Having made the personal decision that 2020 isn’t the year for international travel, I’ve decided to transport myself abroad by other means.
I started my journey through South East Asia in late 2010. It was long before this blog, before my smartphone and before I was able to spend more than $10 on a hostel bed.
It was a whirlwind trip that holds some wonderful and very personal memories. It’s also still the longest solo journey I’ve enjoyed. The end of that particular adventure was the start of a new chapter in Australia and I made new friends along the way who undoubtedly changed the course of my life.
I also made mistakes. Although my route choice wasn’t one of them.
Thailand’s Bangkok is the perfect launchpad into South East Asia and the country’s beaches are a welcome relief from often manic cities. Vietnam delivers on complex history, foodie fantasies and perhaps more surprisingly, nature. Cambodia is rich in ruins, remote communities and a sombre reminder of the havoc that despots can wreak.
Laos is lush, calming and Buddhism pervades daily life like its waterways slice through the land. It’s mean of me to boil Malaysia down to three elements but for me it’s: curry, Cameron Highlands and unique islands. Singapore, an equally good launchpad onto Australia, is clean and shiny. Its old China Town standing out like a sore thumb amid the glass facades of its modern commercial centre.
Travel around the region was cheap ten years ago, if not a little unpredictable at times. I was easily able to combine a slower pace through lesser known places with punchy stops at the big hitters. In only two months I got a real taster of this diverse and complicated region.
From an office in rainy Wales, months of planning built my excitement. As a young woman travelling alone, I wanted to make sure that I had a rough route, a basic grasp of the languages and an idea of the potential risks in certain areas. Although of course like all adventures, not everything ran smoothly.
Overcoming challenges alone, in countries with cultures and values so far removed from my own, gave me an overwhelming sense of pride and independence that I hadn’t experienced before. Ultimately, I learnt that I was more capable than I gave myself credit for. And that there’s a lot of good in the world.
My budget, my approach and I have evolved since 2010. These days I appreciate being able to treat myself occasionally. I also recognise that things will go wrong, so it’s always good to be flexible. Most of all, I’m more relaxed about being thrown into unfamiliar situations.
It was an experience that defined my path for the following decade and changed the way I’ve travelled since. And yet I’ve never really written about it. Until Now.