I’ve done a fair amount of research for my SE Asia trip. I’ve read the Lonely Planet Guidebook for each of the countries I’m traveling to, my boyfriend did the same and then we compared notes, we looked up activity prices, travel routes, hotels, and restaurant options. And all I could think was: Damn, everything looks so nice!
I was shocked, really. The hotels we looked up were all listed as budget options; they were cheaper than the place we stay at when we come in to Addis. But they’re so much nicer! I focused on cheap and mid-range food – and there’s so much more variety! Shocked might actually be an understatement to my real reaction.
During my online research, I stumbled upon this blog – “It’s a Real City!”: Hanoi Through Cambodia Goggles – and I couldn’t stop laughing. The blogger was living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and moved to Hanoi, Vietnam and couldn’t get over how developed it was. People would tell her everything that was still wrong with Hanoi and the only thought that came to her mind was “If you think this is underdeveloped, you should check out Cambodia!”
As for me, I’ve seen photo upon photo of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, and all I could think was: Damn, everything looks so nice! Clearly, after two years in Ethiopia, I’ve developed Ethiopia goggles. I’m viewing the world through a developing nation in East Africa. I’ve spent the last two years pretending a hole in the floor is a bathroom, thinking a cold shower is normal, living in an uninsulated/unheated/uncooled home, and eating the same food week after week – often with bugs in it. And you know what, I’ve gotten used to it.
Which has made me realize, this is actually the perfect time to go backpacking around. Because the absolute worst thing that happens is that I encounter things I’ve already gotten used to: hotels with bed bugs, undrinkable water, and no public restrooms.
Instead, in SE Asia, not only is the food affordable, it sounds great! Most budget hotel rooms have hot water, all have fans, and half have air conditioning – not to mention continental breakfasts! And toilets – every single one of them has a toilet.
My mind is still being blown by all the things we’ll have access to. And I can’t help but think – How would I react if I was going directly to the United States instead?