It’s a weird, and sometimes hard, transition for me to be living comfortably in Siem Reap to being a backpacker again. Ok, I admit, sometimes I’ve done the touristy things but unfortunately I have to switch my mentality and can’t completely avoid being a tourist sometimes; especially when I’m in a country for a month or less. It’s not going to be the same as Siem Reap where I’ve spent an unforgettable seven months building relationships with Khmer people and some expats (foreigners who live in Cambodia).
My experience now reminds me a lot of when I was backpacking in Europe and meeting other travelers who are looking to explore together. I forgot how easy it was to meet people as you go along and plan day or multi-day trips.
I’ve met some of the most interesting and diverse people the past year. It’s really refreshing to meet other people who have also quit their jobs to travel where they please or found jobs in Asia because it’s where they want to be. We don’t have to justify what we’re doing to each other. Rather, we simply share stories and understand each other.
For some of our families, taking a long time to explore the world is really unthinkable. We’re often pressured to take life’s “normal” course and get your degree, get a job, get a mortgage and settle. Many of our circles of friends are buying places, having babies, getting married and settling into the same place. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that lifestyle, it’s just not the place some of us want to be at this time in our lives.
Here are just a few of the many incredible global explorers I’ve met in Cambodia and Laos:
- A Hungarian couple on a two-year honeymoon trip bicycling around the world. They had never left Hungary before this trip and by the time I met them during my first week in Cambodia, they had cycled through Europe and the Middle East.
- A young American couple in their mid-20s who quit their jobs to travel for two years and they are now making up to $15,000 a month with their travel blog
- A French couple who are taking two years to travel. They worked in Australia on the farm to save up money and lived and cooked in the car while they were trekking. Interestingly enough, they spent more money in Asia than they did in Australia
- A Canadian mother of three who was sent to Hanoi, Vientam to do training for staff in the maternity department. She worked in Uganda many years ago for three years while her now husband was in Zimbabwe. She has taken six months to work in Vietnam and travel.
- A 23-year-old woman from the Netherlands who’s doing a research fellowship on fair trade in Luang Prabang, Laos
- A woman from the UK who works for a renewable energy company in Bangkok. She’s worked there for two years now and is returning in the UK for a bit but finding it very hard to leave Asia and the wonderful life she built for herself in Bangkok.
My mistake when I was backpacking in Europe in 2008 was pre-booking everything. It was my first time traveling alone and I wanted to make sure I had a place to sleep every night. But now, the benefits of long term travel is I can keep my schedule open and if I find a nice group to do some outdoor activities with and just go.
So far, everyone I’ve met and done day trips with have been very laid back. Even though we only see or know each other for a few days or less, we share unique experiences and have new people in our global network. Sometimes it feels like a mutual friend fling, but it works and that becomes the norm when you’re doing a global trek.