When Paths Cross With a Self Proclaimed Ex-Convict

That time in Indonesia when my path crossed with a self-prclaimed ex-convict….

Our First Escape Room
Our First Escape Room. No we were not in prison Moms!

The hotel was purple, with two stories and full of balconies overlooking rolling green. Picturesque. The staff were sweet locals, whom shared not only travel tips but also personal stories with us. Hot as hell, we decided to come back to our hotel after a morning of walking around the local area.

The owners son, we’ll call Ja, offered to take us to a nice view point one afternoon and we were happy to accept. He explained that a new hotel was being built by a foreigner, and soon the road to the view point would be private; so he was happy to bring guests to the view point while still able.

On route to the view point, our new friend began sharing that he used to be a tour guide going from Bali to Komodo National Park weekly. As we drove by the new hotels’ construction site, our friend waved to another truck passing by and then said, “he’s also an ex-convict”. Not positive if I heard correctly, I hesitated to ask, “Sorry, did you say ex-convict?. To my surprise, we had heard Ja correctly and he proceeded to share more details without any reservation.

Turns out Ja liked to gamble, and while working as a guide, had got addicted to internet gambling that led to a loss of most of his personal items. As such, he orchestrated a scam to essentially trick people into thinking they were paying for a trip with the company that he worked with as a guide. However, the money was being sent to him.

Ja eventually got caught and was, “on the run and living on the streets for about 2 years”. When Ja was caught he said that his dad could have helped him stay out of prison for a cost, but his dad refused and told Ja that he needed to repay his debts. (Side note: I just finished reading Dan Browns’ Lost Symbol, and thankfully this story does not end the same.) Continuing on, Ja said that prison was not as bad as he would have thought and he was glad to have this experience and chance to turn his life around. Upon getting out of jail only a few months prior to this conversation, Ja’s dad offered him to work at their small hotel (which I will leave nameless), in order to pay back his debts. Ja told us that even though he served prison time, he feels morally responsible to pay back his debts to the company. From what he told us, the company honoured the people that were scammed so all the money Ja owes is actually to his previous employer.

More stories to come as I cross paths with strangers.

Wander with Love!


Holiday Travel Ideas!

Let’s talk about enjoying the holidays while travelling. Allow me to start with a personal story…..It was about 1100AM when our half hour flight arrived to Mulu. It was boxing day, it was hot, and we were not sure where we were going to stay.  So, we started walking toward Mulu National Park and right outside the park we heard loud music coming from a homestay. Before we knew it, our backpacks thrown down in our  room and we were invited, basically pulled into the loud music, where we were now enjoying some family holiday festivities.

The family we joined was visiting the owners of the hostel and quickly began pouring us multiple drinks and cheering for us to “1 go” (basically chug our whiskey and tuok, which is a local rice wine).  They also taught us how to do one of their local dances and shared some wild boar and cookies. It was really all very exciting, especially considering we spent Christmas away from family. This family was more than welcoming and just having a good time!

As I laughed and leaned how to say cheers while literally getting carried back to the table for a another drink, I felt like I was at home for the holidays. Then, all of the sudden, the entire family went in the backyard as a longboat arrived and everyone left to go home ! Yup, did I mention it was only about 1100AM when we arrived? Now I was very drunk at noon in the middle of Mulu! What an experience!


Depending on where you are travelling, different countries will celebrate  a variety of holidays. If you are like me, a Canadian used to celebrating a white Christmas,  you may find yourself missing all the snow and traditions of back home. As my story may have alluded to this past Christmas season while in Malaysia, we were excited to learn that there are many Christians that do celebrate Christmas. Beyond my crazy and fun encounter on Boxing Day, over the course of the December holidays we found ourselves at a few holiday festivals and events. A simple search for local events led us to a 2 Christmas festivals, with live music and great food and we also saw a local school parade with a bunch of cute kiddies in Kapit.

As such, my first suggestion is to participate in the the local holiday events. This suggestion is the same for local holidays, not just your traditions back home. Learn about the local holiday traditions and participate, where possible and respectfully. In my experience, locals are often excited to teach you about their traditions and invite you to enjoy with them!

Another tip is have some fun and be creative about celebrating your holidays. If you are backpacking, buying gifts can be more of a burden because you likely do not want to carry around extra things for months. So, being creative about the holidays is the way to go. Yogi and I decided to buy stockings  and order room service for our first time. To fill our stockings we created a bit of a game, to help guide our gift giving. Feel free to steal this idea, or get creative with your own for any holiday.

Our Christmas Gift Scavenger Hunt

Something from me to you

Something for us to do

Something that reminds us of home

Something that helps us roam

We had a small budget and tons of fun running around a shopping centre, trying not to let one other catch us buying anything. I even bought confetti and fake snow for Yogis stocking, which was a huge mess but totally worth it. I bought socks with pot leaves on them and a funny shirt that said I love my girlfriend, and each were too small for Yogi so I get to wear them!! A lot of clothes in Asia tend to be smaller sizes than in North America, but its all in fun and part of the experience.

Third simple tip, Skype with your friends and family. My sister put the camera on the couch and I watched my niece open up her stocking on Christmas morning. We also have a shared online folder where we could share what we were doing at midnight on NYE since we are in different time zones 🙂 Simple and fun!

Skyping with family!

Have any stories or ideas from your holiday travels? Please share avec moi. You can shoot me an email or comment directly on this post.