How I decided on Malaysia

Everyone asks me: why Malaysia?

So why not write a blog post elaborating on my life choice. Well, here it is: my thought process and why I decided to do it.

Let’s go back to when I was traveling in 2013. Peninsular Malaysia was my fourth major stop on my trip and I honestly didn’t know too much about Malaysia before coming. I flew into Kuala Lumpur (KL) without too much of a plan.

Thoughts in front of the Petronas Towers

Thoughts in front of the Petronas Towers

When I was at my hostel, someone was talking about mobile work. He was going back to his home country to make more money before setting out traveling again. It was unappetizing work but he does it so he can travel.

It was the trap I didn’t want to be in: doing un-fulfilling work just to pay for my life. But it made me look at my list of ideas that I had brainstormed again. I noted which had more mobile options and which I would prefer to do at home. I put my list away but the thought stuck with me.

Mobile… but where? Perhaps my mind naturally drifted to Malaysia because I was here already. I was enjoying my time in Malaysia and I ended up staying longer in KL just to try to get a sense of the city. For some reason, I liked it.

I will confess. I have actually wanted to get out of Vancouver ever since I came back from exchange. Exchange changed me. It was something I think I was a bit afraid to do though. In some ways I couldn’t imagine life anywhere else. This was one of the best places in the world to live after all. But deep down, I knew there was a part of me that wondered what else was waiting for me.

So, the first question I had was obvious: what was it like to start a business here? I went online to try to find some answers. I went on to set up a meeting with someone who might be able to tell me a bit about doing business in Malaysia.

He was a local from KL. The meeting with him made me feel a bit foolish. I had no idea what I was talking about and I felt like I might’ve wasted his time. But he gave me some valuable insight. He lived in Malaysia but he owned a business in Singapore. He hinted to me that I was thinking about it all wrong: don’t think about where you want to stay first. Instead, try to figure out the right environment to grow your business.

Singapore would be great for your business if you end up with a market here.” He told me. “Make a few million first, and maybe you can consider Malaysia.”

The reason why I visited Block 71 in Singapore on my last trip

That conversation in many ways paved the road to figuring everything else out. I combined my sister’s advice to learn something new (programming) with my desire to live abroad and start a business. Could I have everything I want? Could I create something out of nothing? I wanted to find out.

Because Singapore was so expensive to stay in, my mind was still hovering around Malaysia. I didn’t have a firm idea to run on so I needed a country cheap enough to float me until I had some time to get something going. I only needed enough to get by. I did enough research to figure out logistics of staying Malaysia. I also looked into starting a business in Singapore from outside the country. Nothing seemed like an immediate road block there. By the time I returned to Hong Kong again in March (month 3 of my travels), I had some ideas on how this could work. I could “float” for a while as I figured things out; give myself a chance to get started and see where things go. It was a chance at a simpler life where I could focus on something I wanted to do. It would be fun. These all became reasons.

So what about money? I could stay cheap in Malaysia on the Canadian dollar but how was I going to make money? (More importantly, how could I make CDN $) And then I had an idea. My old boss was supportive of my travels but she ultimately wanted me to return to the company when I came back to Vancouver. She had talked to me about it before I left. She had also given me an offer to buy into the company and was holding the offer till the end of 2013. As things fell, I didn’t take it in the end.

I pitched to her that I could do the web work for the company: everything from maintenance to developing new web sites/platforms. Our websites were sorely in need of an overhaul. I drafted up a proposal that would pay me a set amount per month to do a certain about of work. This was good for them and it forced them to invest in web presence and infrastructure (something they have avoided the past few years). It also kept me in the company loop and I knew she wanted that. It was good for me because it gave me some monthly income and gave me a chance to learn on existing and new projects.

The only reason she bought into this idea was because she trusted me. I had no idea how to make a website. I had no idea how to make the things I had in mind. I would have to learn and figure it out. But the setup was ideal. It gave me something to get started on (it wasn’t enough to cover everything) and because I was working in CDN dollars, I didn’t have to spend as much time earning it (This is actually vital). I didn’t want to spend 40+ hours a week earning a living and have my leftover time working on doing my own stuff. I wanted it to be the other way around.

So there you have it. By the time April rolled around, I had more or less figured out most of the plan. I met my travel romance in March and her influence helped me stick out my decision. I continued to look for ideas and inspirations as my trip went on. While a lot of things were ideas I wouldn’t move on, it made me realize there should be a lot of potential here. It would be a chance to give back to a place that ended up giving me so much. Traveling is about sharing; not simply taking in sights and experiences for your own benefit.

When I had enough of it sorted, I felt ready to come home. I decided on my return date back to Vancouver and cut out numerous countries from my travels: countries like Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. I didn’t want to waste more time traveling. I felt inspired to get started.

I was ready. Well sorta.



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