Making the decision to travel overseas isn’t difficult. You only have to ask yourself where you want to go.
Do you want to tread the well-worn path of most and head to Europe? Sun yourself in the Mediterranean, perhaps? Sip overpriced cocktails whilst your skin turns a bright shade of red because you got drunk and forgot to slip, slop, slap.
Or maybe America is the first place you think of. Driving route 66 and seeing all the country has to offer. This could include a trip to Las Vegas where, God willing, you might find yourself getting married to an exotic dancer named Tiffany whom you have known for only a few hours. The ceremony will, of course be performed by an Elvis impersonator. But hey, it’s Vegas, right? That’s what happens in the movies, isn’t it?
Everybody dreams of that perfect trip. Whether the destination is in their own country or someone else’s, they know where they want to go and what they want to see. They set about planning itineraries that encompass all that their destination contains.
Me? I wanted to visit the European battlefields of both World Wars. I wanted to explore England for her castles and abbeys. I was drawn to Canada for her superior ski fields and delightful people. I wanted to experience the vast expanses of Alaska’s wilderness. I also dreamt of going to as many major sporting events in America as physically possible and planned to finish off by gambling whatever money I happened to have left in Las Vegas.
That was my dream trip. It still is.
While planning that trip, South East Asia never entered my train of thought. In fact, I vehemently protested any suggestion of visiting the region. I would use generalised excuses such as; “I hate humidity!” or “I don’t like rice!” as justification.
But, due to my fiscal position, South East Asia was the only destination I could afford.
So, reluctantly, I bought a ticket and to this day that moment remains one of the best decisions of my life.
Asia’s markets are jam packed with fresh fruit and vegetables, some so exotic that if you were trying to find it in an Australian supermarket, you would have to mortgage the house you don’t have yet just to afford it. Yet in these markets you can nab delicious treats for a cost so small it feels like stealing. Chances are you can pull up a seat and they will cook you a meal so tasty and fresh that your tastebuds will curse you for only having one course. These same markets contain delicacies that you would never consider at home. Fried crickets are a classic example. My favourite part is that the stall just next door could contain woodcarvings so intricate that you wish you could take all of them. Or maybe it’s selling handmade leather goods. And so it goes; bracelets, paintings, wallets, shoes, shirts, bags or hats. All are cheap as chips and, if you haggle, too hard to pass up.
Traveling in this part of the world is so affordable that people, quite literally, fly in with just the clothes on their back and come home with full suitcases. That is the beauty of Asia: the value for money is phenomenal.
Depending on your level of comfort, accommodation is equally affordable. If you go during off peak periods you can negotiate a price at a swanky resort, which would normally cost $40 a night, for the paltry price of $5.50. These resorts include breakfast and come fully decked out with pools and personal hammock swingers who will make you cocktails so delicious you will consider staying on forever (a slight exaggeration, but you get the drift).
I never intended this place to attract me so completely, but now I find it to be one of the locations that appeals to me the most. The freedom to explore and know that you are not breaking the bank is one of the reasons that people visit so regularly. It’s an experience, culturally different and always entertaining. You find yourself doing things that cannot be done anywhere else in the world and for only a fraction of the price you would expect.
Whether it’s drifting down the Mekong River on a slow boat, talking with new friends whilst the idyllic countryside passes by or hiring a scooter and attempting to negotiate the chaotic city streets, you have the option to do whatever grabs your interest, and feel safe in the knowledge that you will still have money left over for a cold beer at the end of each day.