The Devolution to Dirty Backpacker

It happened faster than I thought.

Despite all the things I had read about backpackers tending to be ratty hippies traipsing around the continent, I figured I would stay around my status quo. I’ve never been a filthy gal, but I’ve never been particularly fancy either. I may only do laundry whenever my undapants (UNDAPANTS) run out, but I put on my face in the morning and brush my hair and if something is really wrinkly I’ll put it in the bathroom for ten minutes in the hopes that the steam will smooth it out. (Spoilers: usually doesn’t really work. But then I convince myself that since I’ll be sitting going to X place anyway, there’s not really a point.)

So, I figured when I started living out of a backpack for a few months, I might look slightly unkept but probably no worse than usual. I wasn’t counting on a couple of major things: my mindset and the weather.

First off, I know it’s all snowy or whatever where you are (probably) but I just gotta say it’s hot here. Really hot. Like, DC in the summer hot, except with 85% less air-conditioned places. The first day, I didn’t bother to put on any makeup because I was so tired. The second day, I knew there was no point because I would be sweating within 5 minutes of walking outside anyway.

Secondly, my mindset. A girl’s gotta face the facts: I know literally no one here, and no one cares about me. With that attitude, who cares what I look like?

… or smell like? Yes, my friends. I am ashamed (but not really) to admit that I’ve decided on the following clothes rotations: wear the same outfit every day until it starts to smell. I’m figuring I will average about three days per outfit before I move on to the next. That third day is mighty smelly.

Let’s get a photographic representation of what I mean. And yes, my hair will permanently be like that from here on out. It’s just easier and cooler.

One of my first outings – I foolishly didn’t even bring sunglasses. Or wear sunscreen, which means I now have a sunburn necklace around my shirtline. Very attractive.

I wised up the next time around, bringing my sunglasses (but didn’t notice the burn yet). I want to point out that after I took of my backpack and purse (god I’m an attractive tourist) I had a really fantastic collection of sweat pools going on.

Finally, my outfit of choice. Awesome New Orleans hat. Sunglasses. Water. I am ready to conquer.

So now that you know how smelly and filthy I am… who wants to join me?!

First Impressions of Bangkok

After 30 hours of flying and dramatically fainting on the plane, I stumbled through the Bangkok airport at about midnight. I was more than exhausted (although, sidebar, what WOULD “more than exhausted” be? Dead? There’s not a whole lot more to go…). After successfully getting stamped into the country and retrieving my beautiful green backpack, I was ready to roll. And be scammed by the taxi driver coming into town, but whatever. Come on, Kristen! CONSTANT VIGILANCE! LACES OUT, DAN!

Despite my fatigue, I could only get three hours of sleep that night… which meant I was set to face my first day in Bangkok with about eight hours of sleep under my belt from the past three nights. This can’t go wrong, right?!

I have to admit… my very first venture out into the city was a bit failed. I headed for the main road and was immediately confronted by intense pollution, insane heat and humidity, and cars going every which way. I wandered around for a while (and had my first awesome street cart meal – 30 baht, or about 90 cents), but eventually had to go back to my guesthouse to recoup.

On a whim, I decided to start walking the opposite direction, and stumbled into a wonderful collection of small, leafy, (mainly) pedestrian alleys filled with restaurants, bars, massage parlors, and shops. This is more like it.

After reaching a main road, I almost turned back but decided to keep pushing to a mysterious looking building in the distance (which, turns out, was a fort. Now you know!). Next to that fort? A delightful park next to the river, where you can almost believe cars and pollution don’t exist.

Now, this is my Bangkok.

Delta actually pulled through! Or, the time(s) I passed out on a plane

I don’t have the world’s best track record for health. It’s not that I’m unhealthy, perse (and thankfully), it’s more than I blow up little things into MASSIVE EVENTS!

Given the fact that I had been stressed, tired, and not eating well, I suppose it was a given that I passed out on my plane going over to Thailand. (Technically, this happened on the plane going over to Seoul). Unfortunately…. this is not the first time this has happened to me. Because I’m the worst.

And now, I shall regale you with the Stories of Airplane Faints.

Let’s go back four and a half years… 

To the summer of 2008, when I flew out to San Francisco to visit a friend. Unfortunately, it seems that I caught pneumonia on the plane ride over, as I got steadily more and more sick throughout the visit. When I boarded the plane to go back to DC, I was running a fever of 102, barely eating, and about ready to crawl under the covers and call it quits.

Unluckily for the others on my flights (P.S. sorry for contaminating you), my body wasn’t ready to let me go gently into the night. I lasted the five hours just fine; however, when we had to stand up to deplane, my illness, the heat, and having to stand for a while took over. Next thing I know, I’ve landed in someone’s lap after having fainted and fallen over sidewise.

On the bright side, I did get to leave the plane in a special little airplane wheelchair, which was fun. Plus I did eventually get better. Although not before reading the last Twilight book (no shame) while I was feverish and then having a delirium-laced dream that night. It got scary.

And more recently… last night/the night before? (I have lost all concept of time.)

This time around, I was fairly healthy for my long-haul (30 hours in transit) ride to Bangkok. I just forgot that little thing where one should probably A) Be well rested B) Eat and C) DRINK WATER.

I was too wound up my last night in Virginia to sleep much and woke up, bleary eyed, for my 7.15am flight with only about two hours of sleep under my belt. I fairly quickly got tired of the airplane food and ate sparingly. Most tragically, I completed dehydrated myself.

In retrospect I’m fairly certain this is what did it. About 10 hours into my 13 hours flight to Seoul, I woke up from a plane nap and strolled to the bathroom feelin’ just dandy. In the middle of my primping, I suddenly felt faint and had to immediately sit on the toilet with my head between my legs. Somewhere within my tunnel-vision focus I realized I needed water and fast. Cue my stumbling back through coach class to reach the little flight attendant area in the back, crashing into the people on the aisles because I couldn’t really see. I asked the scrum of ladies for water and immediately crashed to the ground, which was actually pretty exciting on my part, I think. I also got totally pampered by the attendants; besides giving me about 15 glasses of water, whenever I tried to get up they all shouted NO and grabbed me to keep sitting down on the floor. One even remained down there with me until I felt (and, I presume, looked) better. Thank you, Delta!

So there you go. The two times I have fainted on planes. Here’s hoping there isn’t a third! And here’s hoping I have a more successful time in Thailand than the plane ride would suggest…

Once more, dear friends.

I can scarcely believe it, but just over a month ago I was still tooling around England (P.S. I was just in London – did you know that?!), drinking about 15 cups of tea a day, enjoying a daily apple-n-peanut-butter, and and trying to keep those blasted kids out of trouble.

Almost immediately upon my return to the U.S., I felt like I had never left. I jumped into celebrating Christmas, New Year’s, and birthdays. I had an absolutely amazing, fantastic, incredible month, but now I go once more unto the breach.

I’ve already chewed over how nervous I am about this whole venture. I’m happy to say that I am now officially over that. Not to say that the fear isn’t still there, because it is – I woke up on Sunday feeling suddenly overwhelmed, anxious, and pretty nauseous (and may or may not have teared up in the shower a little bit. And sobbed on my mom’s bed later that day.).

But mostly, I’m kind of just annoyed that I have to wait to just get going already. It’s kind of like when you know you have to go get your wisdom teeth out or something. You know parts of it are gonna suck, but you just want to get it over with so you can be on the other side (enjoying the pain meds HEEYYOO).

And in the spirit of this very jumpy post, allow me to publicly discuss my GOALS for the next few months! Anyone who has met me for three minutes knows that I can’t just sit around twiddling my thumbs. I need something to work towards!! And so I shall make them public so you can feel free to hold me accountable.

The one that is not really feasible but would be nice if it could happen: I’ve decided to do the Couch to 5K. THAT’S RIGHT! Mama downloaded the app and everything. I appreciate that it dictates exactly how I have to do everything. Plus I think I can knock out 3 miles. I am an Amazon woman. I would really like to be able to kick it off while I’m traveling, but I’m not sure how realistic that is given the climate and what I’ll be up to. So, considering the training plan is about 2 months long, I’m going to say that I will run a 5K sometime between April and July. How’s that for non-committal?

The one that I really want to make work: I know I’m not going to be some awesome travel blogger who gets all this money from whatever, but I would like to use my blog to learn more about HTML. I would like to be able to use it as a resume booster and as something to tell employers when they ask what I’ve been up to since December. Anyone have a suggestion for a good resource?

The one that might not happen but would be awesome: I would also like to look into designing a mock study abroad app – not the technical infrastructure, just the design. I have a pretty snazzy idea and again, could be a good thing to brag about.

I also have all sorts of travel-related goals that basically boil down to “Don’t be such a wussy” and “Actually talk to other people, you misanthrope.” So we’ll see how that all works out.

Time to jump in, my friends! Next time we talk shall be from Bangkok.

image via

P.S. This is totally off-topic, but I was just thinking about how this time last year I was sitting in a cafe tucked away on a top floor of a random building in Istanbul, drinking salep and enjoying this view:

I was remembering this because I was sooo freaked out before I went to Turkey the first time, but fast forward a year and I’m completely content and pleased in this cafe. In memory of this I dove back into my FB timeline from last year and was reminded of what happened on my birthday – ALL that happened on my birthday:

Started the day stranded in a blizzard in Anatolia. Ended in AK Party HQ awkwardly walking three inches behind a Very Important Politician strolling down a hallway and shaking hands with admirers lining the hall. Now I get to party with Kevin McClure. WHAT UP.

I TOTALLY FORGOT about the random AK Party politician!!! God, that was awkward. AAAAND scene.

Listening to the Fear

So, I don’t know if this has been completely obvious, but I’m kind of a scaredy cat. I KNOW! MIND BLOWN!

The fear has been there all along, but as we are finally in 2013 the reality that I will soon be traipsing around a far-away land all by my lonesome cannot be pushed aside. There are plenty of things to fear – how will I figure out how to get from place to place? What if I get sick? What if I just spend day after day totally alone and eventually go crazy but NO ONE WILL KNOW because no one is talking to me?! Even if someone tries to talk to me, I’ll undoubtedly respond my dribbling some spittle out of my mouth because clearly I am unable to handle social situations! These are real problems, people.

Okay. Okay. I know, it’s gonna be fine. Everyone, stop freaking out.

The point is, I’m a little nervous. I realized that I was subconsciously using the same coping mechanism to think about this trip as I did when I had a terrible transition to college. Back then I used to tell myself to break down the experience into little bits – “Okay, so there are five months until summer. But really, it’s more like two weeks until you go home for spring break. Just gotta get through two weeks, which is easy!”

I’ve found myself thinking of my trip that way – sure, it’s THREE WHOLE MONTHS!! A third of a baby could grow in that time! Inconceivable. But really, it’s just six weeks – actually, more like five! – until Papa McCarthy joins me. Then he’s basically there for like a MONTH (okay, three weeks), then just another two (okay, three) weeks after that! Easy peasy.

I’ve previously discussed how I would really like to go back in time and tell my 18 year old self to relax, because everything works out okay. Even though I logically understand that all will be well (and I’ve done a fairly good job at pretending I’m a super-cool go-with-the-flow chick to people when talking about this trip), the fear is still there. So what am I hoping to get out of the next three months of my life? I’m mostly excited about the part where I look back and think, “I really needed to calm down. What was I so worried about? All was well.”

I also have my mantra to keep in mind, as given to me by my wonderful friend Laura: “Keep calm. Be brave.”

And so I shall.

So what’s next? Bangkok for four days. Flying down to the islands on the Andaman coast after that. It could be worse, huh?

P.S. As per usual, Laura remains my life coach. After I had penned the first draft of this post, she sent me an email that ended with, “If you get cold feet in the coming weeks, just remember it’s an adventure. An adventure that will change you and allow you to see the world through new eyes. How exciting is that? Nothing to be scared of, just jump into the deep end with no regrets – you know how to swim.”