What I've Learned After 3 Months of Travel

It’s just passed the 3 month mark of when I first started this trip around the world. It feels strange to write that out because, my old life feels like such a long time ago, but on the other hand I also can’t grasp the fact that I’ve been on the road for 3 months already. I’ve now been to New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Nepal, India, Thailand, and I’m currently writing this from Vietnam (I’ve fallen a bit behind on blog posts but I’m hoping to catch up soon). Between those countries I’ve taken 14 individual flights, countless buses, trains, autorickshaws, subways, and met people from all around the world. I’ve also experienced a ton of new things and learned a tremendous amount about myself along the way. This is a quick retrospective on my trip thus far and a subsection of some of the things I liked, did not like and what I’ve learned about myself. It’s not an exhaustive list because there’s just too much.

Some of my favorite parts of the trip so far:

  • Taking the Singapore MRT (metro), it was just so clean, fun and easy to use.
  • Making it to Everest Base Camp on a bad knee, I had injured it a couple weeks before on a hike and it reared up again on the 2nd day of my 14 day Everest Trek due to the strain. I ended up not being able to put any weight on my right leg for 90% of that trek and having to get some walking sticks to use them as crutches. I took it slow and steady and trekked extremely carefully but managed to make it all the way and back! I think having that extra obstacle made it even more rewarding.
  • Attending the Pianovers meetups in Singapore, where I got to meet an amazing community of pianists, made friends and got to preform a song for them.
  • Navigating the extensive but confusing public transport system in India. It was perplexing at first but once I figured out how to buy a train ticket online and how to take the bus around I felt really good, like I had unlocked a secret all access pass to the country, it really opened up travel in India because public transport via trains and buses was so cheap.
  • Getting stuck on a small island (Chicken Island) off the coast of Thailand for a entire day with nothing to do. There was only 1 boat in in the morning and 1 boat out right before sunset. The island was tiny with nothing to do so I ended up laying on the beach under a tree and watched the clouds and the waves for hours. I’ve never taken things that slow before but it was really nice.
  • All the new friends and connections I’ve made of this trip.
  • All the old friends I’ve reconnected with because of this trip.

Some of my least favorite parts of the trip so far:

  • The mosquitoes, it’s the most lopsided relationship EVER. I HATE MOSQUITOES, but they LOVE me, and they ruin me because I’m so allergic to them. Each bite I get has an 90% chance of swelling up into a huge angry red patch the size of a mango. It’s beyond embarrassing when it’s on my face and 2 or more bites on my leg/ankle and I’ll be limping for 3 days…
  • Getting sick in Singapore. I was alone in a foreign country, sick and bedridden for 2 days, I was running a high fever and paranoid that I got dengue fever or malaria since I had gotten 5 mosquito bites the day before (turned out it was just food poisoning, thank goodness). That was the one time I seriously asked myself ‘What the hell am I doing? Maybe I should just going home’.
  • Getting endlessly solicited in New Delhi. The first 2 days I was there I was afraid to leave my hotel room because I couldn’t walk the street 30 seconds without being aggressively solicited by merchants who would follow me and were ‘just trying to start a conversation’ but actually just wanted me to buy their thing for 20x the price, or offer a service I don’t need and would ask for a tip. Eventually I developed a thicker skin and a much more effective resting bitch face that warded away most of that but the first 2 days were overwhelming.
  • A guy on a street in Nepal. It was at night and he first asked if I wanted a taxi ride, I said no but then followed me and kept trying to ask me invasive questions about myself and then asked if I wanted to buy some drugs. I was so sketched out I ran until I lost him.
  • All the ‘ni haos’ I get from touts and the occasional local in pretty much every country I’ve been to so far. I get it, I’m Chinese, but it’s really annoying.

Ways I’ve changed and some things I’ve learned after 3 months of travel:

  • I can’t enjoy touristy stuff anymore: Knowing I’m spending 2-5x more at touristy areas and having to weave through a million people take selfies just kills half the atmosphere of any place I’m trying to visit. Now I avoid any kind of guided tour and if I’m going to a touristy place I’ll go very early in the morning like 6-9am before the crowds shows up.
  • Making a friend in a new place is the cure for homesickness.
  • I can sleep on planes now! Before I struggled to get any sleep on planes, now I struggle to stay awake as soon as the plane takes off.
  • I found my travel rhythm, I need to spend at least 4-5 days in a place before moving on, otherwise I end up burning out and am too tired to do anything/too worried about getting to the next place.
  • It scares me how much people are addicted to their phones. We all kind of know it, and joke about it but seeing it in person across so many different countries makes it frighteningly apparent. Everywhere I go, so many people are just on their phones. I know there are benefits to all this connectivity that we have now but I just think of all the things we lose out on like new connections, or new observations because of how easy it is to tune out the world around us. I feel like phones are this generation’s cigarettes, we love all the great things it adds to our lives but I think we’re significantly downplaying the effects of mobile phone addiction.
  • Related to the above point, the places where I’ve made the most friends/connections have been when I’ve had no internet reception and was forced to ask people for help rather than google, and the places where the internet sucks or cost money.

There are so many other things that are probably more impactful than the ones I’ve written out here but I’m not able to properly express them because they are subtle. This trip really has been life changing already. Part of me can’t wait to go back home and apply my new perspectives and motivations towards my next set of goals.