This is a guest post written by Kelsey Reaves, currently residing in Austin (Texas), where she pursues her love of all things home design by writing for Modernize.com. In her free time, she nurtures her passion for traveling by exploring new cities and binge watching Anthony Bourdain.
When I left last August for a 53 day backpacking trip throughout Southeast Asia, I had certain expectations about what I was to encounter in the upcoming months. I expected to see temples, meet new people, experience new cultures, but I also didn’t prepare myself for the moments of my trip that did not exactly live up to my expectations. As I’m transitioning back into the comforts of my home in the United States, I decided to reflect on those expectations I had vs. the reality of what actually happened.
Expectation #1: Southeast Asia would be like a step back in time, an area relatively untouched by tourists.
Reality: Having spent the previous summer in touristy spots throughout Europe, my initial thought was that my first destination of Thailand, would be a land showered in gold Buddhas, accentuated amongst monks draped in red, unconsumed by western culture. As I landed in Bangkok and hopped on the nearest tuk tuk, I was taken to the center of the city where I shocked to see just how many tourists there were. In all honestly, I had expected a healthy dappling of tourists, but not to this level. The temples that I visited in the city center, seemed to have lost a bit of the peace and serenity I was expecting to experience based on the absurd number selfie sticks and tourist groups I had to dodge, just to catch a glimpse of these immaculate buildings. After being somewhat disappointed, I realized that in certain places, this was something I was just going to have to accept. I like to think of it as a positive thing, because in the end, it made me step out of my comfort zone and talk to the locals to find out where they go and where the real action happens, without many tourists knowing about it.
Expectation #2: I needed to plan everything ahead of time
Reality: Before I left, I had to give my parents a full on presentation of where I was going and when, literally down to the day and time. Once I arrived and began to meander along the trail depicted in my itinerary, I sensed most people did not have a plan. Most travelers just had a rough itinerary of places they wanted to go and they would simply let the rest unfold. After 2 weeks of following a strict outline, we decided to forget it and go with the flow. I couldn’t have been happier by that decision, because by letting go, we were able to experience things we had no idea was even possible, like flying to Myanmar and traveling to the relatively untouched temples of Bagan.
Expectation #3: I would need to stick to a strict budget
Reality: When I was southern Vietnam, we had the option of taking a 2-day motorcycle trip from Da Lat to Nha Trang. It was $70/day, a total of about $160 (plus tip for our drivers) and it was hard for me to justify this, seeing as I was able to live comfortably on about $20/day. After much convincing, my friend and I finally decided to do the trip, and I am so happy we did. Our tour guides took us to remote villages where we gave candy to the children, hiked to hidden waterfalls, explored elephant sanctuaries and biked through the back roads of the Vietnamese jungle. What I learned from this experience is that you can’t be afraid to spend money on something you really want to do. It’s important to remember that you may only be there once and not have an opportunity to go back, so spend the money. It’ll be worth it in the end.
Expectation #4: I was free to do what I want when I want
Reality: This was one of the biggest realizations I had while traveling: just because you have the freedom to do something, doesn’t mean you should necessarily do it. That being said, just because you are allowed to rent a motorbike in Koh Tao, Thailand even thought you’ve never ridden a motorbike, doesn’t mean you should. It could save you roughly $3,000 in motorbike damages. Trust me.
Expectation #5: I won’t get sick or hurt
Reality: I still remember my mom haggling me to get the shots and medication I needed before I left for my trip. If I hadn’t listened to my mom, I’m 100% I would’ve returned home with at the very minimum Malaria. Traveling to a new place is exciting, but I also had to realize that it is not something I should compromise my health for. Getting sick from the food, and even water can be a very common thing, so it’s imperative to do your research beforehand and take note of what you are putting into your body and if you need any medications before traveling. You are not invincible, even though we all think we are.
Expectation #6: This trip would be a one time thing, a sort of letting loose of the “travel bug” I caught.
Reality: When I first embarked on this trip, I remember the comments from my friends and family like, “go out and find yourself, before you have to settle down and find a job.” I realized as I boarded my flight home to Arizona, that this would not be a one time thing, but something I will continue to do throughout the rest of my life. It’s not like you travel once, find out who you are, then settle down and find a job and finish out the rest of your days this way. I am so proud to say that backpacking, experiencing new cultures and meeting new people is one of the things I am most passionate about and will continue to do. If anything, this trip was merely the start to my discovery of the world around me and I can’t wait to see what adventures I go on next.
Did you encounter some disappointments during your travels ? Have you experienced times when expectations didn’t match reality ?
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