SE Asia Travel Breakdown: Tidbits from Two Months in Bali and Thailand

It is no surprise that I am tongue-tied once again trying to recap my latest big adventure. I have returned from Thailand (I will admit, semi-reluctantly!) and it is a big challenge to capture such a deep, inward journey in anything resembling words fit for public consumption—so I thought I’d have fun with some random stats, bits and bon mots from the trip below.

After spending time with family in California, next I am heading up to Calgary to deliver a keynote speech for the University of Calgary’s Graduating this Year program. I’ll even be making an appearance on a morning show, the CBC Calgary Explorer, at 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday in case any of you are in the area and have a chance to tune in!

Jenny looking up at a statue of a famous monk at Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai

The Stats


Total days living abroad: 64
January “rent” in Ubud, Bali (I stayed in a hotel): $850, breakfast included
February rent in Chiang Mai, Thailand: $500 for a studio overlooking Doi Suthep mountain (visible until the annual pollution from burning rice fields and landfill rolled in)

Mind & Body Workouts

Number of yoga classes: 32
Number of CrossFit workouts: 3 (in Chiang Mai)
Consecutive days of 20-minute meditation: 10
Total words written (to meet goal of 10-15 minutes of writing each day): 43,633 for an average of 600 words/day
Approximate total words that might actually see the light of day: 6,000. Most of it feels too journal-y, though I had a great time with it once I got going, and the daily practice completely re-activated my creative juices.
Side note: It’s looking like a mid-April launch for my new website—I will share excerpts of the writing here soon and perhaps on the new blog! Sign-up for my bi-weekly behind-the-business updates to get the full scoop. 

Education and Entertainment

Consecutive days without watching a movie or TV show: 36
Show that broke the streak: Modern Family because I needed a laugh; followed by The Bachelor, then a Walking Dead mega-marathon that sparked WAY too many zombie dreams.
Number of books read, re-read and started): 19
What I read (see all my reviews on GoodReads):

Buddhism/Meditation/Mindset: Radical AcceptanceWhen Things Fall ApartLiving with JoyPersonal Power through Awareness
Memoir: Stranger in HereExpecting AdamWild
Non-Fiction100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About PeopleThe Four-Hour ChefWaking the TigerThe Luxury of LessThe Hormone Cure, The Primal Blueprint (author of Mark’s Daily Apple), and my dad’s The Bliss Engine — coming soon!
Fun: Yoga BitchF*ck I’m in my Twenties (check out her Tumblr here), Enlightenment for IdiotsSwimming Naked

Food & Drink

Best meal: Cuban dinner in Bali in which I was sitting alone at a table, and my soon-to-be-friend Sage was sitting across the restaurant entrance. After shouting at each other for about 15 minutes in which we learned both of us were traveling alone, both from San Francisco, and both writers (among other random commonalities), we decided to combine tables and became fast friends, meeting up every couple days and keeping in touch since!

Second runner up: a long afternoon at Sari Organik with Shannon (formerly of Revolution Apparel, now her own new site)—a beautiful organic farm-to-table restaurant a mile up from the main road, located along a winding path in the middle of a huge expanse of rice fields, farmland and palm trees. Thank you Adrian for the recommendation!

Cheapest meal (yet still one of the best): Organic Vegetable—where a big bowl of rice, pumpkin, eggplant, veggies and a fried egg costs a little over $1 (credit to Adam for showing me this spot!)
Number of cappuccinos: way too many to count, many of them over Starbucks meet-ups with Elisa in Chiang Mai—a daily highlight
Number of coconuts: way too few! Maybe 5? If I could do it over, it would be 25.
Consecutive days without alcohol: 74 and counting. No specific reason for doing this, other than a health and wellness experiment. Result: I feel significantly clearer, in a much better and more consistent mood overall, more able to handle setbacks, and much more energetic in body and mind. Will keep the streak going for the foreseeable future!

The Memories

Most embarrassing moment: When a gecko fell (lept?) from the ceiling into my drink, resulting in me jumping up onto a chair, pointing at it while screeching, while the Balinese waitstaff laughed and then rescued the flailing critter from my carrot juice.

Most memorable moment: Taking a day trip with Adam and friends to the Sticky Waterfalls, a wall of limestone rocks that you can climb up like Spiderman. The clouds were dark grey and ready to burst, and there we were like giddy little kids making our way up this magical mountain of stones and trees and rushing water. Once we climbed to the top we sat in blissful silence as it started pouring rain, with the waterfall of the rocks crashing and rushing around our legs, hair soaking wet, all staring out at the mountains and tropical rainforest as we marveled at the power, beauty and gorgeous expanse of nature surrounding us. Many minutes of pure presence, and a memory of a lifetime.  

Proudest accomplishments

  • Writing every day even though it felt awkward most of the time. Remembering what it felt like to write only for myself, not an audience.
  • I am also proud of starting to build a meditation habit—something I have tried (and failed miserably at) for many years. The training wheels for my 10-day streak were provided by Insight Timer (h/t Ben), which showed me how many days in a row I had done, motivating me not to miss. It also sounds beautiful Tibetan bells to start and end, and prompts you to journal a few thoughts afterward.
  • Finally, I am proud of going to these countries alone. Making and spending time with friends for sure, but booking the flight and living alone, knowing that some days would be lonely, but that I would make it through the dips and have the space to explore on my own.

What’s Next

Sharing excerpts of my writing with all of you: eek! nervewracking, but in a good way.
Next up for living and working abroad:
 Buenos Aires to brush up on my Spanish?! We shall see!
How I excited I am to return to New York: Extremely! I dearly miss my friends, my yoga, my routines, and my city more than words can describe!

Biggest Lessons learned:

  • When going through a big transition (internal or external), quiet time is essential. Less distraction is a gift. The whole reason for this trip was to be a little bit selfish—to remove myself from the daily pull of life and be a hermit for a few months . . . and experiment with running my business from another country. These experiments worked so well that I didn’t want to leave! I realized what a gift it is to carve out alone-time for ourselves, even if you’re just fighting for 15 minutes a day at first.
  • I thrive on routine. Every day involved some combination of items from my “essential self” bliss list: reading, writing, meditation, yoga, walking, delicious food, a meal or coffee with a friend, work, coaching or heading out for a mini-adventure. I realized that these things don’t just happen because you think they sound nice. You really have to make the time, build systems to support these habits, and sometimes be disciplined about pursuing them even when you feel lazy or like you don’t have time.
  • Business actually improved. I started more new coaching clients in January than in any other month of the last year, and the calls worked well over Skype (save for a few unpredictable power outages). I also re-energized my creativity and writing, which is the foundation of so much of what I do.
  • Productivity improved. I loved being able to wake-up, take a few calls and clear out the ~60 or so emails that came in overnight, then head out for the day with total peace and quiet knowing that my American counterparts were sleeping. It was a near-miraculous feeling to go to a long lunch and yoga class, and come back to no new emails when I sat down to work again! This took the pressure off of reactive responses, and allowed me to play and experiment more with writing and other projects. For the first time, I could really sense how batching emails and only answering in two chunks each day works wonders. For the most part everything can wait until the next designated email window.
  • Coming back is a bit of a shock, but that is the ebb and flow of life—periods of introspection followed by periods of re-connection. I was in a sleep coma state for about three days upon returning home, getting fully over the jet lag after about seven. I very quickly started feeling the pull of my old tendency to over-commit, and had to keep reminding myself to take it slow. And I almost had a heart attack when I saw the bill from a “normal” meal for two at $50, knowing that would have fed me for a week back in SE Asia!

Most of all, I feel incredibly fortunate to have the life and work that I do. Every day I gave thanks to be living from these beautiful countries, cooking up ways I could be helpful to all of you as I move forward with my business. I am grateful for you, for my family, my friends, and my health.

Thank you for letting me be a part of your lives in ways big and small. I am grateful beyond words.


Top 50 Blogs for Young Careerists

P.S. Big thanks to YouTern, who listed Life After College as one of the Top 50 Blogs for Young Careerists, saying “Simply one of the best blogs out there for young careerists; you’ll love Jenny’s honest, sincere approach to delivering meaningful content.” Congrats to our very own Melissa who made the list too; it’s an honor, and we’re happy to be among 48 other fantastic sites for young professionals!

This post originally appeared on Life After College. I have imported selected posts from 2013 to catch new readers up to speed. Is that you? If so, a) awesome! And b) check out the new here guided tour. For long-time readers, nothing new in this one!

  • Cool to here a about what you’ve been up to. Bali is still on my list of must-visit/surf places.

    • Thanks Srini! Yes — it’s awesome — you would absolutely love it there. Once you can get past the cost of the flight (or use miles), the cost is pretty reasonable (though not as cheap as Thailand and I’m not sure how it compares to places like Costa Rica)

  • Pan

    Great! I liked your post, Jenny. I’m so happy you’ve taken that step and learned so much!
    What did you think of The Primal Blueprint? I ask because I have this idea that in SE Asia they eat a lot of carbs (rice?) and they’re not fat… Did it make sense to you?

    • Thanks Pan! I’ve been eating “primal/paleo” for about two years now at about 80% adherance overall. I love it, and have read a lot of related books but am not quite done with Primal Blueprint.

      When I was in SE Asia I did eat a lot of rice, but I sort of let that be okay since it is SUCH a staple of their diet there, and I don’t eat fish so had limited options. I actually didn’t notice any weight gain, bloating or lethargy, so felt okay about it. Now that I’m in the states I’ll have much less though. Great question!

  • Katherine

    What a brilliant post. Loved so much of it – from the importance of quiet time to the strength that comes from a ‘bliss list’ routine. Dangerous post to read – it inspires me to pack my bags and set off on my own adventure. Looking forward to having you back in NY.

    • Thanks so much Katherine! Fun that it sparked some adventure thoughts in you…which will no doubt be much needed and hard-earned after you make it through this big launch of yours!! Can’t wait for your launch party in April 🙂

  • melissalywc

    Awesome post – love hearing about all of the fun things that happened while you were over there. You have inspired me to take my own mini-“break” from the norm, and now I have a few more ideas of what I need to include in my own adventure (although I’m pretty sure I can’t meet the TV one). Glad that you had such an amazing trip!

    • Thanks Meliss! (oh boy, new nickname….horrible or endearing?) I’m so excited for your mini-break….glad this helped jog some new ideas for you 🙂 It’s SO awesome that you took the plunge to book that fabulous Colorodo pad! What an amazing environment to foster creativity and R&R.

  • you’re so awesome, Jenny!

  • Ahh, I loved every single bit of this post! Yay for living abroad in Bali and Thailand!!! I’m so glad you got the opportunity to see life through a different lens and remove yourself from the hustle and bustle of NYC. Sounds like you had such a wonderful time pushing outside your comfort zone.

    Now, come visit me in Australia! (I have a guest bedroom & bathroom for you….wink, wink) 😉

    • Thanks so much Kate! Thrilled that you liked the post — thank you for taking the time to leave such a nice a comment 🙂 And yes — Australia is definitely high on my list too – would love to meet up if/when I make it out there!

  • Enjoyed reading about your long stay in Thailand and Bali. Secretly happy to read a couple of great moments of yours were in Bali, such as Sari Organik, Cuban restaurant (is this cafe Havana in Ubud??) and of course your most embarrassing moment. Very funny! Still wondering where you ate the cheap yet delicious organic vegetable rice bowl. Is this one in Thailand or Bali? If it’s the latter, please share its name so I can check it out once in Bali. Thanks! Monico

    • Thanks so much! I’m glad you enjoyed the random little moments — those are always the best part, and yes! The restaurant was Cafe Havana 🙂

      That cheap but delicious spot in Chiang Mai has a sign that says “organic vegetable” and it’s one door down from Anchon on Soi 6 or 8 I believe….also make sure to check out Khun Churn for lunch — all you can eat veggie buffet for $4!

      For other great spots in Ubud, make sure you check out: Cafe Luna (the gecko incident but great food), and Kafe, Atman and Clear (all three on Hanuman road). Enjoy your travels!! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment 🙂

  • Loved reading this. I’m planning on doing something similar (traveling alone to Bali and maybe Vietnam and Thailand, too) and would love to know where you stayed in Bali. For $850 plus breakfast that sounds great!

    • Also, I’m paleo too, so it’s great to hear that you felt ok with the rice added. 🙂

      • Thanks Stacy! That’s so awesome that you are thinking of traveling alone soon too — it is such a rewarding experience. I’ve put together a list of others’ recommendations and my own for Bali and Thailand here: http://bit,ly/BaliThailand. Definitely keep me posted on your travels — so exciting!! 🙂

  • Andrea Jordan

    Hi Jenny. What a lovely post! I’m heading to Chiang Mai in a few weeks to do some volunteering and I was wondering how you found the apartment that you stayed at? Thanks.

    • Thanks Andrea! I shared all of my best recs (and those from friends) here: — happy to make an intro to the guy who’s apartment we stayed at in Chiang Mai if you’d like! Just send me an email at jenny (at) lifeaftercollege (dot) org 🙂

      • Andrea Jordan

        Thanks for sharing that link Jenny. Full of great information! An email is on its way…