I was incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to travel to 5 different countries in Asia this summer over the course of 40 days, spending about a week in each country. Here are a few things that I learned:
#1 One should not travel for 40 consecutive days [in Asia] [in the summer].
It is simply too much, and too long, no matter how you break up the time spent in each location, or how much you like the people you are traveling with, or traveling to see.
I had an amazing summer and loved everything I saw and ate and the people I got to spend time with, and I am 100% glad that I did it, but it was nonetheless an overly ambitious endeavor that I would never do again.
There is a good reason why most working people only get 2-3 weeks of vacation a year (besides the needs of whatever industry you work for). We actually cannot tolerate more leisure time than that, at a single time. Whether we are riding elephants, conquering enormous shopping complexes, or simply lounging at home in our pajamas all day, it gets boring, tiring, exhausting, even. Our bodies and minds crave real work! It seems pretty unthinkable that anyone could be wading in an infinity pool in Thailand, gazing at the water sparkling seamlessly into the horizon and think, I can’t wait to get back to work! Yet that is the reality that I experienced after too many days of vacation.
I actually did a lot of work during my vacation, because I was taking a very content-rich online poetry class for teachers and reading books for my new 7th grade class, but it was still unsatisfying because my work time kept getting interrupted by the vacation (people to meet up with, things to see)! And yes, I am a workaholic, but I believe this phenomenon happens to everyone after a while.
#2 One should aim to stay in one place for at least a week, but no longer than 2 weeks (7-10 days is optimal).
Here is the breakdown of my Asia itinerary:
Jun 25 Depart from SFO
Jun 26-Jul 1 Shanghai (6 days)
Jul 1-8 Taipei (8 days)
Jul 9-19 South Korea: Seoul (2 days), Andong (5 days), Ulsan (1.5 days), Busan (2 days)
Jul 19-25 Penang, Malaysia (7 days)
Jul 25-Aug 3 Thailand (Bangkok 2 days–Chiang Mai 3.5 days–Bangkok 3 days)
Aug 3 Return to SFO
The best parts of the trip (for my physical and mental well-being, and general enjoyment on account of the former) were Taipei and Malaysia. I love Shanghai, because it is home, and I love Andong, because it is my Korean home, and there was no end to the fun things to see and do and eat in Thailand, but I really could not enjoy any of those things fully because I was just so exhausted from all the traveling and new experiences (which I’m sure I will still write about appreciatively in my next post, when I have time to reflect on them). In Taipei and Malaysia there was time to relax, hang out at coffee shops, do some work, sleep in, and even get a bit of exercise. Sounds boring compared to touching tigers and swimming with sea turtles (okay, I didn’t actually get to do the latter–I was just going for the alliteration), but it was actually an objectively better experience.
#3 One should eat good food (obviously), but not to excess (everything in moderation!).
Even the best food in the world cannot hold one’s interest if one has gorged oneself for the past 5+ meals. If you are going to eat and enjoy a lot of amazing food over a long period of time, at each meal or snack it is best if you eat slowly, eat sparingly (until you are “not hungry anymore,” not until you are “full”), and eat selectively (I like to try a little of everything once and then go back for seconds only if I really really love that dish). Actually, this is probably a good rule to follow in life in general, just to be healthy and to really pay attention to what you are eating.
School is starting again in less than a week, so I must get back to work now, but I want to make at least 2 more posts for the summer, one on the new things I learned/experienced in each place and one of a poem I wrote near the end of the trip. I am saying this to motivate myself, but please remind me if you don’t see anything a week from now!