How Our Big Adventure Changed My Mindset Forever: Memories, Regrets and Tips

This is the end of 2 weeks of daily travel throwbacks I promised to write about. Our big adventure happened between November 2019 and April 2020, but now I can finally say I have some closure. This experience ended like an unexpected breakup in a relationship, like I was forced to turn the page despite some unfinished business. We planned 6 months of travel but only managed to do 5 before the pandemic interrupted us. Some would say we didn’t have much luck. I would say we actually got very lucky because at least we completed the biggest part of it.

We travelled to Singapore (1 week), Kuala Lumpur (1 week), Bali (2 weeks), Perth (10 days), Melbourne (2 weeks), Sydney (10 days), then drove from Sydney to Cairns (4 weeks) and finally visited New Zealand (6 weeks). But we got stranded in Fiji, where we planned a 5-day holiday and ended up staying 3 weeks as we couldn’t fly anywhere because of the pandemic. Finally, anyone with a passport from Europe got their access denied to Japan, where we were supposed to visit many cities from Tokyo to Fukuoka during our last 6 weeks of travelling.

What my best memories are

This travelling experience by itself was the best project I’ve ever put together. Among the 6 countries we went to, the only 2 places I’ve been before were Brisbane and Surfers Paradise (Australia) so 99% of it was a complete discovery. I’ve been impressed by Singapore and enjoyed New Zealand way more than I thought I would do. My best memories overall would include:

  • Singapore – Admiring the illuminated super trees in Gardens by the Bay and listening to the evening Rhapsody show
  • Malaysia – Being spoilt for choice in various food markets
  • Bali – Enjoying a private romantic diner for two when I got engaged
  • Australia – Driving along the Great Ocean Road, arriving just on time to watch the sun set over the 12 Apostles
  • New Zealand – Witnessing the natural beauty of the turquoise glacial water of Lake Tekapo

Apart from specific places, I would say my best memory is how I felt when we were travelling: free, happy and very lucky.

What I would do differently

In hindsight, there are always some things you would do differently when you put a plan in motion for the first time. I have no regrets in general, but if I knew better, I would have…

  1. …picked a better time to travel. We left when it was convenient in our calendar but sometimes overlooked the season in the country we were going to. In Southeast Asia & the Pacific, their winter is our summer. So their summer is something we’re definitely not used to and it was a bit difficult for us to cope with so much heat and humidity at times.
  2. …planned ahead for events to celebrate. Our Christmas plan was a bit last minute and my birthday was overlooked. You don’t think of it when you’re planning an entire trip but on the day you can regret it. I would have planned better for these special occasions!
  3. …worked harder to be in a better shape. Fair to say we were not in our best shape when we left travelling and I think we missed out on some physical activities that required a good fitness level, which was a bit of a shame. No need to be able to run a marathon but improving our cardio beforehand would have been a good idea.
  4. …allocated some rest time in the planning. When you’re travelling you also need some time to properly rest. We neglected that part and as a result we felt like it stopped us from enjoying our experience fully. Also, I wouldn’t book accommodation for only 1 or 2 days anymore – or only if it’s just a stop to break down the journey.
  5. …travelled lighter. As much as we tried to take only the minimum in our backpacks, we realised there were some things we never used during our trip. We took too many clothes for example, travelling is not a fashion show and we wouldn’t have minded wearing the same thing regularly if it meant carrying less heavy bags with us.

What you need to know before doing it

If you’re thinking of going on a similar adventure, I thought I would give you some tips (on top of what I would do differently from our own experience) as some things can be easy to forget:

  • Do your research properly: watch videos on YouTube, read travel books but also blogs because they will give you more personal advice, ask people around you who have already done such a thing.
  • Check the vaccination(s) you’ll need early on: sometimes there are several injections needed per vaccine and a deadline for when you need to be vaccinated by, depending on the country you’re going to.
  • Book popular excursions or activities in advance: don’t wait until you’re there as it can get fully booked easily and read reviews carefully before you book, to avoid nasty surprises.
  • Work out how much cash you need with you: some countries are not very familiar with card payments and the airport doesn’t offer the best exchange rate, also keep your cash in various places (in case you get robbed).
  • Pick carefully what bank cards you want to bring: when travelling, traditional banks are not necessarily the best option – Monzo worked great for us as it matches the live market rate with no extra fees when you pay abroad. Take several cards if possible (preferably a VISA and a MasterCard) just in case.
  • Talk to the locals when you’re on the road: they would know some cool places to go to that are not in any travel books, they would also know about the local events happening during your stay.

Finally, you have to accept some level of uncertainty, some things will remain out of your control and you’ll have to adapt. We haven’t always been lucky with the weather or natural disasters ourselves for example… We drove through burning trees in Perth, breathed smoky and unhealthy air in Sydney due to bushfires, drove through torrential rain and got stopped by flooded areas. As a result, there are some places we wanted to go but couldn’t: The Pinnacles near Perth (bushfires), The Blue Mountains near Sydney (bushfires), Cedar Creek Falls near Airlie Beach (flooding), Whitsunday Islands (storms) and Milford Sound in New Zealand (flooding) to name a few. I’m not even mentioning the 6 weeks in Japan we couldn’t do because of the pandemic.

How it changed my mindset forever

This season in Australia has been a very dark summer for the country who’s suffering first from the global warming and climate change. It’s been a real eye opener for us, it’s always easier to face the truth when you witness it yourself… It was not only in the news, it happened just in front of us. We were not really worried about our holidays, we just felt sorry for the locals who lost their homes and all the defenceless animals we couldn’t save. It made me want to care more for our planet, because if we don’t, there will be nothing left to visit for the next generations.

It also taught me how important it was to be grateful in life and how to prioritise things better. Having a healthy body and a healthy mind offers you the best chances to make the most of everything, not only when you’re travelling but in life in general. That’s what triggered my drive to become the best version of myself.

Travelling is key in self-improvement and this is why it’s one of the main categories in this blog. Travelling makes you a better person, it’s the only real way to unlock your mind from preconceived ideas and be more open to the world. Would I do it again if I had the chance? Yes, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second. Have you done it yourself or is it in your plans too?

Big Girl x

Kuala Lumpur, Interesting Mix of Asian Cultures and Modern Architecture

kuala lumpur petronas towers

I’ve heard a lot about Kuala Lumpur (KL) but never thought I would ever go. It’s so close to Singapore that it would have been a shame not to include it in our travel plans. We stayed a full week in KL but I feel a long weekend would have been enough. We only visited the capital, we were attracted by its modernity and the famous Twin Towers. I don’t think it represents the rest of Malaysia very well though. To me, there are 3 main attractions not to miss in KL.

1. Petronas Towers

The most iconic attraction is obviously the Petronas Twin Towers. Every article you’ll find online about the best things to do in Kuala Lumpur would mention them. They used to be the tallest building in the world with its 452 metres high but since 2010, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai holds this title at 829 metres. The Petronas Towers can still claim the title of the world’s tallest twin structures though… This impressive building has 88 floors on each tower, linked together by a double-decker sky bridge on their 41st & 42nd floors.

Yes, it would be a miss to go to KL and not do this attraction (except if you have vertigo) but I wouldn’t say it was the highlight of our week. We queued for a long time and then had a very limited time at the top, everything was a bit too commercial for my liking and at the end they look better from outside than inside. It’s a fun experience to walk on the suspended bridge though, enough to give you a thrill! View of the other tower from the bridge (41st floor):

from suspended bridge on petronas towers

2. Batu Caves

No lift there, this time we had to climb these 272 colourful steps to access the Batu Caves. That was what I was looking forward to the most and it didn’t disappoint. As far as I remember, it doesn’t require too high a level of fitness. You can take your time when climbing, but looking down can make you lose your balance… Also you can’t always hold the handrail because of the mass of tourists going against you. Monkeys can be quite intimidating too! They’re not afraid of you and can be a bit aggressive (especially if you have food). The temple is considered an important religious landmark by Hindus, this is why you’ll only find vegetarian food around it.

batu caves entrance colourful steps

3. KL Bird Park

In such a tropical climate, you can imagine how beautiful the KL Bird Park is. I would recommend this place to all animal lovers, even if you’re not especially into birds. This massive park is the largest free-flight walk-in aviary in the world. It impressed me a lot because of all the freedom these birds can enjoy. You will find gorgeous peacocks on your path who will serenade you and try to seduce you with their beautiful colours.

peacocks at kl bird park

Bonus: Malaysian food is amazing

To me, the reason number 1 to visit Malaysia would be the food… Asian markets are amazing, but that’s at Jalan Alor that you will find the best and cheapest food in the city. My favourite meal over there? Roti Canai (see picture below). This flat bread is the best I’ve ever had, their technique is difficult to imitate. It’s served with various spicy sauces, it’s super tasty and you eat it with your fingers… No cutlery needed, obviously (don’t ruin it).

roti canai malaysian food

Other random facts about Kuala Lumpur

  • The capital can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. You can go there on a budget or you can choose to live the high life, the city offers many possibilities.
  • It’s quite difficult to walk when there is no pedestrian access, sometimes you have no choice but to take a taxi. That’s why there are so many of them everywhere (not exactly eco-friendly…).
  • The mobile app you need in Malaysia is called Grab, it’s useful to book a taxi or to get food delivered (either option is incredibly cheap).
  • Skyscrapers are rising everywhere, it’s a dynamic city under development. Our air bnb was on the 32nd floor and it felt like it was the minimum level to be at, compared to the average height in the surrounding area.
  • Shopping centres are very expensive, to a point I have no idea how locals can afford it, compared to the cost of living. The most famous ones are Pavilion and Suria KLCC. If you like Japanese products, you will find an awesome area in Pavilion called Tokyo Street where you can find all sorts of things from Japan (food, accessories, activities etc). Definitely worth a visit.
  • The difference of temperature between inside and out can be really big. It’s very warm and humid outside, and the AC is very cold inside big shopping centres so take a jumper with you just in case, even if you already feel too hot wearing just a t-shirt outside.
  • If you want a nice view from high up, I suggest going to the Menara KL Tower instead of the Petronas Towers. At least you will have them in the view (which is actually better than being inside them) and there is a nice revolving restaurant serving local food.

To conclude, Kuala Lumpur is a very interesting city but maybe not on its own. Let me know in the comments if you’ve been there and what you liked the most!

Big Girl x