So, it's been a little over 4 months since we've returned from our amazing trip to Southeast Asia. We have been running around, with moving to Boston, starting a new job, going back to school, meeting new friends... However, even with the craziness of starting a new life, we often find ourselves thinking back on our 6 weeks through Japan, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. I thought now, after being back in the states for 4+months, it would be the perfect time to look back and give my thoughts and perceptions on the trip of the lifetime.
Southeast Asia turned out to be so much more than I ever expected. I knew I would have amazing experiences and that I would be visiting a place so different than where I live, but I didn't realize how much I'd be impacted by this wonderful area. Some of my thoughts:
1) The power of the human spirit is unbelievable. I used to find myself complaining because I couldn't take vacation without working, or I had to cook another night. However, seeing the poverty that exists in these areas and meeting the people that live in these situations really will make me think before complaining again. Many of these people have nothing, no food, no shelter, no shoes to wear. However, every where we went and everyone we spoke to had an amazing outlook on life. People smiled, kids laughed and there was a sense of community/family that we can't even imagine over here. No matter what experiences these people had, including being the only family member to survive the Khmer Rouge, or being a child of an agent orange victim, there was a sense of living for the here and now and moving forward instead of living in the past.
2) War is an awful thing. Living in the US, we are lucky that we don't have to see daily the results of years and years of fighting. Everywhere we walked, there were victims of landmines, buildings destroyed, cities being rebuilt.
3) Ancient architects were amazing. I could not believe the structures (primarily Angkor Wat) which were constructed thousands of years ago and are still standing. Why can't we build bridges, buildings...today to last like that.
4) The scary, fly-covered, non-iced food you see walking though the markets makes for the most amazing, delicious meals. Furthermore, cooking with freshly caught, freshly picked food only enhances the wonderful flavors.
5) Food in Cambodia is amazing!
6) Buddhists have some of the most intricately decorated/designed temples. I could visit one after another (without Dave of course) and never be bored.
7) There is nothing like having a bathroom with a shower separated from the toilet!
8) There is nothing like having a toilet with a toilet seat!
9) I never knew it was possible to fit a family of 5 on a motorbike. Also, don't trust the sidewalks to keep you safe in Asia. The motorbikes drive there as well.
10) We definitely take air conditioning, refrigeration, clean water, jeans, and many of our other daily luxuries for granted. I like to think I no longer do this and am able to recognize all the wonderful things I have in my life.
11) The backpacking community is fabulous. We met so many great people and heard their wonderful experiences.
12) Dave and I really can spend 6 weeks on our own with no one else and still walk away loving each other :)
13) I really can do anything. I put so much time into planning this trip and wasn't sure how it would turn out. It was more wonderful than I ever thought it could be. I hiked waterfalls, held a tiger in my lap, rode an elephant on my own, pet a king cobra, rode in a tuk-tuk, ate on a street corner, and was able to navigate my way through a country where I knew no one, was unfamiliar with the terrain and couldn't even speak the language. I had begun to doubt myself in the past few years and what I was really capable of doing. This trip made me realize that whatever I put my mind to, I will accomplish.
14) The world is a small place. Everything we do impacts people all over the world. We saw how our country hurt these places and now how we are helping them to rebuild. We are not hated everywhere and the only way to help get rid of this stereotype is to go out and visit these places, meet the people, hear their story, and see their way of life and let it impact you in your own personal way.
This is a trip I will never forget. It already feels like it was years ago, however, the lessons I have learned will carry with me forever. I am a better person for what I saw and experienced and am forever grateful that I had the opportunity for this life-changing trip.