It’s time I told the world – I’m headed to South East Asia for four months to travel, adventure, explore, and experience life and new cultures. This change has been a long time in coming, but I couldn’t be happier or more excited!
A Person Needs at Intervals to Separate Himself from Family and Companions and Go to New Places. He Must go Without Familiars in Order to Be Open to Influences. To Change. Katherine Butler Hathaway
Where and When
I fly out of NYC on Sunday, April 12th and arrive just in time for the Water Festival (SEA New Year) on the morning of the 13th. I fly into Bangkok, Thailand and am then taking a bus or train up to Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand, as I’ve heard it’s the hub of the New Year festivities. I booked a hotel room for 2 days as I will be exhausted from travel and want a safe, comfortable place to acclimate myself to Thailand. But after the initial two days, I plan on staying in hostels, Air BnBs, and Couchsurfing.
Countries I’ll Explore
I am spending the first 30 days in Thailand, and then plan to head over to Laos for 2-3 weeks, Vietnam for 3 weeks, down to Cambodia (not sure for how long), and then down to somewhere in Indonesia for 3-4 weeks – maybe Bali, maybe some other island where I can rent a place for a few weeks and just relax. I’ll then be heading back up to Thailand for the rest of the time before flying back to the States in mid August for my future sister-in-law’s bridal shower. I am still working out what I’ll be doing in those places, but there are many things I’ve read about and want to experience – temples, the world’s largest cave, zip-lining, dirt biking, kayaking, meditation, cooking classes, spas and massages, maybe some circus arts. What I’m most excited about is volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park! I booked my time with them for the first week in May (my last week in Thailand). I love animals, and while, yes, I DO want to ride them, I can’t in good conscience support the cruel practices of the animal tourism industry. The Elephant Nature Park seems to be an excellent organization truly interested in the elephants’ wellbeing. I am doing their Weekly Volunteer Program, which includes housing and 3 meals a day. The cost is 12,000THB, roughly $365, a fair price compared to many other “volunteer” opportunities that charge $1,500+ for a week. ENP money goes back to the elephants and the re-forestation efforts to increase their habitat, and their release from abuse and suffering at the greedy hands of tourism.
When I’ve told friends of my trip, invariably they ask, “Is this your Eat, Pray, Love?” In answer to that – No, I don’t believe it is. I have always had an abounding love of travel and new experiences, and everything just fell into place for this next adventure. Yes, I have been going through a lot of life bs the last several months, but everything was a necessary catalyst for this massive life decision. If I hadn’t gone through pain and loss, I wouldn’t have decided to leave my wonderful job and lifestyle here in NYC to go backpacking around SEA. But it’s the change I so desperately needed, and I know I’ve made the right decision.
Ah, the doozy. One reason (of many) I decided on SEA is because it is extremely affordable. The exchange rate in Thailand is $1 = 32 THB (Thai Baht). Not too shabby! I have a myriad of friends who have traveled the world, and I’ve realized it doesn’t have to be blindingly expensive. Hostels, overnight trains, staying in places for longer than a few days, eating the local food – these are all significantly affordable ways to travel. I am much more interested in truly learning about the native cultures and people than simply being a “tourist”. My goal is to live on no more than $900/mth while traveling (a high estimate, as I’ve heard one can live on as little as $500 in SEA comfortably). I’ll be tracking my expenses using this nifty spreadsheet created by Shannon O’Donnell over at ALittleAdrift.com. Ideally, I want to keep my initial start up expenses under $1,000. Below is a rundown of things I’ve purchased or will need to acquire before I head off.
|03/04/15||Flight from JFK to Bangkok||$577.30||Rewards Miles|
|03/05/15||Hotel: Chiang Mai Apr 13-15||$142.80|
|03/07/15||Clothes: capri pants, 1 sports bra, 1 tank top||$66.00|
|Travel Doctor||??||Covered by HSA|
|Misc Supplies (first aid kit, sunscreen, flashlight, etc)||$50.00|
Everyone has been incredibly supportive and realize this is definitely what I should be doing at this time in my life. While I am enormously enthusiastic, I do have some concerns I thought I may as well address in an effort to be completely truthful (Truth – my Word for this year).
- While my parents are concerned I will get abducted and sold into the sex slave trade, that isn’t so much a worry of mine as being attacked/robbed/raped. I will be taking every precaution, and having some qualified friends teach me some self defense moves. But bad things can happen anywhere – I live in NYC, for goodness sake! I will be aware and alert and do my best to avoid shady situations.
- Not speaking the language is another hurdle. But if two people are genuinely interested in communicating, I think we’ll overcome the language obstacle. Not to mention there are apps for that.
- A very real worry is getting sick – mainly from the food. There are few things I enjoy less than vomiting/diarrhea – particularly since I’ve seen the types of toilets I will mainly be using over in SEA. Yep. I’ll be squatting. Not necessarily conducive to being violently ill. Fingers crossed my stomach is made of stern stuff!
- Being cheated. I’ve read several accounts of scams being run on tourists (particularly by buses and tuk-tuks btwn Thailand and Cambodia) and it makes my blood boil to be taken advantage of in any way.
I’m sure I’ll get lonely at some point, or miss home, especially Strider, but I look forward to the growth and the struggles, the food and adventures, the people and learning about them and myself. If you would like to send me a note of support or encouragement, share your stories or things I can’t miss while over in South East Asia, contacts you have over in that part of the world, or would like to help fund my trip through a Paypal donation (be sure to send me your address so I can send you a proper Thank You!), you can reach me at:
*It appears my firstname.lastname@example.org is having some technical difficulties – I shall update you all when it’s back to its proper self 🙂
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.– Mark Twain