in figuring out what this whole thing called life is all about, and answers questions that you didn’t even think to ask in the first place.

A lot of the time we’re living in the past, mulling over previous transgressions, or are constantly worrying about the future and forget to let go of the things we can’t control, and simply breathe and pleasurably experience each moment for what it is: a moment of existence. // That’s my thesis–the takeaway from this trip. //

I’ve had one hell of an experience here, meeting many fascinating people and experiencing many interesting things. I don’t regret my decision to quit my orthodox job and see the world. It was a necessary wakeup call that has helped reignite my creativity, curiosity, passion and ambition for doing great work.

My life is in a constant state of existential crisis, which to me, is quite romantic and thrilling.

Until the next adventure.

[Special thanks to Nick Kraft for inspiring me to write about my experiences. Now I have a cool journal to look back on. Gracias amigo.]

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August: Catharsis

My voyage is coming to an end in a month

Bali has been lovely. Well, lovely is probably not the best word to describe this place. It’s rather dusty, cramped and chaotic.

Nonetheless, the people are incredibly nice. Although the attention is getting to me as I am being stared at–I sort of feel like George Clooney. That level of attention is something else entirely.

Some people say that want to be famous and experience some level of attention. But how famous is too famous? Obviously this is a matter of perspective, and what one truly values in life.

It’s actually quite the drag to experience this level of unwanted attention. I don’t know if it is good or bad; it is what it is.

For instance, you can’t necessarily make eye contact as you would in the States because this is an invitation for a whole series of conversations, because they simply have to talk to you, and as nice as they are, it can be too much at times.

This isn’t me complaining, rather simply observing and interacting with the inevitable environment around me. It’s a natural cause from immersing yourself in a place that is vastly different from home.

I am solely running Packrr now. This comes out of a series of decisions from both my ex-cofounder and myself, and ultimately I am very okay with the outcome. We’ll be parting ways, and I wish him the best.

Four months of slow travel, without an itinerary while developing an online store sort of gets to you–you miss home a bit. One of the greatest things about leaving your home country for any extended period of time is realizing just how much you appreciate your home–a new sense of wonder for the small things.

Traveling helps you appreciate the small things, both home and abroad.

Taking this risk was spiritually cleansing, and one of the best things I have ever done. Continuing to work on Packrr will be a daily pursuit–whether it’s economically successful or not–it’s a success in that I am doing what I love, and will have learned something extremely valuable. Risk tends to make me feel more alive, and it slows down time.

The most important nugget I’ve learned is to take your time with things and not to rush life. Experience each moment as it arises. Appreciate the past. Live in the now. Be energetic about the future, but engage in the present moment which is all we truly have.

I think the biggest risk of all is not taking those risks you told yourself you would.

July 17: Getting There

Chiang Mai to Bangkok to Bali in a week.

The hospitality of some really goes a long ways. Jesse, my couchsurfing host in Bangkok was Dutch. He didn’t have a lot to say up front, but once you started talking to him he had a great heart, and a very insightful outlook on life.

One of the highlights in staying with Jesse en route to Bali was going to a Dutch bar in Bangkok and watching the Netherlands play Mexico for the World Cup. At the half it was still 0-0. Orange shirts pouring out of the small bar to watch the match. Mexico soon scored, and “boo” soon became the only word in my lexicon.

While watching the kept, I was chatting with this Dutch entrepreneur who loves, and has lived in America. He was funny: he kept telling me “minute 85 we’ll score you just watch.”

It was minute 88, the Dutch blasted a goal between the posts.

Everyone went insane! A few minutes later in stoppage time, a Mexican defender tripped a Dutch player. Holland had a free kick–and the ball soared to the back of the net for the game–a winning goal! Everyone went insane.

The second round in Bangkok was an interesting experience. Cramped into Jesse’s tiny apartment–it was two Americans (us), an Indian guy, a german girl, a french girl, a Dutch guy and a girl from the Philippines. It seems like 50 years ago an outing such as this would have been unheard of. I like my generation as It crosses cultural boundaries, and transcend nationalism while maintaining socio-diversity.

We’ve skytrained and took the subway everywhere (which was surprisingly really nice and easy to use). After obtaining visas from the Indonesian consulate, we trekked around sweating in multiple markets, and meandered down the smoggy streets. I was growing tired of the city and had to something new.

After one of hour sleep Casey and I said goodbye to our hosts and departed to DMK (Don Mueang Airport) at four in the morning. Hours later in a stupor, I awoke to the captain saying that we are descending to Bali. Getting there.

I look out the window, the sun is lightly beaming through the clouds, reflecting off the water. A deep blue water and it’s beautiful–something I had greatly missed in Thailand.

We nestle down for a soft landing which comes at a deep sigh of relief. My mind is now telling me: I am in Bali.

This is my first time in the southern hemisphere, and as someone who appreciates geography, it was a very meaningful feeling. Upon arrival, we went through customs which was a breeze, and set out for a coffee shop in Seminyak to wait for my new couchsurfing host to get off work.

We found this trendy little place in the heart of Seminyak. Eventually I received a text from my host, and we met him at the local supermarket on the main road.

He had a car and hooked us up with SIM cards, food and has been hosting us at his place. It’s been fantastic. He’s shown Casey how to ride his motorbike, had long conversations about his family and how he grew up. He took us on an excursion to see the island of Bali where we encountered dozens of monkeys in the forests of Ubud, and got to see the majestic volcano.

The Balinese are such a friendly and peaceful people. Everyone is laughing and having a nice time with one another. We’re now living in a house in the Sanur area, with a British woman. It’s a quite large house, has running water and I have my own bedroom. It’s so refreshing after all this traveling.

Nearby there is a little food joint we frequent at least twice a day. The english is definitely lacking but these nice Balinese girls already know what we want when we walk up. Every time we go out to eat, which is usually at a traditional place only visited by locals, we always end up having a unique conversation.

Everyone is fascinated by us. We live in an area that is very Hindu, with elements of Islam.

The business also launched, which you might be aware of–www.packrr.com.

 

 

June 24, 2014

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Hello again. 

The last couple of weeks have been really exciting. Casey and I have been less occupied with busy work because we’re waiting to hear back from various vendors. Moreover, we’ve been spending a lot of time with these fantastic filmmakers who are currently editing a film called Planetary–a realization of our interconnectedness as humans with the planet. They shot the short film called the Overview Effect, released back in December 2012.

With Guy and Christoph (Planetary Collective), we’ve covered the city interacting with amazing locals such as eating Korean BBQ, learning about their customs and drinking habits. We’ve seen how Thais do Mexican food, which isn’t too bad actually. Their jazz bars are reminiscent of Eugene, Oregon giving off a cool, bohemian vibe.

Thailand is fun but living here is difficult. You get the feeling people are scamming you, and a lot of the time they are. They’ll give you jovial expressions face to face, but then when they let you know your utility bill is an unheard of amount, you get a gross feeling. But overall, the locals have been very hospitable, and overeager to help you–which has been nice.

The highlight over the last few days was taking a scooter into the mountains of Chiang Mai, seeing the temple of Doi Suthep at the top. Unfortunately it was very touristy, and the Thai were trying to scam the tourists by making them buy tickets for 30 baht.

The scenery was gorgeous. Cool wind, green jungle trees and distant humid clouds with the scorching sun bleeding through. It was very serene.

Casey and I leave to Bali in a week which we’re definitely looking forward to. We’ve had our fill in Chiang Mai and are ready for a new change in scenery: beaches, jungles and monkeys.

June 16: Cool Meetings

It’s been a fun last few days.

There’s a small cafe that’s tucked behind some buildings with dimly lit lighting–MF DOOM and DILLA are edging through the speakers, and we played pool becoming good mates the filmmakers of the Overview Effect and Planetary. They’re really cool dudes, and we sure do have a lot to talk about–mostly philosophical musings, global crises, space and music.

Today, Casey and I got a grip of work done and are set to hopefully launch the website sometime next couple of weeks. It’s getting exciting as this week we’re negotiating with vendors on the ins and outs of getting the best margins for each product.

The weather has been pleasant because it’s typically raining two to four times a day. Tonight we walked around a street market which consisted of Thai people chilling out, selling fake brand clothing and street food. We got some grub (squid on a stick) and watched music videos on NAT GEO MUSIC. I had never heard of NAT GEO MUSIC, and they surprisingly had some great stuff, minus the Slipknot song, unless you’re into that sort of thing.

Oh, and Casey’s friend Justin–whom he grew up with in New York, and is currently living in Bali–has joined us for two weeks. We’ll be taking the train down to Bangkok with him to apply for our Balinese visas. Justin will do some exploring around SEA for the next six weeks, and we will meet him back in Bali.

 

 

It’s Been Over A Month

And we’ve had a hell of a time thus far.

Since arrival, we’ve seen majestic temples and raging waterfalls, the hustle and bustle of the streets featuring tuk-tuks and tsongtaos, ladyboys, Muay Thai boxers, insanely heavy rains, and military vehicles patrolling the streets at night in observance of the Coup.

We went from not knowing anything about Thailand to meshing in quite nicely. We’ve met some of the most friendly people in the world, wanting you to enjoy their food wholly, or simply exchange smiles after a Farang has done something foolish. (“Farang” is the name for foreigners).

Our Food Lady is the best. She reminds me of my mom–lighthearted and joyous. She doesn’t really speak english but we exchange expressions, smiles and her laugh–her laugh is adorable– “hehh, hehh” two octaves up.

We are honked at by the tuk-tuk and tsongtao drivers simply because we are tall and white, and they think they can score some dough if we get a ride, naturally charging foreigners much higher prices.

You can leave things laying around, and theft is rarely a problem here.  Considering most people here are Buddhist, they’re cool with leaving bikes, clothes, keys and cell phones out because if someone steals your possessions, karma will uphold justice.

Casey and I have been particularly busy with building our company. We are intensely grateful we chose Chiang Mai to bootstrap our company for the first couple of months. It’s the perfect spot.

The Story of Henry

Henry got shot in the neck in Mexico.

He was a 55 year-old French-American we met here in Chiang Mai. He looked 40. Perhaps this is attributable to his stints living in the woods in northern California. Or, perhaps it’s because he’s never been married. Henry is not too keen on money, but he had made a fortune creating e-learning material for law enforcement during the Dot-Com Era. This was after he had spent 19 years slow traveling the globe. His goal was to travel to some of the most remote places on Earth.

I had an interesting conversation with Henry, and as it deepened, he talked about back in his twenties while in Mexico camping out with his girlfriend, some gangbangers came up to his window while he was sleeping and literally shot him in the neck.

His girlfriend ran off into the bushes in a screaming panic. The gangbangers said, “you’re gonna die, motherfucker!” After looking confused, and numbed from the sting of pain, Henry just asked, “what the hell are you guys doing, why?” and just continued on walking, which inevitably turned into a run–followed by more frenzied gunshots.

After having hid in the bushes for several hours he went to go look for his girlfriend. He was yelling for her but nothing would be heard. Finally after about two hours, she trusted whoever was yelling enough to come out, and they went directly to the nearest hospital.

Henry refused to go to their medical care because he didn’t trust it in this region of Mexico, and by this time he had already lost a significant of blood. Six hours later he made it to the hospital over the border in the States. His mother was with him, basically freaking out. The doctors had said that the lead from the bullet was poisoning him and that he had little chance to live unless they operated immediately.

After the operation–he was okay. Henry remained in the hospital for six weeks.

Sometimes terrible things happen while traveling. Often they don’t. You can only plan so much. Best stay as mentally sharp as you can, and not to worry too much. The Universe tends to work itself out.

June 1

“Dude, I lost my debit card, too.”

“Wait, we both lost our debit cards on the same day? How did that happen?”

…yes, and yes.

I did receive my card about a week ago. But apparently the bank ships the PIN number in a separate envelope a week later, how convenient. My roommate had to pay $60 for the shipment, so I am paying him back in bitcoin. And just yesterday he received the PIN, and I’m functioning normally again.

If you’re reading for intense dangers and adventures, this last week has been uninteresting. It’s been quite interesting on the business front– we’re making huge strides building our brand. We’ve got our marketing, messaging and branding down. The logo has been created. We’re doing more R&D.

It’s all good fun, and it helps not having any unnecessary obligations; orthodox job, car, car payments or unproductive meetings. We’re putting in 50-60 hour weeks.

At night, we’re exploring the city. Disobeying the curfew, getting beers, and seeing live music at the different venues. Thai bar music, for the most part sucks. It sounds all sounds like bad Creed covers. Don’t get me wrong, some of the “dancey” places play some okay music with a hard beat. But sometimes we have to leave particular restaurants because the music sounds like a beached whale that’s still alive. Maybe I’m being too harsh. Perhaps you should come to Thailand and find out for yourself.

We are down to one month until we leave for Bali, Indonesia. We’re working hard and trying to get as much done as we can before we head out, and live there. Casey and I are definitely looking forward to the tropical island, integrated with green trees, majestic beaches for surfing and Balinese culture.

It’ll be my first voyage into the southern hemisphere.

 

 

New Home in July: Bali, Indonesia

Casey and I will be heading to Bali, Indonesia in a month. Wait, what?! “I thought you were going to Thailand?” you ask.

Well, we did–and it’s been fun. That’s the cool thing about working from your computer, you don’t have to be confined to a particular geographic location.

There are several reasons we have decided to slow travel, and live in multiple locations. The biggest reason is simply, because we can.

The military coup is not the most fun thing in the world, with entertainment closing earlier than usual–and we’re not 100% sure how these politics will play out. Chiang Mai is great, we love it and love the people, as well as the food and still have another five weeks here.

Bali has a strong expat and entrepreneurial presence, catering to these crowds with low costs of living. It also has some of the best surfing in the world.

We just figured why not.

May 25: Sunday Stroll Through Chiang Mai

I got a little slice of home. 

Casey and I topped of this day–although it’s not over yet–with some bread and cheese. Two things that are hard to come by in Asia.

We woke up around 9 a.m. and ate at our usual breakfast joint, exchanging smiles with our Food Lady and set off for a Sunday stroll. (We’ve been dealing with a nasty stomach virus the last few days, and wanted to try and sweat out some toxins, so it’s great we chose the hottest day of the week).

As we meandered through the traffic–different whiffs of smog and food, coupled with vibrant and ancient colors filled out senses. Walking for hours we encountered people asking for money, musty markets featuring smelly fish, quaint cafés with modern architecture, dirty streets and a very brown river.

Every time I get outside my “bubble,” and see more things, my perceptions about my environment change (naturally). It feels like Chiang Mai just got a whole lot bigger.

The last 45 minutes of the seemingly endless walk in the scorching sun were tough.

The other slice of home I had mentioned above includes eating dinner at a salad bar which was very reminiscent of San Diego. Those vegetables were an absolute must. This last week has been nothing but Thai food.

Bread and cheese time. The day is not over, and neither is the coup. Tomorrow we get back to work building our business–a rhythm.