SEA you again (Brief thoughts from a South-East Asia trip)

So I arrived back this morning, marking the conclusion of a twenty-four day journey through three countries in South-East Asia (Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam). I really had no idea what to expect on this trip, and some part of me still finds it quite remarkable and hard to believe that we made it back in one piece (with all of our kidneys!)

Taken in a street market in Hoi An, Vietnam

I wouldn't have known that almost every single thing we did would conjure up some story or another, and that I'd see things I never thought I'd witness with my own eyes. I wouldn't have known I'd be hit so hard by the culture shock, and I wouldn't have known how sheltered I really am. I wouldn't have known how lucky I am to be able to call a city like Sydney 'home', and I wouldn't have known that travelling requires so much physical, mental, and social skill as you completely transform your way of life. From what I ate, how I dressed, my behaviour, language, to the simple means of self-care and health, I had to accommodate and adjust to the new environment that I found myself in.

I've returned with a new found love for the familiar city I call home, and missing my family and friends far more than I'd expected. With 122GB of photos and video footage to go through, and almost two-hundred pages of journal entries, I'm confident when I say a lot happened in the last three-and-a-bit weeks.

There's so much I'd like to say, but I really don't know where to begin! This entire trip has merged into one giant experience that I'll treasure for a while to come, deep in my hippocampus, with stories of witnessing corruption, trusting strangers, risky foods, and exacerbating bargaining. Once I manage to go through the >1.7k photos and hours upon hours of video footage, maybe I'll be able to start somewhere and finally blog about it more coherently.

Seeing how people live in these developing nations, and how different it is to the life that I know -- that in itself was worth the trip. I've had my breath taken away a countless number of times by the sheer contrast in our lives, and also found myself looking at images that I could have sworn were taken straight out of something in a magazine. It almost seemed photoshopped and edited, or from a page out of a story-book, because surely nothing so beautiful could exist naturally in front of my eyes! But it was real! It was incredible. The five of us had to learn how to look after ourselves, and each other, in a foreign country where we mostly had to improvise our way through. We met wonderful people, ate delicious food, shopped till we dropped, and saw gorgeous sights. We free-lanced ourselves through, trying to laugh as much as we could and make great memories to last, and funny stories to tell. Somehow we made it through and back home with our wits, intelligence, but seriously, mostly sheer luck!

It sounds like a paradise holiday, but I can't ignore the fact that it wasn't. There were times when we just wanted to pack up and head home, especially when all five of us were hit with a stomach bug and nasty GIT symptoms. There were moments when I thought to myself "How are we going to get out of this mess?", and times when I genuinely questioned our safety or "What have we gotten ourselves into... I just want to go home." We had to learn to cope with each other -- travelling with friends and seeing them 24/7 for over three weeks straight takes a lot of companionship to avoid snapping at each other! Avoiding sleep deprivation, food poisoning, managing our finances, disease, losing our passports or other documents, among basic needs like hygiene, food, and satisfactory hydration, were all issues we had to deal with on our own. Top it off with transport worries, language barriers, and filling our schedule with fun things to do, and we were well and truly exhausted 98% of the time. We came close to disaster on several occasions, and we've all lost a few things along the way (or came close to losing things!). But, some way or another, I'm here, sitting at home at my desk, at the end of the journey all in once piece with good health and a head full of memories from a great adventure. How did we ever manage?!

I am, honestly, well and truly exhausted. Home has never been so appealing to me before. Though I say all this, I know for certain that soon enough I'll probably start planning another trip elsewhere. There's something about it -- about travelling, about seeing the world, its sights, and most of all, its people and culture. There's something quite beautiful about its ups and downs that convinces me it's worth the effort and struggles that come in the package deal. I have no idea where the next destination will be, but I know the world is a big place, and I'd like to get amongst a lot of it before I go.


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Hello! I'm a student from Australia. I like photography, am aspiring to be a Doctor, have fallen in love with many things that life has to offer, and hope to see more of it. I've been blogging for a while and over the years what it means to me has changed. Currently still trying to figure that out, but here I am in a weird hybridisation of photography, film, blogging, and the confusion of a young adult, you'll find me here writing about my experiences and life. Or whatever tickles my fancy. Whether that's entertaining or not is yours to decide. Stay hydrated, kids.