Today is the day! I will be leaving tonight on a one-way flight to Thailand and I have no idea when I’m coming back. This is one of the most exciting things I have ever done, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little scared. Traveling alone is an empowering, freeing, terrifying, and invigorating experience, and I can’t wait to explore a new part of the world solo for these next few months.
I wanted to share my loose itinerary, a few pre-trip thoughts and goals, and a packing list in case you are ever thinking of backpacking in Southeast Asia. Thank you to my wonderful support system of family and friends who don’t think I’m crazy for purposely staying unemployed and packing my life into a backpack :).
- 5/21: Redeye flight to Chiang Mai
- 5/23-5/28: Chiang Mai, Thailand (accompanied by my friend, Lauren, for the first two weeks)
- 5/28-5/30: Bangkok, Thailand
- 5/30-6/1: Phuket, Thailand
- 6/1-6/3: Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
- 6/3-6/4: Krabi, Thailand (Lauren leaves 6/4)
- 6/4-6/7: I will most likely stay in Krabi
- 6/7-6/16: Contiki island hopper trip to Koh Samui, Koh Tao, and Koh Phangan (ending on my 25th birthday!)
- 6/17-?: I have no solid plans after this date, but I plan to travel throughout Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore, and Bali. I have several friends who will be in the area who I will try to meet up with, but I’m sure I’ll meet plenty of people along the way :). If you have any recommendations for can’t-miss spots, accommodation, or if you’d like to meet up, please let me know!
As you can imagine, packing for a long-term trip in one backpack is challenging, but luckily, living out of a suitcase for the past two years has taught me that you can survive on much less than you’d think. I’m sure I’m forgetting plenty of things, but here is a list of what I am bringing broken up into categories:
- After extensive research, I bought the REI Women’s Grand Tour 80 backpack, which comes with a removable day pack and has tons of storage compartments. I am super happy with my purchase and would definitely recommend this backpack to others! I could go on and on about the features of this pack, so let me know if you are thinking of buying one :). Depending on the airline (probably not for budget airlines in Asia), I should be able to carry this on the plane when I remove the day pack, which is amazing for how much it holds! I tested it out on my recent flight to Austin, and it easily fit in the overhead compartment on JetBlue. Woohoo!
- 3 pairs of shorts
- 6 shirts (loose-fitting, non-wrinkle, and lightweight material)
- 3 casual dresses
- 1 pair of leggings
- 1 sweater
- 1 hoodie
- 1 scarf
- 2 regular bras, 1 sports bra, 1 bralette
- 4 bathing suits
- 2 weeks worth of underwear
- 3 pairs of socks
- 1 hat
- 1 headband
- Chacos sandals (waterproof, comfortable, versatile, strappy, bought them at REI here)
- Clark’s Tennis shoes (These were the BEST in Europe, good for walking/hiking and they are lightweight)
- Cute, strappy sandals
- Cheap flip flops
- Razor with extra blade
- Shampoo bar (from Lush, good for 80 washes and it’s amazing!)
- Travel size conditioner and body wash
- Travel size dry shampoo (because let’s be real, I might go a few days without a shower…)
- Travel size lotion and sunscreen
- Face moisturizer with sunscreen
- Lip balm with sunscreen
- Bug spray, wipes, lotion, and insect repellent bracelets (yes, I get eaten alive by mosquitos)
- Anti-itch cream and antihistamine pills
- Microfiber towel (folds up to the size of a sock and is super lightweight, this is the one I bought on Amazon)
- Wet wipes (for when things get gross)
- Contacts with 3 travel size bottles of solution
- Glasses and sunglasses
- Laundry detergent strips (Thanks, grandma! You can buy them here)
- Hand sanitizer
- Tampons (not widely accessible in SEA)
- Travel size Febreeze spray (for when clothes get nasty)
- Small mirror (for hostels)
- Travel size toilet paper (I hope I don’t have to use this…)
- Small scissors (these always come in super handy)
- Ibuprofen, Imodium, Tums, anti-jet lag pills (thanks, grandma!)
- Minimal makeup
- Hair ties
- Phone with extra charger
- Lifeproof waterproof phone case
- GoPro with accessory kit (yes, I will be THAT person)
- Microsoft Surface Tablet with keyboard
- Portable waterproof speakers
- Portable charger
- 2 sets of headphones
- Power strip (for when I need to use more than one plug)
- Old flip phone (I will buy a SIM card there for emergency calls)
- Copies of ID/passport/credit cards/medical card (with me and copies at home)
- Travel insurance (this is ABSOLUTELY necessary for long-term trips!)
- Multiple bank accounts (in case one card gets stolen/lost, I don’t want to be in a bind without a way to access money)
- Two debit cards (B of A and Charles Schwab, which reimburses me for all ATM fees)
- Two credit cards (no international transaction fees, extra points for travel)
- Physical copies of itinerary/flights/hotel bookings
- Health Care Directive from Kaiser (in case something goes wrong, it is a verified document with my medical wishes and who to contact in case of emergency)
- Cash in U.S. dollars stashed away in case of emergency
- Eye mask
- Inflatable pillow (thanks, grandma!)
- Ear plugs
- Tons of Ziploc bags (super handy for everything from wet or dirty clothes/bathing suits to organizing liquids and other small items)
- 3 small locks
- Travel blanket (folds up small, for cold flights)
- Reusable fork (food on the go doesn’t always come with silverware)
- Small bag for shopping or the beach
- Reusable water bottle (I bought this one on Amazon, which rolls up very small when not full)
Planning on buying there:
- Cheap poncho for rain
- Loose elephant pants
- Beach towel
- Lots of souvenirs!
It still hasn’t quite hit me that after months of planning and excitement, I am actually leaving! This will be my first long-term solo trip (other than work travels) and I’m sure it will change my life in more ways than I can imagine. I realize how truly lucky I am to be able to embark on a trip like this, and I never want to take that for granted. Yes, I have worked hard to fund it completely on my own, and have sacrificed having a place to call home for the past two years to travel full time, but not everyone who wants to travel has that ability. I hear too many people say things like “Anyone can travel if they want to!”, but there are many factors than come into play that someone from a privileged background may not think about. Maybe it’s socioeconomic status, disability, family obligations, passport restrictions, student loans or debt, or plenty of other reasons, but being able to see the world and having this kind of freedom is not something I take lightly. In the grand scheme of things, I have not yet had to face true hardship in my life and have been incredibly lucky to have access to education, support from my family, talented and connected friends, and of course, technology.
In addition to being thankful for this opportunity of a lifetime, I also want to make sure I make the most of my trip and accomplish the goals I have set for myself. To hold myself accountable, I will list a few of them here:
- Mindfulness: I want to work on being completely present in the moment, wherever I am, and appreciating the little details we often ignore in our day-to-day lives. I would also like to slow down my pace of life and way of thinking, so I am focusing only on one thing at a time, since I am so used to always multi-tasking.
- Connections: I know I will meet a ton of people on this trip, and I want to make sure I stay in touch with those I build friendships with. I want to learn at least one new thing from each person I meet and hopefully teach them something, too!
- Appreciate alone time: Though I will be with Lauren for the first two weeks and with my Contiki group for 9 days after that, I would like to appreciate the time I will have alone on this trip. Knowing myself, I will spend most of my time hanging out with new friends I meet, but I also want to take intentional time out each day to do something on my own.
- Try new things: A big reason I love to travel is to push myself out of my comfort zone. A few things I have in mind are: getting Scuba certified, swimming with whale sharks in Cebu, getting close to elephants (animals freak me out), trying exotic foods (specifically, scorpions and other insects), staying in a bungalow, and renting a motorbike.
- Make a video: When I get back, I’d like to compile my photos and video footage from my GoPro into a video to document my trip!
Can you think of anything else I should do?! Let me know!
I hope this blog inspires and impacts at least one person and is not interpreted as elitist or “braggy”, as that is not the intention. I am happy to connect while I’m on this trip or after if you’d like any advice or want to hear more about my experiences! Please let me know if you have any feedback or ideas for documenting my trip and future travels on this site, as I am still trying to find its true identity. Thank you for reading! Wish me luck :).