Penang – same same but different

Well, we are right back where we started, nearly a year ago.

Last November, we arrived in Penang after a few quick days of therapy appointments for Sparky in Singapore. Our train from KL was cancelled and we got an overpriced bus that landed us in no mans land at the mercy of extortionate taxi drivers x2.

We had shaved heads and were travel greenies. We stayed in a backpackers for $55 a night and didn’t know where to go for breakfast. We paid too much for a T-shirt that ended up shrinking the first time we washed it. We were still using our baby porta cot and sterilizing water.

We were in recovery from the madness of packing up our home and stuff and quitting work and leaving school.


We came to Batu Ferringhi, Penang and collapsed into a restful time of swimming, naps and eating yummy stuff we didn’t have to cook ourselves. I was fumbling around, learning how to blog, the children were deschooling and the baby had been crawling a matter of days! Apart from meeting our friends the Pearce’s  here, we were basically alone. Here we are, celebrating Christmas, alone.

(Oh look, there’s that same pink shirt, again. Maybe its time to get over my dislike and ineptitude for clothes shopping)


And this October, here we are again, back in Batu Ferringhi.

This time our friend Mary scored us a two bed apartment with kitchen and a pool for $50 a night. Baby boy sleeps with me, the porta cot is long gone. This time, we got the bus from the airport and were so organized we got our groceries on the way!

This time we have hair!  This time we know where to go for roti canai and tea terek.  This time we knew we didn’t have to pay for our kids on the fantastic Penang buses. This time our kids knew they had to write their journals, and they woke up and got on with it.


But the main difference is that this time we had a whole heap of friends.

Traveling Familes Meet-up

It was a massive traveling family meetup all organized on Facebook ( which, like McDonalds we love to hate, but find useful for different reasons)

Before we left home, I knew there were other traveling families. But I never expected we’d meet up after being ‘online friends’ for months. Weird huh?

We had a grand week of swimming eating adventuring and hanging out.  Who are these people?:

Firstly the Benders. We had met these folk in Bali, like us, they are from Perth, and they are traveling around, working online, with their two cute munchkins aged 2 and 3. (Impressive, huh?) It was cool to see them again. It’s always nice to meet other Australians. They write a fun blog called Travel with Bender focusing on advice for travel with toddlers. This is Josh Bender, and his size 13 foot!

The Kings, we had also met in Bali, where they had just arrived and were racing about finding their feet. This time, they were slimmer, fitter, more tanned, and their little children were so happy. Hanging out with a relaxed mum and dad does wonders for a child’s sense of security and contentment, don’t you think? They tell stories at A King’s Life

The Hickox family left their home in the US five years ago, and have been traveling and living all over the place, working from home and homeschooling their three happy boys.  It was great to meet them, I especially enjoyed homeschool and parenting conversations with Mary and Jenn. Mary is a professional blogger at Bohemian Travelers, which I had been reading long before I met them!

The Sztupovszky’s left their home in Canada just one week ago, and were at the beginning stretch of extended travel with their two lovely boys. I have been reading Amy’s blog Worldschool Adventures for ages, it was cool to meet them in person.  I’m sure we’ll see them again somewhere in the world. This is Mike, he’s a funny guy!

We also met Lauren and Neil, and their big boy who turned 5!  They live in Chiang Mai,  where I found my tree, and where we would happily return. More Aussies!! Traveling, I think, is in the Australian blood. These guys do it well! Thanks Spencer for giving us all an excuse for a party!

It was fun to meet more Aussies, Sara and Dakota. Thanks Sara for all your kindnesses, and chats.

I was especially pleased to meet the Millers because I wrote to Jenn Miller ages ago, asking for advice on world travel. I explained we had five kids and a wheelchair, and need to produce healthy blended liquid food every 2 hours  for our daughter Sparky. Would you believe, she didn’t think I was crazy, but thought family travel for us was every bit possible, and a great idea to boot. I read every single thing Jenn writes on her two sites Uncommon Childhood and Edventure Project. The Miller kids are very cool, another great walking talking advertisement for homeschooling. Our lot thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with other traveling homeschooling kids.

These organized families blogged about our meet up, including very kind words about us. You can read their stories here:

The Benders write Strangers Partying in Penang

The Kings write The Perfect Storm in Penang

Mary Hickox writes Monkey Beach and More in Penang

Amy Sztupovszky writes Our Week in Penang

Jen Miller writes Families on the Move Meetup: Penang Malaysia Adventure

And this is where you can figure out how many weeks behind I am!!

What did we get up to?

We had a lovely time. The ease of traveling and moving around in Malaysia was a total delight after China. The big boys caught and ate their own huge crab, and the littler boys looked on with AWE and ADMIRATION!

We listened to Hannah’s dulset tones

We commandeered three boats for a day trip

We learned about turtles and Baby Boy learned another animal word; ‘turtle’.  Until now, ‘dog’ and ‘duck’ have sufficed for all fourlegged and flying animals respectively!

Sparky got a dose of high speed fun, her favourite, at the local play gym.


We swam

And we ate lots. (apparently it was thanksgiving, which is a holiday I totally approve of, unlike halloween. We’ve also been practicing gratefulness in the spirit of thanksgiving everyday.) Of course, there was satay!!

Batu ferringhi, same sunsets, new and improved, this time with friends!

Same same…..but different….

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15 Responses to Penang – same same but different

  1. Bron November 4, 2012 at 5:53 pm #

    Wow!!! Amazing, looking forward to reading all your blog links after I do my boring chores 😉
    Bron recently posted..Sunday thanks.My Profile

  2. Amy @worldschooladventures November 4, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

    We loved meeting you guys! It is so weird meeting up with people that you know online and seeing if they fit what you have conjured in your head. You guys fit for me….totally awesome peeps! Love reading your blog and can’t wait to hear about India!!!!
    Amy @worldschooladventures recently posted..Expenses, October 2012 – Hong Kong, Malaysia, ThailandMy Profile

  3. Kara November 5, 2012 at 8:46 am #

    Yay for meeting up with online friends! That is how I survived the early days with Sebastian (thanks to Bron and Di). Can’t wait to check out the blogs of the other families you mentioned. Beautiful!
    Kara recently posted..My Grandparents. My Kids.My Profile

  4. Lisa Wood November 5, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

    WoW that sounds like so much fun :) Love the idea of meeting up with so many travellers…great inspiration all in one location sounds ideal!
    Lisa Wood recently posted..TodayMy Profile

  5. Travel with Bender (Erin) November 5, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    Our second time meeting with you guys in our 6 months of travel! So blessed and inspired by you. Thank you for coming and hanging out with us all. Your family is a wonderful addition to the human race!
    Travel with Bender (Erin) recently posted..More than a Theme ParkMy Profile

  6. Aunty deb November 5, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    Wow. You have made some wonderful friends along the way. I thought the travelling from place to place could get a bit dry for conversation with non family members. So glad I was wrong. Love A Deb

  7. Jennifer Pearce November 5, 2012 at 7:32 pm #

    It was so great to meet you’re family in Penang for the first time, and we were so thrilled to spend more time with you guys again in Bali. We really miss you lot, and hope to meet up again. The traveling families meetup in Penang sounds like it was a completely amazing time! Love to your family. :)

  8. Margaret Hogan November 6, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

    This was a really lovely post Jill. A great tale of new friendship. And confidence. You all look so well! Which of the families has the older boys? I’d love to find out how they cope with the schooling?
    Margaret Hogan recently posted..There is so much noise …My Profile

  9. Amer November 10, 2012 at 4:41 am #

    It looks like you’re having a great time in Penang. Glad to know that you’re getting a bit more comfortable with the city. There’s a lot of good and cheap places to eat in Penang. Those satay really made me miss home! Good luck and enjoy your travels!
    Amer recently posted..InFlightOut Trip Report – Croatia Airlines – Economy ClassMy Profile

  10. gabiklaf March 11, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

    i love this, the meet up, the photos. and you guys. i’ve also met personally or online so many of this group and each and every one is an inspiration. what a joy. thank you for sharing.
    gabiklaf recently posted..My Big, Fat, Drunk,Vietnamese Wedding- The Nomadic Family Budget World Travel BlogMy Profile


  1. Families On The Move Meet-Up: Penang, Malaysia Adventures | Edventure Project - November 12, 2012

    […] Going Anyway: Jill and I have been long distance friends for quite some time, since before they hit the road with their five fabulous kids, from Banjo, who’s about a year and a half old, to their nine year old triplets, with a sweet five year old sandwiched in middle like the best kind of cheese. Meeting them in real life was the icing on the cake this week. They’re chosen family material, that was clear inside the first hug. Their family breaks every stereotype, shatters every “I can’t” and, above all else, inspires. Their quiet hearted joy is infectious. Plans are already in the works to connect with these folks again in the New Year. They wrote about their return to Penang that it was  Same, Same, But Different. […]

  2. Our Week In Penang | Worldschool Adventures - November 12, 2012

    […] Going Anyway writes Penang – same same but different […]

  3. A long letter and a short visitGoing Anyway - October 23, 2013

    […] Her reply was one of a couple factors that made us jump on a plane and spend fully one year in Asia.  And there we met them in person! […]

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