Welcome to another installment of our Rendezvous with Rovers interview series. This week we’ve been talking to Michele. You may know her from Malaysian Meanders, her was expat now repatriation website. I’ve been following Michele for some time and love that she is now a partner on our Weekend Travel Inspiration as well. Read along and find out what types of travel makes her and her intrepid family tick!
Where do you live now? Tell us a little about where you are from. I’m a Texas gal having lived here almost my entire life. A few years ago, my husband’s job moved us and our three children to Malaysia which was very exciting and very different. Since I’m Asian, most people assumed that I was a local Malaysian. It was quite an experience to go from being a minority in the USA to living where I blended in with the crowd. We returned to our home in Texas last year and have spent the time getting reacquainted with American life.
The people of Austin, Texas where I live proudly proclaim “Keep Austin Weird.” The town is also known for its legendary live music and its foodie culture, especially barbecue pits where people stand in line for hours and the numerous food trucks that roam town.
What inspires you to travel? What types of places call to you? How often do you get to travel? My husband was the initial driving force behind our family travels. He wanted us to come up with a 10 year plan that we could accomplish before our eldest child left for university. Frankly, I thought he was a little crazy. He thought it was normal. As a child, he traveled around the world every summer visiting far flung places such as East Germany, the U.S.S.R., China and New Zealand. His own mother traveled across North America with her family when she was a teen. Her father loaded everyone into his black 1938 Chevrolet, and they’d hit the road singing songs and telling stories aloud to make up for the lack of radio.
Before we became expats, our family would do one North American trip each year lasting 10 days at the most. Moving overseas really increased our travels with us taking advantage of every holiday to see someplace new, places that I’d never thought I’d see in person.
Describe your travel philosophy. What is your style? Are you more of a luxury traveler or is backpacking more your style? Do you like to be in control and do all your own planning, or do you like to let go and go on tours or go to a travel agent to help out? Do you like to pack a lot into a day or take it easy and follow your whims? We fall somewhere between average and luxury. In developing countries, we’re more apt to book 4 or 5 star accommodations. At the very least, I need a private room with private bath. I scour TripAdvisor to ensure we stay at a place with particularly good reviews. We’ll splurge on a private car, taxi, or the fastest bullet train if it helps us pack more sightseeing into our day. While I usual do all the trip planning, I’ll sometimes use a travel agent if I’m short on time and we have a general idea of what we want. I’m detail oriented, even mapping out a rough schedule so that we don’t linger somewhere so long we miss another place on our must-see list.
What types of things are you interested in while you are traveling? Is it adventure/adrenalin or history/culture? Do you want to relax on the beach or hike around ruins? With five people in the family of various ages, it’s a real juggling act to create a trip that appeals to everyone. I like to split longer trips between a big city to explore and hiking through nature. The adults lean more towards history and culture while the kids like pop culture places like Nintendo World and any theme park. We’ll split up with one parent taking some kids on adrenaline boosting adventures (that would be my husband) while the others relax at the hotel or take a quiet walk around town (that would be me).
Everyone always asks the impossible question of what is your favorite, but just tell us a couple of places that you just love or surprised you, or a place you find yourself going back to, and maybe a place that was a little disappointing and didn’t live up to its reputation. One of my favorite experiences is visiting Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Feeding elephants and splashing water on them in the river were the highlights of my day there.
I find myself leaving big iconic cities like New York City, Tokyo, Paris and Sydney feeling like I didn’t fully explore it in the few days that I was there. I could return over and over finding new things to do each time.
With exotic places such as Borneo or Cambodia, I’m always surprised to discover how developed it is. I expected Borneo to be nothing but thatched roof longhouses and instead found multi-story shopping malls and a ton of people who speak fluent English. Siem Reap, Cambodia has a nicer airport than the one in Penang, Malaysia where I was living at the time.