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Monday, July 19, 2010

3 months, 20 days, 7 countries and one nasty looking backpack!

I am sitting in the Singapore airport waiting for my 8 hour red-eye to Sydney. I feel like I am in this strage moment at the conclusion of one big adventure and the beginning of a totally different kind of adventure. I feel extremely excited and nervous all at once.

Leaving San Francisco to go backapacking in South East Asia never seemed so daunting to me. That was the easy part. Just hit the trail. But Sydney will be setting up a "real life" Which in some ways is so much more daunting but ALSO so much more exciting. I am so looking forward to having a place to call home. And in a totally new city! For at least a whole year! I don't actually know anyone there but already through various friends of friends I've got a network of people I've been in contact with who have all been so incredibly responsive in helping me get settled in and whom I can't wait to meet when I get there! Already have such good vibes about the city and the people.

Looking back over the three months there is a lot from the trip that didn't really surprise me and a lot that was totally unexpected. The first 2 months loop was almost SO easy looking back that, while it was fun and beautiful and still quite eye-opening it wasn't as personally rewarding as the last month and half. The Thailand-Cambodia-Vietnam backbacker loop is so cemeted into the culture there that you kind of just feel like another toursit being hearded along and you have to work hard to experience life outside of that. I exclude Laos from that because it didn't have the same vibe. Laos was quiet and beautiful and you could strike such a nice balance there of doing your own thing, travel to smaller local villages etc but you can also have a lot (maybe too much) fun doing the backpacker thing (Vang Vieng anyone?)

If I had to put it into scale I would say Laos was my favorite of mainland South East Asia, then Cambodia, then Northern Thailand and laslty Vietnam. I found the Islands and Indonesia to be the most rewarding. I think there are a couple reasons for this but one was the decision to extend my time in each place rather than the 3/4days schedule I was doing in the beginning to see as much as possible - and because I never found a place i really was dying to stay in longer than that. That is, until the extended stay on Perentian Islands, working a bit, teaching swimming lessons to Chinese tourists, and just getting more of a taste of what everyday life in a place like that would be like. It was great. AND i got to see a familiar face from home when Fatima came to visit me there from where she has been living and working in Karachi, Pakistan! A very brave girl, you rock lady. And then of course indonesia makes the top of my list for just what a great ADVENTURE it was. Funny too that it is the one place that I never researched, it was totally a last minute decision. Sumatra was the hardest travel and you had so much less peace of mind than anywhere else; but man, it was so freeing. Danua Toba Sumatra without a doubt is on my top 5 places I've ever been in the world list. And in the end, I think its the people you end up meeting and traveling with that make all the difference on the impression you take away from a certain leg of travel and I was fortuante to make some great friends along the way. There is something to be said for traveling alone because you are forced to meet more people and you forge these really intesen friendships quickly because you are thrown into this unknown adventure 24/7 even if its just for a few days. In the future though, I would also like travel with old best friends. When I met girls traveling with their best friends it looks like so muich fun. Harder in some ways I'm sure and a very different experience than doing it alone but great too I am sure. Fatima and I discussed a girls trip to India and Nepal for sometime in the next 3 years and I'm determined to make it happen!

Singapore has been a good last stop. It was actually a bit of culture shock being thrust back into the first world after the grit of 3 1/2 months in the 3rd world. But Singapore is a really interesting place. I think I was fortuante to be here in July where the cities meuseums and universities have all kinds of great things going on. Spent two nights at the Sing Art Museums and Art University night festival watching some amazing dance performances, street art and music. And people watching! Fashion in Singapore is a big, BIG deal with something like 500 malls and it's really fun to see.

Until next time...AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE!

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