The Jatiluwih rice paddies in Bali, Indonesia

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While I was on Bali island in Indonesia, one of 13,466 islands that make up the country, my friend and I rode our mottos to see the unique Jatiluwih rice paddies, a popular place for foreign visitors. Jati means “really” and luwih means “beautiful.” The rice fields were dug in terraces on the slope of Mount Batukaru around the middle of Bali. When the rice almost reaches harvest time, the colour often varies between green, and dark yellow.

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Indonesia has one of the most stunning landscape and it’s why the motto rides are the best way to explore the country in my opinion. The entrance fee was no more than $2.50 US, about the same price as most temples and sights. Compared to Europe, the value for these places around Asia are much more  beautiful and unique. The Jatiluwih rice fields are definitely worth a visit.

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The dream of Nyomen in Bali

The lovely Nyomen.

I was very happy to meet Nyomen, a staff member at the villa my friend was staying at in Bali, Indonesia. Every time we passed her, she greeted us with the most genuine and warm smile. She doesn’t speak much English and I don’t speak much Indonesian, but I can feel the warmness of her personality. If she didn’t see us for a few days, she would run up and give us a hug whenever we came back.

Nyomen has worked in three villas and is also a mother of two, one of whom is not her biological child, but she so generously took into her family. She grew up in Bali with six other brothers and sisters and now is busy taking care of the family after her work shift is over.

Nyomen’s lifestyle, modesty and unconditional love for her family is typical of many women I have met across Asia. She wakes up early to make breakfast for the children and does a lot of shopping. Husband doesn’t cook but if he has a day off he will go fishing and bring fish back home.

Nyomen makes these beautiful bracelets and sells them. I bought two as a souvenir of her wonderful and generous personality.

Marriage is highly valued across Asia and if people are not married by a certain age, often between 20 to 30, then many people act like it’s the end of the world for you and you have not fulfilled your ultimate mission in life. The families of the bride and groom have to agree with the marriage.

I was curious and asked Nyomen what the common age is for people to marry and she said girls can marry as young as 20 years old and 24 to 27 years old for boys. Sometimes if kids don’t have a job they marry instead.

In today’s Western dating culture, there is so much gaming involved, playing hard to get and often acting like a bad boy/bad girl to attract a partner. So I found the simplicity and genuine affection in Nyomen’s story of how she met her husband very sweet and a great of example of old school romance.

Nyomen’s husband came from the same village as her and they met every day. She said, “We spent a lot of time together and one day my husband said he fell in love with me.” They were not in a relationship for a long time before they got married. She was 20 years old at the time and he was 25 and is now working at a hotel.

I asked her if she wants her kids to marry early and she said, “No, I want my children to go to university, have a good job and then marry. In Bali it’s expensive so I want my kids to be successful and I can help my kids go to university.”

 

Indonesia Cost Summary

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Over the next few weeks I will start posting detailed costs of my time in Indonesia, Laos, Philippines, Taiwan, Cambodia and Thailand. What I spent for 6 weeks in Europe lasted me 10 months in Asia. I wasn’t on a specific budget necessarily and I didn’t hold back on anything I wanted to do including doing my diving license, mutli-day tours, and doing a motorcycling trip.

These places could be done for even cheaper than what I spent because I also treated my friends out regularly and bought extra ingredients to cook for them. My three weeks in Indonesia would have been $371 US if I didn’t do the diving license.

All of the prices will be in US dollars. At the time I was in Indonesia, the exchange rate was on average $1 US=11,500 rupiah.

Accommodation

  • 9 days in Bali: free, at my friend’s villa in Jimbaran
  • Ubud for two nights: $15.00 per person
  • Lombok: $12.00 per person for three nights at Diyah Homestay guesthouse. We happened to arrive when there was a wedding going on and the owners were kind enough to share a few meals with us and invite us to the local ceremony
  • One night accommodation in Yogyakarta at EduHostel: $6.00
  • One night accommodation at a crappy hostel: $5.00

Diving license at Tulamben

  • $400.00 for the license, two nights at the diving resort including all you can eat breakfast and dinners

Adventure and sights

  • $25.00 to go river rafting 12 km through the jungle in Bali that includes an all-you-can-eat buffet
  • $7.00 to watch a variety of traditional dance shows for 2 hours in Ubud’s Kelod centre
  • Most of the temples and sights are about $2.00 for entrance fees and some of the best sights and unique jungle landscape has been in Bali. Often I find in Indonesia the surrounding jungle area is more beautiful than the temple or main sight itself.

Transportation and gas

  • Got around with scooters and ferries. We used my friend’s scooter and I rented a scooter for four days for about $3.50 a day
  • Four-hour overnight ferry ride from Bali to Lombok on scooter was about $11.00
  • Every gas fill for the scooter was about $2.00

Food

  • You can get food for $0.25 when you go to the right places and many meals are $1.50 to $2.00 for a full plate of fried rice, noodles and other types of local food.
  • In Skybar in Kuta, they have all you can eat for $5.00

Total spend for 3 weeks in Indonesia: $771.00

17 most memorable times of 2013

On March 3, 2013, I left my friends, family and jobs to satisfy my curiosity and parts of Asia I’ve never set foot in. I’ve lived in Vancouver, Canada for the 26 of the 28 years I’ve been alive and I felt change was years overdue.

While most people fear change, I have a much bigger fear of not having new experiences after awhile and feeling stagnate. I wanted to take a longer time to travel so my days wouldn’t be rushed and I could have more flexibility have more time to build relationships than simply passing through areas. While I’m very lucky and grateful to have had many unique adventures around North America with fantastic friends, I’ve had the best year of my life in Asia.

I’ve been curious why my friends in Cambodia, Laos and Indonesia have all told me, “Don’t forget us.” I always respond by saying, “How could I ever forget you?!” I wonder if they’ve had people passing through in their lives that they lose touch with their traveling friends.

I initially started this blog to share my experiences with friends and family, but it has evolved to be a living diary of memorable conversations and times I’ve had with the many wonderful people I’ve met. That’s why some of my posts are so long and probably have too much detail that won’t be interesting for some of you to read. My head and heart are often filled with new experiences in a short period of time and it is easy to bury the subtle moments and conversations I’ve had with people. So I write to so that I won’t forget.

These are the most memorable days I’ve had in 2013:

1. Last days with friends, family and colleagues

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My great food-loving and outdoorsy friends in Vancouver, Canada.

I was not expecting the number of going away meals that I had with friends, the university students I worked with, former colleagues and my family. I felt so loved and supported in my journey.

2. Bike ride in Phnom Penh, Harlem Shake and pizza

With Rithy at SmallWorld

I last saw my friend Rithy Thul in 2010 when he led a cross-Cambodia fundraising bike ride. He is an entrepreneur, community-builder and cycling lover.

I went to Phnom Penh the first week I landed in Cambodia to see my friend Rithy Thul, whom I met doing a cross-country cycling fundraiser for the educational NGO PEPY in 2010. I stayed at his enterprise space Small World and in one weekend I:

  • Made pizza with some fantastic university students who had nothing but two gas burners
  • Was part of our version of the Harlem Shake YouTube video
  • Met a couple from Hungary who is cycling around the world (literally!) for their honeymoon
  • Went for a bike ride on the countryside and through train tracks where kids run up to us to say hello
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Learning how to make pizza from scratch. The pizza this student made was better than most pizzas I’ve had in restaurants in Cambodia.

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Sign at Small World

 3. Khmer New Year celebrations

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Enjoying dinner in our friend Tin Tin’s hometown.

Cambodians celebrated Khmer (Cambodian) New Year from April 13-16. I was lucky to spend those days with my friends from Canada, Japan, and America along with Khmer people. One of my closest friends was so generous and flew from Vancouver, Canada to see me for 10 days in Cambodia and we were lucky she just happen to be here during this most festive time in the country.

My friend and I also went to our Khmer friend Tin Tin’s family’s house for dinner about an hour away from Siem Reap. We ate a lovely meal and stayed to dance with his family and the kids in the community.

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Dancing in Tin Tin’s home town.

Of all the festivities, one of the most beautiful memories was when my other friend and I took a tuk tuk late at night to see the Bayon Temple light up at 2:12 a.m. as part of the opening ceremony for Khmer New Year. There were no more than a few hundred Khmer people and we felt like we had the temple all to ourselves as we walked through.

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My friend and I at Bayon temple at 2:30 a.m.

4. Full weekend in Phnom Penh

Taking a swim at Romdeng social enterprise restaurant. We're swimming Khmer style with our clothes on.

Taking a swim at Romdeng social enterprise restaurant. We’re swimming Khmer style with our clothes on.

I went to the city with the perfect girls who were also working in Siem Reap. In one weekend, we:

  • Had breakfast by the riverside
  • Spent the afternoon with our two funny and kind Khmer friends
  • Saw a Khmer play put on by the Cambodia Living Arts, an organization dedicated to reviving and preserving the arts culture after the brutal Khmer Rouge regime killed artists along with other intellectuals
  • Ate at two social enterprises, Romdeng and Daughters of Cambodia and had a beautiful night swim in our clothes at the restaurant
  • Checked out three bars
  • Ended the night dancing

We enjoyed a delicious meal at the Daughters of Cambodia social enterprise cafe.

 5. Days at Golden Temple Villa

My friends at Golden Temple Villa who rushed to get me some lovely gifts when they found out it was my birthday. They gave me a beautiful coffee mug, a bear and beautiful bracelets.

My friend visiting from Canada and I lived at this lovely guesthouse for a week and we quickly became friends with the staff. After only knowing them for a week, I decided to have a birthday lunch at their restaurant and gave them just two hours notice. In those two hours, they rushed to get me small gifts with personalized notes. One of them even apologized for not having time to get me a small gift on time!

In the months I was in Siem Reap, the staff has always been so generous to let me use their Wi-Fi anytime and offered free tea, coffee and snacks. When I thanked my friend who is the manager there and works so hard all the time, she said, “My whole team must take care of you while you are away from your mummy.”

6. Second birthday abroad

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This is only the second time I’ve celebrated my birthday outside of Canada since I was two years old. My biggest fear was being alone on my birthday and I was just happy to be with one or a few people over dinner. I didn’t tell anyone it was my birthday until someone found out because I didn’t want anyone to feel obligated to do something for me. But when people found out they showed up at the social enterprise Soria Moria to celebrate with me and it was a lovely evening. I appreciated new friends making time to be with me.

7. Week with three Cambodian families for the Pchum Ben festival

Picture of San’s family in the Kampong Cham province.

I had a fantastic time spending Pchum Ben, a two-week religious Cambodian festival honouring ancestors, with three Cambodian families over five days. I first went to the Kampong Cham province to visit one friend’s family during flooding season. We took a five-hour bus ride, an hour and a half boat ride on the Mekong River, and a boat taxi in the flooded villages to get to my friend’s home.

I participated in one pagoda ceremony with them, ate with them and laughed with the family. I love being the only foreigner when I visit places because I know it’s away from the places short-term tourists go.

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The wonderful girls who laughed at my pictures with me at the pagoda.

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Taking the boat taxi to get to San’s home in the flooded village.

I spent two days in Banteay Meanchey and my friends showed me around nice parts of their district, offered to pay for my meals and their family was happy to see me for a second time. My friend’s mom was so busy preparing for the celebration and helping with the daughter’s newborn son. But when they found out I was visiting, she spent a lot of time making my favourite dish Amok fish, which was incredibly sweet.

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My friend’s adorable and smart 6-year-old niece. She is at the top of her class in school and speaks quite a few words in English in the Banteay Meanchey province.

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The wonderful girls who took me around Banteay Meanchey.

8. Meeting students in Sronal Commune, Siem Reap

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These are the high school students who come to practice their English in my friend Seng’s village. He volunteers to teach them English every week.

I was very happy to visit my friend Seng and his students in Sronal District, Siem Reap. He volunteers to teach high school students English several times a week and he said I could visit as a guest because they had never had a foreign visitor before. The students were shy at first but when they warmed up to me, some asked me a lot of questions and laughed at my bad Khmer. One student said, “I am very happy you came to my village. You can see my home next time.” I’m looking forward to seeing them again in March 2014.

9. Spending time with my adopted Khmer family

My Khmer family at Pchum Ben, a religious festival honouring their ancestors. How beautiful is this picture?

My Khmer family at Pchum Ben, a religious festival honouring their ancestors. How beautiful is this picture?

I’ve spent a few months living at my friend’s apartment and have fully integrated with their family, whom I call my own now in Cambodia. My favourite times with them is when we eat together, catch up on the day and just laugh. I was a bad influence and introduced Dexter to my friend who would watch with me when she had time. They often tell me, “We really want you to live in Cambodia, think of how you can start a business. You are never alone, you always have family in Cambodia.” **Tear** I’ve been to Cambodia for two rounds now and it’s hardest to leave them every time.

10. Weekend in Bangkok

Friend that I met semi-randomly who ended up hosting me so generously the whole weekend in Bangkok.

Ploy (right), is the friend that I met semi-randomly who ended up hosting me so generously the whole weekend in Bangkok.

Bangkok is one of those places where you can either have a really crappy time or an amazing time depending where you are and who you’re with. My only plan was to just pass through the city and I was getting so fed up with several things. But within the same day, I ended up meeting a new Thai friend named Ploy and friends from Siem Reap who just happened to in Bangkok for the same weekend. My completely unplanned weekend ended up being filled with a bike ride around the quieter part of Bangkok, the largest market I’ve ever been to, dancing and enjoying the unforgettable view at Banyan Tree Hotel, the second highest skybar in the world.

11. Family reunion in Ratanakiri, Cambodia

A Cambodian family feast.

I was very happy to be invited by a friend to see her family in Ratanakiri, east of Cambodia for a few days. We saw my friend’s family farm that grew longbean, pumpkin and other foods, a beautiful lake, two waterfalls, drank Cambodian rice wine, went for karaoke and danced at a club. And we were the only 6 out of 10 people in the club.

12. Meeting local people in Lombok, Indonesia

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The beautiful kids who hung out with us when we took a break from riding our mottos.

This is one of many recurring times that remind me that the best things happen when they are unplanned. My friend was great at not being so concerned about needing a map to get around and we should just drive around the island and stop whenever we felt like it. We met some of the friendliest people wherever we went, particularly the kids who came up to us to sit, talk and laugh with us in the middle of the farm fields.

12. Being pulled into a traditional wedding in Lombok

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A traditional wedding ceremony was hosted at our guesthouse. Hundreds of people accompanied the young couple from one part of the village and ended at our guesthouse.

We stayed at Diyah Homestay guesthouse for a few nights and they apologized to all of their guests in advance for all the music and sounds because there was a wedding that was going to happen the next day. They were so kind and shared meals with all of us, invited us to the ceremony and also dressed us up in traditional clothing to be part of the celebration. We stood in line with many other people with a bowl of fruit baskets to offer the bride and groom.

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The awesome mobile wedding band.

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Thanks to our hosts, I was now properly dressed in traditional clothes and makeup for the ceremony.

13. Fun-filled days in Bali

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We visited the Tirta Empul Temple in central Bali. The spring feeds purification baths, pools and fish ponds that flow to the Tukad Pakerisan River. Various sites throughout the region and many other archaeological relics relate to local myths and legends.

I met up with a friend who was living in Bali for a few months and we just met for two days in Siem Reap around August. I took her up on her invite to visit Bali and thanks to her, we saw an endless stream of beautiful landscape, rice patties, temples, traditional dance performances, jungles and night life.

On day 2 in Bali, we went river rafting in the jungle that included a lunch buffet ($25 US for everything), had dinner at a very local restaurant, went to a surfing fundraiser for an NGO, went to a place with beautiful Latin dancers that involved basic lessons, a gay club with awesome ladyboys and one more club before having dinner number 2 at 7-11, which was instant noodles. And yes, this was all in one day.

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One of the seven traditional dance performances we saw in Ubud, Bali. Indonesia’s varied dance styles are made up of beautiful colours, stories and complex rhythms. I’ve never seen a dance like the ones we saw in Ubud.

Rice terraces in Jatiluwih, Bali

14. My unforgettable couch surfing experience in Yogyakarta

Attempting to make curry at Lalha’s home where I stayed for one night.

I met some fantastic university students through couchsurfing.org and were incredible hosts for the few days I was in Yogyakarta. The first night a group of us hung out, I jokingly requested that Ayumita, a wonderful 19-year-old student who sings at hotels weekly, sing a song just for us. So without hesitation, she went up to the live band and sang Rolling in the Deep for us by Adele.

We spent our last hours together at the town square to make our wishes and rode an LED-covered bicycle playing club music.

The next day, I took a motorcycle ride with one of the friends to the famous Borobudur Temples, we cooked curry together at Lalha’s house, went to a local coffee place with great live music, went to the wishing tree at a local park and took a bicycle for a few laps that was lit up and played club music. I regret not staying longer in Yogyakarta with these wonderful new friends, and it’s my lesson that I should just chance it at the airport and not buy a ticket out of the country.

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Why take a two hour bus with a bunch of tourists when you can catch a ride on one of these with a local person who knows where they’re going?

Why go to a club when you can listen to club music while taking a bike ride with friends in these creative works of art?

15. Reuniting with a close friend in Taiwan

I stayed with one of my closest friends Susan for a week in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The last time we saw each other was when she came to visit me in Cambodia in April. It was my turn to visit and we were very happy to reconnect.

The only reason I came to Taiwan was to see one of my closest friends from Vancouver, who also came to visit me in Cambodia. I spent a week with Susan, which wasn’t long enough, but we saw some beautiful national parks and neighbouring island, drank the best milk tea I’ve ever had, and spent Christmas day with her classmates and mom eating take out food from a restaurant called Yaletown Bistro (a restaurant in Vancouver).

15. My first Cambodian engagement party

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My friend Lida in her beautiful traditional Khmer dress for the first part of the ceremony.

When I came back to Cambodia for a few weeks after Laos, my friend gave me one day notice to come to her engagement party. The next day I went with her by bus and motto to her family’s home for the weekend. I was happy to stay with her family and see everything that was involved with the preparations, including decorating their house, all the food that was cooked, the many colourful fruit baskets for offering and huge sound speakers for the day’s music.

I enjoyed playing games and dancing with the kids in the village the most that weekend. Even when some of the kids didn’t speak English and my Khmer was very limited, they tried to converse and connect and I’m looking forward to seeing them again for the wedding in March 2014.

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My dancing buddies at the wedding. They totally made my weekend.

16. Hiking, pizza hopping, dancing and lantern wishes in Laos

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Our picnic spot by the Mekong River in Luang Prabang.

It was great hanging out with people who live in Luang Prabang and other foreign visitors. We went on small walks, had a picnic by the Mekong River, danced at a club with a dance floor filled with beer kegs used as tables, and went night bowling at the only place in town that opens past midnight.

My Laos friend Tou was very sweet to bring me an extra lantern she had so I could send a wish to the sky and she also gave me a beautiful silver necklace. I told her that was too big a gift to give me and that wasn’t necessary. She said, “No it looks nice on you, please take it. I have many necklaces.”

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The extra lantern Tou brought for me so I could make a wish and send it to the sky.

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17. Country bike rides in Cambodia

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I always loved going with friends to bike around the villages and rice fields around Cambodia. I mostly did this in Siem Reap and the last ride I did in 2013 was with my great friend Cho who spent the day leading us around the Angkor Wat area. We stopped by for lunch at his cousin’s wedding in his village.

I know 2014 will be filled with more new connections, unexpected events and more adventures. When we try to swim against the currents, we can only go so far until we realize that there is a path that’s already set out out for us. So it’s best to let go, ride the wave see where we end up.

In case you’re staying overnight at the Jakarta airport . . .

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This is in Terminal 2 close to the A&W.

I only booked a flight out of Jakarta because I thought I was going to see a bit of the city for a few days before I left. Thankfully I didn’t end up doing that because I heard both from Indonesians and expats that it’s not the best place to be of all the cities to visit in the country.

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This is in Terminal 1 close to the info booth on the first floor.

Since the city centre is far from the airport and I was catching a flight the next day, it was easier for me to stay overnight at the airport. I tried to look for a reasonably priced accommodation close to the airport but there was nothing available for less than 350,000 rupiahs a night.
If you’re looking for a place with good Wi-Fi, access to a plug and reasonably priced food, come to Terminal 2 of the airport at a restaurant called Dapoer Mie. You can get a free yellow shuttle bus outside the exit doors from the other terminals to get to Terminal 2.

I’ve checked out the menus for many of the restaurants in Terminal 1 and 2 and the prices at Dapoer Mie are among the best, ranging from 15,000 to 25,000 rupiahs for a meal. Drinks range from 5,000 (hot tea) to 15,000 (juices).

If you’re in Terminal 1, the restaurant Q Talk by the information booth on the main floor had a two for one drink special for 28,000 rupiahs.

Enjoy your stay.

Where did all the smiles go?

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On the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) train, it’s very quiet and people often look serious. The people on public transit reminds me of the atmosphere in Vancouver, Canada. It’s considered rude to speak loud and often the transit signs tell you to put your cell phone on vibrate.

In the nine months I’ve spent in Cambodia and Indonesia, I’ve gotten so used to seeing people with the most genuine smiles wherever I went, whether they were just say hello in passing or if I was visiting a friend.

When I lived at my Khmer (Cambodian) friend’s house, I would feel very rude if I didn’t look people in the eye and smile as I passed them. In Vancouver, Canada where I’m from, people generally look straight ahead and mind their own business. If you try and talk to someone you don’t know on the street, they’ll often think you want something from them or give you a weird look.

In Lombok, Bali and Yogyjakarta in Indonesia, as soon as you sit down at a very local market or hangout and someone notices you’re a foreign visitor, she or he will immediately ask where you’re from and have a conversation with you. It’s friendly and fun. Even if the police tries to find an excuse to fine a foreign visitor, my friend said, “If you don’t smile and talk with them, they are more likely to give you a fine. If you are friendly back, they will often let you go.”

The friendly kids in Lombok island in Indonesia who ran and biked towards us to talk and laugh with us.

The minute I’ve landed in Taipei, I feel the efficiency and speed of the city. There’s a sense of rush with the passengers and people generally don’t smile at each other, say “please” and “thank you.” The staff are quick to process people’s passports and unlike Cambodia and Indonesia, I feel like if I ask simple questions, I’m wasting their time. I do, however, appreciate the efficiency and speed of the service.

Welcome to Taipei.

It’s a different culture and it’s interesting for me to experience these contrasting behaviours in short periods of time. I’m not saying that not greeting each other is necessarily bad, it’s just different, but not my preferred way of interacting with people. Though my friend said the way people drive in parts of the city, they’d rather risk hitting a pedestrian than risk being late for their next destination. But this is the city and like many countries around the world, big cities have a different culture on their own compared to more rural parts or smaller cities.

My friend Sopheak’s wonderful family who welcomed be in their home in Banteay Meanchey, Siem Reap. They, like many Cambodians I know, love laughing and joking around.

I’m seeing my best friend in Kaohsiung and she said her Taiwanese friends have been so sweet to offer to lend her their pillows, their bigger rooms and other items when they found out I was visiting. They’ve asked her, “Do you need an extra pillow? Do you want to switch rooms because I have a double bed?” I’m looking forward to experiencing the atmosphere in Kaohsiung soon and how it may differ from Taipei.

So far in all the places I’ve been, I would prefer to be long term in a place where people smile at each other when they pass and say hello.

 

Is it safe to travel as a woman in Southeast Asia?

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Fantastic friends at Golden Temple Villa who always welcome me in their space and make sure I’m comfortable. They were so sweet to give me small birthday gifts after only knowing me for one week. One of the managers said, “My whole team must take care you while you are away from your mommy.”

In the last 9.5 months, I’ve stayed at village homes in the most unvisited parts of Cambodia, shared guesthouses with people I’ve just met after one to three days, shared hostel rooms with unlocked lockers, stayed at a traveler’s home after meeting in another country for two days and the only time I have ever had anything stolen from me and my friend is in my hometown in Vancouver, Canada. Twice. So is it safe to travel as a woman in Southeast Asia? I say yes. East Vancouver . . . depends on the time of day, haha.

Of course my family and friends are always concerned about my safety and I appreciate that. Sometimes, however, other people who have not traveled much fuel the irrational fears of our loved ones. I myself find when I don’t know anything about a place, I default to being a bit afraid and asking the same questions people ask me, “Is this area safe?”

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I met Poly in Bangkok at a bar and she offered to take me around the city the next day. After two days of spending time together, we’ve become good friends and my friend and I will be staying with her when we’re in Bangkok again.

In North America, we’re taught, “Don’t talk to strangers.” While this is good advice for children, there has to be a mentality shift as we get older and have better judgment. When you’re on a global exploration, it is much safer to talk to people, both local people and travelers, than keeping to yourself all the time. Most people are very open and the more connections you make, the more information you are armed with, the better and safer your experience will be.

I know it’s a scary concept to trust when traveling, but some level of trust is necessary to enhance your experience. And your intuition gets better the more you explore. I can usually tell in the first few minutes of meeting someone whom I can spend time with and who I’d prefer to avoid and say, “See ya!”

As much as I love adventure and new experience, I rarely take unmanageable risks like exploring new places alone at night or saying yes to go somewhere with someone where my intuition tells me not to. When I come to a new place, I take time to talk to people and scope out the area first.

I met Lalha through Couch Surfing and she has been an incredible host who introduced me to other great friends in Yoyjakarta, Indonesia.

While I was living in Siem Reap, I would return home no earlier than 10 p.m. almost every night and lived close to the city centre. Still, I take my basic precautions and don’t carry more money than I need for the night, my phone and my keys so I often don’t need to carry a small bag (which a thief can easily grab or pull people off their bicycles if it’s visible).

What is more dangerous than the constant fear that you will be harmed is the belief that most people in the world are bad and everyone is out to get you. It’s fascinating how much people shape their understanding of groups of people or entire countries with such small amounts of information. It’s like they are standing so close to a painting and only see the tiniest fraction of the whole  picture. If they take the time to step back, go explore a bit farther, they will see the beauty and complexity of the bigger picture.

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My wonderful adopted Cambodian family who is always taking care of me and looking out for me while I’m in Cambodia. Buntha, the husband, said, “You are never alone when you are in Cambodia, you always have family here.”

I’ve met many more honest people than dishonest people in the countries I’ve visited, particularly Cambodia. I have accidentally dropped some money in a very economically destitute villages and was surrounded by kids who played with us, and one of the kids picked up the money and gave it to my friend. I wouldn’t have even noticed if they took it and ran away.

One of my friends is a tour guide and he often helps tourists file reports and other administrative work if they lose their passport of encounter other problems. He is not a rich man by any means but he said, “I don’t like to accept tips if something bad already happened to the tourists. If they choose to give me a tip after a tour, that is ok.” I was really impressed. I told him, “It’s ok, if they offer it to you, it’s their way of showing appreciation and they can afford it.” And he replied, “I don’t feel comfortable accepting if something bad already happens to them.”

Between traveling in 10 countries in Europe, Cambodia, Laos,Thailand Indonesia and Taiwan, and the hundreds of interactions with people, the biggest problem I’ve had are annoying tourists. And to be honest, if someone does steal something from me, I understand the conditions in many places I’m visiting that would drive people to steal.

I met Kerry (right) at our shared hostel room in Edu Hostel (highly recommended!) in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. We were lucky to have this wonderful young university student accompany us around the city for the day to make sure we are safe.

In the end, as much as it’s crappy to have something stolen from me, I can easily replace the stolen items, I have my health, my friends, job opportunities and family to go back to. Many of the places I’m visiting lack the most basic health care and live on salaries barely enough to survive. So if someone steals something from me once, well, then it’s just a small dot in the big picture.

From my experience so far, most people I’ve met around the world are incredibly generous with the highest levels of hospitality that I’ve ever experienced, and often much more open overall than many people in the West. 99.5% of the time, my experiences have been safe, memorable and eye-opening.

If you don’t believe me, go farther and see the big picture for yourself.