After nearly eleven months, my time in Asia has come to a close. The visa I arranged for Australia a year in advance needs to be activated before October 10. I made this application so long ago for logistical reasons; if they need extra documentation, health checks, evidence of anything… this would be easier to tackle from home. Turns out they approved my application within half an hour and didn’t ask for any evidence at all. I thought an entire year would be plenty in Asia, but then, a year became a week and I wasn’t ready to leave.
Whenever I move on from one country to the next I write a piece about my time there – the people I met, the experiences I had and the memories made. Overwhelming and emotional every time. How then, am I to write about a whole continent and my nearly-year spent there. Learning customs and traditions so different from my own; the initial culture shock and worry making way for understanding, acceptance and a sense of humour when needed.
I cannot even put into words how incredible this journey has been so far. And now the next phase is looming I am not ready for the change.
Anyone considering travel in Asia, I have only one word for you…. GO! It has probably been the single wisest decision I’ve made in my little life and a decision that will impact me in many ways for the rest of it.
I left England a quivering mess, unable to breathe, hiding in hotel rooms for fear of meeting people and yet simultaneously afraid of not meeting people. So nervous of public transport in a land I didn’t know, I would always book onto a tour to visit sights to the detriment of my wallet. In a short space of time this changed. Sure, I am still a ball of anxiety at times* and this will never change but I have felt myself moulding and changing over the course of this journey. In general, more able to adapt to environments, public transport has become so much easier and I would laugh at the idea of staying in a hotel room for three times the price of my dingy little dorm plus, “that’s where I make my buddies!” I now proclaim.
From the backpacker haven that is Thailand to the local life that floods Myanmar, the caves and waterfalls of Laos to the jungles and wildlife of Malaysia, the ruins of old civilisations in Cambodia to the modern metropolitan city-life of Singapore. And not forgetting Vietnam, which has everything and more.
Asia, you gave me ear infections, D&V and worms (twice). Beaches, jungles and island paradises. Getting lost in crumbling temples, swimming in flooded volcanic craters and natural waterfall showers. Language barriers, cultural clashes and poor sanitation. Motorbikes, a collection of useless German phrases and too many hangovers. Water fights, best buds and a lifetime of memories that I will never forget.
But really, this journey has been about the people that I met. It really wouldn’t have been anything without all of you. Relationships are faster on the road; a stranger at breakfast can be a best friend by dinner. I have been fortunate enough to meet an enormous catalogue of ridiculous, beautiful, hilarious, all round good eggs, some of whom I would go so far as to call family.
I thank each and every person I happened upon in my travels whether we just met passing in a hostel corridor and exchanged a friendly smile or whether we travelled the length and breadth of a country together. You all helped this one find her feet.
And so, from lantern festivals, yoga retreats and volunteering with wildlife to conquering mountains, pushbike phobias and being fed meat against my will, Asia, I bid you farewell.
See you later, you’ve been the absolute dream. ❤❤❤
*Recently, on my Cambodian island paradise, there was an opportunity to go to a Day of The Dead Festival on another island. Initially, it sounded great but my friend Neil, who knows me better than most, suggested that I would hate it. There would be nothing vegetarian to eat, nowhere to sleep, only beer to drink, everyone speaking Khmer and we would be stranded there until 4pm the following day. I started to go into panic mode. I had approximately five minutes before the boat left to decide what I wanted to do. One minute I was definitely not going, the next, I was too afraid of missing out and I was getting on that boat. The decisions were changing so fast that I was frozen to the spot and literally shaking with the adrenaline of the panic. Just so you know how the story ends, I decided not to go and ended up being happy with my decision however painful watching the boat leave had been at the time.