You’re a week into this crazy adventure, and you could not have predicted how incredible (and incredibly challenging) this experience would be. To keep the good times rolling, there are a few things you should remember going forward:
Slow down. You’ll come back to this area someday soon, so you don’t have to go everywhere and see everything. Spend a week, even two, in one place if you want — that place is likely to be an island in Thailand — and don’t feel guilty if you don’t make it to every last destination.
Take a break. There’s no rule that says you have to be on your feet seeing and absorbing your surroundings for every waking hour. If you need to climb in bed for two hours during the hottest part of the afternoon and relax, that’s OK. If you need to take a day completely off to sit and drink tea and read, that’s OK too. You’ll be more energized if your body and mind are rested, and you’ll avoid feeling resentful and cranky.
Disconnect. Be present. Put down the computer and read a book or go for a night walk or hang out in the guesthouse common room instead. Go out for the day without your camera and just enjoy what you see without the pressure to make the perfect picture. You’re not on this journey for the benefit of everyone at home, and they (and you) will survive if you let it go.
You don’t need your iPhone. It’s a tough dependency to break, sure, but you actually don’t need GoogleMaps or your e-mail or Twitter to have a good time. Make a plan, pick up a map, get lost, ask someone for directions.
Things won’t always work. Remember how in Russia you needed a Plan G just in case your first six options didn’t pan out? Asia isn’t that different. Streets aren’t always labeled, maps aren’t always correct, and places aren’t always where you expect to find them (or open during their posted hours). Laugh it off, and consider it part of the adventure.
Just because 10 other people did it one way doesn’t make it right for you. This is particularly apparent with your packing list. You’ve now torn that apart, sent things home, and started over here on the ground. But the concept applies widely. It’s your trip. You do you.
The people are genuinely kind. They’ll stop you as you walk to ask where you are from and then want to chat about anything under the sun. When strangers accost you on the streets in the States, you ignore them and walk in the other direction. But here they (usually) don’t want anything except to make sure that you’re enjoying their hometown. Capitalize on this, and you may learn something unexpected.
It’s OK to need a taste of home. You can only eat so much Asian food and see so many temples without resting, and the occasional bag of peanut M&Ms won’t make your trip less authentic.
Don’t forget to exercise. You’ll feel better, as always, and you’ll balance out the effects of the delicious food you’re enjoying day in and day out. Plus — running is the best way to explore.
Someday you’ll figure out how to gracefully peel shrimp that is already floating in coconut milk. Until then, you’re just going to have to accept the mess.
You have a lot to be excited about. Keep it up!