So right now I pretty much feel like the biggest idiot in the world. In January I left for a "4 month trip through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam"... and it turned into a month trip in Thailand.
While I was there I found I wasn't making any friends at all, that most of the travelers were couples or much much older, which for a not so socially outgoing person made me feel pretty isolated and a bit lonely. I also felt like Thailand wasn't quite what I was expecting, I suppose I was hoping it would be this magical place that would make me feel totally amazing, which in reality that place doesn't exist. I also got extremely sick for about a week which had me begging to be home. I guess in general I was just disappointed and felt like there was no point to me travelling, and I kept falling into situations that made me become increasingly pessimistic. Against pretty much everyone's advice, I flew home early - thankfully at no extra cost - and I am now back in my hometown.
Now that I'm back... I feel so dumb for leaving. My hometown is cold and extremely boring. There is pretty much nothing to do here, and I'm not exaggerating. In September I'm off to university, but that's about 5 months from now. The thought of working for 5 months before going off to uni for 4 years is horrifying to me right now. So even though I've not even been home for a full week, my mind keeps wandering to the idea of shelling out another ~$1300 for a round-trip flight to Bangkok.
Now, I'm pretty sure that after paying for a flight I would have enough money to stay in SEA for about 1.5-2 months before running out of money. But I feel like a total idiot for wasting $1000+ on a flight I wouldn't need if I just stayed there in the first place. And that money could come in handy for paying for uni... except I was originally planning on spending it all anyway so.. now I'm just confused. I feel like I want to go back as I didn't see the south of Thailand at all, and I think it would be good to make a visit to Cambodia or Vietnam - but while looking up those places I don't feel particularly drawn to them. I mean, anything is better than home, but I feel like I should be doing something more exciting. While I was in Thailand I basically just visited Bangkok, Sukhothai, Chiang Mai, and Soppong . At the time I felt like I was wasting my money, particularly in Soppong which was where I was sick and I spent a full 7 days there mostly just reading and recovering.
So while I'm not completely drawn to any place in the region, even just chilling out reading a book in the warm sun seems so much better than it is here, and by the time I get back I will still have a few months to generate some funds for uni, which was my original plan, but I'm so torn between staying here and not wasting money, and going back and finishing what I set out to do in the first place. If I followed my heart, I would go back on the first flight.. but my mind is telling me I'm a fool to waste the money on another flight and to just accept my failure.
I'm not even sure what I hope to get as response. I think I just needed to write it out, but if any of you have any ideas.. perhaps relatable experience, feel free to comment.
#1 Toxifer has been a member since 10/5/2011. Posts: 12
If I were you I would just go back. Forget what has gone before it, you are where you are now and can't change that. If you don't go back you may regret it.
Before you go back I would find two countries that you really like the sound of, then relax and spend a month in each one. That way you will save money compared to the traveller who is spending 10 days in each country and flying about from place to place. Don't expect to be blown away by architecture, etc in SE Asia. Your best memories will and should be reading a book on a hammock at susnet while drinking the local beer/coffee.
I can hazard a guess that you may be someone who likes OTBP places given that you didn't particularly enjoy Thailand. Then maybe look up Laos, the Phillipines or Burma/Myanmar. Just a thought, I could be way off the mark given that I don't know you at all.
Best of luck whatever you decide. If you do decide to go back, perhaps if you tell us what your specific interests are then people can best advise you where to spend your time.
#2 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 738
First off I know how you feel, although it happened differently for me. The first time I went to Thailand I was with Thai friends from the States and I had the time of my life for ten days. But the second time I went alone and was expecting it to be the same magical experience that would make my otherwise rather lonely and confused life worth while.
When I set out on that trip I had planned to stay for 4-6 months, but I spent the first month trying to make friends and ending up feeling like a failure and just totally directionless and isolated in life (I'm a reserved person by nature as well). Then, like you, I got more sick than I've ever been. Those four days alone and sick beyond description in a crappy Din Daeng serviced apartment were incredibly difficult, one of the hardest few days I've ever gone through. And that was really because not only was my body sick but my mind was filled with negativity, sadness, confusion, etc.
I did manage to pull it together a little bit after getting better... I went to Angkor Wat in Cambodia on a whim and had a great time there, met some good people - both foreign travelers and Cambodians - and it ended up giving me some hope and at least making me feel like the whole trip wasn't a waste. But in the end I did go home early after just about 2 months, also to my freezing cold home town, and when I got home I did regret it. So I know how you feel... It was like, at the time I called the airline to change the ticket I was dying to be home, but once I was home it was like, "...and I thought this would be better?" It was depressing to say the least.
Actually it wasn't so much that I regretted leaving Thailand... It was more like the whole experience was a big wake up call that I needed to work some things out for myself... Things that no travel destination, job, girlfriend or anything else could have fixed for me. That was when I learned that no matter how amazing a place is, I can never expect that being "somewhere else" will make me feel okay inside. Wherever I go, there I am, and if I'm not happy on a normal day in my boring, cold home town, there's no reason to believe I'll be happy - truly happy deep down anyway - in Thailand or anywhere else. As they say, "the grass is always greener..."
So my advice is to go back if you want to go back. Whether or not you enjoy it or hate it is all in your mind. Don't blame it on anything else. Thailand is an amazing place. I live here now, and it still inspires me in a new way just about everyday. If you were feeling pessimistic, disappointed, and like there's no point to you traveling, you should know that that was all a creation of your mind. Disappointing things happen to everyone who travels but if you take the bad things and let them define your whole trip, you're just torturing yourself, and ultimately that's your choice. If you allow yourself to succumb to that kind of thinking on a holiday in Thailand, how do you think it's going to be for you at school or anywhere else in life?
After I came back from that Thailand trip back in '07, I was pretty much a broken person. But I had to go through that in order to get better. For me, I needed to change a lot of things... It was the beginning of me getting into Buddhism, meditation, and spirituality in general, it was the beginning of me quitting drinking. It was the beginning of me trying to figure out what exactly happiness is, and how to go about realizing it. It was the beginning of me taking responsibility for my own happiness, and the beginning of working towards being happy anywhere, no matter what surrounds me in a given moment.
I wrote a short story some months back on what I just described. It might give you some food for thought. Check it out here if you want.
Best of luck,
Thank you both for your insight. There never seems to be easy decisions to be made :p
I feel like I should go back. Like I was a quitter coming home early, and that I need to go back to finish what I started. And looking back I do feel like you're right chinarocks. The best memories I have from Thailand are from when I was in Soppong. Even though I was sick, it was just such a serene and calm place. Hardly any tourists, but the landscape and the locals just make you reflect and just foster a positive feeling, even though I was quite negative about my travel plans. And I feel that now that I've been there I'll know what to expect and won't be put down by being disappointed that it doesnt match expectations.
And DLuek I felt the same way. I was almost relieved to know that I would be home in just a week or so when I changed my flight.. but now that I'm back I feel so foolish for thinking that this is what I wanted. I do think I have things to work on. The thought of working for 6 months before 4 years of uni shouldn't be as terrifying as it is, so I know there's that. But maybe the second time around I can turn things around and be more positive. Perhaps it will be easier to start working on that while I'm away from my familiar environments that fostered that feeling in the first place.
And reading your story made me feel even sillier, haha. I met two wise older men in Soppong. When I mentioned to them I was considering going home early they told me not to. That my outlook on the trip was entirely in my head, just like you said. And I should have listened to them, heh.
I suppose I wouldn't feel any shame in going back. It is true that what's done is done and I can't go back and change it, so there's no point in dwelling on it. I made my decisions for a reason, I was just too blinded by negativity to realize I was making those decisions for the wrong reason. I may as well go back and prove to myself that I can do it. The only thing keeping me back now that I have to think on is the financial aspect. Seeing as how uni isn't so cheap, I could use the money. Obviously in the long run ~$4000 is nothing, but I keep thinking of how that would pay for a laptop and more. Considering my family can't really help me out for school or supplies I have a bit of an attachment to the idea of having enough to pay for my supplies with the money I have now... but of course I will still be back early enough to work for a few months which will be enough for all my supplies. So confusing, haha. I'll probably have to consult my mentor here - she always has good, straightforward advice.
#4 Toxifer has been a member since 10/5/2011. Posts: 12
Sorry, but i had a good laugh on your first sentences. I know this feeling so well. You come to a city and everybody is there as a couple or with friends and you are...well...alone. Good that i somehow like this feeling, being a bit capsuled of the world.
Anyway, if you didn't like Thailand, because it was not social enough, i'm not sure if you would like Laos too much. Especially not Luang Prabang or Vientiane, which i found totally unsocial and really catering for groups or couples, not for solo travellers. Maybe you should go to the less touristy provinces, because the "upper class/older tourist" clientiele will go there, but it can also make you feel depressed, because it's not really magical, but more like a reality grounding (btw: Soppong looks like rural Laos, so beware).
Same for Cambodia, nothing to magical about this country. Well, for me it was like "Disneyland gone bad" as soon as i was out of Siem Reap and i must say, i loved it, but it is certainly not magical (especially not Angkor Wat, with its myriads of tourists).
P.S.: I didn't like Southern Thailand to much. I found the beaches crowded, dirty and well, the people really not half as nice, as in Northern Thailand. But i enjoyed riding my scooter around the island.
If you want an advice: If you didn't like SEA to much, don't go back. There are other places in the world, which might fit your interests better.
#5 3drazor has been a member since 13/10/2011. Posts: 16
i say come back, but maybe Thailand just isn't your cup of tea. It wasn't one of my favorite places to travel. It depends on your interests, of course, but I found Indonesia,( the gili's are a great place to meet people) malaysia (esp borneo & penang) and sri lanka to be my top 3 spots.
I too, am a solo traveler & know that it can be hard to meet people, you might want to try participating in an activity( depending on what interests you ) that will bring you in contact with other travelers like a cooking class, surfing lessons, diving or river trips can put you in contact with people who have similar interests and you may meet more solo travelers
don't regret your decision, just get back on a plane & go somewhere else.
It can be expensive to go back, so if you want to go somewhere warm to read a book - I'm sure you can find a cheaper flight if you're in the States down Mexico way or in Europe you could always head southward. However, you really have to ask yourself what you want to see and do. If the problem is that you want more social fun - you could meet people on the 'fun' tour of Laos from 4,000 islands, Tad Lo, Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang, Mung Ngoi, Mung Sing. However - there isn't any guarantee that you'll meet people - I had a couple dinners with folks in 4,000 island and Savanakhet, but also spent a few nights by myself or just chatting it up with the guesthouse owner and calling it a night early.
If you want to 'do' things, then look for things to do and make that your priority - a temple tour with a good camera - ruins in Cambodia and Vietnam . . . a list of good foods to try and their local names written down as research before you go and then spend most of your time with a book and a full belly.
You could always plan to meet and travel with people before you go by looking on TF or gapyear.com etc. There are a lot of people that often join up with "randoms" to travel and it doesn't matter if you leave them if you're not getting on when you are there. Also couchsurfing is a good way to stay with locals and expats that live there or meet up with them for a coffee etc.
#8 stefanw has been a member since 10/12/2010. Posts: 50
Toxifer, IF you decide you want to come back and give it another shot, you come out to Mukdahan, and I'll introduce you around and show you the area. I've done this with four other travelfishers so far. But the people you would be meeting would be Thai, not tourists. Language is therefore a challenge. Keep that in mind.
I had a mini version of the same thing - Thailand was not what I expected and I didn't love it but eventually realized it was tourist-y Thailand I did not love. I've learned and grown to really like learning experiencing and eating here (on my fourth trip now). Just go back - go to north maybe, not BKK.
mnemeth, the OPs problem is he/she wants to meet other travellers, which necessitates, by definition, to going to touristy places. If he/she gets off the beaten path where there are no western tourists, then he/she can not meet them. Also, Bangkok is a great city - it has everything. So I wouldn't write that off too quickly. I didn't like it my first time, but have grown to appreciate everything it offers.
I've been to Bangkok, Sukhothai, Chiang Mai, and Soppong etc. Soppong was a highlight for me, I met great people there. I think it was silly to leave early, I travel alone and am older, most of the people I meet are much younger... All the people I've met recently have never really been alone for long, but I do understand your feelings of isolation/loneliness, but you just have to get over it and be happy in your own skin. I'd say leaving was a big FAIL! - no offense.
I'm presently in Laos and this is my 5th time to SEA.
Toxifer - thank you for an honest and courageous post. You are not alone. My first trip to SEA (north Vietnam) was a disaster! I was mislead several times (taxi drivers, tour agencies, hotels...), received 8 stitches in my chin and 6 in my hand from an unfortunate slip on a boat in Halong Bay, ate penicillin (I am allergic), hand was infected, got robbed in Sapa...the list goes on! I had left for 6 months and was home after 18 days!
I healed up and returned 2 months later and had a great time in south Thailand and Malaysia. Now I'm presently in Bali on my 5th trip to SEA.
This area of the world can be everything you want it to be. There is something here for anyone regardless of age, race...ect. If you do indeed decide to return try not to push it here. I mean just relax and let it all happen. But you need to be comfortable to just be you - no matter where you are.
Going home (like I did) might be good for you. Get comfortable again, regroup, relax and think about what you want and expect to happen. Keep your expectations on the lower side of the spectrum - that way disappointments are limited!
Toxifer, I think that the trip won't really solve anything until you look deeply inward and learn to see yourself as a much more confident, happy person who realizes your own self worth. I am not criticizing by any means, so don't take that wrong. It is just that other people or places should never be what makes things fun. It should be you realizing that you are somewhere uniquely different from your own with so many different things to explore.
I have done many trips alone and loved it! Sometimes I flow alone and take it all in and other times I hit the social scene and shared drinks laughs and day trips or partying with others. BUT, there really is NOTHING magical about any place! Our experience there is what is magical. If you don't put effort into your experience, and take control of it, you are leaving it up to chance and other people.
I WANT you to have the best experience possible. Research what you may really want to experience. Research the negatives. Meet up with some others who sound in sync with you from this or other sites who may be there....but most of all, as another poster alluded to, take this as an opportunity to change your life inward and outward. I know I can find something to enjoy in most new places even the simple and mundane. But it starts with me. So if you go back keep an open mind and realize that YOU make your happiness, not others!! When you feel happier inside, in my experience, you draw more happy thing to you! I know it sounds new age to some but your life is yours! BEST WISHES!
"Toxifer, I think that the trip won't really solve anything until you look deeply inward and learn to see yourself as a much more confident, happy person who realizes your own self worth."
Thomas, don't you think you're overdoing the Freud thing here? I mean, based on one post I wouldn't be so bold as to do a psycho analysis of the OP. Kid got a little freaked, hit the panic button, **** happens. Just get back on the horse.
I hear you MAC, but the OP sounded a little depressed to me. (Apologies to the OP if I offended). Isolation, loneliness, not socially adept...hey. many of us have been there at one time or another and I know it is hard for some people to relate. I was a high school and college athlete and social maniac. Always at the party and many friends, lived overseas, travelled, part of a DJ crew...blah blah blah...but I have had moments like the OP's and FOR ME, learning to not beat myself up over BS helped a lot. Looking inward for me was more than just trying again but doing so with a different perspective. Then I would always have a different result. But to each his own. I used to tell my buds to stop being a pu$$y but I realized that was not the right advice for most of them.
When they say they look up to me because I have this or that or I can handle this or that it made me realize that they don't realize that I am sometimes scared $hitless. Just gotta keep moving forward. So if the OP see anything or worth in my post, great. If not, it came from a good place. No judgement.
I've had the same panic in Ningxia, but that was because there was nothing to do an the only English novel I could find was A Tale of Two Cities. Otherwise, 4,000 Islands was an oscillation between 'Why am I here' and 'Hey, I just met some nice people' - I think those feelings are common for a lot of people on long trips and the best advice I could give would be to find someone you like at home and convince them to spend a load of cash on traveling with you - it has worked for me in the past, and was always a great time. Baring that, bring a Kindle, because then you don't have to worry about being lonely so long as you have a nice spot to sit, something to sip, and ten novels in the palm of your hand.
(if anyone wants to forward this onto amazon so I can get some endorsement money I'd appreciate it)