In 2011, although I had not yet started to travel outside of small family trips, I was already a wanderer at heart. I just didn’t know it yet… until I stumbled onto my first travel blog. Like when you first stumble onto an actual blog, my first encounter with a nomad blog threw me headfirst into the travel blogger community, spawning so many dreams to follow.
At that time, I’d been feeling trapped by the 4-year commitment called my education and, on top of that, an almost crippling depression. Sometimes, I think the idea that I could one day experience the adventure that I dreamed of kept me going. Although I’d experience days where I couldn’t do anything but lie in bed, my mind would be off backpacking around Europe, playing in the waterfalls of South America, or even just on a plane taking me somewhere—anywhere. I’d dream of walking across the canals of Venice or basking in the dry, hot sun of Spain.
There was a limit, however: never would I dream of the beaches of Thailand or the forests of Vietnam—those didn’t interest me in the slightest. As someone who had only been to Asian countries, like that of my parents’, before 2013, I had no inclination towards discovering other ones. I was convinced that Europe was where it was at; and I was convinced that it would hold my interest for years to come, that I would never be satisfied.
While that last part may be true—what kind of wanderer would I be if a few countries here and there satisfied me?—I’ve started to yearn for something more. Yes, Europe has definitely been an adventure so far: I’ve forayed into the art of solo-travel (ok, maybe I threw myself into the deep end with a first solo dinner), I’ve met people I never would’ve met outside of Couchsurfing, and I’ve ingrained myself into a local community. What more could I want? American consumerism taught me well in this: there is always more to want.
A few days ago, I was researching places I could take a quick jaunt to and back; a 3-4 day trip so that I could fuel my wanderlust. Since I would prefer to travel by train, it narrowed my options by distance. I could go to Florence, Nice, Normandy, Geneva, Milan, or Cinque Terre! And, as usual, I started looking up pictures of each city and flipping through various travel guides on the locations. But something was off. I wanted sunshine and a grand feeling of nature, not just another museum or historical buildings to sightsee.
Europe will always be an adventure for me… but maybe too long in a continent and I yearn for something drastically different; maybe the novelty is wearing off a bit. Or maybe all these damn buildings look the same. Probably not the last reason. I realized that it wasn’t Europe that I was having problems with. It was the weather. I blame winter for this. No one ever looks at the most dreary representation of a city and says to themselves, “yes, this will be exactly what I needed to get away from the same gloom in my hometown!—another, newer version of what I’m leaving behind!”
But in a way, it’s something else as well. It’s also the people that I’ve met that have helped me realize that nothing out there is what I think it is; that to truly understand the whole world, I would need to explore it first hand. I’d love to continue breaking down my biases and meeting people that defy everything I’ve known. Some of my most valuable experiences abroad have been when I meet kindred spirits in people I never would’ve expected.
Therefore, TL;DR, my thoughts on Southeast Asia, and on travel in general, have changed dramatically.
Travel is always spoken of as an addiction; not only is it that, but over time, your “fixes” need to be upped, more intense. Your needs start to change after a while, as well. For me, Europe is damn amazing; however, I’ve been feeling the need to go grunge for a while, to really get into nature and just have adventures. I want to go splashing into hidden waterfalls, heading down underground caves, riding a camel through the dunes, and chilling on a hammock on an exotic beach.
So I got down to researching. First with photos, of course; you can’t fuel wanderlust without photos. This is when I realized, in my attempt to think of the most exotic places that I could travel to, that I hadn’t only been neglecting the the Asian countries. I had also failed to realize the entire southern hemisphere! Which means I wasn’t interested in literally half of the world.
What about Africa? Oh, Africa.
In a way, this is a bit like a recommitment ceremony—like the kind that old, married couples take—to my traveler’s soul. Here’s to exploring the WHOLE world. Starting with my 1.5-month long backpacking trip around wherever the hell I want to go. First stop? Morocco.