We don’t see the things as they are, we see them as we are. While traveling Asia, there are many things you would learn, experience, create and explore. These things teach you something beyond words and beyond imagination. These are mine.
1. Patience.. (tuk tuk miss?!..)
You wake up, take your satchel and set out to discover that new city/town/village. Everything is perfect until you constantly hear “Do you want tuk-tuk miss?, Motodrop lady?. one dollar only and please give me some money. You cannot move/take your next step/ or breathe without saying “No, Thank you”.
Initially, you keep feeling like the king/queen (well we are all suffering from Attention seeking disorder in various measures you see!), then you start feeling claustrophobic and wish they will let you enjoy your peace in Angkor Wat or the waves in Koh Samui. After a period of time, you become patient, smile and say “No, Thank you” to everyone, may be speak to them, ask them where the best Som Tam shop is. You don’t feel like a king/queen, you wouldn’t feel like yelling at them or asking them to back off, you will learn to handle it, be patient with it and understand they are just doing their job.
2. Genuine vs. Fake
Whether it is that “Thai smile” you do not comprehend or the tuk tuk driver who is overtly helpful or that old lady who sells you awesome coconut pancakes for less than 40 cents you learn to distinguish people. You learn to understand the body language of a person, whether you can trust him/her for a moment.
People love privacy, just because they are smiling at you every time you are trying to buy from them or hanging out with them(be it another backpacker) or taking a picture of them doesn’t mean they have to like you. There is that genuine passerby who will take the pain to walk all the way with you just so you will find the right subway station or that person who pretends to be nice to you and expects a reward. Dealing with all sorts of people over a time makes you identify genuine from fake. It will help you understand the person, the situation and puts you on alert while slowly attuning your mind to identify them.
3. Every second counts.
Yeah yeah this is the speech we listened to every single day of our teenage years and early twenties. It might not have applied to many situations, might have been the perfect solution of some (AHEM! that night before the damn calculus exam) but right now when you are travelling this applies: 100%.
Stop dusting those running shoes. When I said every second counts, I didn’t mean you have to put on those shoes and start going from one monument to other. What I mean is you are making a memory every waking minute of the day.
Be it doing a city tour with 3 people you met may be 5 minutes ago or playing pool for hours together on a rainy day, be it sharing an amazing meal and talking as if you have met not two days ago but twenty years ago. You are making a memory every single passing beat of your travel. Well, there will be days when you want to kick back in the hostel room just watching movies, HUH! Not happening unless you can make the internet work. This constant Hello’s and Goodbye’s, amazing cheap street meals, friends who will leave you in three days in search of a new adventure but will never fail to drop in a hello once in a while, these amazing tips about hidden waterfalls are your new achievements.
4. You learn to “JUGAAD”.
Gman this is for you 🙂
There are these crazy bunch of human beings?! hmm yeah, may be, I have met in 2009 and who have stayed with me ever since. They taught me the meaning for JUGAAD.
JUGAAD means finding a low-cost/quickest solution to any problem in an intelligent way. Living on smaller budgets? no problem, phone not working, can’t get to that next destination because of torrential rains, no worries, we can jugaad something out. There are no beds available in town cos of the festival, oh too bad, its OK you will sleep in the hammock, under the stars and may be with mosquito repellent. I am not saying taking short cuts in life is what you learn. I am saying you will deal with the situation in the best possible way using as minimum resources as possible. Am I sounding like your HR manager? OOPS..
5. Beauty does lie in the eye of the beholder.
Did you ever wonder how any living being chooses its mate? Why that person? Why not someone more beautiful or successful or handsome?
Did you ever wonder how your language will sound to a person that has never heard it before?
Did you ever wonder why durian is the most talked about fruit? why some tastes are acceptable to some while others reject them out right?
While traveling you learn to accept that all these questions will never be answered. You might enjoy something immensely while the other person doesn’t think much of it. You will love that “grilled chicken feet” while others hate the sight of that thing. Every person is different. Every experience is unique. There will come a point where you will stop questioning and start living in the moment, just enjoying the sounds, tastes, traditions while understanding what fits you best is just tailored for you and you only.
6. You learn self control.
Some of the countries you will visit in Asia has a per capita income of less than 1 USD a day. In these countries living on a budget of 20 dollars would not be too bad. But if you run out of money and have to make it in 5 dollars the next day? It can be done. A two dollars dorm bed which comes with a huge bed and mosquito net, fan and cold water is more than what you paid for. A meal of rice/chicken and cold coffee for 75 cents is delicious. You will savour every single morsel, every drop of your drink and live every single day you spend in that place. Learn to control yourself from buying those cute looking trinkets or that amazing dress. You learn to differentiate from what you need to what you want.
7. You learn different languages, traditions et al
From “Sawadee to Orkun”. From “Gamsamhida to Xin loi” every single word you learn now, you will remember the rest of your life. Imagine waking up in the morning and repeating a word 10 times and learning a new word from the lady you buy your “yogurt shake” from every day. You will remember it cos it comes with a situation, a memory that is etched into your brain. You learn various traditions as well for example there are 5 ways to greet people in Cambodia depending on their age and your age or the eating traditions at a local festival etc. Will you use this knowledge in the future? Well, its better than knowing an entire periodic table by heart and not knowing laughing gas from nitrogen dioxide.
8. You Know Yourself
Sitting on the mountain top waiting for a sunset for two hours lets you have enough time for these thoughts. Your inner thoughts. You understand what kind of a person you are. There is no one to judge you here but yourself. There is no right or wrong but your consciousness. You meet all sorts of people who are coming from different wakes of life. You realize there are experiences beyond your imagination. A street running model for a show brand? A gasoline tester? An American soldier? A professional poker player? an actual “Pirates of the Caribbean” type sailor? you learn from them and more. Get that first shot of adrenaline whether you are mountain sliding on a rainy day or cliff jumping or diving. Accept that first shot of local produce which inebriates you to the next Friday. You lose yourself. You find yourself.
This is the crazy awesomeness you will live everyday till the last moment of your journey. There will be many lessons you will take with you. As the days pass by, you might forget these things until you start packing your backpack again. But, given a choice or rather I should say taken a choice, deep in your heart you would know what kind of person you really are or you will be.