There’s a loud crack, and a chunk of ice the size of your ﬁst skitters across the ﬂoor. The ice-crushing machine has ﬁred a shot again—no surprise, since it’s over 50 years old. Somebody has ordered an Ais Batu, or “ABC.” This translates from the local Malay language to Crushed Mixed Ice, a blend of sweet corn, red beans, several ﬂavors of Jell-O, and condensed milk on a bed of ice: All for $1.14. Perfect for a hot day. I’m sitting in the Fortune Coffee Shop in Kota Kinabalu, on the island of Borneo in Malaysia.
You’ll rarely find a better time to visit Japan. As I write, $1 is equal to 102 yen. The exchange rate has been strong for eight years. From the moment you arrive, Japan feels unlike any other destination in the world.
Why would anyone give up friends, family, a beautiful home, a good job, and security to roam around with a small bag and a backpack half the world away? I had it all. But, like so many people, the fast pace of life and high stress in the U.S. just had to go. Long working hours, business travel, churn and reorganizations in the office… So over three years ago I quit my job, sold my house, car, and everything else, left two boxes of personal items in my friends’ garage, and took off.
Beautiful, double-decked boats awash with lights ply the river, with couples enjoying a romantic dinner, a glass of wine, and a dance. Along the broad, elegantly paved riverside promenade, lovers stroll hand-in-hand, smooth, soothing jazz music playing from the loudspeakers in the background. Farther along, several couples glide to tango music in perfect unison.