Three months to the day, I was sitting in this same lounge at Doha Airport, Qatar.
It feels like a lifetime ago that I was heading out to Thailand without any idea of what to expect. Now that this little journey is over, I realise I have done so much and written so little about it.
I will add some of my experiences here when I reflect over the coming days and weeks, but in the meantime, I wanted to put down some important things I have learned during my time in Thailand.
Be Savvy but not Suspicious
Most travellers or tourists know to be aware of possible scams, rip-offs and other problems.
Someone naive and clueless about the place they are visiting will most likely have some bad experiences, but I found that being too suspicious and/or negative can also close the door to many opportunities.
The key is keeping a positive attitude and an open mind while being aware of the potential scams in the place you’re visiting. Find out the local scams on forums, Facebook groups, from friends, or from locals.
As an example, in Bangkok, it is common for people to tell you a popular attraction is closed when it isn’t. They work in teams to try and to get you to go somewhere else, like a suit shop, where they can make a commission.
Understand the Locals
It is easy to think that other cultures are a world away from us. In reality, there are always people with personalities similar to someone you know, and they are just as unsure about you as you are of them.
A friendly smile goes a long way and can get you anything from good information to good friends.
Don’t get hung up on money
Many people will exaggerate the cheapness of a place they have visited while missing important details.
Don’t stress about getting the best deals – it is impossible to always be clued up about everything.
Remember that your money is going a long way to help the local community. This is especially true in countries like Thailand with widespread poverty.
If you paid an extra 50p more than a local would for a meal, how much does that really affect you?
Do your Research
The internet is your friend – even the most obscure places, museums, bars and areas will have information from people who have been there before.
When looking to visit somewhere, get all the information first – how busy it is, how pricey, where it is good to eat, things to do etc.
Find people like you
There are many ways to make friends, but if you travel from place to place with little time, it can be hard to connect with like-minded people.
Websites like Couch Surfing will help you safely find people to meet and/or stay with. If you stay with someone who lives in the place you are visiting, their experience is invaluable.
This is an easy way to quickly learn how to get around, what places to see, the best places to eat etc.
Take your Time
Others may disagree, but I believe you must stay for at least a couple of weeks to experience and know a place.
Spending three months travelling and only stopping in one place for 4 days at a time will drain you. Most of your time will be spent researching, arranging travel, finding a place to stay and everything in between.
Slow it down, and you will discover much more. I stayed in Koh Samui for over a month and still feel like there is more to see.
Push your Boundaries
If something invokes a bit of fear, nervousness or unease, then it is worth doing.
For me, this trip was all about doing things outside my comfort zone and because of this, I had an unbelievable time.
The biggest lesson for me is the last one – the key is to get out there and do it.
If you make mistakes, don’t hold onto them; just learn your lesson and move on.
We all feel fear, but it is those of us who push through that get the biggest rewards.
Life is short, and there is a big wide world to discover.