How Travelling Changed Our Lives Forever

Travel is one of the few experiences that transforms your life. It’s impact is felt to the very core as your whole perspective on life changes. You emerge changed, almost reborn into a newer, better version of yourself. It happens gradually when you travel, then POW! It hits you when you return. You realise nothing has changed. Your friends are doing the same thing, your home is the same, the job you left is the same. But you’re not the same. You feel restless, impatient and disappointed that the return is such an anticlimax to a mind-blowing experience. Nobody understands. You want to get back on a plane. You ask yourself, how and why did this experience have such a profound effect? Was it the trekking in the Himalayas that did it? Or was it the cute Orangutan in Borneo! Did skydiving in New Zealand really do this or was it listening to the stories of a stranger in Burma. You know – it was all these things and more. Here’s how travelling changed our lives forever.

We  learned a lot about ourselves

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Travelling was tough. Catching many flights across different time-zones, not sleeping properly for days, long uncomfortable train journeys and flight delays. Add to that death-defying taxi rides, near misses, slips and falls and lugging your back-pack around in unbearable temperatures was definitely character building. On many occasions we went hungry, got food poisoning (mostly me) and had to visit doctors on several occasions. All this taught to us to adapt to situations, not worry about things and continue moving forward.

Travel inspired us to make big changes in our lives

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On returning, being tied to a corporate didn’t seem so great. So I took a leap of faith. I started a business. It was nerve-wracking to give up the stability of a permanent job but I couldn’t let the experience of travelling just fade away into a memory.

Our perspective on the world changed

Village children having fun with the camera

Yes – travelling turned our world upside down! Like most people, we had  a 9-5 job, got married and had a home. However, after living out of a backpack for almost a year and experiencing the freedom that travel offers, you realise you don’t have to be pigeon – holed into living a life that involves just working and paying bills.  The definition of living changed for us. Travelling was true living. Experiencing and engaging everything the world had to offer and growing as a person was a revelation.

We appreciate life more

One of my favourite pictures!

You have back-packers then you have flash-packers. I guess we were flash-packers as we never stayed in dorms or real hell holes! Saying that we came across a few grim places in an effort to save money. In the end it taught us to appreciate what we have. These days, we have shorter showers, watch less TV and spend less money. We appreciate the seasons and use our time more constructively.

We’ve made friends from all over the world

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It starts with a drink (or three) and ends with a promise to stay in touch. Next thing you know, you’re in another country and so are they! That’s when you know you’ve connected with friends. Interacting with strangers on the road does wonders for your social skills. There’s no hiding when you travel.

We’ve developed a taste for global food

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Eating our way across Asia was one of the joys of travelling. The food is inspiring, cheap and delicious!  So much so I decided to take a cookery class in Nepal, Thailand and Malaysia. Mealtimes are not the same anymore. You’ll often find Morning Glory with garlic & chilli or red fish curry on the menu. I really miss chicken Momo’s so that’s next on the shopping list!

We realised all you need is a back-pack

A quick photo on arrival at Lhasa

You start with loads of stuff in your backpack but you soon come to realise you don’t need it. I actually ended up with less clothes than Asad. If I needed anything I’d just buy it. Carrying the bare minimum was cathartic and empowering. On returning I found I was less attached to our material possessions. Even our home.  It didn’t mean as much to me. Spending almost a year among vast landscapes in Asia meant we felt trapped by the tiny surroundings of the UK. It took us a long time to adjust.

We discovered what it means to be in the present

The Heavely Annapurna Circuit

We are all raised to constantly think of the future. What’s going to happen in the next hour, day, week or year. We plan our lives around this, running around leading busy lives-  barely taking time to stand still and just be present in the moment. Sometimes we pay others to tell us to stand still.   That’s why travelling stops you in your tracks and forces you to take a look at how crazy beautiful the earth is!

We have more of respect for nature

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We’ve seen a lot of wildlife and nature on our travels. From the Orangutans in Borneo to the Proboscis Monkey’s and birdlife down the Kinabatangan river. We’ve seen chickens ritually killed by shamans and tens of buffalo slaughtered by tribes in Sulawesi. We’ve bathed elephants in Chiang Mai and experienced dolphins and whales in New Zealand. It’s a privilege to share the earth with such amazing creatures.

Our thirst for travel never died, it just got stronger

Asad at Tashilunpo Monastery

You would think that a year and a half later, the urge to travel would fade and we would slot right back into our lives in the UK. But it hasn’t. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t think of getting on a plane and just going somewhere. Sometimes I wish we didn’t feel that way. It’s unsettling and we both still suffer from a restless desire to just pack up and go!

We discovered our adventurous side

Asad Skydiving - New Zealand

We went mental in New Zealand. Probably because we bumped into a friend who was a bit of an adrenaline junkie. Before you know it, Asad had performed a skydive, I had ziplined and paraglided my way over the Remarkables.  We would never have even contemplated any of this before!  It just goes to show that the confidence you gain enables you in so many ways.

We learned people are the same

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People are the same the world over. It doesn’t matter what religion or race you are, everyone has the same needs. Everyone works,  looks after their families, plays candy crush and enjoys a good drink! Everywhere we travelled people received us with an open-heart. Strangers shared their food and stories with us. In China we felt like celebrities. They were intrigued by us. Asians with a British accent.  Even in remote areas where the locals were not used to tourists, people may have been reserved but there was never any hostility. We’ve learned that people are essentially good. Even in countries such as Myanmar (Burma) who only opened their doors to the world in the past few years, people were friendly and warm. I miss that.

We learned religion is more diverse than we thought

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We experienced alot of Buddhism and Hinduism across South-East Asia. But Indonesia was really amazing. Bali had such a diverse form of Hinduism, nothing like you see in India or Nepal.  Sulawesi was breathtaking and threw the usual concept of religion out of the window. Mosques displayed ancient Torajan symbols and some Christians still practiced cliff-burials.  It was all surreal and magical.

The planet we live on is an amazing place. Go see it with an open heart and an open mind and I promise it will teach you something no book or university will.

Let us know what you think of this post! We’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

Top 5 Things to do in Kuala Lumpur

I love the energy of Kuala Lumpur. It’s an exciting metropolis with a colourful melting-pot of people, cultures and languages. Super-sized mega-malls stand alongside futuristic sky-scrapers whilst bustling markets, mosques and temples reflect a rich, local diversity, adding splashes of colour to a modern, tech-savvy city. Condominiums harbouring expats, rise high above swaying palm trees, whilst leafy parks and manicured gardens frame a colonial history that still stands to this day. As for how you can spend your time in this great city, here are our top 5 things to do in Kuala Lumpur.

1) Petronus Towers

The Iconic Petronus Towers
The Iconic Petronus Towers

No doubt the Petronus Towers dominate Kuala Lumpur’s skyline. At 452 metres high, this 88 storey structure comes alive at night, dazzling the city with its lights and architecture. Opened in 1998 and designed by an Argentinian architect Cesar Pelli, the towers fuse Islamic design with a postmodern feel. You can walk across the Skybridge for great views of KL or visit the Observation Deck for views of the towers spires close up. We chose to view the Petronus Towers from Menara Tower. In my opinion, the best view of this iconic landmark!

2) Food Heaven

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If there’s one thing that sets KL apart from other cities, is the food! It’s amazing! A delicious fusion of Malay, Chinese and Indian – the food is a mind-blowing reflection of the diverse ethnicities that make up the population. In fact, food is a favourite distraction for everyone in KL. In between shopping in glitzy malls, you can’t help but be inspired by the mind-boggling choice of food available.  From roti canai to nasi lemak, the food in Kuala Lumpur will excite you. There are so many places to eat, you’re sure to be spoilt for choice if not confused by the overwhelming choice. Even visiting a cafe will throw up a menu that will make your head spin by the sheer variety of coffee’s available. What to have? Kopi Susu, Hainanese coffee or iced coffee with coffee jelly! Help!  We ate in so many places, but here are just some budget friendly places to eat.

Head down to Jalan Alor food street in the heart of KL, for a taste of some amazing street food. By day there’s not much going on, but as the sun goes down, this street comes alive with rows and rows of open-air restaurants serving Malay, Chinese and Thai food. For post-food drinks, head down to Changkat Bukit Bintang – a lively street crammed with bars, clubs, Irish pubs and snazzy lounges. It’s a great place to get talking to the locals who work and live here and offer an insight into the realities behind living in this twenty-four city.

One of our favourites restaurants was Wong Ah Wah, known for their delicious chicken wings. I have to say they were the best we’d ever tasted! Moist and packed full of flavour, we ate a ridiculous amount of chicken – all finished off with a cool beer!

The Taste of Asia food court in Berjaya Times Square shopping mall was also a great place to eat. Here you’ll find food from all over Asia. What’s great is they give you a card that you add money to.  You buy the food,  they scan the card and if you’re not coming back, any money remaining is refunded. Makes eating and paying so easy!

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You’ll find huge buffets offering a variety of dishes. From curries to satays, spicy fish to noodles, soups to rice – it’s an impressive choice that means you end up trying a lot of things just for the sheer pleasure of wanting to surprise yourself.

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You can’t beat a curry, so what better place to go than Little India in Brickfields. Renowned for its South Asian food, there’s no end to the tasty treats to be had on this road lined with restaurants, clothing and food shops. We had a delicious chilli crab  served on a banana leaf from Sri Paandi. This “banana leaf” restaurant does fabulous Chettinad food. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was mind-blowing tasty AND cheap! The locals were friendly and we had a great time chatting to the staff in the restaurant, who after much badgering from me, still refused to share their recipe for chilli crab! Oh well, you can’t always get what you want!

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Chilli Crab, Dal and Chapatti
Making chapatti
Making Chapatti is the same the world over!

3) Lazat Cookery School

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Making the classic Malaysian dish – Beef Rendang

Where possible, I always try to fit in a cookery class on my travels. So after tasting the amazing food in Malaysia, there was no way I was going to leave this country without discovering the secret behind its most famous dishes. Lazat Cookery School has a great reputation in KL for making sure you have a fun and educational day cooking! I opted for the “Market Tour and Authentic Malay” class. Starting the day with a trip to the market, we got an insight into the traditional foods used in Malay cooking. Then we were off to start cooking. I made Prawn Fritters for starters, Beef Rendang for the main meal, followed by Sweet Coconut wrapped in Banana Leaves. It turned out pretty good!  It was a fun packed day AND I managed to get the recipe for Roti Canai even though I did have to pay a little extra for it.

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Getting ready to make dessert
The Crew at Lazat
The Crew at Lazat

4) Shopping

Chinese New Year at Berjaya Times Square
Chinese New Year at Berjaya Times Square

After food, you’ll find shopping is the biggest draw in KL. In fact you can’t help but get sucked into the mega-malls and markets that dominate the amazing shopping scene in KL. I guess one reason is to get out of the crazy heat and into air-conditioned heaven! The other reason is the shopping in KL is good – very good!  From high – end fashion to the latest tech-gadgets, the only limitation is your imagination and stamina. Here are some of our favourites.

Pavilion KL Shopping Mall – Located in Bukit Bintang, this snazzy seven-storey complex houses international designer labels. A favourite among K-Lites, the polished interiors, glitz and extravagance attract a willing crowd.

Suria KLCC – Located at the foot of the Petronus Towers, Suria KLCC combines the very best of high – end shopping, dining and entertainment. Beautifully designed, it epitomises style and culture and is even home to the Dewan Filharmonik Orchestra – Malaysia’s first concert hall.

Berjaya Times Square – Situated in Jalan Imbi, Berjaya Times Square offers a great day out for the whole family. With 10 floors and over 700 retail units you can buy anything from food to fashion both upmarket as well as affordable.  You’ll even find Malaysia’s largest indoor theme park here.

Low Yat Plaza Shopping Mall – If you’re looking for gadgets and gizmo’s, Low Yat is basically tech – heaven! This 12-storey mall is buzzing with technology and a great place to get your gadgets fixed, stock up on memory cards for cameras or just basically splurge on something new. Remember to negotiate!

Jalan Petaling – Otherwise known as Chinatown Market, Jalan Petaling is known for its fake goods. You’ll find the usual fake watches, clothes, bags, jewellery and much more. Although a market, prices are ridiculously high, so haggle without a conscience!

Running along the historic Central Market is a flea market known as Kasturi Walk. Here the pace of shopping slows down to a gentle stroll where you can browse the more modest range of goods on offer. However you’ll find the prices are reasonable and it’s a great place to take a break for a bite to eat before you head off for your next shopping spree.

 

Central Market – Built in the art-deco style of its time, central market is a maze of boutiques and handicraft stalls. Here you’ll find Malaysian batik, sculptures, embroidery, carvings and restaurants.

5) Explore the Neighbourhoods and Beyond

Discover the many neighbourhoods that make up the rich diversity of Kuala Lumpur. Soak up the colonial history in Merdeka Square where in 1957 Malaysia’s independence from the British took root. Then head east to admire the Moorish-style architecture of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building – once the seat of British administration. Feeling hungry? Head down to Chinatown or Little India for some local fare then finish the evening off with dinner and drinks in downtown KL, known as the Golden Triangle. If the city life is beginning to exhaust you,  a day trip to the Batu caves is the ideal way to escape the big smoke and discover the countries most sacred Hindu shrine located in a vast limestone cave. If you want a taste of nature, visit the Forestry Research Institute Malaysia, where you can take a picnic, go mountain biking or camping in the surroundings of a rainforest.

No matter how you spend your time in Kuala Lumpur, you’re sure to leave this city with great memories and an enduring love for its biggest attraction – the food!