From Strangers to Friends

The beauty of traveling solo is meeting people along the way anywhere you go. Yesterday marked the end of my first week of traveling and I don’t think I’ve felt one iota of loneliness on this trip. I was surprised by the friendliness of the people in Thailand, both the locals and the tourists from all around the world. I was impressed by everyone’s travel experience and their openness to accept different cultures and opinions. I enjoyed all the conversations I’ve had with others talking about lifestyle choices, politics, religions, photography, and even work/accounting (I was actually quite surprised by the number of people I’ve met who are ex-consultants at Big 4 or will be).

In every conversation I’ve had I tried to take it all in and absorb as much knowledge as possible. I cherish these conversations and all the memories I’ve made and I don’t want to lose them in the future. Therefore, I decided to write about the strangers I’ve met who have now turned into friends. After all, what would be a better way to remember than writing stories about people? What would be a better way to learn from others than recollecting the best traits about these individuals from their stories?

It Began at the Street Stall – Meet Keigo

Keigo and I met on my last night in Bangkok at a table next to some street food stalls.  Meeting Keigo was quite a surprise to me because my original idea that night was to get some food quickly before heading back to my hostel early to pack for my flight the next day.   Once I ordered my food I saw there was one seat opened at the table right across from an Asian guy with a pony tail in oriental hippie yet simple clothing.  I went to that table and asked if I could share the same table with him. He accepted and it was then when we started chatting as we ate together. We started the conversation with some basic background questions. I’ve learned that Keigo is from the south part of Japan and he usually travels for half a year and then goes back to Japan for the other half of the year to take care of his farming business. What impressed me about him was his creativity in making travel possible.  According to Keigo, farming is a very profitable business in Japan and it doesn’t require him to attend to the farm all year.  When he works, he works hard to earn money for traveling. When he travels, he goes buy some unique jelwery around the world and sell them back home tripling the selling price to make money.  He’s been to so many countries and he’s already planning a trip to the US in August to attend the Solar Eclipse festival in Oregon.  I was completely mind blown by this guy and was so amazed by how he makes travel sound so easy.  His chill attitude to see travel as a lifestyle rather than a one time adventure is also quite refreshing.  To those who think traveling is hard, Keigo would be a great role model and inspiration.

Keigo and Me Trying Some Thai Style Wine on Khao San Rd

Does Age Really Matter? 

One misconception about traveling a lot of people have is that traveling is only for young, solo, and free sipirited people.  Personally I don’t agree with that.  Travel is always possible if you have made up your mind to do it, regardless of age.  During my stay in Chiangmai, I’ve met this lady from Belgium who has been traveling for the last 20 or 30 years of her life.  She stands out to me of all the people I’ve met because she did not let life stop her from traveling and she continues to believe in the beauty of solo traveling. We talked about the cultures of different countries she’s been to, fashion and even politics. It was so fascinating to learn from someone who is truly an experienced traveler. She travels so freely, strolls around the market in the early mornings to get coffee or breakfast, and reads in the local coffee shops whenever she likes.  Compared to the younger people I’ve met who come to Thailand for the parties and the night life, to me this lady is the true definition of traveling for the culture and the arts. In the future I hope I can be like her and travel as freely as I wish regardless of how old I am.

There’re still so many more people who I’ve met that I found so interesting.  I’ve met Cristal from New York when hiking at the Doi Inthanin national park and have learned so much about photography from her. She has also become my amazing photographer for the day. I’ve met Clemens at the Elephant Santuary who is a physicist from Germany with vast amount of knowledge in different areas including US  and French politics.  I’ve met a family from Poland with two little girls that I really liked. Both the wife and the husband used to work for one of the Big 4 accounting firms and we clicked immediately talking about internal controls, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and business process risks (sounds really nerdy but I really enjoyed the conversation!). I’ve also met another random guy on the street who had dinner with me. He liked judging people and tried to decipher my beliefs, which I found slightly uncomfortable but tried my best to be open minded about it.  It’s only been one week so far and I’ve already learned so much from others.  I can’t wait to see who I’ll be meeting in the next 10 weeks.

Crystal My Photography Teacher

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