Lessons Learned From A Month On The Road

I give my final thoughts on my month traveling through Asia

Today was my first day back in classes, and I’m glad to be back teaching in Cili. That said, I still have all the memories of being on the road for a month. I’m really proud of myself for packing for a month of traveling in a carry-on suitcase, and that I did all the things I did. From cheering on the Olympic Athletes from Russia’s (OAR’s) men’s hockey team in the Olympic finals at their hospitality house in Pyeongchang, to playing with elephants in Thailand, I can’t believe how fortunate I am to have these experiences. I wanted to wrap up my trip, as far as the blog is concerned, with some things I was grateful for, and some things that I would have done differently.

Things I’m grateful for on this trip:

  • I’m grateful I packed so lightly. A lot of traveling places focus on shopping opportunities, and while I understand that helps the tourist economy in those areas, that’s not a priority for me, and I’m grateful I had the self-restraint to avoid buying a ton of souvenirs. Plus, what with all the mass transit I took, I was so grateful I didn’t have a giant suitcase to lug onto planes and trains and buses. That said, I could probably have gotten away with packing a slightly larger suitcase since my bag started to get a bit stuffed when I got a few things like my Jiji mug and my harem pants.
  • I’m grateful everything went as smoothly as possible. Especially on transit days, I got super anxious (like when I feared I’d miss one or both of my flights to Chiang Mai), but I was just grateful it all worked out. In hindsight, I would rather have a longer layover than rush through a shorter layover and risk missing my flight, but I’m grateful it all worked out with the times I had.
  • I’m so glad I had local recommendations. My Airbnb host in Chiang Mai not only was really open with communication, but they also sat down with me my first day in Chiang Mai and gave me some awesome recommendations for places to go in the city! I stayed with a family friend in South Korea, and she and I had a lot of fun going to the places that she loved in Seoul. If I didn’t have these local recommendations, I would have been so clueless, and I feel like I wouldn’t have enjoyed my time as much as I could have.

Things I would do differently next time:

  • Maxi skirts are not a wise packing decision. As I described in my packing article, I packed two maxi skirts and rotated them rather regularly throughout the month. They did the job—they covered my body in a pretty manner, they provided ideal coverage in the Buddhist temples of Thailand, and I could wear leggings underneath them in Seoul and Japan. That said, they are not practical for travel. In the month I’ve traveled, not only did they take up more space in my bag than I would have liked, but also the hems of my skirts have gotten caught on the wheels of my suitcase, the decorative finials on an umbrella stand, the skull of a water buffalo (?) on display at a roadside market stand (luckily it didn’t break), the track of a moving escalator in Tokyo Station, and (are you ready for this?) the closure clasp of my backpack when I set it on the floor. In the future, much as I despise jeans, those or loose-fitting trousers like harem pants (which I ended up buying a pair of in Chiang Mai) might have been wiser options for being on the move so often.
  • I would have gritted my teeth about the weight and brought my laptop. While my iPad and phone were more than sufficient to do the things that mattered (e.g., check emails, update social media, post blog articles), it would have been nice to have my computer to back up photos (my phone’s storage capacity started to complain halfway through the trip). Plus, while doing blog articles on my iPad is possible, I’m so used to writing them on my computer that it was something of an adjustment process to work with my iPad. I will say, though, my iPad is much more portable than my kind-of-clunky laptop, so depending on priorities, which one to bring is a dice roll.
  • I would have brought a backup pair of glasses. My old glasses had a really bad tendency to fall off my face and onto the floor, but it would be while I was away from home for a month when they would break on impact. I have a backup pair in China, but I didn’t bring them with me, so I had to make an emergency trip to Zoff and get a new pair. A vision test, frames, and lenses cost me ¥9,000 plus tax (about US$90), which is a steal compared to how much glasses cost in the U.S., but it’s still ¥9,000. That said, I love my new glasses, but I could have avoided the emergency purchase and the stress of broken glasses if I had brought my backup pair (I’m nearsighted, so this might as well have been a non-negotiable purchase).
  • I would have paid extra for free checked bags on my flights. One thing that was acutely annoying with flying through AirAsia (I flew with them in and out of Thailand) is that they have a seven-kilogram weight limit for carry-on bags (for non-metric-system-using readers, seven kilograms is about fifteen pounds—the weight of an average school student’s backpack, if not lighter). Because my suitcase was 10kg (22 pounds, which I think is amazing, considering I was packing for an entire month), checking my suitcase from Tokyo to Bangkok to Chiang Mai set me back about $200. Grrrrrrr. (In my defense, I was not aware of this until after I purchased my non-refundable tickets.) The plus side is that I didn’t have to pick up my suitcase until I was in Chiang Mai, and I was able to put my in-flight essentials into a separate bag and put my bulky backpack in the overhead bin. I’m okay with no free meals or beverages (I normally fill up my reusable water bottle before my flight anyway and buy snacks), but no free checked bags, and a ridiculous (there, I said it) baggage weight limit on top of that? I have to draw the line somewhere.

Hopefully, I’ll have some more opportunities to travel and write some more articles for the blog before I return home for the summer! There are some plans in the works for a possible trip to Guilin in the next few months, so we’ll see if that works out! See you next time! Zai jian!

Random Thoughts: Traveling as an Introvert

As an introvert, sometimes I find it difficult in my travel experiences to balance exploring everything new and keeping my energy up

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Chiang Mai thus far, but I feel really bad to say I haven’t really done that much; the first full day I was here (yesterday), aside from going out to eat, I met with my Airbnb host for suggestions on where to go in the city, and I stayed in my place regrouping from my stressful travel day from Tokyo to Chiang Mai (I was worried at at least one point that I would miss both of my flights). I knew I had to do this after being nearly constantly on the move in Japan, and I think part of the reason is because I am an introvert. If you’re an introvert too, welcome and well met! :waves:

As far as the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator (MBTI) is concerned, I’m 50-50 INFP and INFJ, but I identify the most as an INFJ (Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging, you can find out more about all sixteen MBTI types here; all the photos I found on Pinterest). People who are INFJ are known for being a bit self-contradictory and frequently misunderstood. Based on my going-on-twenty-five-years’ experience, I can confirm the self-contradiction part; I am a full-on introvert, but if I don’t have social interaction for a period of time, I can get a bit stir-crazy. I would love to see so much and take in all the information I can about a place, but at the same time, sometimes I just want to hole up with a book in a café and read and/or people-watch.

Let me just make this clear: this is not meant to be a complaint against traveling. I love traveling, and I thoroughly appreciate the lessons I learn and experiences I have in each new place. I can’t deny, though, that it’s hard to recharge the energy I lose from being around people when I’m constantly on the move in buses, trains, planes, and in tourist locations—places where there are naturally tons and tons of people.

Much as I loved my time in Japan and other parts of the world, I have to admit that perhaps cities like Tokyo and Kyoto generally run at a faster pace than I do. There would be times over the past two weeks when I’d be exhausted by dinnertime just from being around so many people, and there’d be so much chaos that I’d often get slightly disorientated—metro hubs like Shinjuku and Tokyo were a huge culprit for this. Maybe that’s why I loved being out in the grasslands of Inner Mongolia so much back in October of last year; while I was traveling in a group, there was so much open space and so many things to do that we could conceivably split off and do our own thing if we needed or wanted to.

I know I had to take time to recharge yesterday, but I also feel extremely ungrateful for the time I have in another country when I spend time regrouping, especially after a particularly stressful transit day. I know based on previous experience, however, that if I’m on a tight schedule to see what I want to see, I am often required to push past my need to recharge to do more and more; I know when I do that, I become more and more stressed out, and my behavior towards others runs the risk of becoming less than ideal. That’s not a person I want to be, especially when I’m traveling by myself. I have prioritized my peace of mind on this trip, especially since this is my first time traveling solo for an extended period of time.

I am not a therapist or life coach, so I can only talk about my experience, but some things that work for me are:

  • Doing what it takes to replenish my energy, whether it be writing, listening to music, or sitting by myself with a coffee and people-watching (it doesn’t help that sitting and watching people makes me kind of feel like Aragorn at The Prancing Pony in The Fellowship of the Ring :giggles:)
  • Traveling in the off-season, traveling to less populated areas as opposed to major cities like Tokyo or Paris, or otherwise spending time alone in nature (I did this in Japan by spending time at a cat cafe in Harajuku)
  • Booking private rooms in hostels or on Airbnb, cost permitting, if you’re traveling solo
  • Attending workshops, classes, and tours in subjects that interest you, so if you do interact socially with the other students/attendees, you can have some common ground to talk about
  • Spending more time in one place to get a more thorough, relaxed experience of the destination (as opposed to bouncing around from place to place and rushing to see everything)

Hopefully these help if you are an introvert and love to travel. It is possible for us to go out into the world and take in all it has to offer, while still enjoying our downtime and solitude. Good luck, fellow introverts, and safe travels!

I’m looking forward to spending more time in Chiang Mai, and I’m thoroughly enjoying the more relaxed atmosphere compared to the hectic pace of Japan. Is there anything you want me to talk about during my time in Thailand? Please let me know in the comments below! Thank you so much for reading! Until next time, แล้วพบกันใหม่!

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