Three days–that’s all I had during my first trip to Asia.
I was set to take off just a few days after spending 3 weeks traveling to Sri Lanka, the States and the Bahamas and I was dead broke. A few months earlier, I found out that I had won a free flight to Bangkok from my bank here in the United Arab Emirates and was determined to make the trip happen–even if it meant traveling to Asia with only $300 to my name. This trip would also be my first experience Couchsurfing AND on the Asian continent, so I was excited and nervous all at the same time.
One of the first things that I always do when I travel alone is purchase a sim card so that I can stay connected with family & friends. I arrived to Bangkok, bought my sim, added some minutes & a data plan and headed to the house where I was going to be staying for the next few days. Bangkok was everything that I thought a stereotypical big Southeast Asian city would be–sprawling with skyscrapers, intricate metro rail lines, crowded, dirty and lively with millions of things happening all around me at the same time. It was a complete sensory overload but I must admit–I loved the energy.
Couchsurfing is a popular way to travel. You stay in the homes of locals or expats in cities around the world–for free. I met my host Amy through a friend of a friend who had Couchsurfed in Bangkok a year earlier. Before my trip, I had Skyped with Amy and her roommates to get things situated for my stay at their house. On the first night, I made it to Amy’s house and enjoyed some welcome drinks and conversation with her roommates about Bangkok, living abroad and traveling. Each of them had come from various parts of the world (Europe, Australia and the US) to intern in Bangkok for different businesses and NGO’s and they were renting a 3-bedroom apartment in the Sukhumvit area. That night, as I lay down to sleep on the couch, I remember thinking about how crazy it was to be in a complete stranger’s house in a foreign country. One of the things that always blows me away about most travelers and expats that I meet abroad is how amazingly open and welcoming they are to meeting new people.
Early in the morning on my first full day, I borrowed a map and an old Lonely Planet guide from one of Amy’s roommates and hit the city. For a girl with less than $300 in her pocket, I couldn’t believe how much I was able to do and see. I spent the next three days traveling around in tuk-tuks exploring temples, hoping on and off of the Bangkok Transit System (BTS), visiting wats, shopping, meeting up with more friends of friends, gorging on street food and partying with fellow travelers on the infamous Khaosan Road. By the end of the trip, I was exhausted. I enjoyed every minute of it and even boasted mosquito bites as battle wounds.
I loved my 3-day cheap trip to Bangkok so much that I considered moving there after leaving the UAE. Even though sleeping in a bed trumps sleeping on anyone’s couch, I would definitely Couchsurf again simply because of the amazing experience I had at Amy’s. I plan to go back to Bangkok one day–expanding my trip to include more areas of Thailand, like Phuket.
Three days- that’s all I needed to get hooked on the party capital of Asia.
"I don't want to travel alone."
I get it. A lot of people don't think they can travel overseas alone, overlooking the fact that being interested in travel itself is a step in the right direction. I know traveling alone sounds scary and uncomfortable, but if I can travel alone, anyone can! Nowadays, you can find an amazing travel partner as easily as you can plan your vacation!
First, think about why you are choosing a particular destination. Are you looking to go on a relaxing vacation in Thailand, an adventurous journey in Costa Rica or experience spiritual enlightenment in India? Think about your itinerary. Are you looking for something simple, all inclusive or extremely planned out? How do you want to travel? Backpacker Brigade, Budget Bunny, or Fabulous and Fierce? This will help you narrow down your selection for the type of person you'd like to travel with.
There are tons of websites that exist to connect travelers, but my favorites are Couchsurfing and Travbuddy. I've met lifelong friends through these sites and best of all–it was super easy to get started! Simply set up an account and get to browsing around. You can chat with people who are going to the same destinations with a similar budget as you or find a person willing to split costs on accomodations, etc. On the Couchsurfing platform, you can request a free place to stay and if you're lucky, you'll end up staying with a host that can show you around. With all of this said, make sure you give yourself enough time to chat with and get to know the individuals on these sites. If they're local, grab a bite to eat and if they are international, check out their social digs (facebook, twitter, etc). The point is to get to know them before your trip. This is one of the most important steps.
Once you've met your near perfect travel buddy, start making plans and booking accommodations. You'll always run the risk of a canceled flight or last minute change in plans, so always have a backup plan. For example, making sure you are able to pay for a room by yourself if you'd originally arranged to split accommodations.
I finally arrived at the Manchester, New Hampshire airport around nine at night. We fly in there because it takes less time to get to my grandparents house in a Boston suburb from Manchester than it does from the Boston airport. Traffic and all that.
We were supposed to get there at five, but there was so much snow in Manchester that we had to divert to Boston, wait for the snow to pass, and then return to Manchester.
I actually like the delay, though. I love everything about traveling, including being stuck on a plane doing nothing. There's something very pleasant about being totally isolated from the rest of the world.