I recently traveled from Bali, Indonesia to a wedding in Los Angeles that was already delayed by a year due to covid. Had the wedding been scheduled a few months earlier I would not have been able to go, as the international airport in Bali has been closed for over 2 years.
There were lots of rules that made travel preparation tedious and nerve-wracking, and yet I persevered and was able to do everything that I set out to do. I’m so grateful.
Photo: My son (who I had not seen in three years) and yours truly (who somehow found it in himself to get all cleaned up before the wedding ceremony).
People are very excited to travel again. If masks were required people wore them without complaining. If masks were not required it looked very pre-covid, with restaurants and malls and streets full of people.
America is a LOT more expensive than it was when I last visited three years ago. A Mexican burrito, essentially the go-to cheap meal (especially in California) is as high as $12. I’m not saying that’s an outright crime, but what I am saying is WTF!
In San Francisco I stopped into a cafe that supposedly had some newfangled way to make coffee and quickly became $12 poorer for having a mocha and an orange/chocolate scone. Neither were memorable.
Costco is still America’s best bargain. And it was a joy to have access to t-shirts and underwear that is American-sized. Here in Bali I sometimes need an XXL t-shirt but in the USA I’m just an L. If I do choose an XL in America I know it will be oversized. Not true in Bali (or in most of Asia). Not a big deal but… you get the picture.
The wedding was over the top, especially because people felt they could finally celebrate among close family and friends without restrictions. Before the event I took a portable covid test in my hotel room, which was graciously provided in the goodie bag by the bride and groom. I was thrillingly negative.
After leaving the USA I met my wife in Singapore and we spent three days roaming the city. It is fully opened and thriving, with the tracing app no longer a mandatory requirement. Singapore’s Chinatown is amazing. It was probably both the cheapest and the best food on the island. Having said that, if you want to try a Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant in Singapore you can’t go wrong with Putien.
The Changi Airport is simply mind-boggling:
Photo: A diaper-changing room at Changi Airport.
Photo: Adorable icons outside the diaper-changing room that makes the baby cleanup process seem like pure pleasure.
Photo: The famous waterfall at Changi Airport. You can “hike” among several “trails”.
You can also “glamp” for the night…
On the rare occasion that you spot litter on a city street, somehow it disappears within a few hours. There are designated smoking areas and there are serious financial penalties if you break the rules.
I wouldn’t want to live in Singapore but it’s an extraordinary place, as it stands in drastic contrast to the grinding disorder you find in neighboring countries.
What is the one take-away lesson from my travels?
Financial stress is like chain-smoking cigarettes. As much as I love my son (and having been a stay-at-home dad for him for ten years you can just imagine the bond), I am truly frightened by the impact of the soaring cost-of-living on the health of older people (myself included).
I would like to live a healthy and happy life for as long as possible and even if I eat the healthiest foods on the planet (assuming I can afford it) I believe that without financial peace of mind it would be for naught.
By purposefully whittling down my needs and desires (over many years) and effecting what I would call a relatively frugal lifestyle it makes me feel good to know that, except for a rare medical emergency, I will die without going broke first.
And so seeing my son less often is worthwhile as long as I live long enough to see him many, many times.
Should you travel now? Yes, but with proper precautions and preparations.
Prices have become almost astronomical in the states, I really don't understand how people are living without making $200k (on the east/west coasts). The cost of food, especially if you use the delivery apps with the added surcharges, people don't realize that eating out you have to add approx. 20-25% to your final bill for taxes and tips. What I dont understand is minimum wage now in CA is about $17-19/hr. I've seen several postings for hire at bakeries, restaurants, stores hiring for $18/hr so why are people still tipping? Moreover, establishments can't find people to do minimum wage jobs! Not to mention the property taxes and gas prices of course, and cable and cell phone carrier costs at extortion prices. It's great you made the move early! I'm really hoping to move to SE Asia soon, hopefully within the next two years.
My dear Neill.....sounds like it was a terrific visit. But....what about us on the Easy Coast :)!?! We were hoping to see you!!