Southeast Asia forum

Advice needed - Long term travel plans!

  • adammcintyre

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    So, first of all, I'll say thank you in advanced to anyone who can give my some guidance.

    I have been waiting to post in this forum for a while and spent a good amount of time over many a beer, trawling through this forum, reading people's plans, feeling jealous and dreaming of the time I start my trip.

    I have browsed several other Forums, including LonelyPlanet and I look forward to being a member of this community, it seems people here give more honest and down to earth feedback, as well as being more passionate about the SE.



    So, on to my trip.

    I plan to fly out to Thailand in October/November time this year and spend at least a year or so just travelling round the area. Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Nam, Indonesia etc If I can get a visa to stay on a sunny beach somewhere, I'll stay there for a year or so too.

    I'd then like to visit places like Australia and New Zealand, Japan, maybe a bit of China and then move over to the US... but only after spending a good amount of time in Thailand etc

    I have zero reasons to come back to the UK in any hurry, so time constraints are non-existent for me.

    I'm 21, I have an online business that earns me about $3,000-$5,000 per month. So I'll be taking my laptop with me in my backpack and is my only essential 'thing' + I must be able to get online every couple of days or so.

    So far I have spent about 6 months researching the visas I'll need and just general information, but I'd like to talk to you and get some real life experienced-feedback from you :)


    On to some questions,

    How much does living cost in Thailand / Laos, on both a shoestring and a modest budget?

    What about travel? When you're there, how do you usually get about? Is motorbike a fun way to do things?

    My new laptop (Retina Macbook) just set me back £2,000 (3119 U.S. dollars), I'm guessing that's a fair amount of money to your average Thai - what security precautions will I need to take?


    What are the communities of travelers, bars and nightlife like? I will be going alone, but hope to meet people regularly, has this ever been a problem for you?


    If you've read this far, I really appreciate you taking the time to do so and would love to hear any honest feedback and how you tend to travel over there :)

    Thanks,
    Adam

    #1 Posted: 4/7/2012 - 16:06

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  • Tilapia

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    Hi Adam,

    For most of Southeast Asia, a daily shoestring or modest budget will run in the range of around U$25-U$35 per day in a place like Bangkok or Georgetown or Vientiane. That would include all your food, a room with attached bathroom and a/c, a couple of big bottles of beer, and all of your transport. You could go lower than that by taking rooms without a/c and shared bathroom, taking city buses, and avoiding booze.

    I'd say that is average. Some can go for much less. Others might think it is unreasonable. I've always survived quite well on an average of around $25/day. Some days it's closer to U$40, and some days it's around U$20.

    Getting around is easy and cheap. Train travel is limited. It doesn't exist in Laos, is slow and uncomfortable in Burma and Cambodia, but there are still some great trips to be had in those places, as well as in Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam (I can't speak about Vietnam from experience). Night trains are great for long distances if you're going to a place they travel to. You can get from Bangkok to the Laos border in Nong Khai in a sleeper for around U$20.

    Buses go pretty much everywhere and for most places there will be multiple buses going each day. Where buses don't go, songthaews (these are usually pick-ups or sawed-off vans with 2 benches in the back) or pick-ups do. In some areas you can also get around on the waterways.

    I'd say that you shouldn't have a problem with your laptop.

    Going alone shouldn't pose any problems. Lots of people travel solo and prefer it. Someone will usually be going in your direction (even if it's for a beer or dinner or both), and the common areas of guest houses and bungalow resorts tend to be rather social most of the time.

    Have a great time.

    #2 Posted: 4/7/2012 - 21:47

  • Captain_Bob

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    "How much does living cost in Thailand / Laos, on both a shoestring and a modest budget?"

    About 1000 baht (or 250,000 kip or roughly $30/day) per day on average. Factor in that southern Thailand is considerably more expensive than the north. Down south doing beach bungalows and partying I'd plan for more like 2000 baht/day (at least).

    "how do you usually get about? Is motorbike a fun way to do things?"

    Buses and trains. Buses go just about everywhere, for train info see http://www.seat61.com/Thailand.htm
    If you're in Thailand for extended time consider to buy a motorbike. You need to have some kind of residential address and get a residence certificate (500 baht at the nearest immigration office) and have at least a tourist visa valid for two more months. Buying new it can take up to 2 months to get the bike registered, buying 2nd hand it just takes a day. People drive like idiots here so take time to learn the ropes.

    "What are the communities of travelers, bars and nightlife like? I will be going alone, but hope to meet people regularly, has this ever been a problem for you?"

    There is a year-round supply of young and old tourists in all the popular spots, and loads of expats living here who are probably twice your age or more in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, etc. As long as you're outgoing and inoffensive you'll have no problem making a social life. Once you leave the tourist trail however you should learn to speak Thai. It will also help you understand what your Thai girlfriend is saying behind your back (haha).

    Aside from having money you'll need to be on top of the visa situation. For Thailand to stay more than 30 days you need at least a tourist visa, and for long term try to get a double or triple entry. The Thai consulate in Hull, UK does triples last time I checked, and valid for 6 months. Otherwise you'll be doing some broder runs or trips to the Thai consulate in Vientiane or Penang, etc. to acquire additional visas. In the long run a non-immigrant type-O or type-B visa is preferable but requires you to either be married to a Thai, be over 50 and retired, or have legitimate employment and a work permit. Learning to play the visa game takes some doing.

    #3 Posted: 4/7/2012 - 23:48

  • adammcintyre

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    Thank you Tilapia and Captain Bob for the informative answers.

    How long have you lived / spent in this part of the world?

    I see a lot of people posting here with mega trips planned for 14, 21, 28 day vacations meaning they'd have to move every other day.

    I'm a very slow going laid back person haha, I need to chill equal amounts to travelling.

    I really can't do planning or keeping on schedule, which is why I ask more general questions. I just want to turn up and go where the wind takes me and a visa allows me haha

    Another question, on reading a previous post, (I think it may have been Captain Bob) who recommended Ko Lanta and Freedom Estate. I contacted them and found that their monthly rate is only £300ish, which is fricken awesome (far less than I pay to rent a *room* in the UK)

    I looked on Google Maps and it seems close to the Malaysian border. Do the same rules apply for crossing the border there and coming back into Thailand? Or do you need a visa to get into Malaysia?

    I will be starting out on my travels (hopefully) with a double entry visa, which I believe I can then extend another 30 days. 3 months should be enough for me to travel from south to north Thailand and into Laos I hope.

    But after a year, I would like to settle somewhere on a beach so i can relax, but spend a good amount of time working from my laptop and grow my business (who wouldn't want to sit on a beach and grow their business!)

    And Ko Lanta seems a nice, under-touristed place to do that (the internet leads me to believe)

    Thanks again,
    Adam

    #4 Posted: 5/7/2012 - 05:27

  • DLuek

    TF writer
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    Location Thailand
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    Good advice from Tilapia and Capt. Bob already...

    Given your intelligent and sensible tone and the fact that you've spent so much time researching, I'd say you're going to be just fine.

    In terms of traveling with a laptop, I've been traveling/living in and around Thailand for almost a year, and I use my Macbook Air for work (so far so good). I'd recommend a very solid computer/camera bag (I use a Thinktank Urban Disguise 60 and love it), and be prepared to consider that bag a third limb. When traveling and staying in cheap bungalows and such, I generally don't leave the bag unattended in the room, although I tend to use my discretion. Rooms with lock boxes are always best. A lot of people say to leave valuables at reception desks of hotels, but I don't altogether trust them (I once left my laptop at a mid-range hotel reception desk, who said they had a safe for it, and came back an hour later to find it sitting in open view within reaching distance of any passer by behind a totally unattended desk, so if you do leave it there, just make certain it actually goes into a safe).

    I also have a travel insurance policy (booked through STA travel) that covers me up to US $2000 in case of lost or stolen baggage. When checking such policies, just be careful that it will actually cover your computer. Many providers offer a good payback for lost/stolen bags but in the fine print they actually don't cover any electronics, jewelry, etc.

    Also, it's always good to consider the worst and be prepared for it. This goes for credit/ATM cards, passport, computer, etc. etc. -- have plans in case something bad does happen. But honestly, unless you get too drunk to stand and start mouthing off to locals, you shouldn't have too much to worry about in SE Asia.

    In terms of traveling alone, it can be a challenge in some ways. If you're an outgoing type, you shouldn't have a problem meeting other travelers and some locals too, but relationships can be fleeting when you're always moving around. I've struggled both ways before... During long trips alone, I've gotten really lonely and homesick and yearned for real friends and companionship. But during long trips with friends and an ex-girlfriend, I felt suffocated and desperate for the freedom that comes with traveling solo. I don't know - for me it seems that both ways can feel unsatisfactory.

    In any case, don't underestimate the loneliness that can come from traveling so far from home alone. If you stay busy, it's easier to deal with. But at the same time, for me anyway, after being continuously on the move for months with no stable companions or home base to return to, I started desiring those things very strongly. Of course, now that I've been based somewhere (Bangkok) for a few months with more steady relationships, I find myself gradually craving the "free and open road." So it goes I guess...

    Just, appreciate your home and friends and family while you're still there, because you'll inevitably miss all that when you're gone. It's easy to say you have "zero reasons to come back" now that you're still home, but after six months of traveling alone, you could very well be singing a different tune.

    Of course, earning US $3000 to $5000 from anywhere in the world, you could always go back every six months for a visit! Congrats on pulling that off -- it will certainly make traveling indefinitely very doable and take away a lot of the normal stress related to budget. Now that we've provided you with a bit of guidance, how about a little guidance for us on how to start an online business that rakes in that kind of dough? ;)

    Cheers,

    DL

    #5 Posted: 5/7/2012 - 05:45

  • DLuek

    TF writer
    Joined Travelfish
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    Location Thailand
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    Just saw your latest post. It's about a four or five hour bus trip from Ko Lanta to the Malaysia border. You can get into Malaysia for up to 30 days visa free any time you want. But if crossing back into Thailand by land you get only 15 days, unless you went to Penang for a new visa.

    Everything you've mentioned so far is totally doable. If you have no time restraints, there's absolutely no need to even put together an itinerary. I'd just play it by ear and, like you said, "see where the wind blows" you. Just do your research first so you know the options and the logistics involved. If I were you, I'd travel around for a while, and whenever I find a place I love, stick around for a bit to see what it would be like to live there. Then, I'd keep traveling, and after the right amount of time, I'd return to settle at the place I liked the most. Of course, if I find myself in an unexpected relationship, that can throw all plans out the window!

    Just remember, when you research and plan a big adventure like this, you inevitably idealize and fantasize about what it will be like. The whole "freedom and adventure" aspect is very seductive when you're sitting at home in some boring town. In the end, it might end up the most amazing experience of your life - or the most difficult one - but it will never be what you imagined it will. In any case, it will be life-changing, and you'll grow a lot as a result of it.

    #6 Posted: 5/7/2012 - 05:57

  • adammcintyre

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    @DLuek,

    Thanks for the informative answers! Where are you originally from & how long have you been over in Thailand?

    I can definitely understand where you're coming from with the loneliness comment. I seem to be a very independent person on the whole though.

    Actually, it's been a while since my last girlfriend and I was daydreaming of meeting a girlfriend along the way, someone who enjoyed travelling and living life etc >.<

    For the mean time, until (if) that happens, I am happy to sporadically meet people. I find making friends and socialising very easy haha

    I keep forgetting the by-land entry only gives you 15 days, that definitely sucks.

    RE: launching an online business and making your money online - just as you say to me that travelling will be completely different to what I imagine - so is working online.

    Sure it seems glamourous that I can work from anywhere and all I need is a laptop - but I've spent the past 12 months+ working 18+ hour days, hustling like crazy - it's really not as easy as it seems.

    The end goal has was originally to earn enough to pay for travelling, but through major hard work and a few pinches of luck, it's turned into a job.

    I can't really give you any quick-tips to launch a career, but one of the best ways to start is via blogging, and a great book (written by the guy who has taught me most of what I know) is How to Build a Successful Blog Business by Collis Ta'eed, a fantastic read and very insightful.

    It pretty much explains the blueprint on how my personal business works.

    I'm sure if I ever meet you along my travels, to buy you a beer for helping me out right here, I can spend some time showing you the ropes!

    #7 Posted: 5/7/2012 - 06:48

  • DLuek

    TF writer
    Joined Travelfish
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    Location Thailand
    Posts: 932
    Total reviews: 14

    Yes, 15 days does suck. It used to be 30 (it still is if you fly in). Staying long-term in Thailand can be a bit of a pain, but you figure it out as you go. An education visa isn't a bad option for a 1+ year stay if you care to learn some Thai (or Muay Thai, or become a Buddhist monk :) But you can get by for a year on just tourist visas, longer if you're spending extended periods in other countries as well.

    I'm from northeast US, been over here 9 months this time, have traveled the region a decent amount since '06.

    I wasn't altogether serious about you sharing insights on the online biz thing, but thank you for sharing a little of your experience!

    Feel free to drop me a line when you get into BKK - I'd be happy to show you around the city a bit if I'm around. luekensd@gmail.com

    #8 Posted: 5/7/2012 - 09:43

  • MADMAC

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    You might want to consider finding a geograghic area you like and getting an apartment and staying there for a while. That will save you big money on accomodation costs, and will also allow you to develop relationships with indigenous persons and learn the language (facillitates going to school).

    #9 Posted: 5/7/2012 - 21:53

  • adammcintyre

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    Sorry for the delay in replying, I've been away and then had a mammoth amount of emails to catch up on.

    @DLuek, yeah an education visa to learn Thai would be something I'd love to get my mitts on so I can settle down for a year or so somewhere I like.

    I have another question (if you don't mind!)..

    I've been thinking a lot these past few days about the difficulties of simply getting off a plane, on my own, in a country with a completely different culture, language etc

    Don't get me wrong, I can't wait to absorb the culture, it's simply the first steps off the plane I'm asking about..

    If I was to get off a plane here in the UK, say Manchester Airport, and have to find my way to a cheap hotel, not knowing the language - I'd really struggle and probably end up in the Hilton paying a fortune because it's the 'one that looks like a hotel'.

    Is there any route you could recommend me to take on arriving at BKK? Any particular hotels that are fairly cost effective to allow me to stay for a week or so in Bangkok so I can start to get my bearings with where I am and where to go / the culture?

    Also, is there any tourism books you could recommend?

    Thanks again guys! And yeah, when I set off to BKK DLuek I'll have to shoot you an email ;)

    #10 Posted: 22/7/2012 - 19:26

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  • Tilapia

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    Hi Adam,

    A while ago you asked, "How long have you lived/spent in this part of the world?"

    I lived in Thailand for about 1 1/2 years in 1999-2000, and have been traveling there since 1992. I go about every other year, sometimes more. I don't always just stay in Thailand, but always fly into Bangkok when going to that part of the world. Bangkok is the hub. When I first started traveling in Asia the hub was Hong Kong, and Cambodia was off-limits ... closed! One could only visit Vientiane and Luang Prabang in Laos, and had to fly between the two, and a visa was only good for 7 days and cost U$100. Since then I've been to all of those places, more than once, including Burma.

    You said, "I see a lot of people posting here with mega trips planned for 14, 21, 28 day vacations meaning they'd have to move every other day."

    Not necessarily. Some people don't move far, or much at all. I've met people who arrive in Bangkok, go straight to Trat, and then go straight to Koh Mak for a month.

    Your question about landing alone in a strange place where nobody speaks your language ... trust me, Bangkok is one of the easiest and least expensive airports I've been to for arriving and departing. Much easier than when I first went, and even then it was easy. There will be lots of people there to help you out. Signs are in Thai and English. There is a taxi stand where you can get a cab to any place in the city without a problem. There is now a very good rail system that will take you into the city if you want to go it alone. Streets signs are in both Thai and English script. There are lots and lots of lovely ladies standing around in the terminals to point you in the right direction, and they all speak English. All you need to do is show up at the airport with the name and address of a guest house or hotel or whatever and hand it over to the nice lady at the taxi stand and pay a flat fee. She'll tell the driver where to go and you'll be dropped off at the front door. I've said this before in other posts ... Bangkok provides for a very soft landing into Southeast Asia.

    Just do some research before leaving. Use this site or get a guide book, pick your place or have a few in mind, maybe making a reservation at one before leaving home. Having a reservation means you know where you're going to go when you arrive, and that you won't have to wander around looking for a place after a long, tiring flight. Not all of them require a deposit, either. I have made reservations at Shanti Lodge a few times and it's always worked like a charm.

    Since it will be your first time to the city, I would recommend that you stay close to the river in the Banglamphu or Samsen Districts. These are the areas where there is a high concentration of accommodation that will fit all budgets. Many of the main tourist attractions (the Royal temples, Royal Palace, Flower Market, as well as countless eating options) are within walking distance. You will be close to the river which is a great transport option (using the Chao Phraya River Express boats). I also find this area to be quieter, the air a bit fresher, traffic lighter, and with far fewer high rises/malls than what you see in other popular parts of the city. Finally, it's an area where there will be so many other tourists that you can't swing a cat without hitting one.

    Have fun.

    #11 Posted: 23/7/2012 - 20:14

  • vancit

    Joined Travelfish
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    Location Canada
    Posts: 10

    First of all, I would like to thank Adam for asking just about every question that has been racing through my mind since I decided to finally embark on my SE Asia travels. I also want to thank all you smart, well-traveled individuals who have replied to this post with such thoughtful and sincere answers. I can really say that you have all helped put my mind a little at rest.

    I do although have a couple more questions to ask you guys regarding my own solo mission through SE Asia.

    I just decided about a week and a half ago that I was finally gonna do this. Now was the time for me to make my dream a reality and head down to SE Asia. I just graduated from culinary school and don't have much holding me back at home (Canada) right now so I figured why not? I better just do this or I never will. I got tired of waiting around for a friend to finally commit to coming with me so I'm traveling solo. Being a 23 yr old female, my father was not to impressed with my decision to go ahead and do so. I mean I'm an adult and I can make my own decisions so I'm obviously still going but I have been doing my research to prove to him that I am well informed and I will be just fine.

    Now that this is happening I can't stop diving into forums and reading articles and just researching the sh*t out of Thailand and backpacking in South East Asia. I am so excited for all these things that I am imagining. I know that some of them may come true but things may also be completely different from what I am imagining. I find it very fun to have something so exciting to look forward to and life has already gotten more exciting since my decision to leave but at the same time its one of my biggest fears. I fear that I will get there and nothing will be of how I imagined and I will panic and miss everything and everyone that I am used to. I hope I can be strong enough to get through the tough times that come with traveling alone. I have traveled to the west coast of Canada on my own and found it very difficult at times and just hope I can have a more positive experience. I hope I have learned and grown enough since my past experience for that to be possible. I mean, this is the day and age of #yolo, I hope I'm not making a huge mistake, if you know what I mean?

    I have arranged to attend a Yoga Teacher Training Program in Koh Samui, for my first month away. Here, I am hoping to meet wonderful people from all over the world and hopefully get myself a travel buddy for the first little leg of my trip, just to ease me into traveling in such foreign countries. I am also hoping that my practice will help me get that little extra confidence I need to be in a better place to be fully open to new experiences and and putting myself out there. I can be very outgoing when I am in a comfortable environment but tend to be a little more intuitive when meeting new people outside my natural environment. I have always been a very adventurous person and willing to try anything once. This trip will hopefully be filled with many firsts and hopefully not too many lasts. I hope to meet amazing people and build memories that will certainly last a life time.

    I plan to stay in Thailand for another two months and continue to travel the south and hit the beaches and then head up North. I plan on getting a tourist visa prior to my departure then extending it for another 30 days. I know that I will also require proof of onward travel to obtain my visa. Does this mean I need to book my onward travel before the 60 days or is it okay to book before 90 days assuming that I will in fact be extending my visa?

    Also, what are your thoughts on booking onward travel mainly for the purpose of obtaining a visa? I think I would head to Malaysia after Thailand but also want to hit up Laos, Philippines, Indonesia and possibly end up in New Zealand or Australia if I have to money to do so. I as well plan on just going with the flow. living it up and seeing where life takes me. I am excited about going alone for this purpose. The chance to just do as I please and follow my heart, be where I want to be or where people I want to be with plan on going. It excites me not having a full set itinerary in advance so I find it hard to book an onward ticket when I have absolutely no clue as to when I'll want to leave, where I want to leave from and where I want to go.

    That's another issue.

    Unfortunately for me, unlike Adam, I do not own my own internet business where I can work from anywhere in the world, though I kinda wish I did now.
    With my culinary background, part of the reason for my trip to this part of the world is because I am in love with their cuisine. Ideally I would love to make my way into their kitchens and just learn and eat and discover all new techniques and flavours of SE Asia. I am hoping it is possible to pick up work along the way to help continue fund my trip. How easy is it for me to get work under the table without requiring a work visa? Is the fact that I don't speak Thai going to be a major issue?

    I am planning on staying in mostly if not only hostels because I will be traveling on a tighter budget especially if I cannot find work. I have read a few things saying it is a good idea to try and find jobs working in hostels to cover your accommodations and/or even food. I feel like it would be a competitive field since most travelers would have the same idea. Have any of you's had success in doing this?

    That's about all the questions I can think of right now but I'm sure there will be more to come. I appreciate everyone who may take the time to read this post and get back to me with further information. Like I said before, you have all been such wonderful help already. I look forward to meeting such like minded people as yourselves.

    Thanks,
    Vanessa

    #12 Posted: 27/7/2012 - 02:15

  • adammcintyre

    Click here to learn more about adammcintyre
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    @ Tilapia, thanks for the feedback, you've really put my mind at ease!

    @ Vanessa, feel free to join me for the first month or so of your travels! Two newbies at it have got to be better than one :)

    #13 Posted: 27/7/2012 - 03:28

  • vancit

    Joined Travelfish
    26th July, 2012
    Location Canada
    Posts: 10

    Sorry for the double post, not sure how that keeps happening.

    @Adam, that is a great idea. Once you have a flight booked and things figured out we should arrange to meet up somewhere along the lines. Two newbs is definitely better then one :) I have set my profile to allow private messages for further contact.

    Still looking for some feedback in regards to finding work if anyone has any advice or information to pass along.

    Thanks all!!

    #14 Posted: 27/7/2012 - 13:35

  • busylizzy

    Joined Travelfish
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    Vancit - you haven't quite finsihed setting up your profile for PM's. There are two parts to the process. You'll know you have it right when you see the blue underlined 'Private Message' text under your name (you like see under mine).

    1. Login and go to the Members Centre (link at top of page)
    2. Go to Profile -> Edit Profile
    3. Set Messaging to 'Enabled'.
    4. Set Profile to 'Public'

    #15 Posted: 27/7/2012 - 18:15

  • vancit

    Joined Travelfish
    26th July, 2012
    Location Canada
    Posts: 10

    Thanks busylizzy :)

    #16 Posted: 27/7/2012 - 22:33

  • letmeinplz

    Joined Travelfish
    6th August, 2012
    Posts: 15

    You might want to consider finding a geograghic area you like and getting an apartment and staying there for a while. That will save you big money on accomodation costs, and will also allow you to develop relationships with indigenous persons and learn the language (facillitates going to school).

    #17 Posted: 8/8/2012 - 06:30

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