Tuesday, 13 May 2014

What travelling has taught me

It's been over 2 months now since I left the UK for what I thought would be a new life as an English teacher in Vietnam. We all know how that worked out, but as I come to the end of my time in Asia I think now is as good a time as any to reflect on what the whole experience has taught me.

1. Try to see running a gauntlet of hawkers as a practise in tolerance
Yes boss, Hello motorbike, Want massage? And breathe. It happens to everyone, so just pretend you don't speak English and stroll on by with your eyes focused on the horizon.

2. Fans make better hairdryers than air con
Air con is great for cooling a room, but fans are the best for your barnet!

3. Asia loves boy bands
Correction, boy bands and power ballads. Backstreet Boys were the favourite, but we also spent a few evenings being serenaded by The Carpenters, N*Sync and Whitney Houston! Bob Marley was also everywhere.

4. There is such a thing as too hot
Before leaving the UK I think I boasted a little about loving the heat, but the reality is its only good when coupled with a pool or cold cocktail. I now see that living, working, sleeping and travelling in such heat is not always so fun or tolerable.

Hot monkey in Bali cooling off

5. I should be open with Mark about my feelings, chances are he is feeling the same
I've lost count of the number of times we've walked down the street silently thinking the same thoughts before confessing them to one another. Be it 'I'm sick of hawkers' or 'I want an ice cream', I've learnt the sooner I open up, the quicker I'll know I'm not alone, and get an ice cream!

6. I miss my friends and family much more than I expected
I knew my pictures from paradise would generate a little envy, but I wasn't prepared to feel it myself when I was the one struggling being away from home. The first few weeks away were so difficult and it didn't help knowing everyone else was having a great time.

Can't wait to see my two BFFs in Milan

7. The comforts of a cozy bed and a movie cannot be underestimated
The nights are long here as the sun sets around 6pm everyday, and I'm not exactly a night owl! After all the evenings reading or researching it's sometimes lovely to cuddle up with a movie and Mark. It proves to me that home or away, this is my favourite past time.

8. Mr Bean is loved all over the world
Mugs in Vietnam, art in Indonesia, movies in Thailand. Mr Bean was as popular as a beer brand T-shirt, but I secretly loved having this slice of quirky British culture with me!

Mr Bean on the beach

9. Always carry your own toilet roll
Trains, bus stations and even some hotel toilets are often poorly maintained in Asia, I'm talking soaked floors, lack of flush and some truly terrible conditions. Make the experience a little better by knowing you have one essential in your pocket. Antibacterial gel is also comforting, as is a peg for your nose.

10. Sometimes it really is best to cut your losses and move on to better things
It was a big decisions of ours to cut the working bit out and go straight to travelling with a severely reduced budget and diminished enthusiasm, but it was definitely the best decision we could have made. In the future I think it will be easier to go with my gut and trust myself that I'll be OK even when one of my safety nets has disappeared.

11. I had a pretty good life at home
This has been the most important lesson so far. My friends, my family, the towns I call home; I had it pretty good there, and I can't wait to get it all back after spending what will surely be a memorable summer in Italy.

Bournemouth and Poole Bay, Dorset