So there appears to be some kind of mistake somewhere here, because apparently now I’m the “adventure friend” all of the sudden. I believe this has to do with somehow I ended up spending a month traipsing around Asia instead of joining my friends in returning to our families for the 15th or 16th rewatching of “A Christmas Story”. Now I’m having conversations, where people say things like “oh well I’m not as adventurous like you,” and “I could never do that like you.” Clearly something is off here. I’m not the friend who tells you about their exciting vacations or who plans spontaneous road trips, I’m the friend who at the prospect of a free Friday night will suggest “Staying in!” to watch Netflix and get takeout Chinese. And while the many many orders of potstickers I have placed over the years may have been foreshadowing to something more to come, that would be the extent of it. My family never traveled outside of an annual pilgrimage to Disneyland when I was a kid and when I got to Junior High even those trips stopped. My wacky stories have always been less about “let me tell you about this crazy adventure I had” and more along the lines of “let me rant to you about the worst customer ever I dealt with today at work.” And yet here I am telling people about our room’s regrettably inquisitive cockroaches and how our Thai boat died in the middle of the water with a smile. What the hell happened?
What happened is that I was very, very fortunate to be here in the first place and in a bout of chance that I can only describe as massively unfair for so many people so much more deserving than I: I had the opportunity to see even more of the world, as long as I could go another four months without seeing my family and friends back home. Here is usually when people begin to look at me like I’m some kind of heartless monster or they imagine my parents as cold unloving people happy to be rid of me. Fortunately neither of these are the case, I just happen to have a very understanding family who is okay with undergoing a mild month-long panic attack so I may have the privilege of experiencing new cultures. I only spent a good amount of time traveling alone with one other extremely lightweight girl through southeast Asia, what could go wrong?
Anyways, I’m alive, I went to a lot of places and I took a lot of pictures, here are some of those
The last month was highly educational, it turns out my standards can get much, much lower than previously thought. Now if I go into a public restroom that has either soap or toilet paper (forget about both) I wonder what I did to deserve these riches. I wish I was kidding. There was a handful of pretty not-great parts, miserable boat rides that at times seemed reminiscent of interrogation techniques, having to walk miles in the pouring rain for so long that when your shoes finally dry days later they are actually 2 sizes too small, and nausea fueled by the smell of diesel and pungent street foods. Also so so so so so sosososo many bug bites, by the end of the trip my legs looked like a Braille encyclopedia. All of this was unpleasant, but manageable. Christmas was weird, but still less sad than I was expecting, it did end with us drinking alone together in our hostel, but that makes for good bonding. Needless to say, It wasn't what I was expecting. It was better.
I never knew about how extensive travel industry is and how essential tourism to many of these smaller economies. This hasn’t stopped me from feeling conflicted about the many exploitative aspects of the practices, in fact I’m now more confused than ever, but I guess that means I know more. Still I have not and will not be riding elephants* or touring any of the “famous native long-necked tribes” any time soon. The amount that these places, especially Thailand, cater to the tourists is almost staggering. An excellent example of the market molding to the consumer, in Thailand, thanks to the many, many young (mostly white) backpackers that flood the country every year in search of cheap exotic travels, the night markets all around the country sell goods that would make more sense to be sold in a Forever 21 than next to a temple. If you decide that the perfect souvenir from your Southeast-Asian vacation would be a t-shirt with Tupac and a tattooed Marilyn Monroe, then you are in luck. And in what can only be a sign of Urban Outfitters frighteningly expanding influence, there are a confusing amount of Rasta and Native American themed goods? Because dreamcatchers and Bob Marley are traditionally Thai right?
*Please do not ride elephants. They have had it rough enough already.
Quirks aside, it was a surprisingly smooth month. No one got caned in Singapore, and despite no less than three different strangers warning us, we did not get kidnapped in Malaysia. We saw an overwhelming amount of temples and had better luck than could be expected from the amount of street food eaten. So many people were so kind, people gave honest advice, and helped us get where we needed to go when they could have so easily taken advantage of us. Because if I'm being honest, with the DSLR, iPhone, and map I could not have looked like an easier target if I tried. Somehow despite spending a month together with little to no time apart our little group did not kill each other, in what can only be described as a miracle.
Overall a really excellent break that I really did not deserve, but am incredibly grateful to have experienced.