South East Asia & India: Deep Thoughts

Well, I made it! After 220 days on the road, through eight countries in Southeast Asia, India, and the Middle East, living out of a forty-liter backpack, wearing the same clothes every day (I never want to see brown gaucho pants…or any gaucho pants, for that matter…EVER AGAIN!), and never any idea what the next day would bring, I am home!

In addition to patience lost and faith restored, here’s a quick rundown of what I experienced on my journey:

3 Lonely Planet Guidebooks
1 banged-up knee
1 busted lip
3 hours lost in the dark jungle with only an Indiglo watch for light
3 attacks of athlete’s foot
1 monkey bite
5 rabies shots
12 consecutive days of constipation
2 serious cases of food poisoning
14 wipeouts on a skimboard
3 gnarly waves caught on a cooler lid
1 Henna Tatoo
1 elephant ride
2 1/2 motorcycle accidents
1 intertube ride down a river
2 white water adventures
10 (at least) public potty breaks
120 hours of yoga
10 hours of meditation (ie: “What color should I dye my hair next?”, “I wonder what’s for breakfast?”, etc.)
1 lost camera
1 found camera
5000 songs lost when my MP3 player ran away
5 days in the Middle East
1 below-freezing camping trip in the Himalayas
7 pairs of black flip-flops
1 exciting World Cup
6 blue hair streaks
1 full moon party
10 pounds lost
2 tumbles down stairs
11 sandy beaches
1 birthday (gulp…26!)
2 painful leg waxings
1 leg threading
3 hours ahead of a terrorist bombing
Nunya business dollars spent (too much)
8 sunburns
1 hitchhike ride
3 Hindi movies
1 star debut in a Bollywood film
36 heated arguments with taxi/rickshaw/tuk-tuk drivers
30 days slinging drinks in a beachside bar/club
10 1/2 books (Memoirs of a Geisha, The Beach, The Climb, The DaVinci Code, Love in the Time of Cholera, One-Hundred Years of Solitude, Are You Experienced?, Shantaram, The #1 Lady’s Detective Agency, 1/2 of Holy Cow!, and A Million Little Pieces)
12 Sudoku Puzzles
334 hours on a bus
109 hours on a boat
64 hours on a plane
50 hours on a motorcycle
42 hours on a train
Unimaginable amounts of rice, coffee, meusli, chai, chapatis, pad thai, pho, baguettes, mangos, pineapple, bananas, and local whiskey

And who can believe that after all that, I am still sane…and alive? Okay, I am not going to deny that I did not go through my share of lost tempers, middle-finger flicks, and near-nervous breakdowns (picture me, in the middle of a chaotic Indian intersection, dropping my rucksack on the ground, throwing my head back, and screaming my lungs out…sounds crazy, but it actually made me feel 100 times better!). There were definitely a few times where I just wanted to go home, especially when my grandfather died and I missed the funeral. There were times where I thought I would puke if I ate another curry or soup…dreams of peanut butter, sushi, blueberry pancakes, fish tacos, fresh-baked cookies, and Cold Stone Creamery ice cream did not help matters.

I met some absolutely amazing people, from fellow backpackers, to expats, and of course to the locals. All these beautiful people, from all over the world, including Southeast Asia, UK, Sweden, New Zealand, Denmark, Australia, Canada, USA, Mexico, France, Spain, Germany, most certainly made my trip incredibly unforgettable.

There is one question I absolutely despise: “What was your favorite place?” It is a simple question that I get asked all too often. For me, there was no “favorite place.” I loved every single town, village, and city, every temple, every beach, every guesthouse, and every tourist trap that I visited. Each country is completely different; each place offers something different. Thailand had the most beautiful beaches and stellar rock climbing. Laos was the place for riverside relaxing and hanging out with other lazy backpackers. Cambodia, in addition to being my home for a month (rest in peace Utopia!), had Angkor Wat. Vietnam was where I had one of the single most exhilarating and unforgettable adventures of my life: a six-day motorcycle journey through the mountains and hill tribe villages of the north with my best friend Erin. The UAE was an introduction to Islam, as well as home to the world’s fastest-growing city, Dubai. And finally, India, a world of its own, with the Taj Mahal, the Himalayas, women in saris, and of course, the yoga course. I loved it all, and I would never compare or contrast any of the places!

Thank you to everyone who kept up with me these past few months through emails and my blog. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

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