Top Ten: Lessons we learned in Asia

(posted by Emily)

Traveling to a new part of the world is always a fascinating experience. Rick and I typically come home with new foods we love to eat (and crave), new experiences to share, and new items of clothing to wear.

For some reason, visiting SE Asia was particularly impactful for both of us. There are some many things we learned or came away with, and I thought they would be worth sharing with you.

Top Ten: Lessons we learned in Asia

1) Share the road. Driving in Thailand can be heart pounding, but driving in Cambodia is even more enlightening. On the 10+ miles of road we explored while there (to and from the airport, to and from downtown), I can only remember 1 stoplight. While most roads are paved, there are no lane markings. Drivers truly share the road, taking turns at intersections, using as much of the roadway as they need to, and showing courtesy to one another at all times. Neither of us remember hearing a horn honk. It has been fascinating to come back to a culture where all drivers feel entitled--their actions state, "This is my road! Not yours!" We could probably take a tip or two from the Cambodians in that sense!

driving with Mr. Kim in Siem Reap
2) Try new foods and fall in love. One of the best parts of going to a new place is trying their food. Too often, American tourists feel nervous about food that seem weird or different and so they stick with things they know--burgers, fries, pizza, etc. Restaurants will even cater to tourists and serve those foods, in order to get better business. Our goal is to stay away from the Hard Rock Cafes of the world and really experience what the locals eat--within reason, of course. Try something you've never had before, eat a local specialty. You'll be pleasantly surprised, and maybe find a new favorite thing!

wedding dip at Chamkar in Siem Reap

3) People are friendly. Yes, there are always scammers out there, but generally, people are kind. They will do their best to help you find what you need or get you going in the right direction. Other tourists are nice, too. You never know what kind of connections you can make when you allow yourself to be friendly with new people.

4) We are lucky to be English speakers. Time and again, we are grateful that the world has become so well structured for English speakers. Truly, it is the world's universal language. European tourists speak English, South American tourists speak English, even Asian tourists speak English. More often than not, signage will be in the native language and English. Rick and I always feel blessed that we can go anywhere in the world and not worry about communicating. Other foreign tourists aren't as lucky--it's not like all Americans learn Chinese or French to help out people visiting us!

5) Los Angeles public transit sucks. It's not like this is news to anyone, but man oh man does it hit home when we are on vacation. We always get a lot of reading done on our trips, but so much can be done when going from one place to another. It would be amazing to live in a place where my commute could include a good book every day.

waiting for the Sky Train
6) White guilt complex is a real thing. Sure, we've all felt it in relation to racial violence and tension here at home, but trust us, you will really feel it when a 2 year old child comes up to you trying to sell a magnet for a dollar. Or a 6 year old walks down the street with you asking you to buy him milk. Or you see a child with a perfectly preventable disease suffering, who clearly wouldn't be if they lived somewhere else. We have always known we are privileged, but sometimes it takes experiences like those to make you really re-evaluate what you do and don't need in your life.

7) Markets are the best kind of sightseeing. You can learn so much about a culture by wandering places where locals shop--what their food is like, what they wear, what is valuable, and what is a bargain. Just like grocery stores are our favorite places to sight see in the states, markets are the same across the world.

8) Eat when you want to. In Thai culture, it is common to eat multiple times a day--maybe even up to 8 small meals! We fully embraced that practice, eating whenever the spirit moved us, or when we saw something delicious. Besides, life is too short to count calories on vacation!

9) Walk. I know I complain often about the Barclay tendency to walk everywhere, but one of the best ways to see a city is by walking from place to place. Rick and I have both noticed that you see a place completely differently when you ride in a car or bus vs. when walking. One of our favorite things to do is wander in a new-to-us city, getting lost and finding unique things around every corner. 

10) Bartering is great, no tipping is even better. I loooooove to barter. In fact, you will rarely find us paying full price for anything if I can haggle it. Though it makes Rick super uncomfortable, I will push and push until we get a deal. Don't be afraid to ask if prices are set, because you are likely being told the farang price for things! Interestingly, America is one of the only countries where tipping is customary. You'd be surprised how inexpensive a meal can seem when you don't have to leave a 20% tip behind!

Above all, our trip to SE Asia taught us gratitude. We are beyond thankful for the things we saw and experienced, and were exposed to. I'll close this list with just a few things I am grateful for!

  • I am grateful for a husband who spends hours upon hours researching, booking, and planning amazing trips to take me on. 
  • I am grateful for employment and time off, which allow me to have the opportunity to travel. 
  • I am grateful to a home, have food on the table, and space to call my own. 
  • I am grateful to have a passport from a country that opens many travel doors. 
  • I am grateful I am able to share our travels with our friends and family through the magic of the internet!
Have a wonderful day!


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