After 100 days backpacking around South East Asia..7 countries, 36 beds, numerous trains, planes, buses, vans, boats, and countless memories, I’m finally back in the United States and doing my best to get back in to the groove of things.100 days is not that long for most backpackers, but it was long for me. It was long enough to get used to the easy breezy lifestyle, the food, the culture. It was long enough to get used to never having to cook a meal, never having to make a bed or do your own laundry. It was long enough to not have to worry about anything, really, besides what you were going to eat for your next meal and where you were going to sleep that night. Although, I have to say, sometimes hostel shopping did get quite tiresome. But if that is all I had to worry about…life was pretty good.
My ipad keyboard broke when on my way to Hong Kong (story for another post, but something to do with bed bugs, a bath tub in a kind of creepy hotel in Vietnam, and netflix…), and I was already so behind on blogging that according to my blog I’m still in Thailand and on my way to Laos. There is so much to catch up on, and I will do my best to recap the entire trip with travel tips, highs and lows, and the REAL truth about traveling South East Asia as a 32 year old.
Being back doesn’t feel as weird as I thought it would be, but I can’t say it’s been easy. I put on a happy face and pretend everything is ok because in reality, no one really understands what I’m feeling inside. No one really understands the internal struggle you feel because you’ve changed so much, but nothing around you has, and you want to feel the way you did when you were away. There are days I wish I were still traveling, days I wish I were still meeting new people who inspire me and challenge me and surprise me. Some days I wish I were lying on a beach looking at bright blue water with the warm breeze while drinking a beer-yes a BEER-who am I? In my defense, they really didn’t have good wine there.Some days I feel like I’m falling apart. Like I’m falling into the same sticky low place I was in before I left…anxiety, routine, not feeling a drive for anything, consumed with pleasing everyone but myself, depression, self loathing, not feeling good enough, and just getting caught up in the same old BS. Of course there are days when I’m happy to be home and spending time with my friends and family. It feels normal and good. But my hardest struggle right now is taking all the lessons and experiences I learned on my trip and applying them to my life here at home when I start to feel myself slipping away. But as we all know…that is much easier said than done.
I’ve been home for two weeks and the new and shiny is wearing off. The barrage of preliminary questions has subsided- “How was it?” “What was your favorite?” “Tell me everything!!” – but then the secondary set of questions start to surface “What are you going to do now?” “Where are you going to work?” “What’s your plan?”
And to be honest, this is very hard for me. There was so much that happened each and every day I can’t even remember it all. I remember feeling so many highs and lows through out the entire trip and meeting some absolutely incredible people, funny people, thoughtful people, crazy people, but most of the experiences I had are indescribable. It’s hard to describe how you perceive people differently when traveling, even how you perceive yourself differently. It’s hard to describe the habits you’re happy you lost, and how wonderful of a feeling it is to feel like you accomplished so much doing it all alone, yet at the same time it seems like nothing at all. I read a blog post recently, and honestly, I couldn’t have written this better myself…
“there’s no way to describe the way your spirit evolves when you leave everything you know behind and force yourself to use your brain in a real capacity, not on a written test in school. You know you’re thinking differently because you experience it every second of every day inside your head, but how do you communicate that to others?
You feel angry. You feel lost. You have moments where you feel like it wasn’t worth it because nothing has changed but then you feel like it’s the only thing you’ve done that is important because it changed everything. What is the solution to this side of traveling? It’s like learning a foreign language that no one around you speaks so there is no way to communicate to them how you really feel.”
It’s hard to describe just how blue the water is in Thailand.
It’s hard to describe how you felt jumping off a super high cliff where you almost peed in your pants, but did it because you were scared. Because you decided to do everything that scared you on this trip. It’s hard to describe the feelings of all the adventures: Ziplining, scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, hiking, and climbing in countries you’ve only dreamt of visiting.
It’s hard to describe what it’s like to become friends with a local in Laos, visit and eat dinner with his family in the village he grew up in 45 min outside of town. It’s hard to describe just HOW GOOD THE FOOD IS!
It’s hard to describe what it feels like to get blessed by a monk in Cambodia and participate in a cleansing in Bali.
It’s hard to describe what it’s like visiting some of the places that show up when you google “most beautiful places in the world” or only see on screensavers.
It’s hard to describe how it feels to live in a world of no judgement and to have people accept you for exactly who you are and to finally FINALLY feel comfortable in your own skin.
It’s hard to describe the feeling you had living at an Ashram for a week spending your days doing absolutely nothing besides praying, chanting, meditating, and sleeping.
It’s hard to describe how it felt riding down a bumpy dirt road in Laos on the back of a scooter of a guy you just met with all his friends, playing deep house music on your portable speakers while taking in the most beautiful mountainscape around you. Seriously-I got chills riding home that day because I was so overwhelmed with happiness at everything going on around me.
It’s hard to describe the struggle of lugging a 17KG back pack and a 5kg day pack around everywhere and switching hostels every few nights. Don’t be fooled by this smile…I was in pain.
It’s hard to describe what it felt like spending many nights sleeping on public transportation especially overnight buses in Vietnam that stop every few hours, but you have no clue where you are and they yell at you to get off and switch buses at 6am and force you to pay for another ticket even though you’ve already purchased one, but the last bus driver took it. Yes, this happened.
It’s hard to describe what it’s like to eat at these ‘said’ rest stops with filthy tables, VERY questionable food, and bugs crawling all over the sauce containers.
It’s hard to describe what it’s like to be a female in these countries that have no toilet paper and squat toilets.It’s hard to describe the feeling of having someone special from home fly all the way to Hong Kong just to spend the holidays with you.
It’s hard to really describe the idea of always being around strangers who become your closest friends every. single. day, and meeting people from all over the world that you connect with immediately. Becoming friends with people you would never even think about talking to at home. Because it’s different when you travel-it’s open, it’s friendly, it’s comfortable.
It’s hard to describe how close you get to people so quickly. Like the two Lithuanian girls who you sat next to at a small cafe in Hoi An, Vietnam, chimed in on their story, and end up spending the next few days together and meet up again in Saigon.Or the guy from Bristol you met through one of your hostel mates, feel an instant connection and friendship with and end up traveling for 2 weeks together. Or how about the couple from the UK you meet on the slow boat from Thailand to Laos who you connect with so well that you could see yourself being best friends with them if they lived closer (But they live in Australia now so maybe I should move closer to them!). And end up meeting up with them a month and half later in Cambodia.
Oh and I could never forget these two… who made me laugh till my stomach hurt and still do to this day.And the two Swedish guys you met while exploring a cave, you were amused by the strong sent of their clothes, which later becomes a topic of conversation as the perfume they put in the laundry in Vietnam is astounding, but later found out they are staying in your hostel so you end up hanging out with them for the next few days. Next thing you know your tubing down a river at night holding hands and eating schnitzle while watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S. at a local restaurant down the street from your hostel.
It’s hard to describe how every single person on my journey had a positive impact on me and helped change me in some way or another. It’s hard to describe just how small the world is-when you keep bumping into the same people at the most random places at the most random times. And its REALLY hard to describe just how wonderful it is to be able to do what you want, when you want, with who you want.
I know it sounds quite simple when I’m writing it here, but its hard to describe the actual feelings that go along with all these experiences. And as I sit here typing them out, I long for those days again. To be care free, to be back there, doing it all again. It’s hard to describe what it feels like being home and not being able to really communicate with anyone what you feel inside. What it’s like to feel more lost at home than you did in a foreign country.
I look forward to sharing my adventures through the blog and hopefully the great memories I had will help drive me to a better and happier place here at home.“If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting (which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentments) and set out on a truth-seeking journey (either externally or internally), and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared – most of all – to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself… then truth will not be withheld from you.” Or so I’ve come to believe.”-EPL