Sunday, March 27, 2016

South East Asia Traveling - Things I'm Realizing and Learning about Myself

I left a great job in order to go travel and "find myself". I've learned that traveling with the goal of figuring out what to do in the future is a stupid goal. Traveling is play. I didn't gain a clearer understanding for what I want to do for the future but I did realize some of the following:
  • I am lucky beyond belief
    • To be a US Citizen
    • To have gone to college
    • To have studied engineering and have an engineer's mindset
      I have met college graduates in Vietnam who turned into hotel receptionists because it makes better money. And they make $250/month and get 2 days off in the whole month (not week, month). And Vietnam is not the poorest nation in South East Asia. I have seen so many workers who look miserable at their job. So many workers who are physically and mentally tired of what they have to do. For example:
      • Construction workers working in 102F, with no shirt no shoes, carrying bricks by hand
      • Tour guides who have to put on a smile. There was one tour guide at Angkor Wat, accompanying our group watching a 6:21am sunrise. He has to get up at 4:30am every morning. Someone actually asked him, "this is nothing to you right, you see this every day", he said "my gosh, I have seen it over a thousand times."
      • An female entertainer who look tired, baggy eyes, quite old, and walking with a bit of a limp, but still had to wear high heels and look pretty
      • Surf instructor who has to go out 6 days a week to teach surfing in paradise Bali. Once again 102F everyday where being in the sun becomes an almost unbearable annoyance and being in the water makes you so thirsty and the ocean water isn't even refreshing because it's also 80F and you're actually sweating.
      • Yet they have little choice. They have to do it. This is the best living they know of that they can make
  • Traveling can get lonely
    People come and go in your life. You can make an amazing connection with someone for 2 hours talking about life and your deepest struggles and joys, but in the morning, that person would be off to the next city, but you only got here. And in fact, you realize that morning that the whole group that you hung out with the night before checked out of the hostel, and you're kinda alone. But that's ok.
  • It's ok to have down time 
    You don't have to pack every minute with seeing something. It's ok to just be in your hostel or hotel room, by yourself, listening to music, blogging, reading, just as you would at home. I used to have a sense that every minute money is burning by because I'm not earning money and the flight, hotel room, food etc, all costs money, so I have to be doing something vacation related. That feeling is fine for a 2 week vacation (I used to have super packed 1 or 2 week vacations, see things in the day, party at night, no sleep). But I'm out here for several months. I will take it easy.
  • Things aren't the way they seem
    • The grass is always green on the other side
      The picturesque beach on the magazine cover looks so beautiful. When you get there, you realize it visually beautiful but physically feels like hell because it's 37 degrees hot with 80% humidity, and the water doesn't cool you off because it's 34 degrees.
    • Partying is the same all over the world
      Alcohol, loud music, dancing, revealing skin, girls, and guys trying to get with the girls
    • No FOMO
      Too many times I've experienced "this event sounds like it's gonna be awesome, I have to get there! It's gonna be so much fun!!!"No, I don't have to be there. It was just like the event I went to yesterday, or the week before that
    • If it's too good to be true, it really is
      That $6/night room that said included AC online actually didn't include AC
    • Don't trust a girl when she is too eager, approaches you first, or asks you out first, and you've known her less than a few hours (unless she is really is just there to party, but even then watch out)
      • Local girls at bars who are nice to you are often prostitutes
  • I don't deserve to travel for so long
    A few months into my traveling, it gnawed at me that I was traveling without meaning. I didn't know what I was traveling for. I also felt like I didn't deserve to travel for so long. I didn't just finish finals, graduate from school, or successfully launch a rocket. I wasn't celebrating. I hadn't worked hard to deserve this respite, and I wasn't working hard nor pursuing my ultimate dreams (although I sometimes contemplate it, my ultimate dream/goal in life is not to travel, because I think that would be silly/ridiculous/selfish/not-beneficial-to-mankind)
  • I already overpacked
    The ideal pack would have been 30 liters (e.g. a Northface Recon day pack) to fit a laptop, 2 pairs of shirt/underwear/boardshorts, and 1 pair of pants in case you want to do something fancy. Forget the DSLR and use your $800 smartphone. I packed too much, and since I didn't want to carry dirty/smelly clothes, I frequently wash clothes in the shower. Most hostels have a clothes drying rack. If you have good boardshorts, you don't need underwear.
  • The  discrepancy between rich and poor saddens me
    The locals are so poor. I was haggling with one surfboard renter and it got to the point where I didn't want to rent from them because I wanted to see what my other options were first, but as I was walking away, he said, "But I hungry! We hungry. We need money. For food. You first customer, good luck for day, rent please." He was slightly overweight, so I don't think he himself was starving. But I got the idea. He and his family needed money. But I didn't want to get ripped off, and I just wanted to walk down the beach and see some other surfboard rental places and surf spots, and I apologized as politely as I could, but as I continued walking away, he began cursing at me and yelling "Fuck. Fuck you. Fuck you!!" This saddened me greatly.
  • I'm not rich enough to live lavishly
    It bothers me too much when I spend a lot of money. I usually stayed at places there were $10/night. For 3 nights, I stayed at a $55/night place. The place was jaw droppingly beautiful. You can see the stars at night with an ocean view. But it bothered me that money was burning by. The place had a very smart system where you don't pay for items individually, but you just have a tab that you pay when you check out (But the place didn't even give free drinking water)
  • Being white makes you a god, but also makes you stick out
    Not politically correct, but quite true in South East Asia. I'm not white, but if you are, you will probably be a foot taller than everyone in South East Asia, and looked upon as gods or aliens, especially in less developed nations like Indonesia. I was walking through Jakarta (capital of Indonesia, population 9.6 million) with a few other caucasian travelers, and we kept getting swarmed by locals wanting to take pictures of us. And by us, I mean my traveler buddies. As in, the locals grabbed my white traveler buddies and took them aside to a take a picture with them and gave me the camera and asked me to take the picture, because I'm not white, I look somewhat like the locals, and therefore I'm not special. But this also helped me evade getting pulled over while on a motorcycle because I blended in more. (While white tourists in Bali frequently got pulled over and charged for not having an Indonesian license)
  • I am racist
    In Southeast Asia, many resorts and hostels have white/caucasian owners, 1 or 2 caucasian staff as managers, and locals (asians) making up the rest of the staff. Everyone is happy and smiling on the outside. Everyone is probably smiling on the inside too because in fact, the locals working at these kind of resorts are sometimes paid much more than what they can make in other jobs because the owners are generous and kind to workers, and all of that is great, but it's just kind of sad to see that the non-locals of the country have bought land, created resorts to attract other non-locals, and the locals are the ones doing the heavy lifting. Being asian american, it made me think of this:
    I saw an argument break out between the white owner of a resort and an asian surf instructor. That surf instructor was usually always very confident, joking, and outgoing, but in that argument, he was not. It was sad to see this side of him. I almost wanted to tell him "hey, I'm just like you, a minority in the white man's world".
    It's not that I dislike one race over another, it's more that maybe I'm jealous, and I sometimes wish that I wasn't who I was. That the color of my skin was white instead of yellow. It's very defeatist and victimizing to feel this way, and I usually don't
  • The road less taken is not always the best
    There is a reason the road more taken is more taken. Throughout the past few years I've been changing my life from being risk averse to more risk tolerant, with the thought that since I eventually want to become an entrepreneur, I should become more comfortable with risks of all kinds - from illegal u-turns when no-one-is-looking to motorcycle riding without the proper motorcycle license in a 3rd world country that doesn't have good hospitals and is known for crazy traffic. But that kind of risk taking has high costs, low reward, and does not translate to entrepreneurship, which requires smart, calculated risk taking. For a large chunk of my life now, I've pursued "interesting" instead of the "normal" almost as if because I want a good story to tell, but what's interesting may not always be what's necessary, nor right, nor best, especially in areas that might not be worth it. I don't need to jump off that 15 meter cliff anymore to prove to myself that I am a risk taker. I've jumped off the 10 meter one and it was enough. I'm going to save my risks for when the rewards are higher
  • I don't like anthropology or ethnology museums, but I do like war museums
    I don't want to learn about the daily basket-weaving life of 40 different tribes that now make up 5 percent of the population and how their baskets were different from each other. I need more action. I'd rather learn about how the US prevented a general election in Vietnam that pissed off north Vietnam and caused it to invade South Vietnam to start the Vietnam war, and how the US prolonged it to last 20 years at the cost of the lives of 58,000 American troops, but about 2 million asians, only for the US to quit, give up, leave, and lose the war, even though it never lost a major battle
  • I'd rather experience and participate than watch
    • This was the case for watching TV back home - I didn't follow sports because I was too lazy and too self-focused that I'd rather make meeble attempts to experience and play the sport myself than watch someone else
    • I realize that the same goes for watching temples and historical ruins - I get more satisfaction from surfing, riding a motorcycle, bicycling, or rock climbing. And all the better if there was an amazing view associated with it. But if all there was was an amazing view or temple or ruin and I didn't do anything to reach it, then I'm not as satisfied, and the view does not wow me as much, and since I have seen so much of it now, it does not wow me anymore
  • Traveling expedites some aspects of life, and joy, and pain
    • The spring fling that taught me to be more careful that included all the stages from starry eyes, to intimacy, to arguments, to breakup, to tears, that occurred over two weeks that would normally have taken 6 months
    • The becoming proficient at riding a proper 650cc motorcycle that I thought I would eventually get around to back in the US over a decade or so
    • The getting better at surfing because I surfed 10 days in a row but back home I was only surfing once or twice a week

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