I have never been the type of person to venture too far out of my comfort zone. Even when I am traveling, I like to find a way to get around without missing too many of my everyday luxuries. I can handle a bit of compromise, but I would much rather relax than spend a trip sweating the small stuff.
When I was younger, Southeast Asia seemed like a region made for anyone but me. A vibrant hub of culture, with the scents of street food filling the air. Traveling in rickety tuk-tuks or on the back of a motorbike. It sounded beautiful, but the beauty wasn’t enough for me.
Over the past two decades, a lot has changed in Southeast Asia. While it has retained its culture, the region has better accommodations for people like me. Everything is easier. Getting around is simple, with websites like Bookaway.com aggregating the most comfortable ground and sea travel options. And technology has made our experience seamless no matter where we are.
Here are some of the reasons traveling in Southeast Asia has never been easier, even for someone like me.
Language is no longer a huge barrier
Some populations in Southeast Asia speak Englihs as a first language. In Manila in the Philippines, everyone speaks English. In Singapore, you might struggle a bit with “Singlish,” but it is the same language in essence. However, most destinations are not populated by English speakers. In the past, this could make for a very difficult trip. Not knowing how to get where you want to go or even purchase food you feel comfortable with, language presented a huge barrier.
Nowadays, language isn’t nearly as much of a barrier. This is for a couple of reasons. For one, you can translate everything on your phone. But more importantly, you don’t need to rely on others for information. You can quickly look something up rather than struggling to understand a local who has no good reason to be as patient with you as they probably are. Instead, when you do speak to locals, it won’t be while sweating about how you’re going to make the next train without being able to understand the map!
Other tourists have gone before you
As a tourist, I often find myself saying things like, “It’s good to see a place before tourists ruin it.” I recognize the irony in that I am, in fact, the tourist ruining things. And when I actually take time to think about it, there are many places I would never have gone to if tons of tourists had been there before.
For someone who loves backpacking, going into a place you know nothing about is exhilarating. But if you require a bit more familiarity to feel comfortable, a trip into a city undocumented by Lonely Planet feels like a particular kind of hell. Going from one bad food stand to another in search of the perfect street food doesn’t appeal to me. On the contrary, I’d much prefer to find a top ten list online and visit number 1!