Looking back, when I took my 90 day journey around Malaysia I was having an unpredictable year at best. It was fabulous, it was an evil bitch, it was scary, and it was wonderfully memorable. I’m a single mom with a daughter in university in the UK. I pay for my life and her life and university expenses and living expenses 100% on my own without any help from my ex (well, her doting grandparents in the U.S. chip in way more than they even admit to me and for that I will always be forever grateful).
I had moved to Malaysia for a job that ended up not working out, which was okay … but not how it was handled. It sadly took a legal course of action by me to right that situation, which was highly stressful for months and just an absolute waste of time and energy, to say nothing of being unprofessional.
In those months something happened though. I fell in LOVE with Kuala Lumpur. Honestly, it’s the coolest city I’ve lived in since leaving Barcelona for India in 2011 (and I’ve lived in Bangalore, Beijing, and Hong Kong since then). I think I may actually want to call Kuala Lumpur my forever-home! But with no ‘new job’ there was no employment visa or right to work. So there was only one thing a blogger-at-heart could do and that was explore this gorgeous land and travel it as I try to find a way to stay. So that’s what I did.
Well, first I went to Bali for 1 month and I then reviewed a cruise ship out of Singapore but then it was back to Malaysia exploring and curating content for my YouTube channel and this blog and I had a blast for 3 months. I made new friends. I am slowly becoming more of a trusted voice for people visiting Malaysia, and even for locals who tell me they’ve discovered something in their city because of a video they’ve seen (like the cool food truck park TAPAK near Petronas Towers), it’s really humbling and cool.
PRO TIP! As a blogger, travel is my favourite hobby. However, that trip marked the first time I decided to prioritise my hobby while looking for a new job. Normally I hunker down, spend all day focussed on looking for work, which leads me to obsessing daily that I DON’T have a job and stressing over it. My advice to anyone now would be to dedicate set time to looking for a job each day, then go and do what you love. Whether that’s gardening, cycling, sewing, reading, or tennis. Get better at whatever it is that makes you happiest. My spirit was higher every day because of it.
Here’s What I Learned About Malaysia
Geeeez is it multicultural and welcoming! After all of the crazy anti-Muslim rhetoric departing my home nation right now I never expect anyone to be warm to me because I’m American but EVERYONE every day – in every way – is kind and gracious and welcoming to me here in Malaysia. Hindi, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim … it doesn’t seem to matter. The motto of the city is ‘Diversity Makes Us Stronger’ and Malaysians accepted me with a smile and I couldn’t be more grateful. And for me, I find KL to be singular. It has the infrastructure and organisation of a modern, well-planned metropolis but it still has that exotic edge. It’s not totally sanitised like Singapore. It’s awesome and I love it.
Here’s What I Learned About Me
- I’M A MINIMALIST – OK I sort of already knew that. Wait, no, I totally knew that. What I mean is that I started to question even the 9 boxes + my daughter’s guitar that I have in storage in Hong Kong which represents all of my worldly possessions. I like living lean and having an agile existence.
- I DON’T CARE ABOUT LABELS ANYMORE – When I thought about my things in storage, I thought about the photo albums and the precious memories things but NEVER ONCE about the Prada bags or Tods or Marc Jacobs dress or anything else like that. I just don’t care about that anymore, and I hope I never will again. The 4 months I was travelling, I lived out of one suitcase and mostly in 4 dresses with a few scarves, a few pairs of sandals, and I had a gear bag with my Mac and cameras and that was perfect. I had 2 dressy frocks for my reviews at places like The Ritz or to wear on my birthday, etc but I can count on one hand the times I wore them.
- I LOVE THE UNKNOWN – Being unemployed meant hard choices. I gave up my condo in the posh Kuala Lumpur neighbourhood of Mont Kiara in order to afford my daughter’s university expenses (it was honestly ME or HER and she will always win by me). This meant a full hotel review calendar was essential, and a win-win. I was literally living from day to day, and sometimes not knowing where I was going next but I loved that really. Well, not having a crazy loose calendar but flying from Penang to Langkawi to Borneo to Singapore … well, that was fun.
- I’M HAPPY ALONE – Reviewing romantic getaways and honeymoon packages makes NOT thinking about being a relationship impossible at times ? From time to time I would reflect about how I was alone but not lonely and that made me proud. I’m an independent woman who doesn’t need a man. I don’t need one to provide for my daughter and I or for anything else. That one fact means that when I finally meet a guy who knocks me off my feet there’ll be no other agenda than just to have fun and enjoy myself.
I’ve learned a lot about the kind of life I want to lead, about the people I want to surround myself with in my new home, and about a beautiful country. When I finally moved back into a condo I was happy to STOP being a digital nomad because I realised I prefer the location independent lifestyle. And I started to build a more normal life for myself again. Today I continue to be the happiest I’ve been in years … and I have Malaysia to thank for getting me here.