Why I'm glad I waited to go to Southeast Asia

Hanoi, Vietnam
Southeast Asia has always been on my mental travel list but I always thought in the back of my head that I wanted to  wait until I had proper time to devote to it, that and I was a little intimidated by it. I used to think that I would have loved to do it earlier in life, say at 22 or even during the last backpacking trip at 25, but now having spent 3 months, I am glad the timing worked out the way it did. I am here when I am supposed to be here and I am thankful for that.

Here are a few reasons for why I am glad I “waited,” in no particular order.

- There is almost nothing that could compel me to willingly take a 28 hour bus ride now, when there are other options, whereas at a younger age I might have been convinced it was worth the experience. I know it’s not.

- I know myself better. I know what I need to survive. I know how I function best as a traveler and a person, and I think that is invaluable in this area of the world and so many others.

- I have a bit more money to spend, which means I can get a solo room if I absolutely need it. At $10 a night for a private instead of the $3.75 for a 4-6 person dorm, I don’t feel guilty at all. Sometimes you just need a private for a night.

- I have no problem saying no, to a night out. I don’t feel like I am missing out. I’ve been around; I know that no party or night out will be worth it if I don’t feel in the mood. I also know that traveling doesn’t mean you have to go out every night.

- I know that it is ok to go somewhere and not make friends.

- I know that you don’t have to love every place you go. (Vang Vieng)

- I know that scams are everywhere and all you can do is your best, to avoid them. You won’t be successful 100% of the time but you can do your research to help.

- I’ve been to enough places to know if a place exists solely for tourists. It doesn’t mean I won’t visit, it just means I am more careful about how I spend there.

- I take more calculated risks than unnecessary ones.

- I know how to manage a travel sick stomach and what will happen at each stage. And if those things don’t happen, I know I am in trouble.

- I know that as a female solo traveler, I am always better off booking my first night accommodation ahead of time in a new place. This doesn’t kill spontaneity, it’s just smart. You can always cancel or extend. No one wants to wander around from hostel to hostel in a new place, with your pack, potentially in the dark, alone.

- I am a much better packer. 

No really, I am, that all fit!
- I am much more interested in people than I was at a younger age. I want to know how people live their day to day lives, what they love, who they love, who they pray to and how they exist and persevere in a difficult world.

- The saturation of the Internet makes traveling so much easier than when I started. Not having to call a hostel is an incredibly luxury.

- I’ve been in really poverty stricken places before and it makes it easier knowing on some level what to expect. The particulars are different but there are some characteristics of third world countries that always exist.

- I am drawn to meet a different kind of person now than I was in the past. I find my encounters are more meaningful and I am more likely to forge ongoing friendships. I am more likely to keep in touch.

- I am more religiously and spiritually aware and can more readily appreciate the mass amounts of temples available. At 22, I’m not sure that would have been the case for me. 

Reclining Buddha, Bangkok. In SE Asia I like to see a Buddha a day.

- I have the time to do it slowly now. I once looked at a trip that was a fast track of Southeast Asia in 3 weeks and I am so glad that never worked out.  I couldn’t be happier that I now have the time to spend 3 months here.

I never really “wait” to go to a place, I always try to let the timing unfold naturally and I am so happy I did that with this region. It is a different experience than I would have had five or even 8 years ago, and I am thrilled by that. It is what I need it to be right now and I am grateful.

Thanks for reading!