Welcome to Couchfish

My name is Stuart McDonald and I’m a co-founder of Travelfish.org, a travel planning website covering Southeast Asia which we launched in 2014. I’ve been kicking around the region since 1993, living here since 1997.

After almost 30 years of taking photos I still can’t get the camera straight.

When the pandemic came, travel to the region ground to a halt, Travelfish.org with it. As the curtains fell around the globe, I launched Couchfish in late March 2020—behind it, the simple thought that just because people stopped travelling didn’t mean they stopped dreaming it.

With free- and paid- flavours, Couchfish is the perfect tub of ice cream for the traveller stranded on their couch. Paid subs start at US$7/month.

The idea was to trace a fantasy itinerary across the region, with each update telling the story of something I experienced. This is what happens when you travel around in circles for thirty years—you accumulate stuff. This itinerary—including the full archives that cover over 350 days of travel—is what paid Couchfish subscribers receive in return for their US$7 per month.

I’ve marked up the itinerary on a map here if you want to see what has been covered so far. A bargain if I do say so myself.

In theory the itinerary goes out three to five times a week, though in practice it is sometimes less frequent, sometimes more. Like travel—it is a little unpredictable.

Free subscribers receive a weekly missive that can run anywhere from random musings and ranting to my ongoing missives around sustainable tourism and the need to rethink how tourism works. Likewise some of the free reads are on another map.

Individual issues run anywhere from about 700 words up to about 2,500 words and are almost always accompanied by a readout that you can listen to (with an ever-reliable background of my neighbour’s chickens) on most common podcast platforms. Think of it as something to take your mind off the news cycle while you enjoy your morning coffee.

What are the rules of the fantasy itinerary?

Planes or trains: No flying unless unavoidable.

Visas: I’ll work within visa regulations pre-Corona. I’m on an Australian passport, so visas are not all that much of a challenge for me luckily.

Dosh: I’m not working to a budget—after all budget-less dreams are the best kind right?

Advertising: No ads. No affiliate links. No sponsored content. Nada.

This is a work in progress

I am making this up as I go. Suggestions are welcome and appreciated.

Please get in touch

If you have a suggestion or just would like to say hi, my email is stuartmcdonald@travelfish.org while Mastodon and LinkedIn are the two most likely places you’ll find me online.

Money matters

A subscription costs US$7 per month, though I occasionally run discounts, giveaways and that kinda thing. If you can’t afford the newsletter, drop me a line and I’m sure we can work something out.

Thanks for reading


To find out more about the company that provides the tech for this newsletter, visit Substack.com.

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Keeping you on the road in Southeast Asia, at least in your mind, from your couch.


The co-founder of Travelfish.org and Couchfish, I’m based in Bali, Indonesia and write about both travelling and the travel industry. Think both could be better than they currently are.
Cindy Fan is a freelance travel writer. cindyfan.com / Instagram: @cindyisAWOL