My next experience came after high school graduation. I didn't really feel passionately about the university I was planning to attend in the fall so, through many discussions with my parents over dinner, I decided to take the year off and go backpacking. After working three jobs tirelessly for six months, and a teary good-bye with mom, boarded a plan to New Zealand. What a place!
|Beautiful Queenstown, NZ|
|The Dream Team in Middle Earth!|
Now, currently, I am avoiding the Lord of the Rings Trilogy because a certain roommate of mine seems to think I look like a female version of Aragorn....but I can definitely claim that I have seen the rugged landscapes of Rohan, Mount Doom, and the Shire. And it is even more beautiful in person than it is on film. Unbelievable. I also got the chance to sea kayak, bungey jump, sandboard, and eat the world's greatest hamburgers. And yes, this is a shameless plug for Fergburger, located in Queenstown, NZ. I still dream about these burgers...trust me. The only bad part about eating here is that it will ruin burgers elsewhere forever. Guess it looks like I will just have to go back someday...shucks.
Now, after six weeks of trekking around the great land down under Down Under, it came time to move on.
|Sunset in Thailand|
I spent the next three months sweating around Southeast Asia.
- Singapore: such a great transition into Southeast Asia. Great public transportation, the cheapest and most delicious food imaginable, and a beautiful skyline.
- Malaysia: had some wonderful experiences here! I got roped into a hike, dinner, and bowling with some local university students and had such a great time. One of my very best days occurred in Penang, an island in the north, where I spent time with some lovely Dutch and American girls exploring the beautiful town.
- Thailand: breathtaking. It was absolutely stunning and so relaxing! I enjoyed some island hopping, beach lazing, and another one of my best days: renting a moped and scooting all over the island of Koh Lanta with my Canadian friend, Sarah. Next, onto Bangkok which was an absolute hoot. That is where this picture of me being driven home by some policemen I met at restaurant was taken. What a wild night. Finally, up to Chiang Mai in the north, where I strolled the walking markets and beautiful town center.
- Laos: so tranquil and beautiful. Took a slow boat down to Luang Prabang, which is an absolutely gorgeous town. Followed this with some fun times in Vang Vieng and Vientienne and finished with some relaxation on the island of Don Det.
- Cambodia: there is something so haunting about this place. I can easily say it was my favorite and that I must return soon. The people were so friendly to me and I had some amazing opportunities to get to know some great individuals. I also marveled at the ruins of Angkor Wat and the stunning beauty of the southern coast. I have no doubts that I left a piece of my heart in Cambodia
|Why, yes, that is an elephant strutting through midday traffic|
- Vietnam: the length of California, Vietnam was much larger than I expected. I experienced a number of night buses, losing my credit card, and having a few skirmishes. But other than this, I really enjoyed my last destination. There was great scenery in addition to some thriving and entertaining cities.
Whew! That was a doozy. So many great places and so many wonderful experiences. I will always remember this trip fondly and am so grateful I had the opportunity to basically bum around for four months!
I learned some pretty great things like how to use a squat toilet, how to order food that isn't so spicy it will singe your taste buds off, how to say "hello" and "thank you" in at least six languages, and how to find a place to sleep in a crazy city (Bangkok) at three in the morning. I also learned how much I love home. As exciting and mind blowing as the other side of the world can be, sometimes nothing can beat a rainy day at home.