Docs on Vacay ― making the best memories wherever and whenever

To Iise Chew, anywhere with Michelle Goh is a memorable and enjoying one.

Travelling will undoubtedly give you many unforgettable experiences. But the details can fade away quickly with memory. For their love of adventure and to document their vacation trips, husband and wife, Dr Iise Chew and Dr Michelle Goh, started “Docs on Vacay” on Facebook and Instagram, as a platform to document their precious times together and also share their travel experiences with others.

Precious travel adventures

Photo of Dr Michelle Goh taken by her husband, Dr Iise Chew <3

A question was posed to travel blogger, Dr Iise Chew, during an interview with the New Sarawak Tribune: “Why do you love your wife?” He paused for a smile and answered, “I love that she’s quiet and demure.”

He also elaborated on how his wife, Dr Michelle Goh, is sweet and shy with everyone else, but talks more than he does when they are together. “She is kind-hearted and smart. While I may appear outspoken, believe me when I say she is a lot smarter than me. I also love her Sino-Kadazan features.”

The couple started documenting their travels under their Facebook and Instagram moniker “Docs on Vacay” last September. They started blogging as they realised that their scarce time together due to the nature of their work, made their their time travelling together more precious.

“After I was transferred to Penang, we were separated from each other for a long time. More so as I was busy working in the Covid-19 team.” However, the Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) medical officer shared that he and Michelle, who is stationed in Kuching, would try to meet up despite their busy schedules, even if it was just for a day-trip.

“When she finishes work at 5pm, she will fly to Kuala Lumpur and arrive at 9pm. I would do the same from Penang, and we would just stay the night. The next day, we would do a little travelling and enjoy meals together.” To them, the short trips that lasted less than 24 hours meant so much. “It mattered a lot to us, and we did a lot of short trips like that.”

But when the pandemic quarantine rules were enforced in Sarawak, Iise was not able to visit the state for more than a year. “The moment we finally met, it was fun to just be able to spend time with her.”

From then on, they started “Docs on Vacay”, which became a platform for both to express their love and document their travels together. In a short time, their Facebook page has garnered nearly 20,000 followers.

To review or not to review

With many followers on their Facebook page, the responsibility now weighs more heavily than normal.

To keep followers engaged, Iise would often upload reviews of hotels, cafes, and other interesting places on “Docs on Vacay”.

Coming from a hotelier background, Iise believes a good review can help a business in the long run.

“When I was in the hotel service, it hurts when we get bad reviews. Thus, I told myself that as a travel blogger, I wouldn’t do the same. If I have something to say, I would just personally tell the owner about it,” he said.

Elaborating further, Iise opined that it is better to explain to the owners instead of posting a bad review on the internet. “It can be traumatic. I would usually give constructive feedback. I would compliment the owners on things that I liked, and suggest areas where they could improve, “ added the 28-year-old.

The memories together

The couple met each other when they were both 21, and they first travelled together after four years of marriage. “Our first honeymoon was in Pai, Thailand. It was a hippie town, and it was very enjoyable.”

Asked about their favourite destination, for Michelle, it was the time spent in New Zealand with her husband and her side of the family.

“New Zealand was the best one for me. We stayed at a rural area in a farmhouse. It saved us tonnes of money and it was the best experience for me.”

As for Iise, although he loves going on an adventure surrounded by nature and occasionally the privilege of comfortable hotels, his favourite place to be is wherever Michelle is. “I can go anywhere with Michelle and it would be the best time ever for me.”

However, despite all the good memories, there are also the occasional bad experiences. Iise recalled a time when they checked into a hotel room, only to find cockroaches roaming around.

“We asked for a room change. Then, they sent us to a different one. But it was still the same. I asked for a refund, but they refused.”

Nonetheless, the duo enjoys travelling in between their busy work schedules as doctors. “Work always eats us up. That is the life of a doctor, and we were content with it. Sometimes I do wish I could spend more time with my wife, but I have to prioritise my duty as a doctor.“

To him, the challenge of not being able to spend much time with Michelle is also a blessing in disguise.

“In a long-distance relationship, absence makes the heart grow fonder. That is what makes our time together more special. Moments becomes more precious, and to me, it is a blessing.”

When asked if they would quit their jobs to pursue a career as travel bloggers, Iise gave a resounding no.

“We love our jobs, we love this industry. Travel becomes more fulfilling, especially after you’ve worked hard and you’re tired. So travelling becomes extra special and meaningful to us.”

Budget travel tips from Michelle Goh

Travelling is a wonderful opportunity, and being able to travel on a budget makes it more accessible to people. If you can spend less on one adventure, you have money to spend on another. Here are some budget travel tips courtesy of Dr Michelle Goh:

  1. Be patient for the good deals
    During the pandemic, hotels were giving out discounts on rooms. We booked a year in advance, so even when the discounts were no longer available, we would still have our discounted bookings. Also make sure that there is no cancellation fee, so that in the event that we cancel, it is free.
  2. Do tonnes of research
    What we like to do is read about other travel bloggers and look through their itineraries, especially when it comes to the roads not normally taken. That is one way to save money whilst experiencing the best adventures.
  3. Do what the locals are doing
    Another way to save is to observe how the locals are doing. Only then will you be able to immerse in their experiences — the true, authentic way to be a local. That, to me, is one of the most enjoyable things about our holidays. We like to do what the locals are doing.
  4. Hop aboard loyalty programmes
    Air Asia credit card helps us a lot in obtaining free flights through collecting BIG points. And some of the nice hotels we stay in, we get free upgrades just by signing up with Accor Hotels. They have a free membership, and from there, we are entitled to free upgrades. The more nights we stay, the more perks we get.
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