Where’s that book you’ve been talking about?

I can't even finish a scrapbook.
I can’t even finish a scrapbook.

There’s a strange relationship between being a writer and publishing a book.

In the day of the possibility of publishing online to an audience of millions, having a solid book in hand is still the goal. The part where bringing out the Champagne is called for.

At least that’s for me.

Before travelling, I had hoped to be able to gather enough stories to piece together into a travel memoir, or a book.
During travelling, I kept a digital journal each day to remind myself of what happened.
After travelling, I went to the library to get my hands on books about writing books.

Continue reading “Where’s that book you’ve been talking about?”

Review: Nellie Bly’s Around the World in 72 Days

Nellie Bly's Book: Around the World in 72 Days

I recently wrote a guest post for The Travelling Squid about the book by my travel hero: Nellie Bly.

around the world in 72 days kindle

I didn’t like the book in the beginning but I changed my mind during my second reading.

Find out why on The Travelling Squid’s blog: The Squid’s Book Club – Around the World in 72 Days.

Preparing for my visa run/ Streets of Buenos Aires [YQrtw Day 69 Jun 15]

papa francesco in argentina

[I wrote this yesterday but forgot to click on Publish. Doh]

Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina

This is the first time during the entire trip that I’m conscious that it is a weekend. Usually everyday jumbles up together since I do not have a routine separating the weekdays from the weekends.

Today, I planned to finish at least 2 days of revision in the morning. Sadly, I had to deal with printing my documents for the US visa application and that took up half of the morning.

I spent another half of the morning reading up on Veelas in the Harry Potter world (I’m now at GoF!) which led to more useless web surfing.

In the morning, I also booked ferry tickets to Colonia del Scaramento, Uruguay, for my very first visa run.

Wait, YQ, you can’t just drop new vocabulary like that into your post and expect us to Google it.That’s just lazy.

Probably not how the Argentina-Uruguay ferry looks like
Probably not how the Argentina-Uruguay ferry looks like

OK OK, I’ll explain. Long term travellers do visa run to extend the length of their visa. The do this visiting another country and coming back to the country of their choice in a short period of time.

Take me for an example, when I arrived in Argentina, the immigration officer gave me a 30-day visa. (I seriously thought it was 90 days. Damn you VisaHQ.)

That 30 day deadline is coming up in 2 week’s time and I will become an illegal alien if I overstay.

However, since I’m applying for a US visa, I suspect that my passport would be kept with the US embassy for at least a week since next Thursday and Friday are public holidays. If I have terrible luck, I might even overstay.

So to extend my visa, I will visit Uruguay. I will get an exit stamp at the Argentine side and a new entry stamp when I come back in the evening.

Thankfully my visa run is just a ferry ride away. I’ve read horror stories such as Juno from Runaway Juno who had to do a 573km visa run.

After concluding my affairs of the morning, I decided to take a walk and visit the second hand book stores my teacher told us about.

Streets of Buenos Aires

Luckily, Ave Corrientes, where the bookshops are, is very near the hostel. I only had to walk about 3 blocks to get there.

Along the way, I snapped a few photos so you can see how Buenos Aires looks like.

Street of Buenos Aires
Street of Buenos Aires
Not so busy street in Buenos Aires
Not so busy street in Buenos Aires
Vandalism or smiley street art?
Vandalism or smiley street art?
Buenos Aires back alleys
Buenos Aires back alleys
Head's up on Buenos Aires's street
Head’s up on Buenos Aires’s street
I spotted this map of Westeros but I do not think the story universe actually looks this neat.
I spotted this map of Westeros but I do not think the story universe actually looks this neat.

Poked fun by a jerk

I browsed through one of the second hand bookstores. It didn’t look like the usual second hand bookstores crammed with books from top to bottom shelf. Instead, the books were arranged in stacks on tables.

There were a lot of interesting books around. I was tempted to get a Book of Myths for Children which had Greek legends but 22 pesos wasn’t something I wanted to spare.

At last, I found a Sweet Valley Twin book. I’m more attached to the Sweet Valley High series but that book was only 3 pesos so I bought it.

At the cashier, I made a language mistake by saying, “Good.” when the cashier said, “Good day.” The other person at the cash register was unkind and asked his friend repeatedly if he asked “Good day” and laughed.

I was rather upset about that. When I left the shop, I kept imagining that I knew enough Spanish to retort, “Well, at least I’m learning another language. What about you?”

Alas, I do not know that much Spanish.

On Ave Corrientes, Ave 9 de Julio

Enough complaining, let’s get back to sightseeing Buenos Aires.

Newstand. I'm very scandalized that they display X-rated books publicly here. Mostly they have covers of half naked women with large breasts.
Newstand. I’m very scandalized that they display X-rated books publicly here. Mostly they have covers of half naked women with large breasts.
La Americana, an empanada place.
La Americana, an empanada place.
Pizza place
Pizza place
From the poster, Camila looks like a scandalously good show.
From the poster, Camila looks like a scandalously good show.
obelisco de buenos aires
obelisco de buenos aires
See that big poster of an Argentinine flag and the pope? It's from the city, to celebrate Papa Francesco's new job.
See that big poster of an Argentinine flag and the pope? It’s from the city, to celebrate Papa Francesco’s new job.

Dinner was another nice meal of home cooked steak with mushrooms. It’s strange that the mushrooms were more expensive than my two rather large pieces of beef.

How was your weekend?

Review: How to take a career break to travel [e-guide]

How to Take a Career Break to TravelHow to Take a Career Break to Travel

I’ve done a few reviews of books on travelling but all of them were published traditionally (meaning you can buy them from bookstores.)

Today’s book is a little different. It’s an e-book by Alexis Grant called “How to take a career break to travel“.

If you are not following Alexis yet, you must. She givesgreat, free tips about how to create the life you want.

Let’s get back to the review, Alexis wrote the e-book “How to take a career break to travel” after her solo backpacking trip to Africa. I’ve been meaning to get it since I first saw it but waited until a rare 50% sale to buy it.

After reading it, I immediately bought the rest of her e-books which were also on sale.

Before I bought the book, I’ve already bought tickets for my round the world trip so I didn’t buy it to convince myself to travel.

I wanted to find out what tips she had based on her experience.

I wasn’t disappointed.

How to take a career break to travel

PS This is an affiliate link. I get some portions of the sale if you buy it.

How the book was helpful

Most of the travel blogs (or even books) on travelling seem to focus on long-term travel or making travel a permanent part of your life. Alexis’s book is more practical for those who want to get back into the workforce after a long trip.

For those who need to be convinced that they can and should take a career break to travel, the book has a whole section on the Four Big Buts. It tells you what to do about money, housing, family and job.

There are also tips for those still in the planning mode

  • whether to keep a travel blog
  • how to decide where to go
  • being committed
  • getting support

Besides that, you can find out what sort of logistics planning you need to make. The last part is about how to get back to normal life after travelling.

Have a mission

The biggest lesson I got from the book is to have a mission when travelling.

I’ve seen too many backpackers or RTWers whose sole mission is to enjoy themselves (a very good goal but not very helpful for long-term career plans).

Alexis’s mission when she was travelling was to write an article each month. For me, I want to continue maintaining my blog while I travel. Maybe I can branch out to something even bigger than just a blog. [I’m failing a bit now that I’m about a month into the trip.]

The only problem I had with the book is that it’s only in PDF. I converted it into mobi for my Kindle but the formatting is a bit wacky. In the end, I printed it out in paper.

If you are thinking about getting a copy of her book, check out the page for  How to Take a Career Break to Travel. [This is an affiliate link. I get some portions of the sale if you buy the book.]

PS If you are as frugal as me, I suggest you wait till Alexis has a big sale before buying it. I’ll update on my Facebook page when she does.

Book review: Adventures of 2 Girls

adventures of 2 girls cover
Adventures of 2 Girls back
Adventures of 2 Girls back cover

Let me start off this book review with the back cover of Adventures of 2 Girls so I do not need to summarize what happens in the book.

Just kidding, my photo’s too small to be read anyway.

Adventures of 2 Girls is the travel memoir of Singaporean women Pam and Ning who took a career break (and family break) to travel for 9 months.

To put things in context, the two ladies are not ordinary people who decided that they want to cross off many items from their bucket list. They were already famous even before their trip: Pam is a journalist (which she does not stop reminding us of in the book) and Ning is a professional magician.

Still it’s rather rare for people from the region to take career breaks. Legitimate career breaks are things such as furthering your studies so you can climb higher up the career ladder or marrying into a rich family that only requires you to have male babies for them.

As you can see, taking time off to travel is not one of the legitimate options for a career break but Pam and Ning did it (which I applaud). The two ladies put together S$100,000 (the heck, I can’t even save $50,000 if I starve myself for 20 months) and went on a journey to many places, including a stop in Paris where Ning did a Cordon Bleu course.

“Fun read”

adventures of 2 girls cover
adventures of 2 girls cover

The book’s layout is different from the other travel memoirs. Instead of a long continuous story about their journey, the book is divided into independent chapters with standalone stories–similar to how Indonesian blogger/traveller Trinity organizes her The Naked Traveler series).

While the book spices things up by including perspectives from both ladies, I couldn’t really tell who’s who without points of reference, such as “I looked at Pam”, because the editor seem to have turned the two voices into one tone.

Overall, the book is a fun read. It’s fun to see how the two BFFs put up with each other through thick and thin. (I’m pretty sure BFF meant “best female friend” and not “best friend forever” as it seems to be commonly known these days.)

There were a few laugh out loud moments and I give credit to the authors for not lazily stuffing the book full of photos to pass off as a travel memoir.

However, the short chapters weren’t satisfying. Perhaps I am too used to long rambling travel memoirs where the author describes fellow passengers in detail and brings us along every turn of the street.

Another part of Adventures of 2 Girls which I’m not a big fan of are the areas where religion is pushed into my face–it’s a little like how I wished the section about seeking spirituality in India would finish quickly when I read Eat, Pray, Love.

I would recommend borrowing the book from the library because I believe that most of the content are available on their blog.

Checkout reviews of other travel reads:

Have you read Adventures of 2 Girls? How do you find the book?

Read: To Vietnam with Love

I usually read up on places I am visiting before a trip. Whether it is travel guides, blog posts, recommendation sites, I read them all.

I picked up <<To Vietnam with Love: A travel guide for the connoisseur>> as an afterthought. I was at the library and my arms were already heavy with two other guidebooks.

But I’m glad I did.

<<To Vietnam with Love>> is one of the rare travel guide books that breaks away from the tradition guidebook structure. (I believe the <<To Asia with Love>> series have have the same format.)

The “traditional” travel guide structure is the main reason I don’t review travel guides here.

In a regular guidebook, I find:
->History of City
->Sights to see
->Things to be careful of
->Nearby fun stuff

<<To Vietnam with Love>> is structured differently. Instead of having cities as chapters, it has different themes: Eating, Shopping, Sightseeing, Local culture and etc.

Under each theme, different writers introduce us to the Vietnam he or she has experienced. At the end of their story, there is a blue box that lists the addresses of the places mentioned.

A break from tradition

I was very much in love with this refreshing structure and the layout. The stories were short enough to keep me captivated. They were also useful since the authors give a part of the Vietnam they know to us. (But not very useful if you want a This is What You Should Do kind of travel advice.)

The introduction of the guidebook is spot on. After reading the stories, I felt like I was listening to someone’s travels in Vietnam after a dinner at someone’s house.

The book is also a contrast to other travel compilations.

One thing I don’t like about travel compilations such as <<The Best Women’s Travel Writing>> (please don’t blacklist me) is the length of the stories and the layout of the page.

Most of the pieces of such compilations are long short-story. The text spans from the left border to the right. Adding these two together makes a rather unpleasant pleasant reading experience, even though the stories are great.

A caution to crybabies

Most of the writers in the book are Americans. Since the US has fought in the Vietnam War, a lot of the stories were about revisiting the country as a veteran or a relative of the veteran.

A warning to emotional people like me, these war-related pieces made me weep over my lunch. (Heck, I wept when Hedwig died in the last Harry Potter book.) I had to wipe tears off my cheek or risk eating my tears in my porridge.

Overall, it is a very good book to have, especially if you are not visiting Vietnam. For folks who want itineraries, it’s much better to get the normal travel guidebooks.

Check out other interesting travel book reviews here:

Read: The Great Railway Bazaar
Eat, Pray, Love (Skip the India section.)
Round the world with NT$100,000 (Chinese)
The Naked Traveler (Indonesian)

I’m heading to central Vietnam soon. Any reading recommendations?

Read: The Naked Traveler

The Naked Traveler and I on the train to Solo

I can’t believe I forgot to mentioned bookstores in my “10 things I love about central Java, Indonesia” post.

The bookstore, along with the supermarket, was one of the unspoken “Must Visit” sites for us. On the first day, we visited the Gramedia bookstore in Malioboro Mall. It looked like a regular Popular but inside it is 50 times more awesome because there was 49 times less assessment books.

The bookstore is part of the Kompas Gramedia Group conglomerate which also has a publishing division churning out volumes of out translated works such as The Hunger Games.

I decided that I should checkout the travel section to find out what sort of travel non-fiction is popular in other countries.

At the travel section, I found a dizzying array of travel guide books and literature. Most of them were money-saving indie travel guides with strangely similar topics: “Travel XX country with YYY rupiah!” Replace XX with a country with YYY the amount of money and you have a new book. Continue reading “Read: The Naked Traveler”

Read: Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel

Phew, that was a mouthful of a book title.

I forgot how I came across this book online. The title, Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel, was interesting enough for me to request the library to send a copy to my nearest library.

It was S$1.55 reservation fee and took about one month’s wait for it to reach me because there are only 2 copies in the library. (In contrast to The Hunger Games which I was #27 and received it in a week.)


I finished the book in a day and didn’t feel that satisfied. Maybe it’s because I’ve already made up my mind about long-term travel so his persuasions did not move me much.

I guess another problem with printed copies of books is that I can’t “click” on the links in the book for follow up reading.

There are plenty of offline and online reading recommendation–a bit too much–scattered in the book, which can be useful but not really what I want to see in a book.

What’s cool about the book is its companion Web site: www.vagabonding.net, especially the blog, which I feel is a lot more useful than the book itself.

I’d recommend getting this from the library or just read the blog for all you need to know.

Other more interesting travel materials I’ve read:

Read: The Great Railway Bazaar

I was introduced to Paul Theroux’s by a travel writer on Twitter. The tweet wasn’t directed at me and I’m not even too sure who it was.

The tweet made Paul Theroux sound like The Best Travel Writer in the World™. I then decided to check out The Great Railway Bazaar from the library.

Synopsis: Writer takes train after train after train from London all the way to Japan (with some flights in between), passing by Europe, the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia and back through Russia.
Continue reading “Read: The Great Railway Bazaar”

Read: Round the world with NT$100,000

Great book: Round the World with NT$100,000

This was the book that inspired my round-the-world trip dreams. By inspired, I mean “to really make plans” instead of just jotting it down in my mental bucket list. I actually borrowed it twice from the library.

Long story short, Taiwanese indie traveller 943 shares how she went on a RTW in 80 days by only spending slightly more than NT$100,000 (US$3,340). She used point-to-point flights instead of a RTW ticket.

She flew from Taipei to Singapore to Europe (overnight at Bahrain) where she hopped around a bit. Then she flew to the US then to Central and South America where she took long distance buses. She then flew back to US where she flew home to Taipei.

I think it’s absoluteley brilliant that anyone can do a RTW with less than US$10,000! Speaking of which, here are a few examples of how much other people spent on a RTW.

From what I’ve read, she mostly saves money on lodging (which is a killer!) by bunking with Couchsurfers. She also does her research to make sure that she’s using the cheapest transportation. It’s chock full of indie travel gems if you read Chinese. Besides being full of tips, her book is quite humorous. I laughed at many parts.

During her Central and South America trip, she deliberately not learn Spanish beyond numbers 1 to 10 and the word for toilet (baño–pronounced ban-nyo, if you are interested). Instead, she experimenting if she could get by with body language. Apparently, it worked.

Other travel related tips that I really like from her book are her sample Word and Excel files for pre-trip flight/accomodation/transport comparison, during-trip schedule. I’ll be testing out both tips for my trip to Yogyakarta in April and share how that tip helps me.

I’d totally buy this book if I see it on offer. Yes, I am that cheapskate.