So you think you want to go backpacking in Southeast Asia?
Do you shudder at the thought of exhaust fumes, cigarette smoke, buzzing mosquitoes, scuttling cockroaches, spider bites, bed bugs, sweltering heat, or beggars pulling on your sleeves?
Do you hate being itchy, stinky, bloated, sick, grumpy, hungry, delirious, exhausted, afraid, annoyed, jetlagged or lost?
Are you sensitive to the sun? Afraid of strange foods? A germaphobe? Or allergic to peanuts? Are you afraid of saying “no” one thousand times a day?
Do you feel put off by lurching buses, pick pocketers, salesmen, spitting men, or motion sick locals?
Does inequality irritate you? Does littering make you mad? Do noisy crowds and pushy people drive you crazy? Do crazy drivers make you anxious? Do toilets without toilet paper, showers without hot water, restaurants without hygiene, roads without rules or bicycles without helmets make you feel uncomfortable?
Are you stuck in a mode of being “polite” just to keep the peace?
If you say “Yes, yes, YES!,” then go to Hawaii.
If you think you can handle the crazy, the chaotic, the strange, the smelly, the SHOCK. Then go, my friend, for there are a million smiles and miles of winding road awaiting you.
Go and see the stunning sunsets, ancient temples, the greenest mountains, the bluest oceans, playful children, laughing monks and joking locals. The water is warm, the food is fresh, the markets are madness, the streets are bustling, and the cockroaches are friendly.
Meet authentic people who speak the truth. Meet dogs that live as they please and do not know they are “man’s best friend”.
When you arrive home, you’ll quickly forget the sticky spots, the sleepless nights, the filthy floors, and the silly scams. But you will remember the people, the culture, and the beauty all around you.
And the surprise of realizing that your country’s way is not the only way to exist, to dream, to drive, to act, to dance, to play, to work, to share, to LIVE. This is the lesson that you’ll never forget.
Nina Foot and Thomas Kuecks