But, what are you going to DO?
This is one of the questions I get asked most often. I definitely experience a brief internal giggle each time and think – what do you mean what am I going to do? Why, TRAVEL, of course! But I realize this question really means, how are you going to spend your time for six months while you travel Southeast Asia without a full-time job?
Relax, Reflect, Recharge
First off, I want to take a vacation. I will be doing some real relaxation. I want to get a cheap Thai massage, enjoy a beer at sunset on the beach, take long hikes, get a sun tan.
For all of you out there thinking it, no, I’m not going to travel Southeast Asia to “find myself”. I’m feeling pretty found right about now as I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing. But during every major transition, I find it’s important to stepback and think about your goals and your future. I’d like to get some more clarity on how I want to spend the next five years and plan to do a lot of writing, thinking and reflecting to help me get there.
Blogging & Freelancing
I started this blog back in January when I was just starting to think about how I would take my next big adventure. It’s been a steep learning curve, between figuring out how to host a website, design a logo, and write quality content to barely scratching the surface of the wide world of social media, I’ve really developed a love for having a creative space. So, I’ll be spending time doing all the things that blogging entails – writing, photographing, editing, networking and social media-ing. I’ve also started to get a little bit of freelance work (!!) which I’m thrilled about.
While I’m excited to keep this blog going, I want to make travel my priority and need to make sure that my experiences come first. I don’t want to be the girl hunting for wifi to upload my next instragram photo, missing out on hostel bonding time with new friends.
I have a business idea in mind that I’ll be doing some research on while I’m traveling. This idea is the foundation for why I’m interested in going to business school when I return, particularly to a school with a strong entrepreneurship program. Part of my research will entail reviewing resources that allow travelers to connect better with locals – organizations like WithLocals, Couchsurfing and Vayable. My hope is that my reviews, experiences and stories will help others access local culture when they travel Southeast Asia a bit easier.
Explore Southeast Asia
Finally, aside from all of this, I’m going to be doing everything that travel entails for me: discovering new cities, eating everything in sight, walking the land, sleeping under the stars, meeting new people, learning new languages, trying new things and asking loads of questions. This is how I plan to journey through this diverse region:
Take Cooking Classes
I love to cook. Even now, most dishes I make are Asian-inspired. I’d say I make a pretty mean Indian Tandoori Chicken, Vietnamese Pho and Thai Curry. But I realize, my skills are still very much on Midwest white-girl level. I can’t wait to take lots of cooking classes, the kind where you go to the market and actually learn to pick out the freshest ingredients. Mmmmmmmmm.
Go Hiking & Camping
The last time I went camping was on a beach for a night in Galveston, Texas. We slept in a tent, cooked our freshly
caught bought fish in a sand-made fire pit, and enjoyed the sun. Before that, I did a three-day hike with Lkama Path through the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. It was by no means the camping that I grew up with – I never pitched my own tent, cooked my own food, or carried my own stuff. But alas, I was able to connect with nature, and for me, that’s the whole point.
On this trip, I’m hoping to camp and hike constantly. I want to check out as many national parks as possible and am praying I don’t get eaten alive by leeches. I’m ready to get back to my nature-loving roots.
Play with Elephants
Some of you may know, but riding elephants is extremely controversial in Southeast Asia. In my opinion, it’s not even controversial – you just shouldn’t do it. Baby elephants are beaten into submission so that tourists can ride them. I’m not even that big of an animal lover, but that just breaks my heart. Instead, I plan to play with and learn more about elephants in the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai.
Open Water Certification
Recommended highly by one of my favorite bloggers, Alex in Wanderland, I’ve already booked this part of my trip. I’ll be getting my Open Water Ceritifcation through Roctopus Dive in Koh Tao. I’m actually shaking in my knickers a bit. I used to hate snorkeling because I was afraid the fish would touch me. While I think I’m over that fear, I’m still a little nervous about going down so deep! But this trip is all about challenges and I booked it so that I would be less likely to back out.
Explore Lots and Lots of Temples
Southeast Asia is obviously well known for its temples. From all the photos I’ve seen, these glorious religious structures seem to be a photographer’s dream. I’m looking forward to learning more about the multiple religions and cultures in the regions while photographing these magnificent works of art.
Trek Rice Paddies
The Peruvian Andes actually have irrigation systems that look like the rice paddies in Vietnam. I plan to do even more trekking, camping and outdoor adventuring to learn about agriculture in Vietnam. Most of all, I’m just looking forward to that view :).
Rock Climb in Railay
At overnight camp growing up, I was known for living at the rock climbing wall. It might have been because most of the male staff members worked on the climbing wall, but I adored my time there. I went on every rock climbing camping trip I could sign up for and to this day have the fondest memories of climbing over Lake Superior. Railay is world famous for its rock climbing. That’s going to be up there, come January!
Visit Lots of Markets
If you’re a regular, you know that I’m a little addicted to markets. From the San Telmo Festival in Buenos Aires, to Chicago Street Fests and the Madison Farmer’s Market, I can spend hours admiring fresh fruits and vegetables, picking out a hand-died scarf and photographing strangers. I am already planning to do some major market time when I first arrive in Bangkok in December.
We call it “spelunking” in the US and I have a distinct memory of my brother having a panic attack and refusing too go the last time I went. This was probably over 15 years ago, so I plan to learn about the land through some deep cave exploration. I mean, come on, how cool does that look?
Halong Bay Cruise
I don’t think the boat I’ll be able to afford will be this nice, but I will surely be spending some time on the sea admiring this UNESCO World Heritage site. From the photos, it looks breathtaking and apparently there are many activities you can do from the boat: caving, swimming, kayaking, and visiting a floating village. It’s one of those must-dos on a trip to Vietnam.
Thailand is known for Muay Thai which is a martial art that utilizes the entire body as the weapon. It looks like a mix of American boxing and kickboxing to me. Anyways, while I do want to see a professional Muay Thai boxing match, I’m more excited to try it out myself. It’s supposed to be a challenging workout – something I’ll definitely need during this trip to burn off all of that mango sticky rice.
Have you been? What were your favorite things to do in Southeast Asia? What did you DO?
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