July 2, 2007

Traveler Reunions and Relationships
Bangkok, Thailand

Dad has noticed it, and so have I: The unusually high number of "reunions" I've been having in SE Asia over the past two months. Old friends and new acquaintances are by my side once again—some after several years, others, only a few weeks.

…It's actually starting to become a sizable list:

  1. Karen, an Aussie I met in Peru and Argentina, tackled me on a street in Bangkok
  2. Shoel, my awesome Canadian friend and Honduran diving buddy, each went out of our ways to meet up in Phuket while he was on holiday
  3. Aldona, a French/Pollack I met in Panama, hosted me for a few days at a five-star resort in Dungun, Malaysia
  4. Juliet, a Brit that I met in the Cameron Highlands, was paid a visit to on Pulau Kecil, in the Malaysian Perhentians
  5. Daniel, the young Aussie traveler I adopted for a few days on the island of Penang, Malaysia, was uncovered in Bangkok
  6. Aaron, my friend of nearly 15 years from the U.S., spent a week smiling and catching up with me after not seeing each other for a few years
  7. Giovanni, my Italian buddy from Colombia, Ecuador, and Chile, who has been traveling for nearly as long as me, adjusted his Bangkok departure to Burma so that we could connect again
  8. Juan, a Chilean I met in Phuket on his first night in the country, found me in the lounge of my hotel in Bangkok, on his last night in Thailand
  9. And Lindsey, from the U.S., whom I met as I passed through Phoenix last April, will be flying out to Bangkok in a few days to travel with me

I've always valued the relationships that I keep, but sustaining those connections has always been hard work for me—infinitely more so while traveling full-time. I think this (growing) list is important, just as the people who take the time to write and update me about the current state of their lives are. Trust me, of all the things I spend money on, reading an update from an acquaintance, friend, or family member at an Internet café is money well spent.

Fewer Scouts in SE Asia

Back in Central and South America, I got into the habit of networking with other backpackers who were traveling in roughly the same direction as me. I'd collect their e-mail addresses, as per the friendly backpacker protocol, and kept in intermittent contact with them.

Since most people travel faster than me, we'd part ways and they'd eventually spread out, reaching points of interest I was considering visiting. I'd ping them every so often to see where they where and where they'd been, and if their path was in line with mine, gently probe them with questions (ranging from the weather to bus prices to thoughts on accommodations).

These people became my scouts—my front line recon teams. Some became more than that, but most fell off my radar when they flew home. …Perhaps some are still visiting this Web site.

Here in SE Asia, I haven't really been doing the scout thing. Actually, I haven't been doing the network-with-backpackers thing much at all. I feel like my path has either been too erratic or destination driven (such as meeting up with someone by a certain date or traveling to find a replacement PDA keyboard) to focus on such information gathering practices.

But I also think a lot of it has to do with how fast travelers come and go from this region, and easy I find travel to be in Thailand and Malaysia. These are painless countries to move about/live in, and to articulate that feeling I need only remind myself that I lost my backpacking virginity to Thailand in 2004.

Countries that I feel the need to gather firsthand experiences on are everything but those two. I need stories of pleasure and pain in Burma, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. I anticipate visiting all these places, and need some subjective opinion that isn't printed in a guidebook.

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