May 28 2013

Traveling And Designing

As one dream ends, another begins. I’ve had the incredible opportunity to have lived and worked in San Francisco for a little longer than a year. I’ve learned so much. As I met new designers, I made new friends. I will be missing them dearly as I am about to open a new chapter in my life. I will be traveling around the world, starting in South East Asia. I will be absorbing cultures like a sponge and I will seek those inspirations to influence my design.


Designing In Various Forms

To me, design doesn’t only apply to user interfaces. When I brew my tea bought from Samovar, or shoot photos with my Canon Mark II, or try at Latte art, I apply the same standards that I hold for making delightful designs. Excellence in ordinary things that I practice every day. Design is all about taste. In order to understand the subtle nuances, you must have tasted a great deal. You must breath design.

Laos And Cambodia

My girlfriend and I were born in Laos and Cambodia respectively until the tender age of 7 & 8. This will be our first trip back to our countries of birth. I will be visiting the temple of Angkor Wat located in Siem Reap, Cambodia and the city of Vientiane, Laos. From the tales of my mother who had lived during the war, Cambodia is a very spiritual place with thousands of years of history.

China and South Korea

I’m attracted to these 2 countries for their advances in technology, fashion and mass production. Our family is also from China and most of us (not me) speak Chinese fluently. The cities I will be visiting are Hong Kong, Macau, Seoul and possibly the Jeju island.


This is the ultimate destination. Ever since I was young, I was deeply influenced by the Japanese culture. Starting with their highly creative Manga/Anime series all the way to their fun gaming culture (Nintendo), tasty food (Sushi, Ramen), sophisticated way of living, tea ceremony, beautiful cherry blossoms, natural hot springs… There is so much to learn from the Japanese culture.

Japan is also the country with the highest life expectancy, with Okinawa having 5 times more people living to be a 100 years old than the rest of Japan. About 3 years ago, I started paying attention to my diet and I definitely took a lot of inspiration from the Okinawan and Mediterranean diet. Having great sleep habits and a good diet, I noticed, was key to staying focused and unstressed.

Steve Jobs famously studied Zen Buddism.

If you haven’t read Steve Jobs’s biography by Walter Isaacson, you should. It will inspire you.

San Francisco, Maybe

I have lived in Montreal, Canada for 2 decades. While I owe everything to that country, being an immigrant from Cambodia, I never truly fulfilled my dream of working on something impactful to the world. In San Francisco, you are surrounded by like-minded craftsmen who are passionate about technology. The culture is extremely laid back and the majority of the startups here treat their designers and engineers like gold. People here pushes way beyond the status quo. In fact, having no degree and being completely self-taught, I would never have made it here if it wasn’t for Heyzap, who succeeded in bringing me here where so many have failed. Better yet, thanks to them, I am currently applying for a more permanent VISA. If things go smoothly, I will be back in San Francisco after my travels.

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78 responses to “Traveling And Designing”

  1. Roy says:

    Are you planning a particular setup for designing when traveling?

    I’m planning a multi-city trip in Europe shortly, and I’m deciding to get a Retina Macbook to ease the pain of not having a big monitor to work on.

    Also I’m considering in getting a laptop stand plus carrying my external keyboard and trackpad for more comfort.

  2. Shawn Hansen says:

    Sounds like it is going to be a great adventure. Enjoy yourselves and travel safe, hopefully see you back here in the bay area when you are done!

  3. Amy says:

    Interested to know why you said “I don’t think I can design on a Retina screen.” in the comment above. Is this a personal preference or is there some other reason behind it?

    Also, after reading your post(s) on Sketch, I think I am about to make the switch over from photoshop. Thanks for all the great tips in making the conversion!

  4. Traveling And Designing: As one dream ends, another begins. I’ve had the incredible…

  5. @yuk_yk says:

    Sketch.appについて良いブログをたくさん書いているMeng Toがあちこち旅行するらしく、最後は日本に来るそうな。

  6. David Klawitter says:

    Best of luck to you Meng! I’ve come to really enjoy your writings and hope to read more of them as you explore new (and old) territory. I’d love to grab a beer (or tea, or whatever) if the opportunity presents itself during WWDC.

  7. Nathan says:

    Let me know when you hit Kyoto. I’ll have some recommendations.

  8. Anton says:

    I deeply belief that travelling is the best thing to keep mind open.

    Most probably you wouldn’t care about random guy from internets opinion, but I really like your designs and your decision to travel :)

    Greetings from Russia and keep going!

  9. Axel Rock says:

    Hi Meng,

    Great article once more.

    May you tell me more about your trip : How long will you be travelling ? Is it a “tourism journey”, or do you have plans to use your designer’s skill ?

    I also plan to visit other countries (I’m from France) next year, but I don’t know yet whether I should find a job for something like a year or make a worldtour.

  10. Traveling And Designing by @MengTo: #NiceStory

  11. @roybarberuk says:

    Traveling and Designing #webdesign #design

  12. Sacha says:

    You know who to call when you come to Japan ;)

  13. Kevin Emamirad says:

    Enjoy men! You can visit Taiwan too ;)

  14. @RabiDSon says:

    Traveling And Designing by @MengTo:

  15. Mariya Yao says:

    What an amazing plan! Very excited for you. When are you leaving SF though? I’m a fellow SF-based mobile designer whose been following your content and tutorials for a while now. Would be great to meet up before you head out on your inspirational expedition!

  16. Nav says:

    If you swing my Singapore – would be great to meetup over a drink :)

  17. Traveling And Designing by @MengTo:

  18. Wow, what a great design you have on this site… ok, i know you are not available for UX/UI because you’re travelling… but you have great taste…. please, oh please recommend a few top UX/UI designers or design firms for my new startup which provides a very exciting new mobile solution for business communication… (sounds boring… it’s not!)

    Preferably people near NYC… I live in NJ.

    Thank you.

  19. Fábio ZC says:

    Hey Meng!

    If someday you decide land in Brazil (São Paulo), feel free to contact me!

    Keep going with your awesome work and opinions! =)

  20. meng li says:

    hello Meng
    this is Meng, based in Bay area. :) hoped to get connected on design projects, but saw you r travelling. i left my email. keep in touch.


  21. Peter says:

    I came across your site couple days ago, from that I couldn’t stop but reading the blogs.

    Let me know if you visit Taiwan ang Hong Kong, GF and I know few places that provide decent food. We aslo plan to visit asia some time next month.!!

    By the way, just a quick question, what language do you use to write this website? It looks REALLY good.


  22. click here says:

    Das ist wirklich mein Problem beantwortet, danke!

  23. Lago says:

    SK is for winners. Being able to understand Korean helps a lot.

  24. Ask if they can recommend someone or can reach out to their network – there is a popular idea that everyone is only 6 steps away from each other. So, someone you know knows someone, etc. This is where websites like LinkedIn really come into their own and in their own words: ‘Strengthen and extend your existing network of trusted contacts’.

  25. Phil says:

    Hey Meng,

    By now you are probably traveling and enjoying the beautiful things this world has to offer and I just wanna say, your work and your blog is very inspiring !

    You are living the dream and I hope I get to travel(or sail) the world too one day.

    Good luck getting your visa and let me know when you ever hit the states again. Ill buy you a tea from Samavour. Lol. Seriously. I love that place too. :)

    Last, I’ve you could give anyone advice right now about developing, what would you recommend someone as a designer– the best way to code a site like yours? I have so many great ideas but I feel stuck and limited that I can’t code very much. Any advice, books or tips would be greatly appreciated! Thanks Meng.

    Best of luck,


  26. Linda clark says:

    hi guys, are u on cardsapp? how can I subscribe? do you use your own app? thanks

  27. AungKyawSoe says:

    Hi Mengto :)
    I am regular visitor of your blog & also inspired by you.
    What about coming to our Golden land, Myanmar.

    If you would, I will be your tour guide.

  28. Russell Smith says:

    You’re a true inspiration Meng! Thanks for sharing your story. Safe travels!


  29. Jeff Lau says:

    Hey Meng.

    Are you still travelling? I only just read this post, but I decided to do what you’re doing about 4 months ago. I’ve only just started picking up freelance again, the first few months I was just travelling. Recently I’ve been stuck in Taiwan (intentionally) to improve my Mandarin. And even more recently i’ve had this crazy idea of travelling and freelancing at the same time!

    Hope you’re doing well and your travels are going well. If you want to check out some of the things I’ve been getting up to check out my blog!

    Light and Peace,


  30. Ife says:

    Welldone Meng, Just saw your blog and it really inspires me, especially the simplicity and warmth. If you ever decide to catch some sunshine in Lagos, Nigeria, open hands await you.

  31. Wenjie says:

    Dear Meng,

    Your blog is really impressive. And thank you very much for sharing your tips && experience. I have bought your buy and also sent you mail to discuss whether there is a chance to make a meetup in Chengdu City, China. I really wish you can accept our invitation. If you plan to travel to Chengdu i will be your guide.

  32. this site you is amazing, very good content.

  33. Alexandrine says:

    I’m like 2 years late but it’s great to know such an inspirational designer is from Montreal. Cheers i hope you enjoyed the trip!

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