They call Thailand the “Land of Smiles” because of the country’s friendly people and fascinating culture. For me, thinking about the place usually brings a giant smile to my face.
Of all the countries I’ve been to, I’ve found Thailand to be one of the most accessible and easy places to travel. Combined with the laid back attitude of the Thais, the amazing food, the low cost, the beaches, and the parties, I believe the country is one of the best vacations spots on the planet.
And that is why I’m going back for a third time this December.
I looked at the calendar today and saw November 13, 2012. How time flies…
About a year ago, I had just finished my five week Colombia loop. After landing in Bogota, I made my way in a counter clock wise loop that took me to Villa de Leyva, San Gil, Santa Marta, Ciudad Perdida, Punta Gallinas, down the coast to Cartagena, south to Medellin, through Zona Caferta, and finally back to Bogota.
You’ve bought your ticket, got your guidebook, and now you’re ready to pack your bags. You look around at all the things you use on a daily basis, look at your backpack, and begin freaking out because you have NO IDEA how to fit it all in.
Fortunately, it’s not as hard as it seems. On all of my trips, whether they’ve been a couple weeks or months, hot or cold, beach or mountains, I’ve packed more or less the same stuff.
Here’s my list.
One of the things people always ask me is how I can afford to take the trips that I do. To some, it is mind boggling that I manage to get out of the country a couple times per year. In reality, it’s not only possible, it’s relatively easy.
There are essentially three barriers to traveling: 1) money 2) time and 3) health. When you have all three, the world is your oyster. However, if you lack even one, making a trip happen becomes considerably harder.
Consider three cases: a 20 year old college student, a 28 year old white collar office worker, and a 65 year old retiree. The college student has plenty of time and is probably in or close to the best shape of her life. But unfortunately for her, she has no money. In many cases, the plane ticket alone costs a grand, a sum of money that is hard to come up with when you’re barely making enough to purchase Natty Light. The office worker, on the other hand, has built up a sizable nest egg. He’s also a fitness freak so health isn’t an issue. But guess what? His TPS reports are due every Monday morning and although company policy states that he gets 2 weeks off a year, no one actually takes it for fear of falling behind in the rat race. The retiree looks at the two and laughs because he’s got plenty of cash and lots of time. Except he’s laughing from a wheelchair. Try doing this in a Hoveround.
In front of me, two heavyset, middle aged men waited at the checkout line. Each wore tank tops that disguised their girth, flip flops, board shorts, sunglasses, and baseball caps. Both were white, with a hint of pink from the sun, and appeared as if they had been teleported from the American south. After their beer, cigarettes, and handles of booze were tallied, one reached into his shorts, handed the cashier a wad of cash and grunted – not a “thank you” or “goodbye” but rather some indecipherable, primal sound.
No, this was not Walmart. This was Tamarindo, Costa Rica.
Lonely Planet describes Punta Gallinas as
…the kind of mystical place you read about in books or see in movies, but rarely stumble upon in real life. Reaching this stunning wildscape, South America’s northernmost tip, isn’t exactly a skip down to the corner store, either. But those that make the effort will be rewarded with one of the most dazzling landscapes in South America, a sanctuary of solitude that equals travel Nirvana.
Mystical? Possibly. Tough to get to? Definitely. Travel Nirvana?! Might be a slight exaggeration. While Punta Gallinas may not have been quite as amazing as described in the Lonely Planet, it’s still pretty high up there on my list.
I stared at the dozen sheep lying in the boat.
Their thick fur matted down by water and their fore and hind legs bound together by ropes, they laid silently (presumably tranquilized) with lifeless eyes as if they had resigned to their fate, whatever it may be.
A group of men showed up with a large dump truck and began hauling them from the boat. As they cleared the sheep, I saw hundreds of little brown and black bean-sized objects floating around in the brine at the bottom of the hull. I put two and two together and came to the gut-wrenching realization that I would soon be sitting 2-3 hours in this boat, with sheep shit and urine sloshing around, all the while wearing flip flops.