Is it one month since I last checked in already? Two months ago, I left American soil to travel around the world for a year. And two nights ago, I pulled out my SILK sleeping bag to use at a hostel in Bangkok and was reminded of the first week of my trip—the last time I had used it regularly. At the beginning of September, I spent 6 days traveling Iceland’s Ring Road staying in hostels with a French Canadian and a Swede. The SILK sleeping bag has become a sort of symbol of the first week of my travels around Iceland.
Since then, I have spent 6 weeks traveling all over Germany. I mostly stayed in the lap of luxury—with family and friends who had plenty of linens (and so much generosity!) to spare. Then, after a near-empty, but long flight on Thai Airways from Munich to Bangkok, I treated myself to a nice hotel for two nights. Even for my first week in Thailand living in a bungalow on Ko Tao, I found I didn’t need my sleeping bag—it was too hot for it! I only needed to pull it out again at the hostel in Bangkok. Being brought back full circle to my memories of Iceland seemed proper at 2 months into my journey.
So what have I been up to this last month? Well, I’ve touched on a bit of it already, but I still have lots more to share:
- I partied at the original Oktoberfest in Munich
- I ate even more delicious German food
- I learned stories about street art, counter-cultures and social justice in Kreuzberg
- I visited several different awesome markets all over Berlin
- I walked across an abandoned airport at sunset
- I randomly met and hung out with people for Berlin’s Festival of Lights
- I listened to live guitar looping and synth pop with an Italian at a French bar in Berlin
- I transported back to the 1920s at a social dancing night in Berlin
- I got into Berlin's most exclusive nightclub, Berghain
- I swam on a rooftop on Khao San Road in Bangkok
- I stayed in a bungalow on Ko Tao and learned how to SCUBA dive
- I watched fire throwers along the shoreline of Chalok Bay
- I played on the beach with and fed a hungry Thai child
- I took an overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
- I walked down the street as a zombie for Halloween in Chiang Mai
Wow! I am so excited to share all of the above (and more!) over the coming few weeks. I’ll wrap up my posts about Germany and then start on all of the amazing experiences I’ve been having in Thailand—the wonderful Land of Smiles. Now for a run-down of what’s been going on with me and my stuff!
Lost and forgotten items
A normal part of travel is losing things along the way. I have been very lucky for the majority of my trip, not losing or leaving behind anything of serious value. But when you only have one bag with not very much packed, losing an item feels like a big loss. I’ve actually found myself getting attached to items—which is interesting because a part of preparing for this trip involved becoming a minimalist and detaching from material things. Funny how attachment can work like that. Okay, so here are the things lost outlined in a table…because, again, I am still a trained researcher (and life-long nerd) who likes things like graphs and tables:
Considering I’ve been gone for 2 months, I think I've actually managed to do pretty well. My wonderful cousin got my bathroom items back to me and I replaced my sunglasses at a shop in Berlin. Leaving my hat behind was probably a subconscious move—now the hat won’t get crushed or really lost. Leaving behind the refillable bottle was a downer because I was using it daily, but even this item is safely in the hands of a friend I met on Ko Tao. The only real loss is the camera floatation device. It was so cute—like a little life jacket for my camera! Ah well. It, too, can be replaced. And that has to be my mindset moving forward if I am to keep up my minimalist-traveler ways.
Added and mailed items
Okay, so it got a little chilly in Germany. I didn’t buy a parka, but I did purchase another long sleeve shirt to layer. I also bought a new pair of very lightweight pants (good for rainy days!). I also found I wasn’t wearing the Ex Officio button down I packed so I bought a different button down and sent the unused one home with the dirndl I had bought and wore to Oktoberfest. It cost 17 euro to send home my dirndl along with some extra items: the button down, my money belt, an envelope with some pictures and notes, and my multi-USB port which stopped working. Totally worth it to maximize space in my one bag.
I’m finding toiletries are sort of useless to bring along on a trip because I’ve managed to acquire some along the way. I’ve been grabbing small bottles at pharmacies during long-term stays and I also pick up complimentary small bottles at hotels and some hostels. I’ve barely touched my Dr. Bronner’s shampoo as a result. It’s sort of silly at this point, but I guess I’m holding onto it for a day when I run out of everything else.
A quick note on body and brain
I felt a little tired and run down during my time in Berlin, but now I am feeling great! I stayed in a hotel my first 2 nights in Thailand which was the best idea for recovering from jet lag.
The swelling of my leg wound from falling while Icelandic glacier-gazing magically and suddenly went down after spending 5+ days swimming in the revitalizing salt water of Chalok Bay. I acquired several more bumps and bruises, however. I smashed my bare legs a few times on the coral reef and underwater rocks while figuring out my buoyancy during my first two dives. Oops. But the salt water helped with that, too!
I thought you all might like to know if my nails are still holding up. The answer is a resounding YES! :)
Not planning ahead
A part of my personal challenge at my one-month check-in was to stop planning ahead so much. So far, I’ve learned how incredibly generous people can be when it comes to providing me with accommodation. In Berlin, my friend Frank from New York happened to be renting an apartment for a few weeks during the time I would be there. He offered for me to stay with him at no cost (thanks so much, Frank!). I did not intend to stay for the entire two weeks I was in Berlin, but my stay ended up being beneficial for the both of us. We had a great time together and I even got to help him out by keeping him company while he was sick.
Similarly, I kept my accommodation plans relatively open for Thailand. I only scheduled my first night’s stay at a hotel in Bangkok, but I didn’t plan my accommodation for my second night which ended up being a good thing. Since I waited, the hotel no longer had availability in the same room for me. So they upgraded me to a nicer room for the same price—FTW! I never would have gotten the upgrade had a planned ahead.
Finally, I had a connection through a friend of a friend (thanks, Dasha and Astrid!) who works on Ko Tao at the Big Bubble dive resort. I had to go there and check things out even though I had no idea what I was going to do. When I got to the resort, I was told the various prices for packages to get SCUBA certified. This would include 4 nights of accommodation. I literally made my decision on the spot. Bam! Suddenly, I was staying on Ko Tao for the next few days to live in a bungalow and become a certified open water diver! During my stay, I met other divers including a friendly Brazilian named Felipe who is a Dive Master and was vacationing from his job in Malaysia. His birthday was coming up and he wanted to be sure I would stay on Ko Tao to celebrate, so he offered me to stay with him for a few extra nights at the resort. I accepted and had a great extra two days on the island chilling with the resort staff, swimming in the bay, and celebrating his birthday.
The generosity of all of these people and others whom I have met during my travels is just incredible!
Being in the moment
I admit, I kind of half failed the second part of the challenge I set for myself last month. I have been taking moments to stop, look around, and really recognize where I am and how I got here. But I have not taken time to free-write, as I wanted to. It’s difficult to find time to do this when there is so much to do and see in addition to so much to write about for this blog. I never found a natural moment to do it and didn’t want to force it. For now, I am not going to put pressure on myself to free write. I’m just going to say “I’ll do it when the timing is right.” I’ll just have to feel out the world, be in the moment, and let it happen naturally. That’s the best kind of deviating the norm anyway—the naturally occurring, unforced kind!