People often ask us how we got started traveling and what advice we might have for others looking to do long term family travel. We were recently interviewed by Family Adventure Podcast and we touched on these common questions.

Our experiences in 2014 have been rewarding beyond our dreams. Taking the time to look back over all of our blog posts, Facebook posts, and photos has made it all seem even more unbelievable. It’s been a Year of Nomadic Family Travel and it’s hard to believe all that we’ve done and the amazing places that we’ve visited. We are truly grateful to have spent the year exploring and learning together, living abroad, and making friends.

There was so much to cover in our year-end review, that we felt that our recollections needed to be broken up into two parts for easier reading. If you haven’t read Part 1, which covers January – June, then you can find it here. Otherwise, read on as we cover our adventures from July – December.

People choose to travel for a number of reasons, but it often includes a desire to expose oneself to new experiences and cultures. It gives us an opportunity to grow and learn. To us, it’s what makes travel such a rich and worthwhile venture. However, putting yourself in unfamiliar situations, where you don’t always know the language, can sometimes cause stress and frustration. In fact, travel challenges are guaranteed. How you handle that stress and frustration will determine your success as a traveler and the satisfaction you get from traveling.

When most people think of a tropical beach vacation in Southeast Asia, they generally think Thailand. More specifically, they think Phuket or its neighbor Krabi. To be sure, they are both drop-dead gorgeous, but they are also incredibly popular… and crowded. In fact, over 5.3 million tourists flock to Phuket each year. If you are looking to people-watch, party, or shop, then Phuket is a great choice. If you’re dreaming of a peaceful island getaway, then you may want to choose another destination. Why not consider Langkawi, Malaysia?

There are many beautiful Chinese temples in Penang. They tend to be a mix of both Taoist and Buddhist religions. As such it is not surprising to see images of Taoist deities alongside the Bodhisattvas of Mahayana Buddhism, all within the same temple. Many temples were erected and are maintained by Chinese family clans that immigrated to Penang.

They are beautiful to look at and we love to slip in for a quick visit as we are passing by. Here are a few that we enjoyed.

We arrived in Penang, Malaysia just in time for the George Town Heritage Celebration, which is geared toward honoring the unique multicultural charms of this heritage rich city. This years event was themed “Living Legacies”. A number of events, open houses, displays, and markets were set up to showcase traditional cuisine and crafts that have been lovingly practiced and passed down through generations.

Malaysian Batik, and batik in general, is a textile art and craft with ancient origins. Designs are created on cloth by first applying wax and then fabric dyes. There is some debate about the exact origins of batik, but it can be traced back at least 1,500 years to Egypt and the Middle East. Samples have also been found in Turkey, India, China, Japan and West Africa from past centuries. Some of the most well-known batik traditions are to be found in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Each morning, just before dawn, I hear the day’s first Adhan calling George Town’s Muslims to prayer. It’s coming from the nearby Kapitan Keling Mosque, the oldest in Penang. As I’m waking, the lyrical and hauntingly beautiful sound reminds me  that I’m in Malaysia, where Islam is the official religion. Not being Muslim or from a place where the call to prayer is commonly heard, it seems equally exotic and comforting. It’s easy to be enchanted by it.

George Town is the capital of the island and state of Penang, on the west coast of peninsular Malaysia. One of the most charming features of this UNESCO World Heritage Site is its well-preserved colonial core that boasts many restored shophouses dating from as early as the 19th century.

These lovely, often colorful, old buildings line most streets, creating a wonderful Old World character to the city. You will definitely find a mix of old and new, refurbished and diamonds in the rough. Here are a few of our favorites.

Our guide at the Tropical Spice Garden stops along the path to pick and crush a leaf. He hands it to us with a friendly challenge, “Can you name it?”. We breathe in the unmistakable sweet-spicy fragrance that we associate with the Thanksgiving desserts of our childhood. “Clove”, we respond confidently. “Very good”, says our guide. He points out the unopened flower buds on the tree and explains that those will become the dried, nail-shaped, spice that we see in the spice aisle at the grocery store.