Thursday, October 23, 2008

Wanderlust & Laos plans

So, I neglected to mention this in my first post, but I am currently in the process of planning a "round the world" tramping trip for next year. Yeah...I have basically decided that as of June next year I am going to be a full time traveler at least until Christmas 2009. The decision to do this has been a long time coming: when I first graduated I considered spending a year teaching english abroad in India or Bangladesh but obviously that kind of fell through. I've always known I wanted to do something non-traditional while I am young and untethered, but it wasn't until this month that I actually started thinking seriously about just picking up and heading off into the proverbial sunset.

What really did it was my discovery of Colleen Kinder's "Delaying the Real World: A Twentysomething's Guide to Seeking Adventure" (, a book which I first encountered at the Career Development Office of my school sometime in June. I was intrigued by the title then, but I never got around to actually reading it so a few weeks ago I located a copy of it at our local library. And god, did it set me off! The book is basically a guide for how to say "fuck you" to cubicle jobs and take off to see the world. Now, I think Kinder gets a little carried away with the whole - see the world! screw real life! line - after all there are very real reasons people get jobs like those, but reading her book was just what I needed to push my schemes of traveling from the back of my mind to the front. It really made me realize that I have never wanted a common life, and that the only way to pick up and jam your finger in the air at the whole corporate, 9 to 5 system is to just, well, DO IT. So I'm going to. Another good thing about the book is that it convinced me that you don't need a lot of money to do this, and that it is quite possible to *also* do some good while traveling on that kind of trip. Which was good for me, because I often have a hard time with travel - in my mind it sometimes seems like a selfish, bourgeoisie endeavor, especially done American style. When I put down the book after reading it straight through in one day I decided my plan for next year is to travel half way around the world. Anyway, I'm sure you'll be hearing plenty about my upcoming plans and my incesant wanderlust - after all, one of the main reasons I started this blog was to have a place to catalogue my pre-,during, and post-trip experiences.

However. The *real* point of this entry is that I've found a place I really want to visit! The place is the Viengxay caves in Laos (visual supplement below). Apparently the limestone caves housed thousands of Laotians who were hiding from the Americans during the Vietnam War. I know that sounds kind of macabre, but I'm fascinated by pretty much any insurgency that successfully manages to stand up to the American government, and I'm curious to see this place in person. If only to get a glimpse of what humans create in desperate situations. According to wikipedia during certain parts of the war the caves contained up to 23,00 people, and housed bakeries, hospitals and even a theater! Now that the political unrest has calmed you can actually visit the caves...which I would love to do.

As it turns out, I have been thinking about visiting Laos a lot recently. A few weeks ago I read a glowing travel blog which described Laotian culture as extremely easy going and congenial. So when I read the short little blurb about the Viengxay caves in Budget Travel (which I've taken to checking out from my local library) I got even more excited.
I know Loas is a developing country and it may still be dangerous to visit as an Westerner, but I think Americans tend to be far too wary of countries that lack Western technology and development. More often than not they make up for it in warmth and willingness to reach out to foreigners. From what I've read Laos seems like a really beatiful, quiet country...and I like that it won't be swarmed with Americans and luxury hotels. I think feeling uncomfortable and like an outsider is one of the most valuable aspects of travel. I like that I won't be able to rely on there being American backpackers or Europeans to spend time with, because it will require me to connect with the people who actually live their lives there. I also think putting yourself in a situation like that helps you to understand just how difficult it is to be an immigrant in your own country.
Anyway. Enough about that. I think planning future travel adventures is almost as exciting as going on them!

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