I’ve been on the road for almost 6 months now. That’s 180 days of moving here to there with nothing but Alice (my pack) on my back. Every once in a while I get a message or email asking me, ‘How do you do it?’ They aren’t asking in some deep philosophical way but more about the nitty gritty details. How do you get the everyday chores done when you’re on the road?
Laundry…I’m sure some of you are wondering how I do it. Well, it’s simpler then you think. I don’t carry many clothes with me. Right now I have three pairs of short pants, 3 short sleeve sports shirts, 3 pairs of ex-officio boxers, and four pairs of hiking socks (and some other stuff but it’s not in use right now). The shirts and underwear are all quick dry anti-microbial fabric like spandex and I would never dream of carrying around cotton T’s and silk boxers. My socks are heavy duty hiking types, a nice aqua color, and stick up way above my shoe in a very unstylish manner but they have kept my feet in good condition. As for the shorts, just some simple cotton cargoes that will be trashed as soon as I get to Nepal because they are heavy as drek.
So, what do I do when things start to stink from all the sweat dripping off my back as I trek around Southeast Asia by myself?
How I do wash actually depends on where I am. For example when I was traveling around Japan I utilized the washers in hotels where I stayed. In Taiwan my methods of laundry was similar, pay by load washing machines. As I moved into the more central regions of Southeast Asia starting with Singapore, moving up into Malaysia and into Thailand I took advantage of the washing services almost all guesthouses offer. Using those services wasn’t cheap, but it wasn’t expensive either, typically $1 a pound. I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about shrunk and ruined clothes but so far things have been good for me (crossing my fingers at this point).
Mostly, though, I use a sink and some hand soap. Drying my wet laundry is just a matter of finding some space to hang it up.
It’s not like at home where you wait for your clothes hamper to fill up and then wash it when you have time to get to it. When things get dirty you need to wash them otherwise your pack begins to stink and the people around you begin to get more than a little peeved. I try to wash things as I use them but being human I’m not always successful. I know that I’ve been lazy when I open up my pack and catch a whiff of 3 day old sock.
A chore like doing laundry remains simple, it’s just the manner of how you get it done that changes. Roll with how the country deals with it. Out here in Southeast Asia not everyone has the money to spend on washers so there are plenty of businesses set up to handle it for cheap prices.
Hotels, guesthouses, hostels…are easy to get a room at. Some seasons and days of week are busy and it would be best to plan ahead but in this part of the world usually all it requires to find a bed somewhere is to walk in and smile. Anywhere a tourist (not someone set on escaping from the world) might go usually has more places to stay then you could count. People here are hungry for money and providing accommodation for tourists with money in their pocket (whether a lot or a little) is a great way to get a piece of the pie.
How I usually go about it is the day, or maybe 2 days before, I do an internet search for hostels on Google. A site like hostels.com, hostelbooker.com, or hostelworld.com provides me with a decent selection and I pick one that has decent reviews, directions on how to get there, and good location. Some of the sites try and charge you $2US or more for booking but ones like hostels.com don’t. When your room costs $4 a night a $2 charge seems a bit ludicrous.
A more daring way is just to show up and wander around. That tactic is better for smaller towns where things are clumped together not large cities like Taipei where everything is spread out. I’ve done this a few times but I only recommend it for those of you who have a high tolerance for the unknown, stress, and annoying hotel touts.
Sometimes I chose a guesthouse over the internet with the intention of looking for a better place when I get there. I used that tactic in Pinang, Malaysia, when the only hostel that had a bed available the night I was arriving was a fleabag joint (cheap and clean but that was it) with low reviews. After checking in that afternoon and tossing my bag on a bed the first thing I did was walk out the door and down the street in search of a better place, which I found about 2 minutes and 3 doors down.
A note I have to make is that I don’t stay in ‘rooms.’ I go from guesthouse to guesthouse and place to place looking for dorm beds. They are cheaper and serve me for my simple needs of sleep and wi-fi. Couples and groups looking for rooms sometimes have a bit more difficulty arranging a place to stay. I’ve only stayed in a hotel once and it was a 4 star place when someone flew in to visit me while I was in Bangkok.
I’m what you might consider an ‘unplanned traveler’ and there is no schedule of when I’ll be where yet there has never been a problem finding a place to sleep. You don’t need to make a reservation months or weeks in advance unless you’re trying to book some classy joint in an ultra popular location.
As a last resort you can ‘trust’ a taxi driver or a tout but remember (depending on the country) they aren’t looking out for your best interests and are just in it for their commission.
So, that’s a few nitty gritty details on how my life works out here on the road. There are plenty more aspects to what I have to do to get along and I’ll be writing more about that as I go on but if you have any specific questions feel free to ask.
Long term traveling isn’t as hard as many of you imagine it to be. Going with the flow, keeping your eyes open, and asking questions without reserve (ie being shy) are vital.