Sign up for South East Asia’s (endless) Summer Camp

“Hidey-ho junior rangers!”

“Dooby, Dooby, Doo where are you? We got some work to dooo now,”

“I’d like to take a minute just sit right there and I’ll tell,”

Why I’m quoting theme songs outta thin air.

It’s time to fire up the DeLorean because we are going, Back to the Future!

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Think back to kicking it in the sandbox before you learned to read the hands of a clock.

When making a friend was easy as saying, “hi what’s your name? Mine is…”

And smiles ‘n grins were the primary language.

When colorful laughs fruitfully burst from your lips,

You and your play mates could read separate books,

But be on the same page.

Never judging by outside coverings

Childhood; a time when nobody cares about what you wear

And double the mix, no match was always in fashion

When woes were whoas and time moved slow…

 

 

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Switching down in gear, taking it further back in years

To the mystery machine!

Call to mind the times before you dreamed of driving a car,

When imagination was the only fuel needed to take you near and far

Where did you go?

To dense jungles with leaves of green?

Tropical beaches of glistening sapphire serene?

Or outer space with its endless field of moons and stars?

 

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Remember when you were a resident in the world of make believe?

Maybe it was JK Rowling’s fantasy land where your mind ran

Or perhaps Tolkien was your trusted guide for walks on the fictional side.

Did you pass through CS Lewis’ wardrobe?

Or tumble and fall alongside Alice down the rabbit hole?

Thanks to sci-fi there was no need for wi-fi.

How did you relish the time between the final June bell sing and August’s inaugural ring?

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Beach trips, tree climbs, bicycle rides, playing in the sunshine?

Summer camp when the highs and lows were mountain hikes and lake side dives?

When rain meant card games, and night time brought fireside sing-alongs.

Remember when playing catch made life a ball?

Did you wish fall would never come, that you’d stay forever young?

Before university pursuits, and 9-5’s tied IT you down,

What dreams lived in the folds of your mind?

Traveling through time? Walking on foreign sands? Rolling over rocky lands?

I learned it is possible to live epic fantasies without suspending reality.

In serendipity’s endless summer camp across the sea.

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To me backpacking through South East Asia felt akin to going to summer camp. Passing the days tucked away in the groove of nature’s green thumb in a friendly atmosphere of at-eased adventure. The moment you buy a plane ticket you’ve reserve your spot at the endless summer camp. The packing list is practically the same: bathing suit, bug spray, & band aids. But be warned: camp is not all milk and cookies… Sometimes it will be Angkor drafts and mystery street meat, homemade rice wine and Lombok peppers, off licenses beer and curry chicken, $1 whiskey pints and 10 kip fried rice, or buckets and pad Thai.

 

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Like Homer, I am calling on four super muses to help tell my tale;

Guardians of rock, a colossal cohort dedicated to roll

With the lyrical guidance of Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, John Bonham and Jimmy Page,

Today we are moving through “Kashmir.”

 

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“Oh, let the sun beat down upon my face”

From the lingering days of November’s back half, to a fortnight past the Ides of March, I lived in lands where the sun burned crimson-red as she kissed the grass goodnight. Leaving her eastern perch to relive the moonlight from his Atlantic watch.

“Stars to fill my dream”

The day I slow my stride and settle into a niche of life, an island it will surely be. Sand beneath my toes eases my woes and the crash of the sea a lullaby to me. But if diamonds are a girl’s best friend, then call me Lucy becasue it’s the stars that keep me from the city permanently.

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Koh Rong; a crown jewel in Cambodia’s oceanic treasure chest. Before my first night’s sleep I swore I was home thanks to a few friends and a couple cans of beer to cheers. We layed pressed to the sand looking up at compilations of space dust seemingly deemed worthy for Aphrodite. Beautifully interlaced in a velvet, black atmospheric sea asking, “how lucky are we?”

 

Dot Det; the “biggest” of the 4,000 islands Laos has to boast. A sand bar at the end of our world where “Office Space” playing on a silver screen hung from a tree that could tell stories from the last four centuries. On the journey back I couldn’t bear to miss a moment of the glimmering, shimmering, stary abyss, so I walked with my head turned 90 degrees to the north, and let my feet blindly go forth.

“I’m a traveler of both time and space”

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I’ve been to lands where the sun also rises 12 hours before it shines on my home. I whirled and danced, tripped and twisted into 2017, walking on (Gili) Air, Indonesia. A land down under the equator line, but with spirits so high I wasn’t sure what plane all of us harmonious nomads were occupying. Trying to wrap my meandering mind around the idea, my family and friends were so last year for a day had the neurons in flurry.

“To be where I have been”

Faces become familiar traversing the SEA trail. Destinations almost seem predetermined, so two times when it was time to diverge I stepped from the well-worn road, and took the one less traveled by.

In Surabaya, Java, population of  2.7 million and Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand  with 1.8 million lo-cools I was the only one westerner in town. I pretended not to notice when I was the focus of the local’s camera phones.  

“To sit with elders of the gentle race”

I see “Sok Dee” for the remainder of my days. Have curiosity for my prophecy? Lao to English on the translation machine will reveal what I mean.

A family, whose business is bunking backpackers, took me and a handful of various, volunteer, vagabonds in for a spell. After three weeks this guesthouse was home with kids running round and Grandma always wore a grin. Boss man gave us a free beds and “paid” us in enough noodles to ensure our dreams were illustrated in elongated doodles.

“This world has seldom seen”

My eyes laid sight on ancient architecture of grandeur that made my mouth flop open in 48380385_323693625140877_4633137554709807104_nshock and candor. Angkor Wat proved if stone, tree, and man entered the arena like rock, paper, and scissors, it’s all a war of attrition. Mother Nature’s win will inevitably come to fruition. 

“They talk of days for which they sit and wait”

Two women on a mission: get to the islands of Thailand’s before night’s end. Felt we might evaporate if we were to sit and wait, so rather than hesitate we amended Hughes comical view. Trains, motorbikes, and boats kept our dream afloat. First, nine hours due south by rail no time to spare. Tore a page from 007’s playbook and took to the back of two waiting motorbikes. Finally five hours in berth at sea we arrived anew on the back whirlwind of revelry. 

“All will be revealed”

History unfolded in volumes previously untold in any of the hallowed halls I can recall. Before Cambodia Pol Pot had never been brought to my forethought. Warnings of un-exploded land mines left from decades before is no table lore or fickle fable. 

“Talk in song from tongues of lilting grace”

Making the most of the last full night 2016 could boast by telling peanuts and cracking jokes. Wait, reverse that. Davey Jones locker is the last place a sailor wants to be, but that’s where I found myself staying on Gili T. Rather than walk the plank I hung on the deck, until 4am with the manager and his longtime friend. The three of us shared homemade rice wine and stories of their lives and mine. In so many ways we are all one in the same. The breeze rustled the palms, giving us a hand as Babo strummed guitar and I sang along. With, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on the top of the dial, I felt like I found Nirvana.

“Sounds caress my ear”

Guitar strums made for no ho hum anywhere I’d go. On the night before I was to be 23 Spirit Bar was the place to be. I was serenaded to, “What’s Up” by local guy from Pai who’s rhythm and blues would have Jo Walsh crying for more. I wonder how the Four Non-blondes would respond to know their grand grit made it all the way to Thailand?

“And not a word I heard could I relate”

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Despite the fact that the language barrier completely hampered my ability to conversate with the locals, it didn’t share us from sharing a plate. One night I was dining alone on Don Det, when the family who owned the joint made a point to include the two other patrons and I in their family fish feast. We sat in a circle wrapping morsels of meat and sticky rice in leaves speaking in smiles and laughter I walked home after feeling light as a feather.

“The story was quite clear”

I was penning my own tale everyday spent on the trail. Waking up to infinite possibilities of activities; rounds of poker over foaming mounds of $1 beer, deciding the days office is the precarious edge of a mountain peak, or perhaps hoping a bus to deliver you further in the unknown sphere.   

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“Oh, baby, I been blind”

Learned a valuable lesson in florescents while in Canggu. Make sure you know how to work your motorbike’s lights before you let day turn to night. I drove home with my lights off once because I thought they were broken… really wish I was joking. I hate to go your mother on you, but just this one time do as I say and not as I did, kids.

“Oh, yeah, mama, there ain’t no denyin'”

 

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I’d by lying if I said there weren’t plenty of people vying for me to set my sites elsewhere. Every other I’d talk to said, “you’re daring to go there?”  But I made a promise to myself I’d make this world my pleasure dome before my final year is set in stone, so I entered the unknown. Hanging under the palm leaf awning one rainy January morning I was hit with the desire to make my pen and blank page conspire. My tales lead to this ink trail,

“I’m off in a land where the sun also rises 13 hours before it shines on my home

Although the language I do not speak  I get along becasue the locals smile cheek to cheek”

The daily stream of mild n’ smiling monks meandering to temple in Luang Prabang could change American preconceived notions about communist nations.

“Oh, ooh yes, I been blind”

 

Spending hazy, lazy, endless summer days like Swayze, in lands where Mother Nature is CEO and head honcho, thus I’m borrowing some word sauce from The Boss,

“Cut loose like a deuce, another runner in the night
Blinded by the light
Mama always told me not to look into the sights of the sun
Oh, but Mama, that’s where the fun is”

“Oh, I been flying mama, ain’t no denyin’, no denyin'”

 

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In Thailand I thought I’d give bungee jumping a try. For the sake of my parents heart palpitations not to reach early culmination, I decided this situation of vertical inversion was better shared with, “hey what I just did?” Instead of “guess what I’m about to do?” Verdict? The years taken off my life between peering over the platform and an anxious 1, 2, 3, go were worth the vertigo inducing euphoria

“I’ve been flying, ain’t no denyin’, no denyin’”

Just a kid swinging along the edge of the world from a tree top, mountain drop off. Found by accident on a daytime crusade against living caged the same day a primate went on a hunch and mistook me for lunch.

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“All I see turns to brown”

By the mid-December skies of blue, I was reassured by the hometown, good-time gang I had accrued a golden-bronze epidermal hew.

When Pai Canyon pales in comparison to your skin I’d say that’s a win

 

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“As the sun burns the ground”

Not to be sticks in the mud, we beat the sun with some Mekong River fun

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“And my eyes fill with sand”

Driving a scooter I felt the freedom in my bones. With every twist, every curve, the occasional swerve: I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive. Ignition to elation, revving in revelry. Never mind the dust and debris that is occasionally kicked in the eyes. Managed to tip over a time (or two,) while climbing up a Thai mountain side, but with a heave and a ho we were back up with laughs to go.

“As I scan this wasted land”

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Participating in pub crawls winning bottles of alcohol, dancing on tables, prancing on fabled sands. Flipping cups like hourglasses of time, discovering friendships that will never sink except the last shot. These are the nights that couldn’t be soon to forgot.

“Try to find, try to find the way I feel”

At first the complete and utter freedom was mind-bending, then upon entering Ubon Ratchathani  I’d reached the pinnacle of happy. Nearly crying tears of joy in the street just thinking about how the only master I had to answer were my feet

“Oh, pilot of the storm who leaves no trace”

Caught in an unseasonable Cambodian cloud sneezer, my mate and I nearly got trapped on the empty side of the island. Lighting dashed, thunder crashed, waves splashed, definitively a moment of fright we’d be sleeping in an abandoned building for the night. But wouldn’t you know the sun peered long enough for us and the other castaways to enjoy a beer in a pop-up storm party before the final taxi-boat disappeared. The next day the waters were still so rough, docking every boat was a must.

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“Like thoughts inside a dream”

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One morning in Ubud after the stars had retracted from a jam-pact map of ancient stories accrued to leave a redacted blue view, I woke in my bottom bunk to believe my current reality was still suspended in a dream. Breaking the duality between wake and sleep will leave your happiness intake in full leap.

 

“Leave the path that led me to that place”

 I began my self-guided Asian navigation volunteering at Artsham, a visionary space for the creatively displaced. Host quickly turned to dear friend took me around inner city bends to show where the street colors blend. Brash brush strokes left a cache of un-hushed tokes, stoking a creative fire of survival thriving in my soul.

 

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“Yellow desert stream”

I meditated in the pool, of a waterfall, on a mountain top, on an island, in the Gulf of Thailand… What a betwixting position, to find yourself having to use so many prepositions.

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“Like Shangri-la beneath the summer moon”

Once upon a lunar cycle… I attended a famed full moon party. With a bevy of boisterous backpacker all about, I finally made it to the Isle of Misfit Toys. Tiss truly a human experiment in joyous madness and merriment.

“I will return again”

This probably goes without saying, so I’ll refrain My story of adventure beginning to unfold upon realizing there was still much to behold.

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“As the dust that floats finds you”

Jump start to one morning on Java; sulfur in the air, hoping to put blue-fire in your stare, climbing like a pillage to Heaven just to descend into the active belly of Vulcan as pre-dawn breakfast fare.

 

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“We’re moving through Kashmir”

Every evening Laotian market madness met my eyes making Monday working blues fade into hues screaming of cotton-candy dreaming. Main street pulsed with beatnik treats as the sun kissed the day adieu and children gleefully returned home from school.

 

 

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“Oh, father of the four winds fill my sails”

Before I posted bale to get out of the society sell, my father and I conversed as to where I’d spent Christmas. The best answer I could muster was, “well I always liked the song, “Holiday in Cambodia.”” Six months of Earthly revolutions later, serendipitous intervention had me re-pledging my faith in the turn table. Because wouldn’t you know December 25th, 2016 was spent sitting pool-side in Phnom Penh with a gaggle of dabblers and travelers sharing apples full-filling my Dead Kennedy prophecy.

“Cross the sea of years”

The generational divide becomes more of brief aside in the south Pacific, making passport specifics feel like they might as well be hieroglyphics. It’s a riot to meet Silent Generation remembers refusing to go quiet. I met an 84 year old man with childlike pep and a spring in his knee-replaced step. He decided to solo-travel and in typical boho style, he was adopted by a group of Baby Boomers turned cultural consumers. To my elation on another occasion a man of at least seventy one pointed to my, “May You Stay Forever Young” tattoo. Right on cue he said with a smile, “I’m still working on it.”

“With no provision but an open face”

I found the key to opening doors between experiences known and unknown, is to take a pre-Carrey-ous yes man approach. Because you could never have known a sporadic joint chief staff meeting would turn into an evening of accompanying a Danish viking around town handing out flyers to promote a bar’s fire show. To then be ordained the role of shot girl, and eventually make an impromptu, stage-front, debut singing back up to a Sublime mashup. Oh what an Adventure in La, La, Land…

“Along the straits of fear”

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Upon entering the kingdom of wonder I walked with unsure footing. By the eve of visa expiration, I strode the same streets with confident dictation. From navigating with paranoid hesitation to narrating with determination, I had grown leaps and bounds in one lunar cycle go-round. This is not to say my following days were devoid of adrenaline, like when I almost got myself washed away in Indo. Posing as a Rita on the rocks with a sea salt rim could have ended grim. The unforgiving tide began rising before my eyes, exit path lessening in existence with every wave’s lapse and crash. Or the time when I landed on the island of Lombok and hired a motorbike to drop me at my rural hostel “hot spot.” As my driver zigzagged down dark, tree-lined roads without a light or another bike in sight. My second thought’s began to contemplate, “I hope I didn’t just orchestrate my own kidnapping.”

“Oh, when I want, when I’m on my way, yeah”

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On an omission of permission, you can pack up and leave with the folding of a few shirt sleeves. No one to answer to except the little voice that’s attached to you. One morning here, and a fortnight there. Constructing the blueprint for that night’s head ‘n pillow rendezvous point in between bites of breakfast.

“And my feet wear my fickle way to stay”

Throngs of foot thongs, five pairs came and gone. In times of living with toes unbridled it became ever so clear to me, when you live life barefoot you’ll never be left waiting for the other shoe to drop.

 

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“Ooh, yeah yeah, oh, yeah yeah,”

Multitudes of nights were spent among people from an array of latitudes. I’ll never forget glorious hours lost to accents of haha’s and yeah, yeah’s discussed in at least a quartet of languages.

“But I’m down oh, yeah yeah, oh, yeah”

A monkey bite in Ubud briefly got my spirits down-creeping becasue a rabies vaccines don’t come cheap. Yet as I reached main street, I learned timing isn’t a bitch but rather a sour patch kid. Wouldn’t you know across the road, my friend Taren and his mates were sitting in tow only moments away from clicking their motorbike’s ignitions into starting position. He invited me on their quest to find a black sand beach and floating temple. Without stopping to scratch my now tooth-punctured dome I joined in, in what became a day of unparalleled adventure.

“Yeah, but I’m down, so down”

 

The Sticky Falls in Chiang Mai will have you believing gravity is merely a suggestion as you climb up the rock face while water rushes down around your feet. Another one of Mother Nature’s truly spectacular treats for those hunger-struck for wanderlust.

“Ooh, my baby, oh, my baby”

I have never seen more genuine smiles then those of the children on South Pacific isles. On Koh Rong a group of kids stopped at our beach towel brigade upon spying our Frisbee. They got us all up in a circle, then the next half hour was spent sending the disk in a tizzy. They eventually got curious about of camera phones and sending snap-chats to the folks back home. Jump cut to the middle of Gili T when a women invited my friend to meet her kids. It was clear this family didn’t have much, but without hesitation the kids  tied their ribbon-made flowers on our wrists and sent us off with a round of hugs.

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“Let me take you there”

Skyscanner allows for a choose your own adventure where the only parameter is the scope of your imagination. To conjure some inspiration here’s some methods of transportation I took via local-motion; Razor scooting through art galleries in Singapore, hitch-hiking in the highlands of Malaysia, tuk-tuks though Bangkok, Cambodia by back of a motorbike, bussing across boarders, boats both passenger and cargo, a spot of train, a splash of kayak, sharing bunks of night buses with strangers, renting two-wheelers for the schwinn, and finally just blowing in the wind.

“Come on, oh let me take you there”

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“Let me take you there”

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An epic journey no less, ready for more

I hope you enjoyed my overview of the four months I spent on the trail.

One thought on “Sign up for South East Asia’s (endless) Summer Camp

  1. […] Hands down South East Asia (SEA) is the region I get the most questions about… or maybe I should say hands raised this is the region I get asked the most questions about. Since my departure I’ve guided two friends through these lands which captivated my heart. I am happy to report I have 100% success rates. So if you are on the cusp of clicking “confirm” on that one way (ehh ehh) plane ticket, here is some motivation to get you off the fence and falling head-first into wanderland: Sign up for South East Asia’s (endless) Summer Camp […]

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