Settling into Southeast Asia

Read more about my Self Care Sabbatical and the other places I’ve visited! 

Nearly three weeks in Asia. It feels like I’ve been here so much longer! I can’t quite figure out why, but it’s a nice feeling when I realize I have so much more travel ahead of me.

(And yet, when I meet people who are traveling longer than I am, I start scheming about how I long I could possibly stay….)

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In just these few weeks, Asia has already been so different from my Europe trip. In some ways, it’s been far easier to travel solo here. Asian cities especially seem primed for solo travelers. Meals are eaten from food stalls or in quick service restaurants. In Hong Kong, I was one of many dining alone. Because they would seat strangers at the same table, I never felt like I was ever really alone there. In fact, when I left Hong Kong I realized that I hadn’t spoken to anyone (in any sort of a real conversation) for 3 full days. But it had never really bothered me! In Europe, I would have felt terribly isolated if that had been happening to me. There are also seem to be so many more solo travelers here – at least it has been easier to connect with other travelers here. Perhaps it’s just that for those of us who are non-Asian Westerners, we tend to stick out as foreigners and quickly find each other.

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I am also so much happier traveling lighter. Gone is the giant suitcase (which ended up being 47 pounds when I returned to New York, down 4 pounds from my departure). Now I am proudly one of the backpackers – in a smallish backpack – and I love the increased mobility I have. And having less space means less stuff which is always good. It’s also limiting how much I buy – basically, I cannot buy anything unless I get rid of something else! Good for the wallet and for stopping myself from buying useless things.

I’m starting to meet and connect with other travelers making a similar trip like mine. Since I’m following the “Banana Pancake” trail like many other backpackers, it is now becoming common to see the same people as I move along on my trip. I’ve also met people following the trail in the opposite direction which has been immensely helpful in sharing tips and recommendations.

And getting around is really not very difficult. True, it’s not as clearly organized as Europe, but I have yet to have a problem getting where I need to go. Things always seem to work out (which is what I have to tell myself when I start to think they won’t go quite right) and it’s been fun to be a bit more spontaneous, a bit looser with my plans.

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Best of all, the people here are so incredibly friendly (sorry Europe, you lose on this one). It was something I kept hearing prior to this trip, but it really is true. Everyone is kind, helpful, and wants you to enjoy your time in their country (so long as you are respectful of their culture of course). I feel so well taken care of everywhere I stay!

But, as I expected, Asia has also been a bit more difficult. My fear of getting sick was realized the 2nd week and I am just now feeling fully recovered. While it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, it was still quite unpleasant. And dealing with that in a foreign place without anyone else around is stressful. I just wanted to feel normal again!

On top of that, I had changed up my route without fully reading through all of the travel details and found myself having to course-correct a bit to get to where I needed to go (let’s just say I read one airport code as another and thought my plans would be much easier than they were). I discovered this just a few days before I was planning to travel and had to quickly move things around, book all of my transport, and realize that I maybe lost a bit of time in all of the changes I made. It really stressed me out – especially when I had trouble getting Bangkok Airways site to accept my payment – and I kinda lost it. I hadn’t cried once during my Europe trip and here I was, 2 weeks into Southeast Asia, and I was freaking out.

I calmed myself down.

I sorted out my plans.

And then I got sick which actually happened at the right time because I had a full day with no plans and I could just STAY IN BED ALL DAY and rest. So everything that I was stressing out about 24 hours before worked out in the end.

Another reminder that things will work themselves out, even if it doesn’t quite feel like it at the moment.

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