I’ve spent 3 months travelling South East Asia. Riding in every imaginable form of transportation, there is never a dull moment. Even if you do nothing other than be here, you see some crazy stuff: 15 people in a pick-up truck, scooters weaving through traffic, and jay walking, it’s a non stop adventure.
I believe travelling isn’t about doing as much as it’s about ‘being.’
Backpacking through Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia has changed my life. It’s true you can live like a king here. Amazing beaches, $3 haircuts, $6 massages, and $4 chicken curry is awesome, but SE Asia is so much more than this. I’ve been changed in ways deeper than the external lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong: the beaches are still pretty sweet!
I used to live in a bubble. Having every luxury available to me, I always chose safety and comfort. I would vacation to Maui for the nice beaches and the safe western food. I didn’t know what was happening on the other side of the world, and frankly I didn’t really care. I don’t think because I was insensitive as much as I was ignorant.
I used to life in my comfort zone, but now I believe that life begins at the end of your comfort zone. To really live an effective life you have to get out of your comfort zone. I left home with a backpack, 3 books, some clothes, and boarded a plane to Bangkok, Thailand. That scared me. Walking around in a city not knowing anyone is scary, but it develops your character and stretches your comfort level.
I used to want to acquire possessions. Now I only want to acquire experiences. I’d rather collect moments than things. (Exception is books because that will never go out of style). Through travelling I have learned to live on less. Some may call this minimalist. A few basic outfits and a pair of shoes is all you need. A 10kg backpack is enough to live out of for months on the road. Owning less is really quite freeing. The simple life is the freeing life.
I used to think riding a scooter in Canada was dangerous, now I think riding a motorbike in Indonesia is dangerous… because it is. Necessities like helmets and seatbelts in Canada are only optional in Asia. My perception of risk and danger has increased tenfold. I still value rules, but I think it’s valuable to see the other side as to why we have rules.
I used to be more rigid with travel schedules and itineraries, now I just adapt. Nothing here happens on a schedule. People are laid back and have taught me to relax. Planes are delayed. Buses break down and tuk tuk drivers drive you to their friends store for a tour in hopes you will purchase merchandise. No one’s really in a rush. You just have to sit back and smile.
I used to be shy to say hello and talk to people. After travelling it doesn’t matter who it is I am not scared or intimidated to say hello. The majority of the local people are really quite friendly so long as you smile and say hello. Be prepared for having the local people stare at you. It’s like walking into a party that you weren’t invited to. That kind of look. Once you smile and say hello it won’t take long until your visit is being documented with endless selfies.
Meeting the local people are what makes travelling so precious. This lady didn’t know English but she sits on the sidewalk while her daughter traps ants with a plastic cup.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows in Asia. The water has a weird smell (you shouldn’t drink it), the climate is really hot and humid and will have you sweating in no time. Cockroaches and centipede are on your bathroom floor. The cats and dogs walking the streets are missing an ear or half a tail. Sometimes the sheets and blanket seem like it hasn’t been cleaned. I recently spent 3 nights sleeping using my hoodie as a blanket but who cares? You’re in Asia.
Which leads to my last point…
I used to think I had it good back home, now I realize I have it great back home. Seeing the living conditions that people live in will cause you to see your own life entirely differently. I honestly think this is what makes travelling so valuable. We cannot control our surroundings, but we can control our perspective. I have realized just how blessed I am to be born in Canada with so many opportunities and resources.
As 80% of the world lives on less than $10 a day, education, food, medical care, and employment are all luxuries much of the world does not have. How great we have it in Canada is honestly not normal. Travelling SE Asia has shown me I need far less than I think I need, and have been given way more than I deserve. My heart is full and one of gratitude.
Mom, I am coming home.. mission accomplished.