An afternoon in the life of a travel writer

The only constant in life is change. I know this old adage is a little, well… *yawns*… but it’s a very apt description of our life right now.

Friends and family no longer ask Mark or me what our plans are because either we don’t have any (yet) or – surprise! – they change. Regularly. It’s the nature of what we do. And this freedom, this spontaneity, is what makes us very, very happy.

Take late Friday afternoon, for example. I’d been all over SkyScanner, searching for flight options and trying to piece together travel plans for the next four weeks.  You see the pic above? That’s me doing my best to (neatly) find the most logical and cost-effective way to get around. We have to leave Bali mid-October (our visas expire), and need to research stories in Singapore, Langkawi and Kuala Lumpur before ending up in Bangkok on November 2. But between KL and Bangkok, Mark might need to return to Indonesia and I might need to research a feature in Chang Mai. Maybe.

I think I might have managed to put a plan together. Of course, nothing is definite yet as one trip depends on another, which depends on an editor who’s still making up their mind, and that influences the next trip which might or might not be do-able, depending on the timeframe. So you see, nothing’s set in stone.

Anyway, back to Friday afternoon.

Mark and I were talking about where we’d move to on Saturday morning, as someone else had booked our beloved bamboo house for a week. Our plan had been to volunteer on a turtle conservation project about an hour away, but at 4pm on Friday Mark received an email saying that there’s a bureaucratic problem with the project, and it’d best if we don’t go right now. No worries, we said, we’ll find somewhere to stay around the beach tomorrow.

Five minutes later, however, Mark received a panicked email from an editor requesting four stories from around Indonesia. Two of them, the editor said, would have to be submitted – words and images – within a week. And Mark would have to travel to Borneo and to Bintan to get the stories.

To be honest, neither of us thought anything would come of that. It was beer-o’clock on a Friday afternoon; deadline was a week away, and flights to various parts of Indonesia can be a complex puzzle of connections. Plus we’re a four-hour drive from the airport – on a good day. The logistics, it seemed, were virtually impossible within the given timeframe. “If you can arrange my flights and accommodation, I’ll go,” Mark emailed his reply, and then cracked open a chilled Bintang.

Twelve hours later, he was on his way to the airport.

Mark doesn’t yet have a flight back to Bali, or even a flight from Balikpapan to Bintan. But that’ll come. For now, he’s researching his way around Borneo while I’m working from a homestay on the beach in west Bali. He’ll be back in a week, and we then have one week left* in the special, quiet corner of this island we’ve come to love. Then we pack our bags and hit the road again. Destination: … well, that’s pretty hard to say right now.

*Plans, of course, are subject to change.

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