The Things I Did RIGHT in Southeast Asia

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Now that it’s been a few months since I’ve left Asia, I’ve been able to take a step back and view my travels with a more objective eye.

Though I had some setbacks, I did well on this trip.

Here are the things I did RIGHT during my six months in Southeast Asia:

I was flexible enough to change my plans constantly.

By far, this was the smartest thing I did on the trip. My carefully crafted itinerary more or less went to hell within a week.  For that reason, I was glad that I had nothing scheduled!

And every single time I changed plans, it was for the same reason — to spend more time with my friends.

As much as I enjoy traveling solo, the happiest moments of my trip were the ones that I spent with the close friends I made. And I’m so glad that I was able to spend more time with them.

I kept US dollars on me at all times.

It’s the official currency of bribery! Having US dollars on me saved me when I was stuck at the Laos-Vietnam border with a bad visa and they told me that $25 would make everything go away.

I can’t even imagine what would have happened if I had to go back to Vientiane, my bags going to Hanoi without me.

I brought a smaller backpack.

On suggestion from As We Travel, I decided to bring a 40 liter backpack.  (Technically, it was 38 liters, since I got the extra small size.)

If it had been any bigger, I would have brought tons of stuff I didn’t need and/or killed my back.  I also wouldn’t have been able to take it as hand luggage (!!) on all my flights (until I bought my dad ninja stars in Bangkok and had to check it on the flight to England, that is).

My 40l backpack, my small backpack, and my purse — that was just perfect.

I took penicillin when I needed it.

When I got sick in Hanoi, as soon as the malaria and dengue tests came back negative, I realized that my throat felt the way it did whenever I got strep.

But the doctor never did a throat culture, and at $373 per visit, there was no way I was going back.  I decided to go get some penicillin at a pharmacy.  My throat pain cleared up immediately.

Antibiotics should not be a first option for everyone. But if you’re 99% sure that you have an illness that can be cured with antibiotics, go for it.

I learned how to ride a motorbike in Pai.

I considered renting my first motorbike in Chiang Mai, but I was so glad I waited until I got to Pai.  Pai is a great place for beginners: the rental rates are dirt-cheap, the roads are mostly empty, and there are so many sights, from waterfalls to canyons to hot springs, in the surrounding area.

And when I crashed, it wasn’t a big deal.  If it had been Chiang Mai, I probably would have taken someone down.

I stayed cool when things went wrong.

When I lost my map on the Bolaven Plateau in Southern Laos and had no idea where I was going, I formulated a plan.  There were few signs on the road, but most of them said Sala Den.  I figured Sala Den would be a big enough town to at least have a guesthouse, and I could spend the night there.

Of course, it turned out that I had been going in the right direction the whole time. But I would have been okay.

During stressful times, like the shipwreck and when I was almost rejected at the Vietnam border, this is what saved me.

I was extra cautious in Vang Vieng.

Everyone made fun of me, but I refused to go on the rope swings in Vang Vieng. I was too afraid of getting hurt.

After watching someone nearly drown, seeing someone else get swept downriver while extremely drunk, and seeing my friend Ste return to Bangkok with a dislocated collarbone, I knew I made the right decision.

I traveled slowly.

It wasn’t so much about soaking in a community (with the exception of Bangkok) — it was just so I had enough time to get my work done!

And I still can’t believe I spent 15 days in Vang Vieng.

I edited my photos.

I’ve been editing my photos for years, and I’m still shocked at the number of people who don’t do anything.

You don’t need much.  While the pros use Lightroom, if you just want something free and easy, I recommend Picasa.

I backed up my photos.

I kept my photos backed up on a USB drive and my computer.  I had lower-quality shots backed up online.  After the shipwreck, I was shocked — but ecstatic — when my USB drive survived despite hours in the ocean.

I traded the Philippines for a second round in Cambodia.

This is one of the times that I actually made a smart financial decision. I almost flew to Manila from Saigon.  But while I wanted to (and still want to) visit the Philippines, I couldn’t justify the cost.  The Philippines are expensive to get to, expensive to get around, and expensive on the ground.

Compare that to taking an $8 bus ride to Cambodia, the cheapest country on my trip.  That was a smart decision.

I will make it to the Philippines someday — I promise you that.

I took a break when I needed one.

After deciding to come back to Cambodia, I began freaking out about my dwindling cash supply and a recent drought in advertising on my sites, not to mention my rapidly approaching departure date and places I still wanted to visit.

And so I went back to Sihanoukville — the beach town that I love so much, and one of the cheapest destinations on my trip.  I holed up at Monkey Republic and lived on $15 a day, just working on my site.

By the time Monkey Republic kicked me out (seriously), I was refreshed, rejuvenated, and with a much fatter PayPal account.

I rarely said no to anything.

Come on, would I really be Adventurous Kate if I refused to drink snake blood, fight Muay Thai, motorbike Vietnamese highways or be an extra in a movie shot in Thailand? Of course not!

I followed my heart.

Sometimes, I crashed and burned in a spectacularly embarrassing fashion.

Sometimes, I did all right.

I don’t have a single regret about how things turned out, and that’s the truth. Especially considering how happy I am now.

I had travel insurance in Southeast Asia and I’m glad I did. I never travel without it and always use World Nomads.

Stay tuned for the things I did WRONG in Southeast Asia!

Note: By sheer coincidence, yesterday, my friend Stephanie at Twenty-Something Travel posted her own list of things she did right on her trip!  Check out her post here.The Things I Did RIGHT in Southeast Asia | Adventurous Kate

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