A lot of people don’t know this about me but when I went backpacking in Southeast Asia in 2014, my main goal was to attend a month-long silent retreat in Thailand.
I had heard many great things about them and I was really into meditation at the time, so I wanted to try it out.
A couple of months before I left, I reserved a spot and thought I was good to go. But a week before the retreat, I realized I booked my airplane ticket to fly out a day too early.
When I asked the retreat center whether it would be okay for me to leave a day early, they said, NO, you either stay here the ENTIRE time or don’t come at all.
Wow, that was tough but thus the most epic traveling fail began.
Going With The Flow
Since my trip wasn’t going my way, I decided to just let go of all expectations. I let go of my copy of Lonely Planet for Thailand and decided to go to Vietnam and Cambodia instead.
I bought myself an airplane ticket to Vietnam and got my visa off of some dodgy website and went.
I was sort of freaking out but also oddly exhilarated?
And when I got there I couldn’t get cell phone service for about a week and my dad thought I was kidnapped, which is why I never told him I was…
Sharing A Room With A Bunch of Dudes
In Hanoi, I ended up in a co-ed hostel room for eight and I was the only female traveler in the room.
You might be wondering, weren’t you scared to be alone in a room with all these guys??
Honestly, if you had asked me beforehand if I would like to stay in a room full of guys, I would’ve said no. But since I didn’t plan this, I had no choice.
But it turned out fine. There were hardly ever more than three people in the room at the same time and the guys I spoke to were friendly and harmless.
Train Journey With The Kiwi Family
After Hanoi, I took a 16-hour train ride (that turned into 19) to Central Vietnam and ended up in a compartment with a super nice family from New Zealand.
During the entire train ride, they included me in their conversations and made me feel like I was part of their family.
They even shared a cab with me into town and refused to let me pay.
I will never forget their kindness.
Bargaining with Hostel Staff
At Hoi An, I also booked a “private” room and when I showed up, there were three people in it.
I tried to call the hostel website to complain and get a refund but when you’re in the middle of nowhere and you cannot remember your password for Skype… you just learn to let it go.
Instead, I used my people skills and convinced the front desk to do my laundry for free, which adds up after traveling for two months and they obliged.
I felt like a superstar.
Making New Friends
At each destination, I also met some amazing people each with their own stories.
Like Pei, who told me her dream was to open up her own coffee shop because coffee makes her happy. (By the way, she now has own coffee shop!)
Or these cool kids in Vietnam who were teaching themselves English by giving tourists free tours.
Or this little boy whom I couldn’t communicate with but had fun building rocks with.
Honestly, they were the best parts of my trip.
Life Is Full of Surprises
But you have to willing to receive them.
You can’t just sit at home and expect them to come.
Throughout this trip, I made so many mistakes that I felt incredibly stupid for but I’m grateful for each one.
They taught me how to make the best of any situation and how to stay positive.
They taught me to embrace the unkown.