Life as an Inbetweener – a term I just made up for when you’ve returned home from a trip, doing nothing until you go travelling again – is rough. You were once that person; the one with the great tan, amazing Instagram pictures of exotic landscapes, and you always seemed to have a big group of new friends around you. People at home envied you, kept asking you when you would be home so you could hang out again. Then you were finally back in your own bed, cooking your own food, speaking your own language. Everything that you had missed while away was right there for you to enjoy. Then your tan faded. People who were so eager to hang out once you got home were suddenly too busy with their lives. You started to miss the fresh street food, being around like-minded people and living out of a backpack. So you decided it was time to plan a new adventure. And this is how it (by default) is gonna go:
You are bored with everything
“Can it stop raining already? Why am I doing laundry on a Saturday night? I hate it here and I need some pad thai.”
People at home stress you out So your friends all have awesome careers now and they just moved in with their significant other and have no time for you, and you’re living off your savings account and the only thing you’ve accomplished lately is your high score in Candy Crush.
You can’t stand looking at your travelling friends online having a good time
Of course this is just because you’re super jealous.
You decide to do go on a new adventure, but planning is overwhelming
The world is big, and there are so many cool things to see everywhere. Where do you even begin!?
You finally pick your adventure, book a flight and cannot contain your excitement
This is the most relieved you’ve felt in a long time.
You have a lot of things to get done before you leave and it stresses you out
Plan stuff, do some paperwork, save money, cry.
You share your plans with EVERYONE
You’re not trying to brag – you’re genuinely happy to have a purpose in life again. Some people will be happy for you. Some will roll their eyes and be like “AGAIN? Are you ever going to get back to real life?”
Graduation goggles The day of your departure is approaching, and suddenly leaving seems so difficult. You’re going to miss home and your friends so so so much. All the things you’ll miss out on while away, like mom’s birthday and your best friend’s first blind date!
You jump into your adventure and it’s everything you hoped it would be After an emotional whirlwind, you’re where you want to be, and you finally feel whole again. Plus, your tan looks amazing.
So pack your bags and go chase your dream! Your adventure is waiting for you.
It’s basically about the South East Asia backpacking experience, and it definitely took me back! Oh, how I miss the sweet pineapple, cheap pad thai, cute children waving and proudly saying the only English word they know, which is “HELLO“, and my friggin awesome tan. Seriously, I was like a golden Buddha. Well, I decided to share the list with you, along with some super important comments from yours truly.
50 Signs you’re a backpacker in South East Asia
1. You have a flip-flop tan. Well, duh.
This is technically a hiking sandal tan line, but I didn’t take that many pictures of my feet, okay?
2. You’ve been through at least five pairs of genuine fake Ray Bans. True dat. I just broke my last pair of fakes, and it’s making me miss Thailand. All the fake Ray Bans back home don’t fit me at all.
3. You’ve been through a similar number of fake Beats headphones and Havaianas flip flops (thongs, jandals, sandals). Beach parties are the worst, ’cause you always lose your flip flops, and the next day you will have to pay way too much at the first shop you see, because you can’t stand to walk barefoot in this heat anymore.
4. Shoes have become less and less compulsory to you. You’re not even allowed to wear shoes most places, so all you need is a pair of flip flops for crossing the street. Hot concrete = ouch.
5. You have a strong inkling towards getting, or already have got, a travel tattoo and/or piercing. I decided against this. In India, I felt a strong urge to have my nose repierced, seeing these women with impressive golden studs. In Koh Phi Phi there were tattoo shops everywhere I looked, but I wasn’t too sure about the quality and hygiene.
6. It’s really exciting to you that the harem pants fad is catching on back at home because then you never have to stop wearing your Southeast Asia garb. Who cares, I wear my harem pants with pride! They got me through a month of the Indian heat and modest dress culture. Unfortunately, I had to throw one of my pairs out, after I threw up on them on a 12-hour bus ride. Yikes.
7. You have more or less forgotten about the existence of eyeliner and concealer. NEVEEEERRRR! I live on those.
8. The mere concept of a blow dryer and curling iron have become laughable. With that humidity, your hair’s always gonna be wet anyway.
9. You either already have or are suddenly inexplicably amenable to the idea of dread locks. Nope, not at all.
10. You can be very easily persuaded to spend 75 cents on a fruit shake. Fruit lassis <3
11. You cannot be very easily persuaded to part with more than $3 for a beer. It’s all about Kingfisher, Chang, Beerlao and Angkor Beer.
12. You know how to say “hello,” and, “thank you,” in about five different Southeast Asian languages. I forgot most of these, so I had to look them up, and now it’s all coming back to me. Indian: Namaste, śukriyā Thai: Sawasdee Krab (male)/Ka (female), Kob kun Krab (male)/Ka (female) Lao: Sa-bai-Dee, Kaup Chai (like a cup of chai, get it? haha) Vietnamese: Xin chào (sin chow), Cám ơn (Gahm uhn, almost sounds like come on)
Khmer (Cambodia): Jum-reap Soo-a, Or-koon
13. You may also have figured out how to say “beer.” A Vietnamese chef taught me how to say “two more beers, please”, but I totally forgot. He would be so disappointed.
14. You arrange your plans around the next full moon. Of course!
15. There’s still neon paint stuck to your Megan Fox tank top from the last one. Just on my Full Moon Party shirt, but alright, I’ll take it.
16. It’s okay because you totally have more than one Megan Fox tank top. I actually don’t have a single one!
17. “Bucket,” suddenly has one meaning, and one meaning only: one-beverage inducer of black outs.
18. You no longer find monkeys to be cute or even tolerable. After the monkey temple in India, I am actually sort of scared of monkeys. The little ones are still cute, though.
19. You’ve become an expert at sitting on chairs and stools that hover mere centimeters off the ground.
20. You’ve become some kind of an expert at communicating with your hands and facial expressions. Did I ever really become an expert?
21. Your daily routine involves a morning ritual of DEETing from the feet up. Totally.
22. Instead of seeking out mirrors, you slink by, trying not to look at the dirty vagabond you’ve become.
23. You’re totally going to learn how to play guitar. Nope. I wish.
24. You’re totally going to take up fire dancing. Kirstin and I were veerrry impressed by the firedancers in Koh Tao, and wished we could do the same.
25. You’re positively giddy if you find a bathroom with a western toilet, toilet paper, AND soap inside. OH MY STARS, SWEET JESUS, WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE THIS LUXURY!?
26. That said, you’ve mastered the required movements for the squat toilet. Out of necessity. Meh, not in harem pants, at least.
27. Hot water is no longer a strict requirement for your showers. You can say that again, sista.
28. Neither is shampoo.
29. …and sometimes neither is soap.
30. You’ve tried (and later regretted) some kind of rice liquor.
31. Someone, at some time, has taken you for a ride on a tuk tuk or taxi, and you’ve overpaid like crazy for it. Too often, really.
32. You’ve eaten street food you never would have considered previously. I didn’t go too crazy with the street food, although that would probably have been fun. Yum, spider!
33. You can’t believe how delicious it was and how much you want to eat it again.
34. You’re seriously considering taking up a teaching job so that you can stay. I was considering taking a job at the school in Koh Tao, but I passed it while walking from the pier to the hostel, and there was nothing in this world that could make me return to that area after that walk.
35. Your bamboo bungalow doesn’t even have proper walls, yet it makes you happy. It didn’t, ’cause there was a huge spider hiding in there.
36. You can totally go, like, three whole days without Wi-Fi. True.
37. Yet once you find it again you’ll be glued to your phone, even if it does take an hour of painstaking refreshing to finally load a single Facebook message. Wi-Fi time is sacred time! Some people would sit in a corner and try to stream the latest episode of Game Of Thrones, while I caught up with my friends back home.
38. You keep reassuring your family that you’ll buy your plane ticket home, “tomorrow,” which never seems to arrive.
39. Yes, fried rice IS a food group. I miss fried rice everyday.
40. You are the Jenga-freaking-master of the universe. I actually only played Jenga once.
41. You’ve, like, wholly tapped into your spiritual side. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. No.
42. All you need are good vibes, good people, and a daily dose of Ujjayi breathing. What the hell is Ujjayi breathing? Other than that, I’m totally with you on that.
43. Lotus flowers are so thoroughly inspiring. I was all about the Frangi Panis.
44. You’ve become all willy-nilly with your passport.
45. The random hostel guy has kept it overnight.
46. So has the visa service guy who took it to the capital for you when you didn’t feel like leaving the beach.
47. You’re used to eating really, really well for very, very little money. If fried rice, veggie burgers, pad thai and fruit lassis are considered healthy, then yes.
48. You don’t even really need electricity. Some light so I can at least read a book at night would be nice.
49. You now have friends from all over the world. Or mainly Canada.
50. You have the painful task of leaving a piece of your heart in the coolest part of the world, ever. Em yêu và nhớ anh, South East Asia! (someone said it means “I love and miss you”)
Originally supposed to be Delhi > Goa > Mumbai > Gujarat > Saurashtra > Pushkar > Jaipur > Delhi > Agra > Varanasi > Calcutta
Ended up going to Delhi > Vagator > Arambol > Hampi > Mumbai > Udaipur > Jaisalmer > Jaipur > Amritsar > Rishikesh > Agra > Varanasi > Calcutta
During my first week here, I was asked to describe India in a few words. I couldn’t.
After spending 4 weeks in various places around the country, I’ve decided that it’s a place of contrasts. On a broken and dirty road, you’ll see a group of women in colourful sarees walking. Next to a lavish temple full of flowers, colours and carvings, you’ll see a beggar without legs. I’ve been in the desert, I’ve been on the green fields. I’ve seen devastating poverty, and I’ve seen over-the-top luxury. So, incredible India is a country of contrasts.
First of all, let’s talk about the people. 80 percent of them are out to get your attention. 5 percent want to grope you, and 5 want nothing to do with you at all – they will flat out ignore you. The remaining 10 percent are the most helpful and friendly people you will probably ever meet. We’ve been so lucky to meet a few in the sea of annoying or digusting locals that have crossed our path. Women don’t seem to like us very much. I don’t know if it’s in general, because of the oppressed and rapey culture, or if they hate us because we look different, vulgar even, and are intrusive. It sucks, because we usually rely on women for help, it feels a lot safer. Many local men seem so horny, they will back their elbow into your chest, just to get some sort of human contact. It’s great, because all places are swarming with men.
We learned a few words in Hindi that we used so many times a day, it’s going to take some getting used to when we leave.
Namaste – hello, goodbye Sukriya – thank you Nahi – no Ha – yes
Service here is almost non-existent, at least in restaurants. The waiter – there’s usually only one – will be gone most of the time, or visibly unhappy with either you or his job. Food is also served whenever it’s ready, so if you order multiple dishes or are in a group, you often get your food at seperate times. Funny thing is, the best service we had was at McDonald’s. They sure looked happy and attentive.
Scams are inevitable. Taxis, tuk tuks, you name it, they will try to scam you. Bargaining is a daily struggle, especially those places where all the drivers will agree on a fixed price for you, so no matter who you ask, they all know that they have to offer you the same price.
Hygiene isn’t very good. Sure, they insist you only use your right hand for “clean business”, like eating, shaking hands, handling money, and touching stuff. Still, you see men on the side of almost every road, urinating or spitting. Their spit is an orangey-red. There is also trash everywhere and NO trashcans. You’ll see plenty of cows on the side of the road eating the garbage.
I’m not a fan of the food, either. I can’t handle spicy food (interesting that I chose to go to Asia, I know), but most of the food here is a thick gravy or puree made from peas, or spinach, covered in various spices, that basically makes everything taste the same, and then they might drop some paneer into the mix. I do love naan bread and masala chai, or even a good lassi.
India is a very beautiful country, yet there’s an unpleasantness to it. The atmosphere is busy, and colours and religion is thrown in your face, and you have to take it all in – but don’t stand there too long, or you will be swarmed.
I will definitely go back to Vagator for the lazy afternoons with a beer in hand, Mumbai for the colourful movies, Jaipur for the Pink City and all it had to offer, and I wish I could see the Taj Mahal everyday. I will definitely be back, but until then,
Who knew travelling was so dangerous? No, I’m not talking about the possibility of getting raped, robbed or lost. I’m talking about getting sick.
Sure, I’m being overly cautious here, maybe. Or am I? Am I even prepared for four months of endless things that could go wrong? But on the other hand, people do this all the time with less preparation, and nothing happens to them. Only time will tell if my body can keep up with South East Asia.
The reason I am currently freaking out, is that with five days left until depature, I had my final run to the Pharmacy today to pick up Malaria pills. 15 goddamn boxes. This is what my medicine bag looked like when I got home:
Jeez, Christine Louise. I need all 15 packages, but I neither can nor should bring them all like this. I stuffed three packages – with manuals – with all the pills I had, and suddenly I could fit it all in my bag and still read about the proper use and side effects.
Let’s talk a bit more about what to bring for a long trip far away from home. First things first, if living in Greece for months at a time taught me anything, it’s that vitamins are a good idea. No, a great idea. Flying, staying in less than stellar hostels, and not eating healty and balanced enough can all contribute to feeling a bit sick. While Asia is known for its healty food, there’s still no harm in bringing some for the days where you binge on bread and Coke all day (also known as Hangover Day). I also packed some vitamin C, because I’ve seen so many people do that when they didn’t feel too well.
If it does happen that I catch a cold, which is common after traveling on airplanes or sleeping with the air-con on, I have a nasal spray and painkillers ready. It is generally a great idea to bring disinfectant for whatever you’d need it for.
Birth control and condoms. Even if you don’t plan to sleep around, you never know when you meet that hot surfer dude with the accent to die for. Seriously. Better to be safe than sorry. Also, those lucky ladies that are on birth control can skip their period one month, if they are going swimming or meeting the man of their dreams that one week they are supposed to be crying and eating brownies in a fetal position.
Anything to prevent or fight diarrhea, really. It’s impossible to travel when your butt is constantly leaking.
Pills and mosquito spray to prevent malaria. All of this is a must if you are traveling to certain areas, and you need to be very serious about using this at the right hour. Unfortunately, a lot of malaria pills have side effects, like causing yeast infections, so bring something for that.
No matter where you’re travelling and for how long, I cannot stress how important it is to know about the precautions you have to take to prevent your trip from being about that one time you went to Italy and pooped non-stop, or when you were in the hospital in Laos because a dog bit you. I don’t know, just do your research about the area, get the neccesary shots and prescriptions, and know who to call if it all goes wrong.
I have been spending a lot of time trying to come up with a name for my upcoming trip. I just really like to name things, OK? I was looking at the always inspiring Word Porn page, and I stumbled upon a word that I think describes this trip perfectly:
For some reason, I cannot escape the curse of making puns, so I decided that this adventure will forevermore be known as Novatourient. See what I did there?