In order to tell you about my Southeast Asia trip I have to rewind back to how it all started.
From my earliest memory, I can remember wanting to travel. I remember I would always get excited for something as small as going into town to run errands. Never in a million years did I think I would leave the small town in Kenya I grew up in. But as fate would have it, I indeed did leave.
When I was younger my mother would always watch soap operas on TV. Like clockwork, every Monday and Wednesday we would all rush to do our chores, eat dinner, and then sit by the TV waiting to catch the next episode. I would watch these soap operas fascinated and surprised that there was life outside of how I knew it. At the time I was about 8 or 9 years old. My older sister, who is two years older than me, wanted to be a pilot and like all younger siblings I would insist I was going to be a flight attendant and fly with her.
Every now and then we would hear helicopters flying outside our house. We would all rush outside to watch them, mesmerized that it was possible to be high so high up in the sky. A few years later we moved to a neighborhood in Nairobi that was a few kilometers from the airport. Every night we would all go outside and watch the airplanes taking off and landing. I would imagine what it felt like to fly. My siblings and I would talk about it, arguing about what kind of food they served and what it looked like to be inside an airplane.
A few months later I flew for the very first time as I left my homeland for a monumental move to the United States with my family. I will never forget the experience, the adrenaline, the butterflies, and the giggles as I sat in between my brother and sister. I still get the giggles every time I fly. We flew to Qatar, spent a day there then flew to Washington DC. That first flight was the birth of my traveling addiction.
About a year go while solo traveling through Mexico, I accidentally came across a picture on Snapchat. While the pictures on the app disappear after 24 hours, the impression was long lasting. The picture was of a hammock on the shores of a beach. I saved the picture thinking “I do not know where this is, but i will go there one day”. I later found out that the picture was taken on an island called Phu Quoc, a Vietnamese Island off the coast of Cambodia. I told myself that I had to visit that island, but I had no money to go.
I came back home after my Mexico travels last December, moved back in with my parents, and started working full time while still in school. My goal was to save money and go backpacking right after graduation. I saved up a couple hundred dollars by the beginning of summer while interning with Women AdvaNCe, and like I always do, decided to go on google flights to see how much flights to Thailand were. I found a $550 dollar flight leaving from JFK to Bangkok and booked it on impulse. And then reality hit, “shoot what have I just done”. I brushed it off and told myself I would cancel the flight the next morning. Two hours later I found a flight leaving from RDU to JFK that matched perfectly with my JFK to Bangkok flight for $79, I was convinced it was fate and booked the flight to JFK.
I told myself that I deserved this because of all those nights I spent in the library crying at 3am or those days I spent curled up under my bed because I was scared to check what I got on my biology test. I deserved this. After my flights were booked the minimal planning began.
I will be visiting 8 countries in 4 months, starting off in Thailand then Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and lastly Singapore. I will be volunteering in some of these countries teaching english or working on environmental sustainability projects in others through WorkAway, a service that connects you with a list of organizations, cultural experiences or homestays. And in other countries I will travel with no plans. I will stay in hostels because there is no better way to meet people as a solo traveler than through cheap hostels.
I tried to deviate from making set plans because I feel as thought plans limit me from being able to go with the flow or be present. Some of the most amazing adventure and experiences in my life have came from having no plans. This is definitely one of my craziest ideas yet, maybe i’m bold but them again i might be plain crazy. Through the planning stage I did manage to get affordable insurance through world nomads, and get some vaccinations because being sick in a foreign country doesn’t sound like a good idea.
It is scary traveling alone especially as a young 20 year old woman. I am aware that I am vulnerable and it is a risk. But I am also aware that no decision in life comes without risk. I wish I could eliminate all of the risk from this trip, but unfortunately I can’t. I think I have enough common sense, and over the past couple years I’ve learned enough lessons through traveling to feel comfortable enough to take on this adventure.
I was having a conversation with a friend over brunch the other day and she said “I don’t know why people travel just to travel, it’s such a waste of money and time” And I laughed off her comment because I can never express how much joy I get from traveling. Traveling makes me feel alive. It’s one of the most fulfilling experiences. You get to meet people from all parts of the world and listen to their stories; you get a peek into their life and journey.
You will experience life like never before. The experience is truly enriching. I always encourage people to travel, to seek the unknown, to book that impulse flight and just go. You will be surprised at how much you will learn about yourself while traveling. You will find yourself, and in other countries you will leave bits and pieces of yourself. You will come back from your travels with stories that will make you bust out into laughter in the middle of a conversation. Some of these stories you will share and others will be so precious you will keep to yourself.