I didn’t start life with the travel bug.
Quite the opposite, I was a bit of a homebody, and the thought of travelling abroad actually frightened me a surprising amount. I was far more comfortable in familiar surroundings, with people who spoke my language, with food and culture that I was used to. It took a crisis to shake me out of my slumber. A few years out of university, my then girlfriend of 3 years upped and left me for my now very-much-ex-best-friend.
Devastated, I did what anyone else would do in that situation – I cut off my long, flowing hair, dyed what was left of it blonde, grew a really annoyingly pretentious goatee, quit my job and took every penny that I had earned and flew off to Asia. I’m not sure if I was running away from reality or trying to find myself. What I do know is that my eyes were opened to the enormous diversity that the world has to offer. The incredible, exotic wonders of Asia gave me my first travel high and I’ve never really come down since. Here is a brief rundown of how my trip panned out.
First Stop: Bali
Given that this was my first time outside of the UK, I played it safe to start with and booked myself on some remarkable tours through https://www.travezl.com.au/bali-tours/t2-d148415. They had a huge number of options available, but the one that struck me the most was the Everyday Living Tour. Through it, I received my first ever look at how people from a culture so vastly different to mine survive and thrive. Needless to say, I was blown away.
Second Stop: Malaysian Borneo
A landed in Kuala Lumpur and, to be honest, found the city to be a little bit dull.
Half a day of walking around was enough for me pretty much see everything there was to see. So, I hopped on a ferry and a few hours later found myself in the most jaw-droppingly beautiful tropical paradise I could ever have imagined.
Whether it was spotting orangutans under the rainforest canopy, or cruising the pristine beaches, very little could have prepared me for the grand, peaceful beauty of this exquisite island.
Third Stop: Phuket
I didn’t think there was much that could impress me after Borneo. However, on the other side of the Andaman sea I discovered the Phi Phi Islands, and fell in love immediately. The sheer limestone cliffs seem to explode vertically out of the warm, pure blue ocean waters. Back in Phuket itself, aside from eating the spiciest curry I have ever encountered, I was incredibly impressed with the stunning architecture, which was a real, intricate blend of local Thai, Chinese and Portuguese influences.
Fourth Stop: Singapore
This was a real change of pace from the more natural settings thus far. The hustle and bustle of one of the world’s great business centres was a real eye-opener and quite exhilarating. I’m not much of a shopper, but the energy of the commercial districts was quite seductive.
Fifth Stop: Kyoto
I actually spent a significant amount of time in Japan, and visited a few different cities, but Kyoto certainly left the deepest impression on me. Japan’s ancient capital really does represent every ideal of Japanese culture. From the majestic beauty of the temples, shrines and castles, to the sophisticated elegance of the entertainment district, Kyoto really seemed to me to be the place where the two Japans, traditional and ultra-modern, co-exist in a perfect harmony.
Last Stop: Bhutan
This one was a bit of a whim. I’d never even heard of Bhutan previously, but a fellow traveller regaled me with tales of the imperial beauty of the Himalayan country. He wasn’t wrong, as I was simply blown away by the scale of nature in this hidden gem.
The local people are some of the nicest and most welcoming I have ever met, and the culture is a unique mix of Chinese, Sub-Continental and indigenous local elements. The highlight was an overnight trekking tour through the mountains. I wouldn’t recommend it for people who are not fit or are prone to altitude sickness, but it really was almost indescribably special.
It took me until I arrived back in the UK to realise that I hadn’t thought of my ex for months. What started off as an escape from my perceived reality, ended up opening my eyes to a wonderful truth: There is a big, wonderful world out there, just waiting for us to discover it.