Backpacking through Southeast Asia is a rite of passage for many travellers. Anyone who’s spent time in this region will relate to those moments where you know you’ve been in Southeast Asia when…
1. Coming to terms with the fact that, in Southeast Asia, after the sun goes down, the road belongs to cockroaches.
2. Pretending to want something at 7-Eleven just because it’s smouldering hot and you just want a hit of that precious A/C.
3. Meeting locals that make you feel at home despite being half a world away from home.
4. Realizing that toilet paper is a luxury and that it should NEVER be taken for granted.
5. Packing your day with so many activities that you get tipsy after drinking two beers.
6. Discovering new places on your body where you didn’t even think it was possible to sweat from.
7. Joining a day trip and being schlepped from one place to another with no clue about the actual plan or itinerary, but enjoying every single moment of it.
8. Being powerless while you’re being extorted for money at land borders because let’s face it; you’re like a lost sheep with a huge backpack on your back.
9. Learning how to say “Thank You” in many different languages and jumping with joy when you can finally manage to pronounce it properly.
10. Lingering to the delicious scents of street food stalls.
11. Discovering that asking for the “non-spicy” option is in fact not an option. Your choices are spicy and insanely spicy.
12. Experiencing a major heart attack every time you think you’ve lost your passport.
13. Taking a ferry between two islands fearing the boat is going to capsize because the sea is raging AF, then seeing the captain navigating with his feet on the wheel.
14. Almost getting hit by a scooter at least twice a day.
15. Starting a freestyle with the English the phrases you hear the most: “tuk-tuk, ping pong show, massage, taxi, bamboo tattoo.”
16. Obsessing over every monk you encounter with their beautiful orange drapes.
17. Walking everywhere… barefoot.
18. Buying a bracelet for every place you’ve visited and ending up with overloaded wrists.
19. Sharing your adventures with other people you would’ve never met by staying home.
20. Discovering and understanding the differences in the world with an open mind.
21. Broadening your horizons while letting go of your preconceived ideas and realizing that life doesn’t consist in only one set path. It’s not about what you have, but rather who you are as a person. In Southeast Asia, you’re not defined by what you’re doing, but by the type of person you present to the world.
22. Opening your mind to a tsunami of awareness that sets your values back into place.
23. Seeing naked kids running around with barely anything on except for the joy and hope on their faces.
24. Thinking about converting to Buddhism since it seems like such a nice ideology.
25. Becoming a pro at haggling.
26. Sleeping in a seated position on a bus for way more hours than your muscles can actually tolerate.
27.Falling in love with the beauty of elephants and rice fields.
28. Having the pads inside your bra constantly wet because of unbearable heat.
29. Willingly trying some durian fruit to understand what the fuss is all about and instantly regretting it.
30. Trying the fire jump rope and hearing your bangs crackle.
31. Feeling a rush of happiness every time your passport gets a new stamp.
32. Dreaming about slaughtering the rooster that’s crowing just below your bungalow’s window at 4 am.
33. Diving in the most beautiful underwater locations in the world.
34. Casually using the back of a pick-up truck as a means of transportation.
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The Lasting Effects of Southeast Asia
Whether you realize it or not, Southeast Asia will have a lasting effect on your life. It will continue to sneak up on when you’re back on home turf and when you’ll least expect it. Somehow, without thinking about it, just as a force of habit, you’ll throw your toilet paper in the bin. You’ll get sudden urges to redecorate your home like a temple. You’ll get insane cravings for Pad Thai, even if you couldn’t stand the smell of it in the last stretch of your trip. You’ll want to become a better version of yourself by helping others around you. You’ll catch yourself saying “cảm ơn” to that friend who picked you up from the airport.
Backpacking in Southeast Asia will leave you with everlasting memories and precious moments that will stay with you forever. In the end, even if Asia is so different from home, we love it because it’s same same, but different!