southeast asia

It’s December 10th.  I’ve been back in the US for 3 months.  2/3 of that time has been relaxing.  I’ve slept a lot.  I’ve gotten back into jogging and yoga.  I’ve reconnected with lots of friends and relatives up and down the east coast.  I’ve even managed to stick to a low carb diet and lose 17 lbs.

But I’ve got the itchiest fucking feet and I can’t wait to catapult myself back to Asia.

I leave in a month, January 10th.

Why then?  My friend Liz, who I grew up with, is going to Singapore for a month for work.  She wants to travel on weekends and is nervous to do it on her own.  That’s where I come in.

Liz and me before our 10th grade dance.

Liz and me before our 10th grade dance.

A more accurate portrayal of our friendship. Slaving away doing homework at my kitchen table.

A more accurate portrayal of our friendship. Slaving away doing homework at my kitchen table.

 

In my mind, traveling in Asia is easy.  Flights and hotels in the region are cheap, many attractions are comfortable with last minute planning, and there’s always something interesting happening, even when you’re just lounging in a cafe.

‘What is that guy doing?’

‘What kind of bug is that?’

How do they poop?’

It’s so easy I end up driving myself crazy considering all the possibilities.  There’s so much I want to do, and putting the puzzle together to make it all fit is a challenge.  When it comes to travel, FOMO is very real for me, at least during the planning stage.  In the moment, though, I’m not above saying, ‘Fuck it.  I’m tired,’

So what’s the plan for this trip?  I fly into Bangkok on January 11th.  Spend the week there, adjusting to the time and seeing the city.  Liz will meet me there the following weekend.  Then off to Bali for a week.  Liz will meet me that weekend.  Then we’ll fly together to Singapore.  I’ll stay with her, in her corporate housing, spending her hefty per diem, for the week.  From there, we’ll go to Ho Chi Minh City.  After that, Liz will go back to Singapore and I’ll stay in Vietnam, or something.

 

What’s different about this trip is that I don’t know when I’m coming back.  Every other trip has had a definite start and end date.  This has a fixed start, but no fixed end.  That’s unusual for me, but I have my reasons.

Originally I thought I’d teach English in Vietnam next.  That I’d use Liz’s work trip as a deadline to get myself back to Asia, and that after she left I’d settle in Ho Chi Minh City, find a job, and teach again.  But part of being home has made me realize that’s not what I want.  I liked teaching English, but not enough to want to make a career out of it.  What I really want is to travel.  And I really want my home base to be in a thriving, multicultural city.

Earlier this year I came up with a challenge for myself: visit one new country for each year I’m alive.  That means, when I’m 54 years old, I will have visited at least 54 countries.  I’m 31 and I’ve been to 27, so I have some catching up to do.  This trip is an excuse to get 4 or more countries on my list.

That said, I don’t want to be adrift.  After being tied down to jobs for many years, a few months of running wild is nice.  REALLY NICE.  But I am craving having projects and working in teams again.  I am, and always will be, independent and a free spirit, but there is a sense of purpose and security that comes with being tied to something, and if I get a long leash, I’m happy.

So I figure as I travel, I can job hunt.  As long as I have wifi and a VPN, it’s no different than being in New Jersey.  And any place or person I’d want to work for would have a hell of a lot of respect and admiration for my approach.  Then once we’ve sealed the deal, I can board a plane and head wherever I’m needed.

Until then, I’ll be trip planning, job hunting, and probably contacting you for leads 😛  If you’re curious, I want to return to either non-profits or tech (I love tech solutions for social problems).  Check me out here.

 

And in case you’re curious…

Countries I’ve Visited:

  1. USA
  2. Canada
  3. The Bahamas
  4. Mexico
  5. Colombia
  6. Peru
  7. Bolivia
  8. Chile
  9. Argentina
  10. England
  11. Ireland
  12. Scotland
  13. Wales
  14. The Netherlands
  15. Belgium
  16. France
  17. Portugal
  18. Italy
  19. Hungary
  20. Norway
  21. Australia
  22. Qatar
  23. South Korea
  24. Malaysia
  25. Japan
  26. Hong Kong
  27. China

These are the countries I can comfortably say I’ve been in and done some exploring.  There are others I could list, like North Korea, because I technically was on their soil during the DMZ tour, but come on.  I didn’t really visit North Korea (though I’d love to go and keep my eyes wide and mouth shut).