In 2009 I got really fed up with my 9-5 job and decided to quite and spend a year backpacking around Asia. It took a year of living with my Mom, saving every dime and basically driving everyone in my life crazy, but I finally actually did it.
Well that year lead to another year, and another, and I still haven’t managed to find my way back to a desk job just yet. I wrote an ebook about my experiences during that first crazy trip called “A Year Without Make-Up.” It’s not really about make-up though, it’s about traveling in your twenties, falling in love on the road, falling in love WITH the road, having random conversations with local hustlers in Cambodia, acting like a minor celebrity in China and so much more.
I hope you’ll check it out, but in case you’d like to sample before you buy, here is a summary of some of the biggest lessons I learned backpacking around Asia.
1. Traveling Solo is Really Not That Scary
I’m a serious introvert: I hate talking to new people and even mundane tasks, like ordering a pizza, cause unhealthy levels of anxiety. Paradoxically, I loved traveling alone.
For the first time ever I could do whatever I wanted, with absolutely zero judgement. Chocolate shake and foot massage for breakfast? Why not, I’m calling the shots! I didn’t have to talk to anyone if I wasn’t in the mood, and when I was, the fact that I had nobody else to rely on gave me that extra push to get out of my comfort zone. I met tons of interesting travelers and locals, I negotiated border crossings and I even mastered eating out by myself. It was very liberating.
2. You Can Get Used to Almost Anything
It was probably around my third night-bus ride, sitting awake on a dark bus full of snoring Vietnamese passengers while the driver played chicken with oncoming 16 wheelers, when I realized that my perception of reality had become oddly skewed. Almost everyone I knew in life was at home sleeping in real beds right now, and I was listening to my ipod on a careening death bus like it was no biggie at all.
Among the things I became alarmingly unfazed by: squat toilets, riding on motorbikes, being photographed like a zoo animal, extreme air pollution and roosters yelling literally all night (that crowing at dawn myth is total bullshit).
3. Alcohol Buckets are Not A Good Idea
It doesn’t matter if it’s Saturday night, or New Years, or the Full Moon Party. You are definitely going to regret drinking that plastic sand-bucket full of cheap vodka and Thai Redbull. Maybe not tonight, but definitely tomorrow when you wake up in a strange hostel room with weird cuts and bruises and a bad case of the runs.
4. I am Extremely Privileged
Look, I’m not rich, neither are my parents, and I’m currently battling an obstinate pile of student loans, but I’m still a thousand times more well off financially then the majority of the people I encountered on my trip.
Travel really throws this into sharp perspective.Factually I already knew this, but there’s knowing and then there’s coming face to face with extreme poverty, limbless landmine victims and child beggars. Not only did travel open my eyes to a world of injustice, it made me truly grateful for the things I do have.
5. Standards of Beauty are Different Everywhere
I stopped wearing make-up less than a week into my trip (hence the book title). To my surprise I didn’t miss it a bit- and neither did my boyfriend or the Cambodian tuk tuk drivers who serenaded me every night in Sihanoukville. It actually felt really freeing and made me think about the aesthetic demands put on western women.
Of course, almost everywhere has their own unique impossible beauty standards. In Japan it was insane high heels and contact lenses that make your pupils look enormous, in China it was skin whitening creams and in Hong Kong it was a crazy emphasis on high fashion. The more you think about it the more exhausting it all seems.
6. The Best Food is Usually The Cheapest Food
As a backpacker on a tight budget I found myself usually eating quite low to the ground (sometimes quite literally, perched on a colorful plastic stool on the sidewalk in Hanoi). As it turns out, some of the most mouth-watering, memorable meals I’ve ever had were street food costing less than .
It makes sense: the less you have to spend, the closer you get to the real, authentic soul of a country. You can spend 0 a night on a fancy hotel or you can spend and stay in a local guest house. I know which I’d choose (well, most of the time).
7. Travel Plans Are Basically Useless
Originally I had huge plans to circle the world, visiting 25 countries in the span of a year. In reality, I managed to hit seven Asian countries and Australia. I traveled much slower than I expected and made some really random and unexpected left turns, like spending months living on a college campus in China of all places (somewhere it had never even occurred to me to visit when drawing up my plans).
Planning for travel is entertaining, but ultimately the reality of life on the road trumps any ideas you had before.
8. 3-D Porn is a Real Thing
A real, and popular thing! I went to see one when I was in Hong Kong, but you’ll have to actually check out the book to see how that one went down.
Mostly I learned that travel is unpredictable, absurd, sometimes miserable, but always interesting. If you’d like to hear more about my adventures, and maybe learn about how to pull off your own big trip,please check out my new eBook here on Thought Catalog.
A Year Without Make-Up, by Stephanie Yoder
Only .99. Purchase it by clicking here.
Monday is like touching a scalding hot seatbelt buckle. It’s dropping your toast, jelly side down or making toast and realizing you’re out of jelly. Monday is the opposite of bacon and the first cousin of black licorice. Sometimes you can convince yourself that there’s a bright side — for example, those feelings of new week, fresh start motivation that linger for 30-45 minutes until you actually interact with that first customer, or your Dwight Schrute-esque co-worker irritates you, then it’s back to dreading four more days of these horrors.
Honestly I’m not sure why Tuesdays don’t get more flak for sucking like a Dyson vacuum, but if I had to guess, I’m betting the mass Taco Tuesday festivities across the globe play a role in softening the blow of its criticism. Taco Tuesday is cool and all, but eating delicious food doesn’t necessarily change a crappy situation.
Would you happily experience waterboarding for the next 96 hours if spoonfuls of Nutella were being served before the torturing commenced? I know what you’re thinking — how big of a spoon are we talking here? — but I promise you it’s not worth it. Look, here’s the bottom line: Tuesday is still within the first half of the week, making it impossible for a work hating individual to feel anything other than disappointed… And gassy – y’know, from the tacos.
Based on its SLOW, uphill feeling, Wednesday should be renamed Weeeeeeeedneeeeeeeeesdaaaaaay. All co-workers and shoppers and callers and clients and humans you interact with are suffering from the same, I’m-over-it type feeling. That lingering mood gives Wednesdays at work the dull, ‘why me?’ vibe of drawing the middle seat on a lengthy flight or realizing post-shower that you’ve got to poop.
There is a little bit of hope because everyone is awaiting the freedom that is looming. Seeing friends, drinking adult beverages, hitting the town or staying home to binge watch Game of Thrones – all we know is that weekend is coming. Thursdays create a happier environment, much like a kid on Christmas who is 24 hours or so away from glory. Thursday is probably the most bearable day of the workweek when you hate your job Why not Friday? Well, because…
Friday (BEFORE 5 P.M.)
Every single waking moment spent at work on Friday is excruciating. We’re too close to freedom to focus long enough to accomplish significant work, yet we’re liable to do something considering we’re still on the clock. Time is a turtle riding a snail, covered in molasses – in other words, agonizingly slow. You can almost taste that first beer of the weekend and feel the couch under your exhausted body – wait, no, you’ve still got spreadsheets and papers and responsibilities. This day will drag and you’ll feel as if you’re stuck in a never ending episode of The Twilight Zone. It’s brutal when all you want is to begin those 2 1/2 days or so of freedom. But when they do eventually arrive, don’t blink because you might miss ‘em.
Afterwork on Fri+Sat&Sun
These three days mush together and last for what feels like a total of seven hours. Also, Sunday at around 4 P.M. you’ll find it difficult to even enjoy yourself because you’re well aware that 40 hours (or more) of work responsibilities are waiting for you on the other side of the sun, chomping at the bit for another bite of your soul.
You should like Thought Catalog on Facebook here.
For an opportunity to feature your own content, send submissions to be considered for publication to Hudspeth@thoughtcatalog.com or reach me on Twitter.
Office Space (Widescreen Edition)
Know yourself. Watch for the things that most heavily lift or sink your heart. These are the markers of who you are. Look at your qualities objectively, especially when they are less than appealing, these are just as important as the great things about you are. Don’t work on accepting the person you project to other people.
Be ready to be vulnerable and imperfect. You don’t have to like your imperfections, but you do have to be able to sit with them, acknowledge them and embrace that they are present in you for one reason or another. Dig and find the root of what cultivated them. Work on undoing what needs to be undone; work on being better.
This self-acceptance business is not an excuse to be a terrible person. If being yourself means this, you will deal with the consequences of your actions in due time. Don’t think that because you are “being yourself” you are excused from anything that is derogatory toward or detrimental to someone else.
Know that you are or will be loved for the things you find unlovable. Some things I’ve loved most about people are the things they’ve later said to be most self-conscious of. The ways in which you don’t fit into the mold of a socially-generated-perfect-human are the ways in which you are unique and they are the things about you that the right people will be most enamored by.
Baby steps. Don’t expect anything immediately and be good to yourself for trying. Overhauling your entire life in a day will not end well, go ahead and try if you don’t believe me.
Understand that a large element of this is choice. While I don’t believe you can change who you innately are, I do believe that you can choose to take life from the perspective of your best self. Choose to do that. Choose to keep going even when challenges arise. Choose to forgive yourself for your moments of indiscretion.
Realize you are not the summation of your past. It is part of you, it is your story, and it has helped craft you, but it is not who you innately are. You can always choose differently. You are a beautiful person for admitting that you are only human and you’ve done wrong, but you’re working on it.
You should like Thought Catalog on Facebook here.
I used to get sad at the fact that other people were graduating college. I wanted to believe for as long as I could that I just graduated and no one else could possibly be younger than me in the workplace. I longed to be back at college, enjoying senior week, partying the night away with friends who lived around the corner. I saw pictures of college seniors ‘living the dream’ and I always got upset because I missed living that dream too.
But three years later, I’m not sad anymore. I just feel sad for those graduating.
Graduating college sucks. There’s no sugar coating it. I tried the past three years to pretend how great it was to be a college graduate and to work every day. I wrote articles sprinkled with advice to not be sad because ‘life doesn’t end after college… it begins!‘ And I’m not saying that isn’t true. It is. It’s just a different kind of life.
Three years after starting that life, I won’t say I hate it. But I won’t say I love it. Hopefully one day I will. Hopefully one day I’ll actually have money… and I’ll be able to save that money. Hopefully I’ll be doing what I aspire to be doing for a career. Hopefully I’ll be okay with the fact I can’t drink as much as I could before and I’ll actually enjoy boring dinners with friends that make me feel 40-something. Hopefully this will all be okay soon… but it will honestly never be the same as it was in college.
Our biggest worries in college were handing in papers on time and figuring out whether or not so-and-so felt the same way about us. We didn’t necessarily have to show to class and being poor was in.
Now, we have to show up to work. We have to make money. We want to find a significant other, but we don’t know how because that community we had during grade school and college is gone. We start to worry about having a relationship with someone who we actually see ourselves with in the long run because we’re getting closer to our thirties, but we don’t want to yet. We have to live with no scheduled change after a year or four years. And whether we live at home or with friends, it’s just not the same.
Everything and everyone becomes so much more serious each year after graduating. And getting together with friends keeps getting harder. There are bars we have to name as extinct because everyone who goes there is now ‘too young.’ It’s like, when did this happen? I graduated college and I don’t even want to go back anymore because I would have to drink tonight… and I’m tired and want to lose 5 pounds, so staying in sounds better. When did this happen to me?
Sure that older adult who exclaims ‘YOU’RE SO YOUNG‘ when they find out you’re in your twenties might make you feel slightly better about your fleeting youth for a hot minute… but, like, imagine what they say to a college student. They don’t say ‘you’re so young.’ That’s a given. Instead, they say ‘YOU’RE SO LUCKY.’ Duh.
Graduating sucks. So when you go to leave the place you love and hug your friends goodbye, hold on a little longer because it’s not that ‘it’s all downhill from here‘ … it’s that life is going to be so completely different from here on out. Good luck.
You should like Thought Catalog on Facebook here.
I’ll start by saying I have three older brothers. Yes, I’m that girl who thinks growing up with boys was cool. (I have a younger sister too but I’m a decade older than her so I didn’t exactly grow up “with” her as much as I watched her grow up.) Anyway, back to growing up with boys. Yes – it was fun. I can say that my brothers were my first friends. They’re also part of the reason I was kind of a brat. Okay, maybe I’m still a little bit of a brat sometimes. Partially because of them, I love and talk sports, I make friends by teasing people, and I know how to “hang” with “the guys,” and all that good stuff.
Somewhere in my teen years, you got cool points if guys saw you as a chill female. If boys thought you were cool, then you, person with XX chromosome, were in fact cool. This way of thinking has permeated the current modern society we live in. Guys are seen as laid back, relaxed, and uncomplicated while girls, as we all know, “are full of drama.” And this kind of attitude has metamorphosed the perceptions girls have of each other. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard another girl say a form of, “Girls just don’t like me. Guys are so much easier to hang out with.”
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hold that attitude defiantly at one point. I’d be lying if I said I don’t still sometimes gravitate towards guys in social situations because of the accustomed perception that guys are less judgmental than girls. Ever since I was young, girls always seemed nastier and unkinder to me – they are the ones I associate with mostly being cliquey. In my adulthood, I have often been warned about how women treat each other in the workplace, especially in subordinate-superior contexts. We’ve all heard the tales of how women at the top seem to make lives difficult for women below them. So in many ways, females have been conditioned to see other females as foes and competition first, and to wannabe guys’ girls.
I think it’s a fascinating phenomenon – WGG – but a phenomenon that does not help womankind at all. In seeking guys’ validation in this way, a lot of women perpetuate men as being the standard and ultimate deciders of what constitutes pleasant constructions of womanhood. Women, in their own way, place men in a position of power through fighting for their seat at a table of being one of the guys. And the cost is many times permitting sexist judgments on other women, reassured that they of course, are an anomaly with respect to these judgments.
I like guys, I’ve always liked guys, and growing up with boys, it’s an easy default position for me to be one of the boys. And I’m sure there are a lot of girls who may feel like this. But I have wonderful relationships with many women. So ultimately I had to realize that I cannot allow for an accident of birth, combined with the social conditioning of society’s attitudes towards women to affect how I see an entire gender – an entire gender that I am a part of. And this is the biggest the mistake of WGGs: constructing guys in a positive light at the expense of constructing girls in a negative life.
Maybe I’ll always be one of the boys in some sense, but I’m happy to report this doesn’t keep me from also being one of the girls. And so maybe a question worth pondering if you find yourself slipping into the role of a WGG or simply thinking other women don’t like you: If you think an entire gender of people dislike you, is it really the entire gender that has the problem? (Or are you the problem?)
You should like Thought Catalog on Facebook here.