“Now that I’ve been back in the U.S. for over a month, I have been able to reflect on most of what happened during our trip. There are so many People, Places, Foods, Activities, and Memories for to look back on and smile about whenever I want, which is sooo cool. When someone who didn’t have a chance to keep up with my blog asks me how the trip was and what we did, I have absolutely no idea what to tell them. When I wrote my blog, I summarized, paraphrased, and probably excluded over half of the things that occurred. In 6 blogs I wrote nearly 10,000 words, so summarizing my trip even further to people typically results in a more vague response to these questions. I usually resort to “it was amazing- it was enlightening and I did/saw a lot of cool things.” Not the best description, but the best I’ve been able to come up with after experiencing more new things in the last 3 months than in the last 5 years.
For my own benefit, and in case you missed any of the blog posts, I have put together a list of some of the most prominent experiences from each country. Hopefully this list will help me better explain to people what I mean by “enlightening”.
-Full Moon Party on Koh Phangon (Largest party in SE Asia every month)
-Scuba on Koh Tao Island
-Farming in a village in the mountains
-Muy Thai fights
-Fish Spa x4
-Temples and Monks
-Stolen Motorbike… Kinda
-Elephants (Mud bath, medicine, waterfall bath)
-Tattoo (Bamboo tattoo from Buddhist monk)
-Eating Bugs… (Cricket, Grasshopper, Cockroach, Scorpion, Snake)
-Kayaking and Cruise around Halong Bay
-Confrontation with local street vendor
-War Remnants Museum
-Immense seafood dinners (Shark, Barracuda, and endless oysters)
-Abseiling down waterfalls
-Killing Fields Museum
-Angkor Wat Temple
-Mass transport confusion
-Sunrise mountain climbing
-Cheating the parks department
-Bromo Volcano w/ sea of sand (Active volcano with epic slopes to run down)
-Night climb of Volcano Ijen (Blue fire, gas masks, sulfur mining, beautiful crater lake)
-Surfing again and again
-Feet attacked by Sea Urchins
-High-speed motorbike chase
-Uluwatu Temple (Hindu temple on steep Bali cliffs)
-Tanah Lot Temple (Buddhist temple on the Bali shore immersed in water)
-Ubud (Aggressive Monkey park, Coffee Plantation)
I feel that I have truly grown from everything that we took part in. But on top of that, I learned so much from all of the cultures and people we interacted with. It was enriching to learn more about other places, religions, governments, personalities, and so on that are present in the world that we regularly overlook. I was able to break down several personal walls that I had always held up, both for places we visited and destinations I now plan to visit because of other travelers’ origins and travel experiences.
After such an amazing journey, it was hard to take that step back into the “Real World”. I was able to ease that struggle by coming back during the happiest time of the year, and going to visit friends and family in Iowa for a couple weeks. I do find though that almost on a daily basis I miss a few things that SE Asia does differently than the U.S.:
1. Driving – Hard to get used to boring driving again with rules (i.e. Speed limits) and it is weird not having to be constantly cautious of reckless drivers or people driving the wrong way.
2. Eating – Food is so predictable nowadays. I’m not surprised by what I find on menus at restaurants or when walking down city streets- it’s always hotdogs or pizza, and never bugs or a creative way to serve noodles.
3. Communication – I miss working to understand what people from all over the world are trying to say. People using hand signals who are almost guaranteed to know more of my language than I know of theirs. Recently, watching the presidential debates and following several of the candidates closer, I have realized that even though we speak the same language, I understand and trust the foreign hand symbols more.
On another note, seeing the world has forced my hand in many positive ways. I have started to open my eyes to the beauties of everyday life and the multitude of relationships I have with everyone in it. Trying to make as many people smile on any given day, finding small ways to make the world a better place, and concentrating on what really makes me happy are a few important realizations I’ve had from this trip. Another revelation has been discovering that I would like to try my hand as a writer, with my first project being “You don’t need Toilet Paper in Thailand – SE Asia Travel stories and tips from an ignorant traveler.” Speaking of ‘new projects’, While traveling I was able to came up with a few ideas for bringing cool Thai and Indonesian clothing products to U.S. Markets, so be on the look out for the fashionable and multi-functional “Indo-Scarf” (Thank you Kickstarter for making this a reality!), most likely followed by the coolest fisherman pants you could possibly imagine. We are currently working out the fine details, but expect to have an e-commerce site up and running within the year. So before you make your next scarf purchase, make sure to check in with us first.
Finally, I have come to realize that although I do agree with the saying “Home is where the heart is”, I am and always have been blessed with many homes. Whether it is the towns I have lived in (10 to date), or the places that my family and friends reside, or the amazing places I have seen throughout my life, this trip helped me realize that my heart will always be split among all of these people and places and that I am fortunate to have “Homes” all over the world!
All good things must come to an end, but I have a feeling that this is just the beginning.
Please leave a comment or get in touch if you want to know anything else about the trip. I love sharing with travelers headed to that part of the world, and am excited to start planning the next trip, so please let me know if you have any suggestions.”
-The Scarf Guys