veidt

sleeping IIIKastrup airport is a quiet place at night. The silence is so thick in fact, that I felt the need to check whether it was open all night. It was. So, reassured, I found a group of benches already pushed together and claimed it as my bed for the night. It stayed quiet well into the morning. Kastrup smells infuriatingly of cinnamon rolls in the morning. Delicious (I suppose) and unjustifiably expensive from an American’s standpoint. I did buy a [delicious] sandwich (Copenhagen wins best airport food) for my breakfast.

The contrast of Copenhagen to my previous environment was apparent in more ways than one. For starters the brown bag sandwich that cost six meals worth of southeast Asia fare. Another was how…clean everybody was. I felt horribly under dressed and unkempt compared to the slim clothing lines and tidy haircuts of my fellow airport humans. I also realized I was the only one in the entire airport occupying the floor. No more Thais sleeping on bamboo mats on floors of trains, no more Vietnamese squatting on their stoops. Nope, everything clean and orderly and first class. I was out of place. I hadn’t been, at this same airport, at the beginning of this trip. But time and experiences change you. In ways you don’t understand while you are experiencing them. I really do believe it takes going back, to realize the ways in which you have shifted.

Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends.”

I believe the veracity of that. It holds as true for traveling as for anything else. You spend all this time having these great adventures and meeting interesting people and seeing these incredible sights and trying new foods. Inevitably the end of your trip arrives and you return to whatever your normalcy is. But…the journey you’ve completed hasn’t actually ended. You collect all of these experiences in your being. And you are transformed. The things you have witnessed, the people with whom you have shared time and exchanged ideas, and even the foods that have passed through your body are not trapped in some past moment. They are a permanent part of your self.

Sometimes these endless manifestations take tangible form. Like adapting your cooking and eating habits; such as beans on toast becoming a comfort food, having noodle soups for breakfast, or developing an addiction for Crabbie’s. Or maybe you’ve been captured by the market or the motorbike culture, and you incorporate that into your life back home.

a + b = c

Sometimes though, in forms less tangible. In ways which entwine themselves irrevocably into your thinking, and in manners that will ever dictate your actions. There are scars of permanence that cannot be traced, they merely exist.

? + ? = c

Nothing ever ends.sunsetThe whole process of flying back continent by country by city was mind numbing and tiresome. Blessedly uneventful, though. I arrived back safely in my home state of Washington to a near perfect Pacific Northwest sunset and the beautiful sight of these two faces.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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my gear for Asia

Osprey Farpoint 40 Backpack
This is the best backpack I could imagine. I don’t foresee ever switching. It more than holds everything I need, yet still fits into all carry-on spaces. I just recently squeezed it under the seat of a minibus where everyone else had to have their belongings tied to the roof. I also feel like due to it’s smaller size, you’re slightly more inconspicuous as a backpacker. Even packed full I can walk long distances (kilometers and kilometers) without ever feeling like it is especially heavy. Favorite item, for sure.

Sea to Summit Quick Dry Towel
I decided to try a different brand than whatever I had used on the Birthright trip. Not because I had been unsatisfied, just to see the difference. I do like the snap loop on this one, which is endlessly useful for drying it or keeping it out of the way when showering. It also has survived two months without washing in Southeast Asia without smelling, which, puts it a level above the Birthright one, which started smelling after like a week.

Terra Vista Silk Sleeping Bag Liner
First of all, their customer service is some of the best I’ve encountered in my entire life. On that alone it’s worth the price. But the actual product is superb as well. It was such an awesomely luxurious item to have throughout southeast Asia. Despite the high price tag, I am definitely satisfied and would recommend the investment.

Lifesaver Water Bottle
Back on US soil I was not excited about this giant contraption. But as I’ve been traveling with it, I’ve come to appreciate it. The downside is that, despite its large size, it doesn’t hold that much water. But it’s been well worth it. I figure I refill it a few times a day, saving myself at least $1/day. My trip is 92 days, so it has almost paid for itself. I’m sure I’ll start taking it on hikes once I get back home, too. I’m definitely a fan of having drinkable water without contributing to the plastic bottle industry. Yeah, I’ve saved $90+, but the amount of bottles I have refrained from using is well over 200.

Olympus TG-3 (tough) Camera
I have three qualifications for any camera I am willing to use, and especially travel with:
1. Has to fit in my pocket.
2. Has to be able to handle rough wear.
3. Has to be inconspicuous.
I refuse to carry around a bag for my camera. I like having pockets and that’s it. I don’t want to be constantly worried about it getting scratched or wet or dropped or smooshed. I’m very careful with my belongings, but I just don’t need that extra stress. And finally, I don’t want something that’s going to paint a target on me for thieves. I’d much rather have a small, tough camera that looks not-especially-expensive. This one does all of the above, and I’ve been really happy with it. I wanted to take it scuba diving, but figured I should probably focus on actually diving since it was my first time. Seeing as it survived taking a dive off a waterfall, I’d say it’s worth its salt.

Apple World Adapter Kit
I use this kit for all of my charging needs. So all I take is my USB plug, the country adapters (didn’t actually need them for southeast Asia), and the USB cable for my iPhone/iPod and camera.

Aladdin Collapsible Spill-Proof Bowl
I’ve never really heard of anyone traveling with something like this before, but I’ve found it really useful. I like to buy meals before long bus or train journeys and throw them in this. It’s nice to not have to rely on marked up tourist stops. And you can choose whatever you want. I tend to buy my favorite meal I had in each particular place and savor it one last time. Also, note: it is perfectly leak proof. Kudos.

iPhone.
I’ve gritted my teeth at smartphones ever since they started popping up. But now I probably wouldn’t travel without one. Previously I had just used my iPod touch and connected to wifi, and that’s fine. But it’s so useful to have a full on smartphone with Internet available anywhere. It’ll be an especially useful tool for future hitchhiking ventures. Getting local SIM cards seems so intimidating until you actually do it. But in reality it’s so simple and not worth stressing about. Also, you can get a month long data plans in most of southeast Asia at least for under $10. That said, if I couldn’t take an iPhone with me, I’m still totally comfortable taking just and iPod or something similar that works solely on wifi. It’s okay. There are plenty of cafes and hotels with wifi.

let’s be inappropriate

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about clothing choices for southeast Asia. Starting back in the planning stages of my trip, and ongoing throughout each country. I read numerous blogs on the subject and pondered the matter over the course of the several weeks as I was putting together my gear. Ultimately I decided to pack conservative clothing and purchase new items as needed upon arrival. I just didn’t feel comfortable wearing clothing that yes, may be acceptable in America, but is considered offensive in these conservative and highly religious countries.

My first few days after arriving I was miserable. I literally had a constant sheen of sweat over my entire body, my skin appeared diseased from the little bubbles of sweat that couldn’t escape, which in turn started a long process of my skin peeling. Heat rash is not a ideal thing, and I quickly invested in Prickly Heat, which smells funky but is so effective at keeping sensitive areas dry. So yeah, I wanted to ditch my t-shirts and trousers and even my flowy top in favor of camisoles and shorts. And as I started noticing the clothing of the women around me I thought everyone else is wearing tank tops and stuff! I was tempted to follow suit. Throughout my entire trip I have seen very few female tourists not decked out in tanks and mid-thigh shorts. One girl with whom I shared a taxi was wearing boy-short-underwear length shorts. You could literally see her butt cheeks, and she felt like this was okay. In Myanmar. Attractiveness (I guess?) and comfort over respect and sensitivity, right? Anyways, it’s definitely the standard. But then I started paying attention to the local women. In a few cities, Bangkok comes to mind, there are locals in tank tops or shorts, or even sheer tops. But by far in the majority of places you will never catch sight of a native women’s shoulders, and rarely above her knees. So this is ultimately what I aligned myself with.

Sure, I could get away with scantier clothing. No one would say anything to me except at temples where I’d need a shawl or something. But, I would argue that…no one would say anything to me. It is my belief that the locals are far more comfortable approaching a foreign woman who is modestly dressed, than they would be to approach a woman wearing clothing that isn’t acceptable in their culture. It makes sense to me. And I’ve also had conversations with random strangers where I get the impression they haven’t interacted before with many foreigners. To westerners I doubt whether I stand out much. But I’ve been paying close attention, and really, I do stand out hugely from the majority of women. I’m okay with this distinction. It requires a modicum of extra discomfort, but I think it more than pays off. I’m happy to refrain from offending the people, and I’m also very happy to have the small interactions I have with people here and there. I like keeping my opportunities as open as possible.