I’ve got some very exciting news to share with you all! My boyfriend and I are taking a six-month sabbatical, starting this October (successfully avoiding another European winter – hooray!). Our Asian adventure starts in Vietnam, where we will spend one month exploring the northern region. We will then fly to Japan and visit some different cities, including Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. We will then return to Vietnam, to explore the middle and south. The next part of the trip will include visits to Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Malaysia. Some places we will spend a couple of weeks in, whereas others will be considerably longer.
So why did we decide to take this sabbatical? Besides the opportunity to travel to some countries that truly fascinate us, we are really looking forward to having an extended break! Since graduating in 2008, I have worked steadily – first as a personal assistant, then a teacher. I didn’t take a gap year before or after university – in fact, I haven’t had a holiday that lasted longer than three weeks. Six months feels like a tremendous amount of time. Time to relax, unwind, do some ‘soul searching’, self-reflection and spend time on creative projects which have been put on the back-burner due to our full-time jobs. For my boyfriend, his illustration work and for me, writing.
One of my earliest ambitions was to become a writer. My childhood idols were Jacqueline Wilson and Roald Dahl. I remember creating ‘newspapers’ – scrapbooks full of news stories I had created, which I then forced my family to read. I had so much imagination…. then I grew older and my imagination seemed to fade. I used to tell people ‘I’m not creative, but I love being around creative people’. If you tell yourself something enough times, you’ll start to believe it. I found myself attracted to and befriending artists and musicians, photographers and designers, but still considered myself uncreative. I was wrong. My creativity was still there, but it had been suppressed, ignored and hidden away. Writing this blog has allowed me to reawaken my imagination, and soon I’ll have time and freedom in my schedule to devote to writing. Along with blog posts for The Curious Sparrow, I am also interested in writing fiction; maybe a short story or even a novel! The ideas are there – I just need to breathe life into them.
What about luggage? It is something we have thought a lot about, reading countless packing lists for long-term travel (anything from 3 to 12 months). I am taking this 40-litre Osprey backpack and this smaller day bag:
Clearly not a lot of room for 180 days! However, I think it’s right to limit myself. I don’t want to lug a heavy bag around, from country to country. Plus I’m very
cheap thrifty and don’t want to pay for checked luggage if I can avoid it! Inside these bags, I’ve managed to fit: 12 tops, 2 pairs of shorts, 2 pairs of leggings, 2 pairs of sunglasses, 1 laptop, 1 external hard drive, 1 kindle, 4 dresses, 3 cardigans, a pair of sandals, a pair of flipflops, a pair of water shoes (for slippy paths near rivers and waterfalls), 2 swimming costumes, underwear, headphones, chargers for my electronics, some makeup and a few pieces of jewellery. There are some things I need to add, such as my reusable water bottles, fast-drying microfiber towel, medicine and essential toiletries (like suncream and bug spray). I’ll wear my jeans, raincoat, hoodie and scarf on the plane as they’re bulky. Some things I will get in Vietnam, such as a sun hat, a skirt and maybe some of those generic, loose trousers that so many backpackers wear.
If you’ve been backpacking (or have travelled for 3+ months at a time), is there anything you think I should add or remove? Anything you wish you’d brought on your trip?
What about work? My priority will be writing and exploring the countries we’re in, but I will also do some online teaching. I’ve registered with a very flexible online school so I won’t be out of practice when we return to Hamburg in spring 2020. I also hope to do some more proofreading; it’s a natural fit for an English language teacher who is a stickler for good grammar! Doing some paid work will obviously help with the finances, but will also provide some structure to our days. I have built my life around routines: the thought of six months of absolute freedom is really intriguing and exciting, but also a little daunting!
What can you expect from The Curious Sparrow? I plan to post new content every single Sunday! New posts about where we are seeing and doing in Asia, along with past holidays that I haven’t shared with you yet. Along with this blog, you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram for photos and regular updates.
We are so excited to start our sabbatical and welcome any recommendations that you’d like to share! Where do you think we should visit in Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia and Japan? I hope you’re looking forward to following along on this Asian adventure, and thank you for your continued support!
Ciao for now
The Curious Sparrow