The Meandering Real Traveller

Every year I try to give myself the gift of a few weeks to go off the grid, and travel alone without a plan or itinerary. Southeast Asia is a great place to be a meandering traveller. The logistics here are so easy. Guesthouses and hotels are cheap and plentiful, you never need to worry about finding a place to sleep even if you don't have a reservation. Transport is no sweat--there are good connections by air, rail, bus and boat.

And best of all, you will never, ever find yourself far from delicious food.

Last month I bought a round trip ticket from Hong Kong to Bangkok for about $200. I wasn't sure where I'd go from there, but there were a lot of options and I packed for every possibility. I brought some salwar kameez outfits, in case I ended up in India (there's an Air India Express flight from BKK to Calcutta that costs around $200 r/t). I brought assorted light cotton blouses and sarongs for Thailand's islands. I dug in my drawer and found some Thai bhat, Malaysian ringgit and Indonesian rupiah from previous trips, and stuck them in my wallet, just in case. (The ringgit is the official currency of the meandering traveler..check out the design...)

And, as always, I brought a flashlight, a stack of good books, a package of detergent, and some plastic twine. Because, as you will read in a forthcoming Real Travel column, it isn't a real trip, unless I am doing my laundry.

stay tuned....more to come.

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  • 4/22/2009 11:41 AM jlcancio wrote:
    ¬°Excelente Blog and pictures, Daissan!

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    1. 5/4/2009 4:44 AM daisann wrote:
      Gracias, Senor Cancio! Yo tambien difrute a lo tuyo...

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  • 6/13/2009 3:58 PM Milli Thornton wrote:
    Over Saturday morning cappuccino I read your National Geographic article, "Coming Clean," and was absolutely transported. I just had to jump on the computer and see your blog. Gorgeous photos and excellent insider tips. Thank you!
    Reply to this
    1. 11/2/2009 12:25 AM daisann wrote:
      Hi Milli. I think that Saturday morning cappuccino is just about the perfect circumstance under which to be reading National Geographic Traveler. Thanks for letting me know you enjoyed that "Real Travel" column.

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  • 6/16/2009 6:25 PM Anna wrote:
    Hi Daisann, I just read your article in the new National Geographic Traveler magazine. I'm 18, headed to college in the fall, and your article really hit home. I want to end up somewhere in life where I can do as you do - fall off the grid for a while, write about foreign places, and not be tied down by an uninspired 9 to 5. So how is that you got where you did? I would have emailed you instead of leaving a comment, but I didn't see an address. Basically, just wanted to let you know that this blog and your article really touched me and I'm wondering how you managed to get to do these incredible things with your life. A response would be incredibly appreciated. Thank you! Anna
    Reply to this
    1. 11/2/2009 12:22 AM daisann wrote:
      Hi Anna. Thank you so much for letting me know you enjoyed these articles. I'm afraid that the story of my life would fill up much more space than I have here! My best advice to you would be this: be brave, and don't let others try to discourage you from following your desires and dreams. You'll face ups and downs, and often have to sacrifice things in the service of your goals. I'm not always "off the grid"--I have to pay bills too. But it is possible to juggle your life and work to accommodate your wanderlust. There's no one way to do it, because everyone's comfort level and circumstances are different. I wish you luck in finding your own way.

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  • 6/30/2009 4:54 PM Kati wrote:
    just got my first Nat'l Geog. Traveler and your article "Why Not Linger?" could have been written by me - but with a bit more 'wishful thinking'... So far between jobs I once took off for 1 month to go to Australia (came home with a tattoo at 31!). Now I have decided if I get laid off with this downturn, I will take 2-3 months and travel to Thailand and India. I figure its cheaper to live for 2 or 3 months there than it is to keep up an apartment in Southern California (not to mention immersion in a different culture! How increadible!)

    My personal saying has always been "you can always make money, but you can't make time"... Thanks for writing an article that I can send to my friends to show them I'm not the only one who thinks this way!

    Reply to this
    1. 11/2/2009 12:10 AM daisann wrote:
      Hi Kati-Thanks for taking the time to write such a nice comment. I wish you the most spectacular travels. Yes, you'll not only save money but you will have the experience of a lifetime. Go for it.

      Reply to this
  • 8/16/2009 10:33 PM Steven H wrote:

    Love your blog - when are you going to come out with a book with such vivid travel stories!
    Reply to this
    1. 11/2/2009 12:09 AM daisann wrote:
      I'm working on it! Thanks for the kind words....

      Reply to this
  • 11/4/2009 4:54 PM Tim wrote:
    Daisann! I feel like I stumbled upon an old friend. I miss your NY Times travel articles and never knew what exactly happened to you after that ended. I only stumbled upon this site via link to another NY Times columnist (Allison Arieff). Glad to see you're still writing wonderful articles and thoughts. I look forward to reading more.
    Reply to this
    1. 11/9/2009 10:55 PM daisann wrote:
      So glad we've reconnected! I have another blog about Hong Kong that you also might enjoy, at And you can also read my "Real Travel"column  in each issue of National Geographic Traveler--that's where I moved to after my 6 year run as the New York TImes' Frugal Traveler.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to write me.

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