“I’m in love with cities I’ve never been to and people I’ve never met.”
– John Green
We've made it to the beautiful island of Penang, our third destination in our slow travels across SE Asia. I (Flint) managed to get the flu in Kuala Lumpur, followed by a cold a week later, so we've been in struggle mode with the blog. Sorry. Josie also started her online homeschool courses when we landed in KL, so we've been pretty involved in making sure she is up and running. The course work is challenging, and Josie is enjoying it.
We haven't done much exploring here in Penang yet because we just got here, and I'm still on the mend, but the apartment we found on AirBnB has way exceeded our expectations. It's bigger than our house was in Florida, with mountain views on one side, and panoramic ocean views on the other. It's good to be back by the sea. It's conveniently located, with an abundance of restaurant and grocery options right outside our door.
Home School Cool
While we were in Kuala Lumpur, we managed to meet the unofficial "ambassador" of the city, See Ming and her awesome son Max. April was able to connect with her through a FaceBook World School group, and in our short time there she invited us to multiple fun-filled homeschool events, a soccer game (that Josie played in), and treated us to the best Indian food - and the best meal - we had in KL. She was so kind and generous, and really helped make Josie's (and our) time in KL very special. It was an honor to meet her, and to know people like her still exist in this world.
Josie's homeschooling has been a lot more hands-on than we had anticipated. There were so many educational events happening in KL that it was hard picking the ones we wanted to be involved in. Ultimately, we chose the science of "tree-hugger" for most of the events in which we participated. There was a reforesting critically endangered trees course offered by the Free Tree Society of KL in the Taman Tugu park where we learned about deforestation and fledgling forest conservation efforts starting to take hold in Malaysia. We got our hands dirty planting a bunch of trees from seed. Someday, hopefully there will be a big tree in that park that we planted!
At that same park, we took a course on forest insects living in the Taman Tugu. We collected all sorts of bugs, and then discussed what we found, and what the insect's purpose was in relation to the ecosystem of the park. In a sharp contrast to an educational event you might find in America, the kids were given a brief warning about the dangerous insects living in the forest, and then left to their own devices. No waivers, no "it's too dangerous", just hunting insects where giant centipedes, monster scorpions and all sorts of things with stingers live... it was awesome, and nobody got hurt.
See Ming was able to get us into a program (also about insects) being taught by two very talented and engaging PHD students at the University of Malaya. Josie was also invited to play at a local soccer game taught by some serious Nigerian footballers. She had a blast.
After our first month of the online school courses, and the extra curricular activities, homeschool is really working out well, and we feel like Josie is engaged and learning a lot. It's no San Jose Elementary - but I think we're doing pretty good.
How on earth are we doing this?
A recurring question we've been getting is "Are you on holiday?", and then when we explain what we're doing - it's always followed by "How?" We realized we never went into that on here - just that we sold everything and left. So, we figured we'd give you a brief rundown on the finances and logistics of how we're pulling this off. The short answer is "by the seat of our pants", the long answer is a little more complex... but not really.
We sold our house in Florida, and put all the proceeds into CDs that we can't touch. We are not using any of those funds to travel. Eventually, when/if we decide to settle somewhere, those funds will be used for that purpose. We sold all of our belongings, and our vehicles, so that money is being used as "back-up" funds if we manage to have to buy our way out of a Thai prison.
Here is how it's happening: April no longer has an income, and I work remotely as a graphic designer, and we make enough (so far) to pay for everything. And "everything" has also changed considerably. The cost of living here is roughly 1/3 of what we were paying to live in Florida. We've been splurging a little bit on our AirBnBs (because we're spending so much time in each location), but living pretty frugal otherwise. Here is a little breakdown:
The "NEW COST" is not super accurate either. We are using a Chase Sapphire Visa (designed for folks who travel), and that is actually paying for most of our $2,300 return tickets to the United States in December. So, our real costs for travel would be more like $450 a month. Also, we could cut our costs by $500 per month in SE Asia if we chose less costly AirBnBs. You can find very decent places to stay here for $500 to $600 a month. So, theoretically, as a family of three, you could live well here for around $1,700 - $1,800 per month. So cheap! The only real issue we see here is that when it comes time to travel to Europe, and more expensive destinations, we'll have absolutely spoiled ourselves.
There were a lot of considerations we had to make before taking this leap, but with a lot of research, and a decent plan, it all came together pretty easy.
No Business but Monkey Business
Here is a gallery with some parting shots from KL. We went to the Batu Caves, and did lots and lots of hiking around the jungles (they call them "city parks" in KL). What an awesome city. Rich in cultural diversity, delicious food, friendly people, and oh so clean! If you ever get the opportunity, it's most definitely worth checking out.
More to come
Penang looks AWESOME, and we can't wait to start exploring. Mountains of jungle leading to epic beaches, So. Much. Good. Food., and homeschool activities that will surely rival KL (Josie starts art class on Thursday). Once we get out and start exploring, we'll report back with what we find. Thanks for checking in on us, we miss you.