Travel changes me. How ’bout you?

Nov 1st, 2016

It has been about 5 months since my last adventure and I’m feeling nostalgic. Thought I’d share some of my travel anecdotes and also because I miss being away and hopping from one city to another.

1. My first time travelling alone was back in 2013. I picked Cambodia to be my first solo destination because visiting the Angkor complex was in my bucket list. I did plenty of research and asking around. Although I was excited at the experience of travelling alone, I still had doubts. But that slowly disappeared when I finally touched down. The jitters were replaced with excitement. I felt like a completely different person. Travelling alone changes you. It has turned me into a strong, confident and independent woman. I’ve also learned to trust my instincts. Your instinct is the most powerful saviour you have apart from your creator. Follow your instincts.

2. Sleeping in awkward places such as airports, 24-hour restaurants and bus stations just to save money. And I don’t mean sleeping in those airport hotels or whatnot. I mean really roughing it. Chairs, floor. Best airport I’ve slept in? Kansai airport. Warm, safe and they even gave out blankets! Worst airport I’ve slept in? KLIA2! Chairs are intentionally designed to not let you sleep in. Air-cond. as cold as a witch’s tit.

3. Sleeping in bunk beds with strangers. Strange strangers! Strangers who stripped naked right in front of me without batting an eyelid. Strangers who never took a shower the whole time I stayed. Strangers with armpit hair as thick and long as a Jewish man’s beard. Strangers not wearing underpants; read: naked (and climbed into bed next to me).

4. There was another sleeping with strangers incident that I could never forget – in Laos. To travel from one town to another, I mostly took overnight buses. I’ve read blogs mentioning that when on a sleeper bus in Laos, you HAVE to share with strangers unless you bought two tickets. So there I was travelling from Vientiane to Pakse and I had to share a tiny little bed (smaller than your average single bed, mind you) with a woman and her daughter! Just imagine three people on a tiny little bed. You know that scene in Titanic where Rose was floating on that plank and Leo had to stay in the water because there wasn’t any space for him. That was my bed! Three people on that bed! I almost fell off the bed because that effing kid kept pushing and shoving me and I couldn’t sleep at all. 12 freaking hours!

5. Riding a motorcycle with 3 people on board when I was in Chiang Rai. Met a German girl when I was there. Earlier, she met a local girl who wanted to bring her to the night market. I simply tagged along. Our initial plan was to walk there. Then the Thai girl suggested we hopped on her motorcycle instead to save time. Me and Amelie looked at each other and shook our heads. The Thai girl kept saying “It’s okay. We do it all the time.” So Thai girl in front, German in the middle, Sarawakian in the back (that’s as close to a threesome as I can get) and we zoomed. Everytime we hit a pothole, we screamed and laughed. I’ll never forget that.

6. Getting proposed to – twice! When I was in Phonsavanh, I met this friendly Lao boy at the bus station. We chatted and he offered to bring me to my guesthouse. Then he offered to show me around. We talked, we laughed, we shared stories and then out of the blue he said “Will you marry me?”. I declined nicely. After he dropped me off at my guesthouse, he tried again. “Marry me. I really like you.” That was sweet. And brave. And just wow!

7. I met a South Korean girl who was simply obsessed with all things Malaysian when I was in Kyoto. Talk about opposites! We met at the hostel and decided to walk together to the train station. She talked about how much she loved Bahasa Malaysia and even spoke some. She said she loved my skin colour and I quote “I love the colour of your skin. Your skin looks very healthy. Look at mine, it’s so pale!” And I thought “What a weird thing to say?” She was amazed when I told her I can speak Bahasa. It was my turn to be amazed when she sang ‘Bangun pagi, gosok gigi’! She knew almost all the words to that song. And I sang along and we kept singing till we reach the train station and had to part ways. I’ll never forget that either.

8. You know how “ang mo” always say we Asians look so similar? I did not believe that until I experienced it myself during my travels. Every Asian country I’ve been to people thought I was a local. And I used that to my advantage. You know how some places have different entrance fees for locals and foreigners and most of the time it is free for locals? I got free admissions because they thought I was a local! Saved a few bucks there!

9. I am a very quiet person. I’m not shy, I’m just an introvert. And travelling alone has taught me so much. When you’re alone, you just cannot keep to yourself all the time. So I tend to make friends with those staying at my hostel and I’ve learned to be more sociable. We talked, we shared our travel stories, our travel plans. Little by little I’m moving away from my comfort zone.

10. Getting lost oh so often because I suck at reading maps! But being lost is a wonderful and sometimes terrifying experience when you’re all alone and no one understands you. It’s taught me to be brave and confident and I just kept on exploring and going further than initially intended.

11. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. I’ve seen plenty of visitors disregard that. And they faced the consequences that followed. Whenever I’m in another country, I feel the need to blend in with the locals and their cultures. There’s no need for you to be dressed like a rich person, carrying your Coach handbag with your Dior glasses sitting on top of your head when you’re in a poor country or in countries which are not better off than your homeland. That’s the reason why I kept hearing stories of people getting ripped off, cheated and being taken as fools. And to top it off, these people are Malaysians! Got my drift? 😉

P/S: These are the little stories that got my friends entertained. And I want to be able to tell these stories to my future children and grandkids. At least I have stories to tell through my travels. And I know many years down the road, I would still be proud of what I’ve done and achieved. Travel changes me. How ’bout you?

2 thoughts on “Travel changes me. How ’bout you?

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