May 21, 2024 8 min read

The Traveler, part V: Leaving Europe; Welcome to Asia

Not quite "Hollywood" sign fame, but a warm welcome to Brasov, Romania!
Not quite "Hollywood" sign fame, but a warm welcome to Brasov, Romania!

Welcome to, “From the Beginning: A Nomadic Tale,” the origin story from one of our writers, and how he started out his life on the road in 2019; at age 64. Norm Bour now has 43 countries behind him, over 50 in total, and is currently in Asia for the year. This series shares how it began and how you might be able to do it, too. You can also check out his initial story, and parts I-IV, just recently posted.

You can learn more about them from their website,, and also his books, including Nomadic Life for All Ages, and his new one, The History and Magic of Northern Greece.

The end of summer, 2019, was a whirlwind, and we hit six different countries in about six weeks. See part I-IV to see how we did on the first five!

We knew our final destination was Romania, and had to go through Slovakia to get there, since we were not flying. We had no special destination in Slovakia, but a random (really?) conversation at a coffee shop had another fellow nomad advise us to go to the town of Kosice, which we never heard of, but was another unexpected pleasure. We stayed with a lovely couple and their pup and enjoyed each other’s company which exploring the town.

Next came the fun part: getting to Brasov, Romania from Kosice.

Train travel is always a special way to go
Train travel is always a special way to go

That leg required us to take a bus back to Budapest, and then an overnight train (our first), to Brasov, a distance of about 400 miles. That all worked surprisingly well, except for our first bus which was over an hour late, and we were told this is quite normal in eastern Europe!

Again, letting go of “control” is not always easy… But we made it to Budapest to catch an 11:00 p.m. train—and that leg took over 12 hours! With border inspections on the Hungary side (a Schengen country), followed by another by the Romanian immigration (non-Schengen at that time), it ended in a restless night.

Even so, we were met with another brilliant sunrise on the train that was overall incredibly slow, and once again, delayed by another engine change! Must be a thing over there.

Brasov impressed us and were getting burned out, so we said STOP, and enjoyed the mountain town for several weeks. We have returned twice since then, and still have it on our list as a summer destination because of the cooler weather.

Our Romanian AirBNB
Our Romanian AirBNB hosts invited us to their home for a meal and a horse-drawn carriage ride through the hills

As we finished up our first summer on the road, things took a different direction as we returned to Split (Croatia) after our chaotic multi-country tour. I stayed for a few days, helped Kat find an apartment, then flew to the US for a month, while Kat held down the fort, alone.

That was the second time I had one “home” since we started our nomadic life, and each time felt surreal. Many things that were “normal” before I left, felt quite foreign, and that made me appreciate our nomadic life all the more.

Since this was Kat and my first long term separation I want to address the challenges of traveling with someone 24/7. Even under the best of circumstances, it can be stressful, and when you add the packing, moving, taxiing, and flying to the equation, well, it can be rough.

We have met many nomads along the way and everyone says the same thing, so it’s important that you stay kind to your partner, married or not, and take some individual time away from each other. Not everyone has the same interests, and while I enjoyed my morning gym routine, Kat enjoyed her daily coffee ritual.

When I returned a month later we spent time in two more of our favorite countries: Greece and Italy. By now we had more Schengen days accumulated, so we were permitted to return.

standing before the Acropolis
The feeling we got standing before the Acropolis was humbling and exhilarating

It was our first visit to Athens, and we loved it. Such history right before us! Over the years we have become a bit jaded after seeing so many ruins, churches, cathedrals, etc…, but seeing some iconic places for the FIRST TIME can be chilling.

That was how I felt when I saw the Acropolis upon the hill from downtown Athens. If I think of significant iconic places in the world, some of which we’ve seen, others not yet, they can humble me when I think, “There it is! The (fill in the blanks).” So far none of those iconic places has disappointed us, but a few have underwhelmed us, which will be exposed later.

Meanwhile, even though it was fall season going into winter, we took advantage of Greece and visited the islands of Naxos and Santorini—another location that left us truly dumbfounded. We got to see quite a bit of Greece, then flew to our next location, one of our most favorites over these past five years: Sicily, Italy.

Santorini: one of the most magnificent places we ever visited
Santorini: one of the most magnificent places we ever visited

We flew into Palermo, stayed for two days, then got a scooter (again) and rode to the southern coastal town of Syracuse, straight through the heart of the island. Our rental unit was across the street from the Mediterranean, and we stayed for six weeks, and even in December the ocean water was swimmable, which shocked us!

We used that scooter to traverse much of the southern coastal towns, including Agrigento, home of the Valley of the Kings ruins, and the magical mountain town of Taormina to the north. Our little room on the island of Ortigia was something out of a movie! With a very impressive ancient ruin, the Temple of Apollo, just down the street, Syracusa held a lot of history, and was also the birthplace of the mathematician Archimedes, so that was a cool touch.

The daily market provided fresh fish and produce, plus very affordable Italian wine! Our six weeks there felt as much like a home as anywhere, and our memories are something we still talk about.

The view from our Sicily room
The view from our Sicily room

As we approached our one year anniversary of our nomadic travels, some of our visited locations already stuck out as places we wanted to return to. As that list has gotten bigger over the years, and after 43 countries, we ask ourselves, “Why do we want to go somewhere that is an unknown, when we could go back to…, which we loved?”

Many nomads shared these feelings as well, and as you continue on your own journey, you may do the same. There is a comfort level of returning to a place you have been, and the learning curve is much quicker.

But, all things come to an end, and on the last day of 2019, with 2020 approaching, and everyone with optimism in their hearts of a brand new decade, it was time to leave Europe. Our Schengen time was almost used up (again), so we flew to Athens (again) to catch a one way flight to Singapore.

Since it flew on New Years Day the price was ridiculously cheap, about $300 for a very long flight, and as we celebrated the New Year in mid-flight, we were excited about Asia, a new frontier. Having flexibility in your schedule can save you big bucks, and Google Flights can show you prices months in advance. Keep your eyes out for those down blips, and that is how we got to Asia on the cheap.

Little did we know that COVID was around the corner, and certainly changed OUR world…

Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Singapore
Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Singapore

Landing in Singapore at 0300 on New Years Day, 2020, was a trip—in every sense of the word! At midnight over some unknown body of water, the pilot and crew turned on the interior lights and wished us all a Happy 2020. We whooped and hollered, took pictures, the lights went low, and many went back to sleep. One for the books, for sure.

The airport is one of the largest and most beautiful in the world—and we were told they had very severe customs restrictions, too. Even though we had no contraband, Kat was concerned about our (legal) collection of pills.

As a former nurse and full time traveler, she carries an assortment of different things, but to the suspicious eye, it could look suspicious… Would we get hassled? Would they need proof of doctor’s orders? None of that happened, and we waltzed through to an empty airport, had a snack, and waited till the shuttle buses started up at 0600.

Singapore was our landing spot, nothing more, and that was because of that crazy cheap airfare. But STAYING there? Very costly, as the city continually ranks as one of the most expensive on the planet. We found a hostel in Little India, shared a bath with about a dozen people, and slept in a pod that we had to slip into, instead of a bunk.

We were (as is usually the case) the oldest ones there, but it was kind of fun. Since we got into town very early, and our room (?) would not be available until 3:00 pm, we left our bags at the front desk and walked around the ghost town of Singapore, with little traffic and few pedestrians. There was one thing I wanted to see there, and that was the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, the marvel with several towers and a ship like structure going across the top.

At the bottom is a huge shopping area—like everywhere in Asia!!—and the $35 or so it cost to go to the top was worth it.

From the top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel
From the top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel

What a view! Stretching from the mountains all the way out to the Singapore Sea, filled with thousands of small boats and barges. Even though our time there was brief it left a mark on us. The town is very organized, almost too orderly, and even getting on the metro is done with considerable “restraint.”

No rushing, no pushing, everyone compliant, and there was no language issues since English is the main language. But it’s not American English, it’s the Queen’s English, with very cool accents coming from all the Asian speakers. Pretty trippy at first.

Before we even left for Asia we got a bit blindsided by Kat’s son, who decided he would get married in Ohio, the second week of March, 2020. We already had our cheap flight INTO Asia planned, so we had to do some strategizing to catch the best flight back to America the first week of March. That gave us about nine weeks to “explore” Asia, which we knew we couldn’t do properly.

Since Bangkok is another major flight hub, we went there first to decide how long to stay. Carrying luggage, even with as little as we had, the idea of moving every few weeks was daunting, and since we had a great room in Bangkok for less than $400 USD, we used that as a base and jumped to other places, both inside the country and outside.

My next chapter will cover my views of one of the most amazing, crowded, smoggiest, cities in the world.

Thank you for reading and make sure to subscribe. We're constantly exploring new destinations and share our stories, tips, and the beauty we discover along the way.

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