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  • Elizabeth Cochran

The spontaneity travel

As a full time traveler with a nomadic lifestyle, I travel very frequently. To the outside world on social media you see a different world. I want to share the reality of full time or frequent travel to share more of the reality of travel.

Where in the world is Liz right? Well, I am in South East Asia like always. South East Asia feels like home. I sit writing this with a bubble tea, hot humid weather, sound of motorbikes, and later there will be the monsoon evening rain flooding the streets. Earlier this morning, I ate chicken, rice, and soup for breakfast and this is my normal life. I wouldn't trade this for a croissant in the morning or even for a bowl of cereal. I like having a full meal with hot food in the morning. I enjoy the monsoon rains even, as I hop through puddles of water that become ankle deep. I giggle at families of four riding by on motorbikes with their plastic raincoats, school bags, and bags of vegetables hidden away. I smile as I cross through the busy hectic traffic filled with motorbikes on my bicycle. "Ring ring" goes my bike as I stroll through looking all ways with my bike filled with fresh produce from the local market. My rose tinted glasses have fallen off long ago, but I find the beauty in this chaotic part of the world. Living in South East Asia, is not glamourous, or at least not if you don't open your eyes. The truth is South East Asia there is a lot of garbage everywhere, the rainy season is intense, people work really long hours, people respect their elders, the food is amazing, people are kind, and people never plan over here. Each country in South East Asia has its differences, but being in this part of the world has felt like home for me. Currently, I am awaiting a long term visa for Vietnam. I have been traveling to the surrounding countries lately such as Laos or Thailand and really wherever else. I took a trip to Turkey to see a friend and each month have to evaluate a new destination to leave the country of Vietnam of my one month visa (not renewable) and apply for a new tourist visa in hopes to return again. I am awaiting a long term visa for Vietnamese only for a visa exemption. (This is valid for those with Vietnamese origin such as family, or one you are directly related or can prove Vietnamese citizenship previous or of a family member.) Pretty sweet deal for me right? However, while I wait for this visa, I am on a short term visa, super short! One month only at a time! To the outside world they see, "wow Liz is traveling a lot" and its true, but the truth is. I'm exhausted. I took a trip to Laos by bus recently and it was so exhausting. Figuring out all of the paperwork and getting on a long bus, visa delays meaning a night in Laos in a small border town with little of anything to do, then the next day coming back.

It makes my life full of adventure, but rather inconsistent. My life at this moment is so unpredictable. I find myself nearing the end of my one month visa and looking where can I go for the cheapest and easiest entry. I gave Laos a try and it was okay. Rather easy process to go to Laos. The visa to enter Laos is around 45 USD and even if you only enter to stamp in and turn back around to Vietnam you will still pay 45 USD. It is a bit frustrating, but my time in Vietnam has been so special to me. Check out my video and guide all about the visa run to Laos here.

I have researched other nearby countries as I would like to visit more of South East Asia, but it seems the flights are not the prices they used to, which has effected my travel choices. Pre-pandemic flights from one South East Asian country to another was average price $40 USD one way, but now it seems the average is $70 USD, this is a huge difference for South East Asia considering most of South East Asia locals cost of living is around 300-350 USD a month. Because of the the flight prices going up globally and inflation worldwide it effects here in South East Asia too of course. I currently am on a short visa run trip to Thailand. I chose Thailand because this was the cheapest flight $40 USD one way and there are flights for about the same price return. I went with this destination since it was familiar to me and I wanted to buy some products that I can only get in Thailand. My visa run to Laos I went on my own and had to spend a night in Laos due to a one day visa delay. Noted, most people in Vietnam do this visa run trip on the bus with an agency, but I went for the solo route just to see if its cheaper, and it is. It comes with more hassle, but I enjoy the adventure and being able to figure out these things on my own. For my trip to Lao Bao border and one night in Dansavan, Laos it cost $110. Cost breakdown of Visa Run to Laos:

Visa for Laos $50 USD

Visa for Vietnam $25 USD

Bus to Lao Bao & return to Danang on a sleeper bus $28 USD

One night in Laos in a private room: $7 USD Total: $110 USD

Now I decided to do a visa run to Thailand. The main reason was the cheaper flight option and the fact the flight was under 2 hours. Very easy and less hassle of a long exhausting bus ride. I figured spend a weekend in Thailand, do a bit of shopping, eat some good food then return. Easy. But, here I am waiting on visa delays.

Total cost for visa run to Bangkok, Thailand: Visa for Thailand: $0 visa exempt on arrival (check your nationality US, visa exempt for 30 days at the current time of August 28, 2022)

Flight: $40 USD one way

Return Flight: $45 USD Total Flight costs: $85 USD

Visa for Vietnam $25 USD

Hostel stay per night: $7 USD central location, dorm style, near the BTS Total: $117 USD (noted, this ended up being more expensive, but a more comfortable experience due to visa delays as I ended up being in Bangkok more than 2 days.) As you can see the prices are almost the same, the difference is Thailand has a lot of things to do, malls, shopping, temples, excursions, movie theatres, and its Bangkok! The amount of things to do in Bangkok are endless. As I wait for my e-visa to process I am in Bangkok and feel truthfully exhausted and frustrated. The visa is a bit delayed, and making it hard to plan well everything. I indeed do have a flexible schedule as I am a part-time freelancer, but all of this is also exhausting. I guess the biggest thing, is I want to know the day I will enter. My travel plans are undetermined. Each day I check the visa results if it has came so I can pack up my backpack and book my flight and be in Danang again with my friends. The flight from Bangkok is 2 hours and really you need to be at the airport two hours before the flight, but many flights happen in a day to Danang from Bangkok. I am ready to pack it all up and go. This waiting game makes it hard to plan. I need to relax more and am working on my writing and enjoying being in the Bangkok. I am truthfully not a city girl and am ready for more relaxed vibes, but just enjoy the time while it is. While I have been in Bangkok, I have gotten to have Thai food's I miss, enjoy the street food, film things for youtube, and have been inspired to write. I did some basic shopping for certain products I like that are Thai products "such as cooling powder, tiger balm, Thai nose inhaler, deodorant, toothpaste, Thai curry sauces, and other cooking sauces. As I write this, I remember to be thankful I can travel this much. I wanted to share the reality and show that travel is not all glamourous. A lot of planning, flexibility, and adaptability comes with traveling frequently. I feel accomplished also, that in all of this chaos and unlucky happenings, that I am able to adapt. I know my way around Bangkok, well. I arrived here a few days ago and only just today got a sim card. I can navigate through the city, remember directions easily, bargain, speak in basic Thai to order food, and work online too.

Some strengths I have learned in my traveling years, is that I am great at directions, I am good at bargaining, a fast thinker, good at problem solving, easy going, and spontaneous. I have learned I don't give up easily, can find the good in shit situations, and have learned to be more present in my life. Even though I live abroad all the way across the world from my family and familiar country of the United States, I feel good in South East Asia. While at times I miss the structure of the West, bus tickets in advance, appointment only, hours of operation at businesses being accurate, and a set of rules for most things, I also don't miss that actually. I enjoy the easy going nature of people over in South East Asia. Things might take time here to every get going, but I still enjoy the life over here. Needless to say things are still hard currently, like most of the world. Inflation is high, and food shortages of certain items are becoming a reality, rent prices increasing, the cost of fuel sky rocketing, as well as flight prices, and it will continue to be like this wherever in the world we are right now. My life abroad traveling and being in South East Asia, I wouldn't trade this for anything though regardless of these stressors. Stress is a part of life and if it is out of your control then the only thing you can change is your reaction to it. It is funny how the world works. During this randomly planned trip to Thailand, I realized once I arrived it was exactly three years ago on this day that I moved abroad to Thailand for the first time. The start of my solo travel journey and here I am again in Bangkok where I started, now three years later. This feeling and seeing where I started and seeing where I am now. Makes me feel freaking proud! All of this reminded me of a time when I was brand new to Thailand. It was probably the third month of me living in Thailand and I went on a trip with some teacher friends and my English teaching company. We had planned a last minute spontaneous trip to go camping near some islands just outside of Bangkok in the Chonburi/ Rayong area. We arrived very late to the campsite and it turns out a famous movie was being filmed there so it was closed to visitors. We all were bummed as we had a car full of people, kids, camping gear, beer, meats, and fishing rods. We were really looking forward to good fun on the ocean, camping under the stars, and some good hot pot, and bbq. All of that was cancelled though. My Thai boss called some of his friends up and we got on a ferry to Koh Samed.

This was a new island to us and it turns out he used to throw fire with some guys on this island. He had connections. He called up more friends in Thai and none of understood a thing. Next thing we knew we were hopping on a small boat ferry as he greeted his friends and we were on our way to Koh Samed. Koh Samed is a smaller island outside of Bangkok. It is easy to come for a weekend trip from Bangkok, but you will have to beat the traffic to hope you make the last ferry. As we arrived to the ferry port, it was already dark. This spontaneous weekend camping trip turned into a spontaneous island trip. Spontaneity and not planning things in Thailand and South East Asia really though is the way things are, throw out your plans and just live your life spontaneously. This is how people do it over here! I remember my American and British friend were quite shook up about this whole trip and I was like there's nothing to worry about. "Mai bpen rai" (NO WORRIES) as the Thai's say. My other boss, mom of two half Thai kids looked at me and said "you already are Thai, haha". I responded "there is nothing to worry about, we got food, good people, I have money, some clothes, the beach, a place to stay, woo Thailand!" I remember having such great fun exploring this island with just a weekend backpack, and with great people. All of it made this incredibly new and spontaneous weekend a memory I remember.

Lately, I have been feeling exhausted from all this travel, but really I don't regret any of it. I have so many stories to tell that I don't have enough time to write them all. The amount of things that happen to me in a month are insane. I have so many stories such as this one and I wouldn't want my life to be any other way. I am young, free, living a minimalist life, part-time freelancer, and a full time enjoyer of life. I hope that this story gave some insight to the realities of travel and inspired you to get out and see and do more wherever you are in the world.

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