When I began contemplating travelling, I had this image in my head of becoming a wandering yogi, a little bit like Mingyur Rinpoche (a Tibetan Buddhist lama who disappeared from his home in Nepal four years ago to embark on a solitary retreat in the Himalayas, spending his time wandering freely and practising in caves) and I thought, Maybe I can do a little bit of that. Travelling around and spending time in personal retreat, and in my case, exploring Asia of course. Truthfully though, after establishing a more realistic picture in my head, it would be a little bit less caves, more beaches. And long bus rides from one unfavourable hostel to the next, punctuated by short snorkelling breaks. So basically, nothing like Mingyur Rinpoche.
Subsequently, I had this daydream of approaching this trip a little bit like Fashion Toast and blogging all sorts of beautifully languid photographs, lingering around Asian coffee shops and beaches in luscious outfits, peach coloured rabbit-fur pom pom key chains and Balenciaga card holders, right next to my iced latte (definitely not like Mingyur Rinpoche), but after the initial rush of excitement, I am afraid the self-timer on my iPhone will struggle finding the right angle and the two outfits that I will be wearing for the entire trip until turned to rags, just won’t convey the same feel.
So I am focussing on the more realistic plan. It’s a simple premise. I am due to leave for my first long-term travel trip in seven months and I intent to buy a one-way ticket to somewhere in Asia, without a strict plan for when I will come back. I am getting organised in my own way. I have begun a spreadsheet highlighting countries, weather conditions (monsoon seasons to be avoided!) and the highlights I shouldn’t miss. I will be leaving in March, meaning I’m about to hit monsoon season a few months later, so I am trying to avoid this. Generally, I plan to travel slow, and spend a little bit more time in a few select places. I’m not planning on joining the party crowd. Instead I want to find some beautiful, quiet places and look into volunteering opportunities along the way. Since I’ll be travelling on my own, I want to have a plan sorted, which I can then, on arrival, always chose to utterly ignore.
My initial starting point was based on family history and general interest. The plan was to start in Indonesia, and travel slowly through the rest of the South East Asian countries to Nepal, to then end up in northern India. My father was born in Jakarta and is half Indonesian, but he hasn’t been back since he was a few years old. None of us have been there. In fact, apart from a quick work trip to Seoul, South Korea, I have never even been to Asia. Yet, apart from a more recent interest in the Middle East, it’s the only continent that has always fascinated me. My plan to commence in Indonesia seemed quite solid until I found out that my sister was planning a trip to Thailand around the same time I will be leaving, so I may start the journey out there with her instead. On top of that, I heard that flying into Bangkok is also the best way to start travelling, as these flights are the cheapest ticket into Asia.
I’ve got an initial itinerary, and I’m allowing for one month in most countries (shorter in South Korea and Japan, and longer in Indonesia.) The current plan goes:
Thailand → China → South Korea → Japan → Indonesia → Malaysia / Singapore → Vietnam → Cambodia → Laos → Myanmar → Sichuan, China → Nepal → Dharamshala, India
I am still debating the China, South Korea and Japan leg to the trip, mainly due to cost. At the same time I think I should just take advantage of going all the way out there for such a long time and go everywhere. Currently, this trip is counting up to 13 months. But hey, I may get sick of it and come back after three months. I don’t hope so, but I don’t know. I’ve never done this before. I heard a cautionary tale of a girl who’s live-long dream it had been to go to India. When she finally packed her bags and got on a plane with the intention to stay for six months, she had no idea what a cultural shock she was in for. And it had been her dream. Apparently, she called her mother fours days in, urging her to get her on the first flight back. While I am not going to presume this may happen to me, I guess you can never know what you’re cut out for until you find yourself in the situation. I am someone who loves being at home, being in my own space with my own things. That will all be gone when I go. Still, the experience will be worth it. I think it’ll be good for me. I used to travel around Europe and live in different cities for a few months at a time and I loved it. I loved the freedom. And that’s the one thing I will have.