"A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving."
SHOE SHOPPING IN THAILAND - Just call me bigfoot!
You can't be a nearly six foot American woman traveling alone through Asia for five months and not come away without some stories to tell. Just try buying a pair of shoes in a size 10 anywhere in Asia. It can't be done. I was headed to Indonesia and badly needed a pair of sandals. On my layover in Bangkok, arriving from Kathmandu, I had an entire staff at a shoe store running around holding up every variety of goofy looking men's shoes for me to nod or shake my head at. I'm not joking. I had seven or eight clerks, all under five foot two, trying to find a pair of sandals large enough to fit me that weren't too god awful ugly. (Women's sizes rarely went past a size 7.) The staff actually clapped when I held up the winning pair of green and black Tevo like sandals.
When I was in Hanoi, I needed a second pair of jeans for my six day motorcycle trip through NE Vietnam. Women clothing sizes don't go past a 2 over there. So my quest for something that would fit landed me in a men's clothing store. The woman sales clerk, whose head didn't quite arrive mid way up my arm, only knew a couple of English words. One was "man" and the other "no-no". She lost her breath laughing at me while I tried on several pairs of men's jeans all the while shaking her hand from side to side saying, "No-no" trying to enlighten me by pointing out the jeans were for a man. I give her credit for containing her laughter to a mere giggle when it came time to ring me up. I was thrilled to find a pair that I could actually zip up and that went past my shin bone.
My rock climbing instructor in Chaing Mai
I have many more giant stories from my travels through Asia. But all the laughing (at me) aside, it was a dream come true kind of trip. Aside from the Everest Trek, I river rafted the Bhote Kosi near Tibet, worked with street kids in Kathmandu and delivered school supplies in Laos. I experienced three days at a monastery in Nepal and three days mahout elephant training in Thailand. A dream come true experience was the motorcycle trip through Vietnam. Zip lining in northern Laos was amazing. I camped out in tree houses looking for Gibbons for two days. I got my scuba certification in Thailand, where I rock climbed with a woman instructor, Khaetthaleeya Uppakham, who professionally competed for Thailand. (photo on left) I also went caving in Chiang Dau.
View of the Himmalays as I flew from Kathmandu to Lukla
One of the best things that happened while I was traveling through Asia, was conquering my fear of flying. I did a combined total of 22 take offs and landings. (I had someone interpret this as meaning I was a pilot. NO! I was merely a passenger. I used to have a crippling fear of flying. I tried pushing through it over the years and even took the controls of a 7-seater Cesna on my way to the Bahamas. But nothing helped. Just the sound of the engine gearing up for take off would shoot a ridiculous volume of adrenaline through my body. (Instead of flying, I took the QE-2 out of NY to London when I solo backpacked through Europe the year I turned 40.)
I'm not sure how I actually beat my fear. I just know that I was tired of letting fear affect my life. I guess the desire to travel outweighed the fear of flying. It actually became an empowering feeling to get in a plane and take off where once it was utterly paralyzing. I don't let fear into my life anymore. If I recognize that I'm afraid it's my signal to stop and face it. I feel it, explore it, learn about it and then figure out how to push through it. Life's too short and too challenging as it is. If you let fear run your life, you're letting it ruin it. Any choice made that is fear based will have a compromised outcome.
From Luka we trekked to the basecamp of Mt. Everest
Through the support of donations from family and friends, this trek to Mt. Everest base camp raised money for Nepali orphanages run by Volunteer Services Nepal (VSN). For further details on the day to day news in Nepal you can log on to: http://www.nepalnews.com.np
" If you think something small can't make a difference,
try going to bed with a mosquito in the room! "
This is one of the adorable orphans in Nepal. If you're interested in information about volunteering at orphanages in Nepal, email me and I'll share my experiences with you. It's hard to know which organizations are reputable. Volunteer Services Nepal was wonderful. I'll do what I can to steer you in the right direction.
It's been six years since I was in Asia. I have not traveled overseas since the spring of 2007. I simply don't have the funds. I hope that changes in the near future because traveling offers some of the most amazing experiences on the planet. There is much I have yet to see and do. Meanwhile, I have so many interests that keep me fed. I don't have enough time in the day to do all that I love.