Overcome Your Fears & Head To Thailand! Plus The Mango Sticky Rice Is Yum.
The struggle to write this post is driving me mad. If computers did not exist and I was writing on old-school A4 paper, I would have a wastebasket full of crumpled notes. I keep going back and forth on what to write even though I know exactly what I want to express – why backpacking through Thailand is a great country to overcome your travel fears. I’ve traveled through the typical, safe backpacking routes of Europe and Australia, but Thailand is the country I recommend to both newbie travelers and those who need a confidence boost to explore beyond the ‘secure.’
When we decide to embark on a journey, we tend to stay close to the familiar. Often we choose destinations where we can walk confidently on solid ground rather than hesitantly tip toeing. Some would argue that it is best to wet your travel shoes in those countries that provide little pushback, I recommend the opposite. Get your feet muddy and build up those calluses in places that challenge. Yes, I saw some crazy %$&#, but not once did I feel on edge or unwelcome. What I learned, is those countries where we have preconceived, negative notions usually become the ones we marvel at the most.
(My writing mojo is back! Venting out loud, recommended.)
I was a pretty seasoned traveler by the time I reached Thailand in the summer of 2006 – I had backpacked through Europe and had lived in Santa Barbara, London, Hollywood, and Wellington. At 26 I had little apprehension towards travel, but there was something about stepping foot in Thailand that brought out my nervous side. Was it the people? Their political situation? Or was it my own fears of not being in the safe cocoon of a Western culture? It also didn’t help that everyone in my family would constantly warn me to ‘be safe’. However, when I set foot on Khao San Road in the wee hours of a July night, any doubts I had melted into the hot pavement.
This backpacker ridden stretch of road in the heart of Bangkok was nothing I had seen before in my travels. I was used to more refined and orderly countries that I became mesmerized by its chaos – the haphazardly placed food stands, the boisterous night markets and the compounding sounds of noise reverberating through the buildings. I dove into the craziness. I slurped up Pad Thai, munched on corn on the cob and had second helpings of mango sticky rice from food vendors. I enjoyed Thai massages and pedicures, drank Singha beer on stoops of buildings and bartered for a travel purse. I even rocked the popular backpackers uniform of wearing the large, bright fisherman’s pants.
When I ventured away from this backpacker enclosure I saw monks smoking cigarettes, women doing aerobics in the middle of busy plazas and older men trying to get it on with the young Thai ladies. I felt like a child peering into the lives of adults, waiting for my parents to notice and shooh me back to my room. This voyeuristic interest I had in Bangkok continued to the islands.
Dancing under the stars at the popular full moon party, downing cheap alcohol from sand buckets and eavesdropping on prostitutes barter their services was udder madness – I soaked up every minute of it! My concerns and trepidations I had about Thailand were now a distant memory. The preconceived notions I had whirling in my head were fallacies coming from those who had never stepped foot in Thailand and from my own distorted pretense about non-western countries.
It was these two weeks in Thailand where I relinquished all my travel inhibitions and blossomed into a wide-eyed wanderer. So when I crossed over into Cambodia I approached people and the unfamiliar culture with a new curiosity and love. Whether it be Thailand or another country, I hope you find that one destination that moves you from the uncomfortable to the confident.