When I reflect on my trip, I wonder what travel memories will stick with me and what will be gone to the wind.
We chose Asia because the food is delicious, we can experience different lifestyles and cultures, and we love the friendliness of the people. Plus, admittedly, we’re cheap – and Asia is cheap.
To really enjoy a country – you have to meet the people
After all is said and done, once you fly back home and once jump back into a routine it’s all too easy to forget about your recent trip.
The travel memories you just experienced eventually feel too far off and you start thinking about your next destination.
Your holiday eventually becomes “where to next?”
Maybe your vacation memories linger..
If you are lucky enough, you’ll think about your trip for a few weeks or maybe a month more.
Maybe you hang a postcard of an elephant in your cubicle and when you peek at it, it takes you back to bathing elephants in Thailand.
Despite some moments fading, the memories that stay and burn deep into your mind are the experiences you had meeting people.
People attach meaning to sights. Because at the end of the day, the mountains in Patagonia will always be gorgeous, the Eiffel Tower and the Roman Coliseum will always be masterful pieces of architecture.
However, nothing compares to the people. The moments shared with friends breaking French bread smothered in sliced cheeses and drinking copious amounts of wine with in front of the Eiffel Tower. These memories will last longer. The laughter you had when you and your roommate ate tarantulas in Thailand stand out more than visiting the largest reclining Buddha. The couple who you met in a grocery store and offered to let you stay in their home when you had no place to sleep stick out. The kindness of strangers and the travel experiences with people.
During our six month trip we’ve met some incredible people and had experiences to last us a lifetime. Here are some of our experiences, memories, and lessons that I will never forget.
Kindness comes from anywhere
Today, we bought coffee packets at a convenience store in Singapore. At checkout, I asked if the cashier if she had styrofoam cups, but she only had plastic.
She then insisted on offering us her own coffee mug! I couldn’t believe it, I was blown away at how over the top she was in her generosity. Her OWN personal coffee mug!
I don’t think it’s always easy to take something without giving something back. It’s a hard concept to grasp: just accepting kindness.
Since we’ve been on the road, its been easy to accept from others and give back when we can. You learn from others and always play it forward. We graciously took the mug for a few days and returned it with a postcard and thank you note. 🙂
The night we left Sri Lanka
Our second night in Colombo we stayed in an Airbnb owned by a lovely Sri Lankan couple, Lulu and Marikar. Somehow, it wasn’t difficult to stay in touch with them throughout our stay… because Marikar is retired and has our WhatsApp number.
Lucky for us, we made sure to meet up with them for our last night in Sri Lanka!
After an hour chatting in the living room we headed to dinner. Naturally, dinner was had eating true Sri Lankan style (with our hands), before heading to the airport.
We still stay in touch with them via WhatsApp! Since Marikar is retired we get daily inspirational or success quotes, memes, and videos from him which makes for a nice start to the day.
The hospitality of a stranger
We arrived in Masbate in The Philippines realizing our hotel was 2 hrs away from the pier. And there would be no more transportation to that part of the island at 7pm.
What to do?
This tiny island was destined to be a one-night hopping point between swimming with whale sharks in Donsol and our next big city of Cebu.
When we arrived we met a glorious sunset and the one tourist policewoman on the entire island, Arlene Jones. What a wonderful woman.
She helped us find a hotel and surprised us the next morning at 7am. Arriving at our hotel she invited us to her home for breakfast the next morning. And lunch, AND let us borrow her motorbike.
I will never forget her kindness, the genuine kindness of a stranger. We learned of how her and her husband met, shared some stories, and had a home-cooked meal. It was so lovely – if you ever meet Arlene Jones say hi to her for us!
Special occasions on the road
Like the surprise 30th birthday scavenger hunt that I threw for Larry..
At 6am on his birthday Larry facetimed his family and they told him to get ready for a FULL DAY of scavenger hunting.
Wowie, he was feeling confused and estranged from me for the fear of not knowing what hoops he would have to jump through on his birthday. The day before I led him to believe we were having a nice boring day of lunch of his choice and a fancy dinner that evening in Rawai.
Now he had a day left to my surprises. Mwahaa..
Luckily, I pulled it off and he relaxed once he heard he was getting a Thai massage at Phagamaste. And once we arrived at our airbnb with a private pool, everything fell into place.
Never forget the Elephants
We were fortunate to feed bananas to elephants in Phuket and get close to them on a safari in Sri Lanka.
Other than paying to get up, close and personal with them during an eco-tour in Phuket (The Green Elephant Sanctuary) and a Sri Lankan safari, we also spotted wild elephants.
We drove our scooter down the road in Sri Lanka, only 8km past Habarana town and spotted wild elephant families feeding at dusk (on two separate occasions!).
We were lucky, and elephants really are beautiful. Getting close to them allows you see how soft and beautiful they are and how playful they can be (if you feed them enough bananas).
Have you ever swam next to a 4-5 meter whale shark? We swam with one so many times that I could look into its eyes and had enough time to count the speckles on its skin.
Now that was a bucket list item that still seems surreal. Completely out of a dream. And when we were in Donsol, we scuba dived at Manta Bowl with 6-7 manta rays AND a whale shark.
These are experiences I hope my family will experience. I would love to see my mom and dad’s smile and maybe a BIT (or a lot) of fear when they are swimming 2meters away from the biggest fish in the ocean (a whale shark is neither a whale or shark, it’s a fish).
It’s an AMAZING moment and one you’ll never forget.
I encourage anyone who wants to see whale sharks to visit the Philippines, Donsol is a natural feeding destination as the oceans are full of plankton!
The Polaroid Camera
The opportunities to meet and play with children in foreign countries have been endless thanks to my Polaroid Snap. We visited Sri Lanka and Myanmar knowing we couldn’t communicate in the local language.
So instead of keeping to ourselves we boldly motored through back roads and pulled over when we saw groups of children.
We took out the camera and passed a picture to a child or adult. Fortunately for us, this would usually lead to the whole family coming out of their homes.
One time we were scootering through the back roads of Dambulla where dirt roads and wooden houses ruled. A few children waved at us from their driveway, so I took it as an opportunity to hop off the scooter and grab the Polaroid. We made friends in an instant.
Even if it didn’t last long – neither of us could communicate with words – we shared a few moments and hopefully a good memory of foreigners that will stay with those kids.
Kandy had a bit of a political uprise when we arrived there. Sorry mom and dad if you are reading this – I forgot to tell you. It wasn’t actually in Kandy, but close to it and the city was forced into curfew.
No one could leave their homes after 6pm until 10am. Army and police guarded the streets with machine guns to make sure everyone was safe, which we were.
Thus, we were “stuck” in Kandy at our Mountain View Hotel overlooking the mountains and forced to drink king coconuts while we waited for breakfast. Breakfast was served from our host and consisted of coconut symbol and honeyed pancakes.
Fine by me.
A 12-year old Tour Guide in Bagan
We took an electric scooter down dirt roads in Bagan. This was led by our 12 year old tour guide, Ei Ei, who has learned 6 or more languages to help support her family. She showed us empty pagodas and told us tales of living in Myanmar.
Ei Ei even helped us at dusk as our scooter ran out of battery. It hadn’t been charged all day and we had 2k to get to our hotel. So, we sputtered along at 1mph. The 10min drive took us nearly an hour at this rate, but she didn’t care.
We laughed the whole ride home (or actually swore at our bike) as I got off to walk next to it to let the battery last longer.
What a memory in Bagan!
These moments, with people, are the moments that stand out.
Since we’ve been traveling we’ve done more than most people do in their lifetimes. We’ve been so fortunate, but we just did it, and we did it relatively cheap.
I want my family to swim next to whale sharks and meet strangers one minute that feel like long-time friends within a few hours.I wish they could eat rice and curry from Matey Hut in Ella.
And I want them to experience the joy, flexibility, and feeling of accomplishment we had after a month-long detox in Phuket: filled with vegetarian food, hot Bikram yoga, Muay Thai, and capped off with salt water swims in Nai Harn Beach.
Fear shouldn’t run our lives
We shouldn’t fear strangers or being out of our comfort zone.
When we are alone we should put trust in other people and faith in humanity. Welcome someone into your home for breakfast when you met them the night before. Give to someone without expecting in return.
Asia is a country filled with new experiences and moments to last a lifetime.
If you are ever feeling miserable at a 9-5 and are yearning for something new, maybe curiosity tickles you, but fear holds you back.
Just GO. Far more is accomplished out of your comfort zone than not. The world shouldn’t be read about in books, it should be learned first hand.
These memories were from 5 months in Asia and I cannot say how thankful I am to have had them. I only wish more people could take the leap to experience them too!