Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Fourth time is a charm

     I have officially made it to the fourth post of this blog. That is double the success of more than half of my other blogs! I know, sad right? But it's actually pretty awesome. Consistency is key to getting good at this whole blogging thing. Today I am at the library with a stack of books on South East Asia. Why? Because Brenda, Andrew, Ethan and I are planning a big old trip bigger than any we have been on before. Why? There are many reasons people travel to South East Asia. Currently, the southern part of Asia is the cheapest place in the world to travel. A big reason people go is to do volunteer work. An advantage to spending your vacations in underdeveloped countries rather than 5 star resorts is the cultural experience. Another reason could be language study, experience teaching, on the job free training for social work and it looks great on an application. Some people just want to get away from everything and others want to be apart of something new or meet new people. Let's talk facts.
    According to  out of the top 20 cheapest places to backpack- including dorms, food, attractions, transportation and of course beer- 65% of them are South East Asian. That means  meals for 1-2 dollars and a bed for five bucks a night! Somewhere like European or American travel could be double or triple the daily cost of visiting these countries. Most people travelling here tend to stay for 6 months to a year. That's because after you purchase your tickets, shots, visas- which you would need to purchase anyway, you are looking at pretty nominal fees.  So it just makes more sense to stay longer! And why  not right? I found an apartment for rent for 15 dollars a day, it's a two bedroom. Divide that by 4 people and I would say that's a hell of a deal. It is fully furnished and includes utilities. I am absolutely thrilled. But, as Brenda has told me that does not mean we should rule out hostels. As she put it: "Hostels are where you meet the most people, it's a big part of the travel experience for me. Plus, they offer day trips."  So, our planning will probably consist of a little of each.

Cheapest Places to backpack in the World
1. Pokhara, Nepal
2. Hanoi, Vietnam
3. Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) Vietnam
4. Goa, India
5. Kiev, Ukraine
6. Kathmandu, Nepal
7. Chiang Mai, Thailand
8. Vietiane, Laos
9. Delhi, India
10. La Paz, Bolivia
11. Quito, Ecuador
12. Luang Prabang, Laos
13. Hoi An, Vietnam
14. Phnom Penh, Cambodia
15. Bangkok, Thailand
16. Cairo, Egypt
17. Bucharest, Romania
18. Sofia, Bulgaria
19. Colombo, Sri Lanka
20. Jakarta, Indonesia

     One large reason people travel to SE Asia is for the volunteer work. There's a huge focus on human rights advocacy, education and women's health. There are orphanages and animal rescues. You can also teach basic dental health, sex education or English. The opportunities are honestly endless and are totally based on your skills. In my research I have seen volunteer opportunities for all of the following fields:
General Care- Volunteering is always welcomed in kindergartens, clinics, orphanages for homework, games and just showing love for kids who need it most.

Teaching- There are many teaching opportunities ranging from language, computers, music, sports and health.

Conservation- Our planet needs help worldwide. Marine conservation opportunities in the gulf of Thailand in Cambodia, wildlife research in the Himalayas, or reforestation in Thailand, marine life and coral reef research in the Andaman Sea.

Building- Developing communities are always in need of schools and libraries. The Philippines needs help with Typhoon recovery and Nepal may need skilled laborers to rebuild after the devastation.

Brenda, a daily inspiration. <3
     One of the main reason I love to travel is for the cultural experience. This is one of the biggest joys in my life. Being elsewhere always gives you a feeling of stepping back outside of the snow globe and really examining the way we live. It helps you reevaluate and appreciate everything you have. When you find yourself in a place where you are upset that the DVR didn't tape your shows, your car is an older model than you would like, you wish you could have gotten a newer model of your phone- these problems are really put into perspective when you see what life is like for others. Some of the worlds happiest people are in countries we would consider extremely poor. There lives are rich in family, quality time and the experiences we often forget about when staring at tv and computer screens.
     Some of the richest experiences in your life could come from some of the poorest places in the world. How? The food isn't processed. It is fresh, cheap and available everywhere. Can you imagine a year without the need for supermarkets and their boxes upon boxes of preservatives? Taking a step back from the hustle and bustle of everyday life to enjoy meals at a table with other volunteers, nights by the fire and swimming in the beautiful ocean. One thing I look forward to the most is absorbing all that each culture has to bring. The language, the food, the different customs, the clothes, the laws, the way they drive or talk or eat or gesture. Everything is new. I want to see how people interact and how they choose to live their lives. What makes them happy. What peace they find from their religion and how blessed they truly are. I want to understand their history and see their temples, museums, art and hear their music. And I also would like to share with them a little of who I am.
     One great thing about volunteering abroad or travelling abroad is how many world travelers you meet. There's nothing like first hand knowledge. The best advice comes from those who have failed and failed and now know how to do something right. That's one of the reasons I wrote this blog in the first place. After multiple cross country trips and many more day trips and weekend road trips I feel confident that I have some good advice to share with those who haven't partaked first hand. And hopefully after Asia I will have plenty more info to share. In the mean time I will share with you what I learned from my reading and research and what Brenda has passed on to me. She is a big reason I want to go to Asia NOW. She traveled, alone throughout Asia and South America,  a woman by herself which I find so commendable. It's not easy! And here I am her much older cousin and I want the luxury of a tour guide! All of her experiences have pushed her up a few notches and now we can benefit from that experience! So, now's the time!
     My main reason to go to SE Asia is because I never thought I could. And so, as I like to do, I must prove myself wrong. I didn't think I could drive a car. And I didn't think I could drive to Virginia. I didn't think I could drive across the US, and I sure didn't think I'd be planning a trip to a country who doesn't even share our alphabet (how do I say these words?!?). I think growth comes from leaving your comfort zone and for that I will be heading to a place that's least like anywhere I have ever been. Hopefully coming back a stronger, more zen person. I mean it worked for Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love right?

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