From Toronto to Asia
At a very young age, I was fortunate enough to travel to places around the world with my family. Because my dad used to travel a lot for work, we were able to join him on family vacations for as long as I can remember. The first time being immersed into other cultures, was quite an eye-opening experience. I remember being so curious getting to know the locals, trying all the different cuisines, attempting to communicate with others, struggling to speak different languages (still learning…_), it was all something so new to me. Nonetheless, I loved it; I loved it more than anything I could remember. The unfamiliar in a sense, never seemed so attractive than ever before. From then on, I would spend every second researching and planning my next trip abroad. For anyone whose travelled anywhere, whether or not it was on the opposite side of the world, or a small road trip up north, you could probably understand when I say that ‘once you’ve been bit by the travel bug, it’s hard to go back’.
Growing up just north of downtown Toronto, it’s quite easy to get stuck into the stringent ‘social norms’ of those around you. I had just graduated highschool and was still deciding what I “wanted to do with my life”, for lack of a better term. While everyone was applying to post secondary school, or entering the workforce, I felt a ‘void’ in a sense, a deep urgency to go on an adventure. Going to university and studying something I’m truly passionate about was something I strived to complete at some point in my life, but when I was 18 years old, I just wasn’t ready to do that yet. So, like many other people, I decided to take a year off. There I was, 18 years old working part-time to save all the money I could, while spending my free time at the local book store reading as many travel guides, blogs and lonely planets as I possibly could. You could imagine how much backlash my parents received, when our family friends found out they were letting their 18 year old daughter travel around Asia by themselves. “’Do you know how dangerous that is?’ ‘How is she going alone?’ ‘Aren’t you frightened something’s going to happen to her?’ Keep in mind, I had done my research for a significant period of time, and I had planned the countries I had wanted to visit before hand, the local customs, laws and regulations, travel scams and more. But in today’s society, anything can happen anywhere, even in Toronto. I believe if you’re smart and use your common sense in an unfamiliar setting, you can experience new things, in a positive way. I actually felt incredibly safe traveling around Southeast Asia, and never felt scared for more than a moment’s time. Eight months later, there I was on my way to Bangkok, Thailand to travel around as much of Southeast Asia as I could for half a year.
*Easy to spot the Canadian eh? This was my smaller
backpack, my other one was 45L in size.
My first trip was a success! I had met hundreds of people from all over the world, and instantly fell in love with Southeast Asia (SEA). I traveled to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar (formally Burma). The people were friendly, the food was delicious, my meals were cheap, the cultures were beautiful, and the capital cities were vibrant. My first solo backpacking trip was more than I could have ever dreamed of!
Here’s a few snapshots of my journey!
* Some of the Art my Thai teacher taught me to draw. We met at the temple weekly, what an experience.
*Authentic Vietnamese Pho from a Hawker Stall on the street, apx $1-3 dollars.Fun fact: Pho is actually pronounced (F-AA}
*5 am sunrise over Angkor Wat, Cambodia
*Temples at Angkor Wat
*Private ‘Monkey Beach’ in Halong Bay Vietnam
*Chiang Mai night market (north of Thailand).Dimsum, dumplings, sticky rice, what more could you want?
*Little munchkins I met at their village in Cambodia
*Chiang Mai Thai cooking class. We made curries, friend bananas, mango sticky rice (my fave), pad thai and more!
*Hard at work?
*Local market in Hoi An, Vietnam
Fast-forward 3 years, and now I’m currently in my fourth year of the Nutrition and Food program at Ryerson. While I love my majoring in Nutrition, and I accept the hard work and challenges as ‘part of the process’, travel has always remained a big part of my life. So just this past summer I decided it was time to head back to SEA for the second time, and experience some of the countries I had to skip the first time around. This time I visited some more of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
*Mangosteen. So. Much. Mangosteen.
*Food market in Thailand (lots of tofu!)
*Should be a Blue Jays hat…
*Life of Pai, Thailand
Once again Asia was a success, and I’m already planning my next trip back. My advice to those who crave an adventure would be to try backpacking solo at some point in your life. It’s a wonderful experience, and unlike anything else. You have the freedom to do whatever your heart desires, literally. When your ‘alone’ so to say, you have unlimited choices as to what you do and don’t want to see. If you like a place you can stay, if you don’t, you can leave. If you want to go to a country that wasn’t initially on your list, you can book a flight there tomorrow if you want (cheap domestic flights in Asia!). You can also work at hostels along the way, in reward for food and lodge. You meet hundreds of people from all over the world, and create a bond with your new travel friends that last a lifetime. I believe everyone should travel as much as they can when they’re young and able. The world is such a big place and there’s so much to see outside of Toronto!
If anyone reading this has any questions or would like to see more travel pictures of Southeast Asia, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com or follow me on instagram @alexis.silver94
Happy travels and a successful school year ahead!