I cannot remember a more difficult transition in my life than leaving Southeast Asia. Having travelled around 10 countries in as many months, I had transformed into a more patient and worldly person. Coming into this trip I was a half-eyed-open northern lad whose prior focuses weren’t anywhere near the possibilities that the rest of the world had to offer. Asia is a place that brings a tremendously energetic culture shock yet at the same time is generally a peaceful region. A place where your money can go far that gives you the freedom of choice. Everything you want to do, you can do.
I remember chatting with a few fellow backpackers when I’d left onto ventures new and we all light heartedly insisted that there should be some program in place to help get over the ‘Asia blues’. Having that freedom, that happiness all in a different world for such a long time then it suddenly finishing, really was a shock to the system. This of course, is comparing it with ‘reality’ and what I mean by reality is ‘normal’ life, 9-5, western-world living and where prices, egos and rules all increase.
On that point of course, we are privileged to be able to travel these countries with ease given we have a decent saveable amount of funds. When you have that, say 1,000GBP a month, you have a good budget to do a lot.
‘Looking back, it was like someone had given me the keys to Asia, and said ‘enjoy’.’
That was 4 years ago, and on a personal level the beginning of my journey. That being said, I’m planning on returning to the Asian realms very soon. For those of you who are currently an ex-Asia traveller, I’m sure you can relate to some of these points below. For those of you who have got Asia to come, be prepared. It really does hurt.
Whether its the locals or the fellow wanderers like you, the friendships in Asia just seem to last forever. There is an incredible happy energy that lingers in Asia, everyone seems to be on a (natural or illegal) high. How many times do you reminisce about seeing your friends again you met here?
Socially the best
If you travel solo, then no problem. It is very easy to meet fellow travellers in Asia. If you stay in hostels or popular areas, you’ll be speaking to people in no time. Socially as far as a backpacking region is concerned, there is no better in the world. In case you still struggle, I admin a couple of Facebook backpacking groups here and here. Check them out to ask for tips or meet up with people.
It can be very cheap
If you’re earning currencies such as Sterling, the Euro or US,CAD,AUS or NZ Dollar for example, prices in Asia will be relatively cheap, especially if you give yourself a budget and do things the backpacker way. Beer, food and accommodation are really cheap in comparison and this is one of the main reasons more and more travellers are flocking to Southeast Asian shores.
It’s just so different
Asia is beautiful, chaotic, hustling, humble, organic, extravagant and mesmerising all into one. The way people cook, the way they sell, the colours and patterns of the decor, the tuk-tuks, the wildlife, the language and the religion is just around you. It feels like everyone is crammed in one place at once, it really is full of life.
Eating, eating, eating
One great thing about Southeast Asia is that is has some of the finest food available. It is delicious, quick, easy and affordable. A lot of people travel here for the food alone! When you can buy Hainanese chicken with rice, salad, spice and soup for $2, it is difficult not to miss it. You can eat out everyday! Have a think, what would be your favourite dish?
Getting drunk when you want
In Asia a lot gets said about the parties. It shouldn’t all be about drinking or you may as well stick to your local nightclub at home, but who doesn’t miss drinking beer for less than $1 in a crazy new environment with happy people? Asia knows how to party, whether its with 30,000 people in Thailand or on a rooftop at a hostel. We all need a release now and then.
Flying with AirAsia is the more luxury option despite being a budget airline, and nowadays they have some great flight deals on. With the vicinity of Southeast Asia being shaped as one oval with a few breaks, you can get overnight buses, trains and boats to where you want to go next. Transport runs frequently and the quality is getting better too!
It has to be said, the hostels in Asia can really make your trip. Especially if you’re into socialising, there are no better places to stay to meet new people. I’ve had some of the best moments in my life meeting groups of travellers who we’ve created a mini family with. The hostels are key to forging these moments, not to mention comfy beds, tour bookings, and wifi along the way! Nappark and Mad Monkey were my favourites!
Bang on weather
It doesn’t matter if its rainy seasons does it really? Okay well maybe it does a bit, but if you’re from the UK like me, if its warm, its fine! Shades on, tan on, coconut sipping and light snoozing, you may be doing absolutely nothing, but we all deserve a break.
Everyone dreams of the beaches in Asia. Maya Bay in Thailand, Gili T in Indonesia, or Boracay in the Philippines? Exotic, tropical, beautiful views and relaxing vibes. The beaches in Asia are the reason why people first began travelling here. Absolute paradise.
Not only the beaches that make Asia a paradise, but Asia has jungle and volcanos to go with too. Walking through, leaf by leaf of a humid jungle, sweaty, bitten and thirsty at the time may have been annoying, but when you look back now, there’s nothing more you’ll want to do again.
Fitting right in
Asia is a easy place to travel, it really is. The humble culture coupled by reliance on tourism and the ever-increasing number of adventures gives Asia the edge over many over travel region destinations as a whole. Asia is ideal for a first backpacking trip where you can experience something completely different to what you know (depending where you’re from of course) and have your mind at ease at the same time, generally speaking.
Being an explorer
Asia enlightens you. You’ll be jungle trekking, scuba diving, doing your downward dog, eating exotic foods, dressing weird, meeting awesome people; you’re seeing the world. You’re an explorer. Don’t forget that, 99% of the people in the world don’t get that chance. You’re free.
Buddhism is widely believed in Asia and whether you think its more a philosophy than religion, you can’t knock its attempts at easing the soul. Live in the moment, not in the past or future, and with all the weird and wonderful souvenirs and attire to go with, it makes it more endearing to one of different origins. The temples are many around Asia and visiting them is humbling, but truly extraordinary too.
Falling in love
The girl that got away maybe? Or just falling in love with a place you want to be your home. This one is probably the biggest one for many of us, whatever it may be. That feeling of being in love and truly connected makes it the hardest thing to miss. Asia captures souls and never lets them truly go.