About Me

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I finally made it to the adventure of a lifetime and now I'm a citizen of the World. Indy author, blogger, in love with being an author - Mom of two grown children and widow of the most wonderful man to ever live - Devon "Pete" Hall.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Confessions of a Stranger in Strange Lands

Bangkok Airport
Often travel blogs or articles talk only about the beautiful and wondrous aspects of a new experience in a fresh location. I think, in doing so, they do a disservice to the traveler, especially the long-term wanderer, like myself. Here’s why.

Even two weeks away from home, or the familiar, can be a stressor on almost anyone. Stack unrealistic expectations on top of that and the vacationer can find themselves with disappointing memories.  The few weeks of vacation time Americans earn each year (a consistent topic of conversation among the people I’ve met in my travels) adds even more pressure to enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!

The truth is that even the best planned and financed trips will have moments, maybe days, that aren’t fun. Acknowledging that up front and being honest about reporting travel experiences in media can make a difference. A big one. 

Attitude is everything in travel. If you expect everything and everyone to meet your normal standards, you’re lost before you begin. Travel is all about seeing and experiencing novel things. Additionally, you have to try something to find out if you like it or not. You may think you won’t like something and completely surprise yourself by falling a little in love with it.

Temple at Doi Suthep
But, I put confessions in the title for a reason, so here goes. Let me preface the following with this very important statement; I have had the best adventure of my life over the past four months.I quickly developed an anxiety problem. It started in the Bangkok airport, when I really thought I might be having a heart attack, but instead the tightness in the chest, etc., was due to being extremely anxious. Although, I had the same reaction the next time I was in a strange airport, I didn’t truly figure it out until I began having these attacks when trying to walk the crazy streets of Cambodia.

Now that I know what types of things bring them on, I am able to control it with deep breathing and recognizing in advance what might trigger them. Strange airports don’t bother me anymore. At the heart of it, not knowing where I’m going or what I’m doing is the cause – a bit of a problem when traveling. Now, I just laugh at myself. It helps. And I’m sure as hell not going to let a little thing like this stop me.

In the United States, we generally don’t realize how often our expectations are met. You sit down and order coffee and it comes almost instantly, with regular refills. There is sugar and cream on the table. You don’t have to ask for a napkin. Coffee is not a given in SE Asia, and refills are unheard of. You have to get over it.

In the U.S., you drive down the highway, without a map, because you know that there will be signs to where you want to go. In other parts of the world, street signs are rare and directional signs even more rare, and if you do run into one it’s in another language. Knowing where you are is a matter of maps and questions and guessing. There are many, many other ways that your ability to adapt will be challenged if you choose to journey without a tour guide.  That’s the reality of traveling. Embracing that things will be unfamiliar and challenging is how you enjoy it.

Although, I’ve loved my trip – really loved it – there are times that I’m tired of it, times I’d like nothing more than to pack up and go home…for a couple of weeks. And then the wanderlust would get the better of me and I’d be ready to hit the road again. So I hunker down and wait for it to pass. Usually, it takes a wonderful conversation with someone or finding a really great, cheap hotel or a moment in a tourist spot that moves beyond the postcards; like the peace that came over me in Doi Suthep, a huge temple outside Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The best curry I've had - in the Phillipines!
Eating out has been a challenge for me, mainly because I don’t like seafood and in SE Asia, it’s all about the seafood. I’ve tried a bunch of different dishes, street food (but not from the carts – can’t bring myself to do it) to curries at nice little cafes. I’m about 50-50 on my thumbs up and down. When I’ve had enough bad experiences, I resort to Western style food and 7-11 sandwiches for a day or two. Today, I had some of the best pizza ever (in Thailand) and I didn’t feel a bit guilty about it!

My purpose for wandering the world is to ultimately find a place I want to retire to overseas, so my style is much different than the person who is on a three-week vacation. By virtue of their limited time, the vacationer can’t afford to waste a day or two recovering from a day on an airplane. I can and do take the time to recuperate. I’ve also realized I don’t need to see everything there is to see. Now, I carefully choose what I want to see and do in each town. Often, I spend time strolling around a mall because it tells me a lot about the people and lifestyle of the area. I’m happiest when I can take a walk and find some little hidden gem, like a wonderful park or shop.

So, that’s the truth of the matter; I’m not always thrilled with what I see or where I’m staying. Patong Beach, Thailand, is a good example of the wrong place for me. I spent a couple of days on the beach, but I knew almost instantly it wasn’t my speed; too much of a party town and too touristy. I’m not planning on doing a post on Patong because I holed up in my room most of the time. But I’ve packed my bags and moved on to Chumphon, Thailand, where I’m very comfortable, happy and relaxed. I walked to the train station today, checked out the local mall and I had wonderful pizza. 

And that’s enough.


  1. I love Love LOVE this post!!! My heart is so full of my own memories of travels when I read your blog. I could almost burst right now! Keep up this wonderful life and telling people about it, I hope it inspires others the way it does me.

    1. Thanks so much, Danielle. I'm happy people are liking the blog and do hope it helps someone make the leap!