I was first inspired to travel the world back when I was in middle school and came across a travel blog run by a girl who had left everything and was backpacking across the world. I don’t remember the specific blog, but I remember that her stories touched me on a deeper level, and I knew that I would one day have stories of my own to tell. I now have had many, many travel experiences and the best times of my life have been spent while backpacking solo through foreign countries.
Enjoy, and feel free to share your crazy and/or inspiring stories in the comments below!
Hitchhiking Through Laos
I met my four Canadian travel buddies crossing the border from Cambodia to Laos. We were instructed to give our passports over at the border while we waited on the bus for them to be stamped (Which seems like a bad idea in retrospect). The attendant came back with all of our passports, and was shouting out all of our nationalities while he returned them. I, as per usual, was the only American on the bus, and Canadians tend to find this humorous.
We ended up traveling through Laos together, riding bikes through the 4,000 islands, sleeping in hammocks, and drinking our way through the streets of Vientiane. We got the idea to hitchhike from 2 blonde girls who said they had done it and it was quite simple. Throwing caution to the wind and carrying our huge packs, we boarded trucks filled with chickens and accepted the kindness of locals who would stop and give us rides. We made it pretty far this way until I ended up getting food poisoning, but that’s another story.
Read more about hitchhiking through Laos here.
Partying on the Thai Islands
There is no specific party on the Thai islands that sticks out in my memory, but it’s rather all a blur of neon paint, tanned bodies, and too many buckets. The Thai islands have some of the craziest parties I have ever experienced, and I wouldn’t take back any of those nights dancing under the stars, although my liver probably would.
Read about the best places to party in Southeast Asia here.
Meeting Locals in Myanmar
I will never forget the kindness some of the people in Myanmar showed me. After a day spent on Inle Lake, my boat driver invited me back to eat dinner with him in his local village. I ended up giving stickers to all of the children, which they adored. I played soccer with them in a field, not really understanding much that each other said, but knowing that for that day, our smiles were enough.
Swimming With Plankton
Koh Rong is absolutely beautiful, and Long Beach is no exception. It is made all the more special as it takes a two-hour trek to get there, and when you step out of the muggy jungle and look at the white sand and crystal blue water, it quite literally takes your breath away. The bungalows on Long Beach were run by one man and there were about 7 other people on the island with me. We would wait till the sun went down, and as there was no electricity on the island, everything was pitch black. I spent four nights here, swimming with plankton that lit up like magical stars with the movement of my fingertips.
Vang Vieng was described to me once as ‘Disneyland for twenty somethings’ and I think that is the most accurate statement I have ever heard. It has tamed down a bit since I was there, but used to be a haven for backpackers to come and float down the river while drinking free whisky and behaving very badly. This was my first solo experience traveling, and I will never forget the fun I had in Vang Vieng.
Yi Ping Lantern Festival
Watching the lanterns light up the sky at the Yi Ping Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. The lantern is supposed to represent stepping out of the darkness and into the light, and it was a hugely symbolic and powerful experience for me. I imagined negativity and resentment floating up into the sky with the lantern, and was able to work towards letting the past go.
Mahout for 2 Weeks
I spent 2 weeks volunteering at an elephant camp in Thailand, and my gentle giant Noi will forever hold a place in my heart. I ended up coming to visit back two years later, and it’s true that elephants never forget.
Read more about volunteering at an ethical elephant camp here.