While I enjoy the freedom and excitement of traveling independently and without a guide book, sometimes you need context to appreciate ancient buildings and sites. And even with context, you still need to use your imagination to make that critical connection to history.
I’ve heard Thailand described as “International Travel 101″ because it’s a country where one can easily travel by bus or train, many people speak English, it’s inexpensive, and it’s relatively safe for a single female adventurer. More importantly, it’s so far removed from anything that one could experience in the Midwest. I was a novice traveler who wanted a taste of the exotic, but with a safety-net. This was Thailand.
There’s no class or guidebook that can prepare you for your first adventure in a strange land, and each day was another dose of culture shock. I’d been lured out of my safe Kansas suburb by the “learn Chinese in China” promise, and my safe if quirky hobby had suddenly become a full-blown pilgrimage.
Six minutes. That’s how long we had to change trains at an unfamiliar station, in a country where we didn’t speak the language. If we missed the connection, we were screwed. There was no other way to reach our destination. Not only that, but our train was running late.
The three basic principles are: 1) eliminate any “what if” stuff (you can always buy extra toothpaste etc.), 2) wash your clothes often, if not every day, and 3) be prepared to spend on light, durable, high quality gear. Minimalism, ironically, is not a budget philosophy. Here’s what I packed on two recent trips.