Last year, I decided to travel Southeast Asia. In total, I spent six fantastic months in six countries (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam), touring over 6000 miles by bus, bicycle, and scooter. Just a few months ago, I returned home to visit family and live once again in Brooklyn, New York. For more detail on my route, check out the Google Map.
During 2013 and 2014, I have attempted to do many things -- some have been hard, some full of wonder, but none of them boring. While on the road, you're expected to overcome various obstacles, ranging from distance and climate to cultural and political. The pace at which the world operates around you awakens enthusiasm, attentiveness and appreciation for the brevity of our time on Earth. Southeast Asia is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations; it had always been admired from afar, for me -- it's alluring, safe to travel solo, and easy to communicate with locals. Everyone has a story, some of which may clash with your structural model of global understanding, but most of the time, it's just a smile and a casual conversation. During my time, I boarded with hospitable, local families whenever possible.
Trips like these only work if any aspect of routine life has been abandoned, including detailed plans or deadlines. Go into it with a rough outline of the agenda, some high-level must-see/do things -- and that's it. Improvisation creates flexibility, adds to the excitement, and enforces the authenticity of your experience. Southeast Asia is rife with backpackers that have a wealth of knowledge to share, and the expenses are low such that mistakes can be accounted for in a budget quite easily. Each person you'd meet has quite a bit in common; a sense of fervor -- a desire to dive in head-first, deliberately exploring the unfamiliar whenever possible, but not for an escape. Some things that stick out in my mind: the crazy driving rules and the ability of everyone to co-exist peacefully, despite vastly different socio-political/religious beliefs. Ask me about the food in person sometime (the seafood and mango-sticky-rice were unforgettable)!
Now that I've settled back into the rhythm at home, I occasionally revisit the vivid memories in my mind of the trip -- if you want to plan your own or know more about mine, say hello -- I'd love to help you get ready! But, if I could leave you with these three simple tips for your own trip in Southeast Asia or elsewhere, it'd be to...
✓ Be pro-active and adventurous in each possible experience.
✓ Live a modest, simple life on the road.
✓ If you ever stop wondering, searching, analyzing -- go home and rest.
Included below is a small selection of pictures from the collection of the wonderfully talented Sandra Pangonyte, then some of my own below that. Enjoy!