It’s been a long time. Many months have passed since I last wrote anything on here. While I was traveling around Asia, I hardly took the time to write down my experiences or my thoughts. Every day I was mostly planning what to see next, which hostel to book, which plane or train to catch, what monument to visit, etc. Few people have heard about my experiences, and many have asked me what I have learned, or how has the trip changed me. 4 weeks have now passed since my trip ended, and I now feel ready to write about it. It took a long time to let everything sink but my mind feels peaceful and inspired so I will use that to write.
Firstly, that traveling around intensively on a budget is tiring. Not so much physically, although long train/bus rides and early flights did wear me out, but mentally it is very draining. Living out of a backpack (which only became lighter and lighter for some reason) and sleeping in different beds nearly every day got to me, especially from the moment I reached Thailand.
One thing I avoid like the plague are mosquitoes! My room needs to be mosquito proof, either through a screen or a mosquito net. If not they ruin my mood and my night. I remember sitting outside my beach shack in Palolem, India, in the afternoon reading a book and from the moment the sun starts to set, mosquitoes come out for an early dinner. This forced me to get changed into long sleeve trousers and t-shirt to avoid their nasty bites and especially the diseases they may carry (as a microbiologist or maybe a hypochondriac, that thing is hard to forget or ignore) and long sleeves with hot and humid weather is not pleasant. We all have had a night when you can just hear that damn mosquito fly by your ear, waking you up, “I’m gonna get you” type of buzz that just drives you insane especially when the mosquito managed to bite you in your little toe. Uuuu just thinking about it again makes me want to get into mosquito extermination research!
Another bug I hated and had even occasional dreams with were bedbugs. Oh boy these little suckers just love to hide during the day but come out only at night to feed and once you got one in your clothes, you can be pretty sure there’s more of them in your precious bag. Whenever this happened, all I could do was empty out my rucksack and wash and dry in ultra high power to kill off any biological organism I was carrying. Whenever I felt something weird on my foot or leg, I would jump up immediately feeling grossed out even though I hardly ever caught any bedbugs like that. The only moment I came across them was when I was getting dressed with what I thought was a clean t-shirt.
And of course traveling on a tight budget is hard, especially when you really want to go on a shopping spree (which I really wanted to do in Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Seoul, and Tokyo!) or when you want to eat at fancy restaurants. Don’t get me wrong though, street food in Southeast Asia is so good! I have eaten such nice dishes there, hmm, my mouth is already watering. For me the food started to become exceptionally well from the moment I arrived in Vietnam and became better until it reached its peak in… Hong Kong. Seriously, HK is heaven for food. People in HK are so inventive and creative with food! I wish I remembered the names of all the delicious meals I had there, but one of my favourite ones were steamed dumplings with a little soup inside which you had to bite to get to so you could suck it out before eating the rest of the dumpling. Pure bliss I tell you! However, there were many times when I was craving western food sooo badly. This was especially the case in India. Indian food is not one of my favourites because of all the spices. Some dishes were so spicy, I couldn’t taste the ingredients anymore since my tongue had become numb, my nose dripping, and my ears passing hot fumes. Anyway at times like those all you want is a bland spaghetti but Western food is more expensive so this was a treat I could only have occasionally.
So yes a lot of it is tiring and repetitive, visiting temples becomes old quickly. But the best moments that bring me back a lot of nostalgia are simple things or experiences with locals. For example, the train announcements on the Indian Railway platforms, or on the Metrolines in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Seoul and Japan. I sometimes search these on YouTube just to let my memories flow back. I also remember many fun locals I met across India, talking about their president and economy, taking photos with strangers as if we knew each other for a long time, even teaching local Indians how to swim in the sea! Oh this was so much fun and felt so rewarding. These were the moments that made traveling around incredible. If I have to give one tip to people who are thinking about traveling like I did, it is this, don’t focus too much on seeing different sights, they are wonderful to see yes, but it gets repetitive and in the end, what have I gained from seeing another temple or museum aside from some historical knowledge and enough photos to fill several harddrives. Spend time with locals, volunteer with charities, participate in national holidays, stay with families and share your experiences with each other, these things cost you so little but will inspire you for life! And that is was I most enjoyed about traveling.