I travelled with two very sweet, friendly, German girls whilst in Myanmar. Lea and Nele are two peas in a pond and travelling with them was good fun. One worked in America (Nele) and the other studied in Australia. We had a good time sharing stories and joked about how much stuff we each packed. It was in Bagan, when on one night, we had a spontaneous dinner, the three of us, plus one American were joined by four Dutch and one French Canadian. It was perhaps one of the best random meals I’ve had so far as we shared different ideas on matters such as, having children to working out our purpose in life.
Along with these random conversations, I’ve also randomly shared my room with fellow travellers whom I’ve met on a bus/boat trip. It’s funny how quickly you agree to sharing a room with someone who you barely know. Of course you hope for the best and thankfully things turn out fine but this is something you would never do at home for instance.
It’s acceptable and there is also a level of trust. I’ve trusted those of whom I shared my room with even though I knew very little about them. I’ve manage to trust people far more easily as my trip continues then I ever did back at home. Trusting someone is also a two way street and I’ve found myself being told stuff which others don’t know. I’ve had people opening up and sharing personal experiences which they don’t readily share – part of me feels privileged but also leaves me questioning what I do for such conversations to take place in the first place.
Another thing that becomes so acceptable is people making random, small talk, whether it’s in hostels or on the bus, it becomes normal. There are very few moments of awkward silences and staring at your feet. If you don’t cave and say something then it’s very likely the other person will. Now, again back at home, random conversations, as lovely as they may be, they are few and far between. Most of the times, if a guy makes some random conversations, girls think their being chatted up. As a backpacker/traveller though, it’s different and so no such assumption is made, even if it maybe the case.
Whilst in Malaysia, perhaps for the first time during my trip, I stayed in hostels for pretty much my entire stay. Staying in hostels evidently means you have more of a chance of meeting people and ultimately travelling with them. So, I must have spent two nights in Kuala Lumpur before I got talking to a Kiwi, we discussed what we had explored and where we were planning on going next. He then took the bus with me to Penang where we had another Polish and Danish girl join us. It’s ultimately a snowball effect, people know people and if you remain open and chatty there’s no reason why you can’t meet some great people.
One thing that is evident although not altogether surprising, is how I’ve met very few Indian travellers. I’ve met one other and she too is from London but bar her, I have met no few Indian guys/girls travelling. I met one guy from India whose studying in Singapore and another who works there but there seems to be very few of us on the road. Now of course, I’m not travelling so I can meet other lone, Indian travellers but it’s a shame that there are not more of us out there, no girls I kind of understand but no guys, surely they could go?
Given the lack of Indians, I’ve met many people (guys mainly) that think I’m exotic or interesting because of my cultural/ethnic background. Most people can tell I’m Indian but when I inform them that my mum is from Madagascar and my dad is from Tanzania, the look on their face – there’s eyes light up and the response – oh what a interesting mix! Now, I’m no mix, not really, as my parents are both Indian, but they just didn’t reside there – shocking as it may seem to some. I sometimes think it would simply be easier to say, yes I’m Indian and I’m from India.
I’ve met endless Germans along my trip, French, Danish, Polish, Italian, one Spanish, no Greek or Portuguese. I’ve also met a fair few Dutch and they have all been great. I arrived in Melaka and got talking to a Dutch girl, Josefian and ended up travelling with her for just over a week. I met her at the hostel I stayed at and whilst it wasn’t the best hostel, it was great for meeting people. I arrived, having spent 7 hours on a bus and spent the evening drinking and celebrating St Patrick’s Day! So random but great, things that you don’t think about happen and most of the time they turn out great
There is a certain attitude/vibe that you get when travelling from others. There is a level of understanding which just formularies with next to no effort. For instance, I tried snorkeling, took it very easy as I can’t swim and it didn’t take long before I had another girl help me in the water. She didn’t question why I couldn’t swim or how crazy I was for signing up to snorkel, rather she simply started to teach me how to swim. So, I was learning how to snorkel and swim at the same time! I didn’t know her, never met her before and may never meet her again but there she was, teaching me.
I’ve been lucky, I’ve met many people along my trip that have been both patient and kind. Not just fellow travellers but locals too or people that have moved from England/France/Germany to SEA. And these people, on the whole, are open to sharing tips or giving advice or simply listening to my ideas. There is a sense of togetherness even though, most of the time, we are strangers, the one thing that unites us all is being on the road. Now many of these people, I may never meet again but I’m thankful to have met them and that they are part of my journey.
I also have a new appreciation for backpackers, having had to carry my own for the last few months. I gave up my suitcase before I set off for Myanmar and no it’s not easy but I’m officially a backpacker and my poor back! Whilst back at home, I like many other Londoners, didn’t want a traveller to slow me down or come in my way, I realise just how difficult it is to move fast or move at all when you don’t know where you’re going. So, if anything, I will return home with a better understanding, more acceptance and patience for backpackers and hey I would even lend a hand.
Along side this, I’ve been keeping a list of things that I would like to attempt once at home. I’ve jotted down ideas such as giving things away more, stuff that I don’t use/need/want. Whilst, I’m great at listening, I’m a hoarder and so more often then not, I keep everything, regardless of whether or not I actually wear/use it. I would like to become more giving, it may not be easy but I’m going to try, I’ve met so many people along the way that have managed to give/share with me, a complete stranger that it got me thinking, I could and should do more. It’s better to give than receive, like they say.
This fits in with my bucket list, which is forever growing, I feel there are so many things that I wish to see/do/explore. It’s the case for most of though, I have some friends who want nothing more but to come to SEA whilst others want to go to the States. Some want to snow board whilst others want to work aboard. We all have these amazing, aspirations but we have to prioritise and work out what we really want. What do we really love? What are we really passionate about? And once we have that figured out, how do we make it happen?
For me, my trip has reinforced something I knew before I left which is people are key. People are central, we are social beings, we need people in our live, there is no two ways about it, whether it’s a partner, best friend, sibling, parent – someone and then we need others, ones who listen to us moan, ones who we get drunk with, how dull would our life be without these amazing people? For me, yes the experience is important but my trip would undoubtedly be very different if I hadn’t met the people I did. I don’t just want to experience something or see something amazing, I want to share the moment, I want to share the joy and have a laugh. Is that too much to ask for?