You know, I haven’t written about my trip Southeast Asia yet. I didn’t quite know how to process it while it was happening. The trip snuck up on me. I spent the day before I left frantically packing and hoping I was preparing adequately for what lie ahead. Then before I knew it, I was on a plane home puking my guts out the entire time (different story, different time).
I always dreamed of this exotic and magical place, thinking about elephants and beaches and curry and pho and curry. Did I mention curry? I was completely enthralled with the idea of these things and the places that held them. And because of this, I committed a year in advance to traveling SE Asia with the kid herself, Mackenzie.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect because I knew trying to imagine what to expect was foolish. Asia’s far away, it’s Eastern culture. Something about the way they tackle life is just so different than us over here in the West. So, I was grateful to be traveling with someone who had lived in that culture the past year and tried not to overthink it.
This trip was so different compared them to the previous ones I’ve taken. This was the longest I’ve ever traveled at one time. This was the first time traveling while having a boyfriend. This was the farthest from home I had ever been. This was the first time traveling to Asia. This was the first time seeing so many countries in one trip. All of these combined with the busyness of life leading up to leaving made this trip feel so differently than any other.
I don’t know when that difference hit me. Maybe when I first stepped off the plane in Hong Kong. Maybe the first time I felt sick in Vietnam. Maybe when I ate my 17th bowl of (amazing) curry. Maybe when I was frustrated that I couldn’t really talk to Luke. Maybe when I was riding an elephant bareback in Chiang Mai. Maybe when I was climbing ancient temple ruins or riding in a tuk tuk along the countryside in Cambodia. Maybe when I spent all 6 hours of a flight in the airplane bathroom…
I think this trip was unlike any other because I didn’t immediately fall in love with Asia.
I’ve immediately fallen in love with every other place I’ve been, . That’s what I do. I travel. I fall in love with the place. I’m convinced I should move there. I come to my senses and realize that’s probably not the best idea. I discover another place and travel there and the whole cycle starts over. Seriously.
This was not the case for the countries I visited on this trip. And I think that’s ok. It’s unique charm took a while to really sink in. I don’t regret traveling to Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia or Thailand one bit. I’m just saying that this experience was so different because it didn’t always come easily. I had to work at traveling. I was in a different place every 3 days which meant airports every 3 days, traveling to those airports every 3 days. On top of that add driving to and from other places within those places and my head is spinning just remembering it.
In a sentence, Asia humbled me.
Even while I was experiencing this trip, I felt different than other times Ive traveled. I finally grasped why it’s called a “foreign” country. I just felt so, well, foreign. I felt even a little scared, even though I wouldn’t admit it. I beat myself up about this thinking, “I’m a traveler. I’ve done this before. I’m good at this, good at fitting in. I’m supposed to be in love with every place in the world.” So, it was very humbling and confusing to actually feel foreign and so out of place. I almost felt like a failure to my wanderlustly self. How could I not fall in complete love with every place I go?
So, I would venture to say that this ‘out of place-ness’ forced me to actually be out of what’s comfortable to me. I’ve felt like this very few times in my life. But, because of this, I think I was more aware of what I was learning about myself through all of this. I had to actually ‘work’ at traveling, so I have a greater appreciation for it now (and I thought was impossible to appreciate it more than I already did). At times, I absolutely had to rely on Mackenzie and was so grateful that she was who I experienced this crazy, foreign, magical part of the world with. (Can it, Mason!) I don’t know if all that even makes sense. But, it does in my little brain. Traveling contines to surprise me.
Asia’s different, you know.