“We’d never seen anything as green as these rice paddies. It was not just the paddies themselves: the surrounding vegetation – foliage so dense the trees lost track of whose leaves were whose – was a rainbow coalition of one color: green. There was an infinity of greens, rendered all the greener by splashes of red hibiscus and the herons floating past, so white and big it seemed as if sheets hung out to dry had suddenly taken wing. All other colors – even purple and black – were shades of green. Light and shade were degrees of green. Greenness, here, was less a color than a colonising impulse. Everything was either already green – like a snake, bright as a blade of grass, sidling across the footpath – or in the process of becoming so. Statues of the Buddha were mossy, furred with green.”
– Geoff Dyer, Yoga for people who can’t be bothered to do it
I bought a one way ticket and chose Asia as my first stop for numerous reasons. The most important one was that I knew it was going to be different than anything before. So I picked up my backpacks and with traveling to Asia, I’ve chosen freedom. That freedom has taught me many lessons so far.
Simplicity of Asian lifestyle
Since I’m in Asia, I like to wake up early. While waking early back in Europe would be a struggle and make me want to hate mornings, that changed in Asia. When the sun starts peeking out and I eat my breakfast, I sense my own peace. That is something I couldn’t achieve before.
Asia made me experience world differently, especially when it comes to food. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and Asians know it.
Rice means no hunger
I’ve seen Asian people working in their family restaurants and pulling plastic chairs on the streets from 3 AM. Eating means spending time with friends and family. When do they sleep, I wonder as I’ve seen them cooking and eating at all times. Here I learned that if there is rice in the house, no one will get hungry.
Preparing meals should be an easy task. Half an hour, a bit of rice/noodles and some meat with vegetables and it’s done! Less time for cooking means more time for experiencing other things.
Time is not so important
When in Asia, you forget how to be in a hurry or nervous. Traffic is often terrifying and thousands of people and bikes go into every possible direction. People bump into each other, step onto each others feet but no one gets angry. At the end, we are all part of this traffic mess so why to stress about it?
Thai girl resting on a train ride
Time is nothing. Traveling makes you forget what day it is, what time is it and though your pick up is scheduled for 1 PM, it won’t happen on time so forget it and relax. At first I was worried but then I got used to it. The drivers always come and at the end I would be where I needed to be.
Asia showed me how unnecessarily we complicate our everyday life. Eventually what we need will flow into our direction. Europeans find hard to accept this simple philosophy. We put our bodies in agony with over thinking and by creating ghosts in our minds. We buy material stuff to make ourselves feel happy while in Asia I’ve seen naked and barefoot children running with one bagel in their hands, smiling as if they were sun itself.
Cambodian kid on my way to the Killing fields
– A lot of worrying leads nowhere – I was told by an Asian woman.
Simple life. Simple food. Slow down and find time for the loved ones. Be your own best friend and always look forward. Always move forward.
If we allow our every day life to unravel before us, we grow hope in our heart. I allowed my fears to starve itself on the streets of Asian cities where, as a solo female traveler, I feel completely safe. Waking up and being anonymous in a foreign land is my everyday decision. It’s the way of putting my insecurities to sleep.
Traffic in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
I never again want to live without the sun and far from the sea. Sun puts a smile on everyone’s face. Listening and watching the waves break and spread their waters over the shore is one of the most calming things in the world.
Traveling is not dangerous, life is
Even before coming to Asia I wasn’t afraid of the world. But now, more than ever I see the importance of not being afraid of the unknown and the unexpected. Everything will not go as I planned it. And that’s OK. When you live as a vagabond with nothing but what is in your backpacks, life will make you realize one thing – nothing changes but you. Lands aren’t foreign. You are. And this is the most valuable lesson I learned so far.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam