Notes on backpacking South East Asia

Posting some quick notes on South East Asia that I’ve emailed out to friends over the last few years.

  • Thailand
    • Koh Tao – Get Scuba certified on this island for ~$300 USD. I was hesitant at first but really enjoyed it. Stay at Carabao resort, you’ll have to rent a motorbike, but they own the ships and have a great place to relax after a long day.
    • Ko Pha Ngan – Known for their full moon party, but great discounts when it’s not! Got some cozy beach cabanas for ~$20USD/night. 
    • Bangkok – Large city, you’ll find plenty of things to do here. Make sure you get a Thai massage.
    • Ko Samui – Larger of the islands in the Gulf of Thailand, I spent an afternoon at an elephant sanctuary! Highly recommended on a stop over.
    • Krabi – Heard many good things about this place but ran out of time. 
    • Chiang Mai (North) – Beautiful to visit, huge contrast to Bangkok, if you have time do the “Mae Hong Song” motorbike loop. You’ll get a chance to drive through a national park, villages, and take your time. (
    • – Ride share for South East Asia, link your credit card and you won’t have to haggle with the taxi drivers.
  • Laos
    • Countryside – I spent some time traveling North to South and found some amazing places along the way. I really wanted to be outside of the big cities
    • Laung Prabang  – Great place to start the trip, cozy city near the important Mekong River. Lots of accommodation overlooking the river, and nearby farms/rice patties.
    • Vientiane – Capital of Laos
    • Pakse – Tiny city but had significance because my grandma was born here. Nothing that really stands out but enjoyed how laid back it is.
    • Don Det / 10,000 Islands – VERY cool spot, even though Laos is landlocked, I spent a few nights in this island. Very great place to escape the city.
  • Myanmar (my favorite place in SE Asia)
    • I have a huge love for this country and the people, and hope that the military government situation comes to rest. Unfortunately, I do not think you can visit at the moment.
  • Vietnam
    • Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon – Super big city, but a must to check out. My mom was born here! Try the famous “egg coffee”
    • Nah Trang – Beach resort along the coast, known as a Russian vacation spot. 
    • Hoi An – Very special place to visit with the old city, known for tailored clothing. (Get a suit / clothing made)
    • Hanoi – If you visit the south, the North is a great contrast. 
    • Hash House Harriers – Hanoi, Vietnam – WONDERFUL group, they even hire a bus to take you out into the countryside to run. Highly recommended. 
    • Ha Giang – If you’re in the North – Similar to Laos there’s a great motorbike tour. I would recommend this one over the Laos one. Beautiful limestone mountains, and great guest homes to stay at.
    • Bong Hostel – There are a few places that will rent you motorbikes and a guide for the Ha Giang loop, but this one was great

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Samui

Quit your job and travel! (I did) Five tips.

Things to consider before embarking on a long journey abroad

Type in any country in the world into Instagram and you will go down the rabbit hole of beautiful photograph and videos of people gallivanting from country to country for extended periods of time. I was once one of those “Instagram travelers”, filled with wanderlust generated by my phone. One day, I took a leap of faith and quit my job as a Cybersecurity professional in 2017 to travel for two years, I was thrilled and excited about the prospect. But I was also a nervous wreck in the days and weeks before the trip. Here are five things I wish I knew before taking that one-way flight to Europe:

  1. You’re going to be okay: The idea of quitting and traveling for more than 2 weeks is ludicrous at first. What if I get lost? What if I don’t speak the language? What if I run out of money? Try this exercise, make a list of things that scare you. Good. Now next to them, I want you to write out how likely are they to occur? Often, the problems we dream up are solvable. For instance, you could work a few more weeks at your job to save more cash, for directions you utilize a local data plan for your phone, if you can’t speak the language there’s an app that helps you translate even without internet.
  2. Travel slow: Having worked in Corporate America for over a decade, any travel was, obviously, limited to my two-week vacation benefit. That two-week mindset initially made me race across Europe. I could check off Germany and Spain in a week, then keep going to Hungary. I had to remind myself that two weeks was just a mindset. I could travel slowly, and I did. The richest parts of my travel involved staying in a country for a month or longer. I spent three months in Romania in Winter of 2017 experiencing the shift from fall to winter during my runs around Tineretului Park, Bucharest. One of my fondest memories was preparing a traditional Thanksgiving meal with two other Americans for a group of our Romanian friends.
  3. Keep a routine: Having a large chunk of time without routine may feel incredibly liberating. It can also be a curse. You’ll forget the day of the week and sometimes struggle to get simple things done. By my third month of travelling, I fashioned a routine. Tuesdays I would run a 10k, Wednesdays I would have personal time without appointments. On weekends, I would video chat with friends and family in the morning before going out into the city.
  4. Social media burnout: You’ll get tired out of posting photos along the way and question why people share every meal on Instagram. I found it helpful to remind myself, this is your unique journey, you worked hard to get here, and you’re not obligated to share every moment of it on social media.
  5. Unlimited upside: Our brains invent the worst-case scenarios (refer to tip #1), my worst fear was not being able to get another job. This proved to be irrational, as I have had more than a decade of work experience. Little did I know, six months into my trip I would be hired to work remote, which allowed me to extend my travels to two years. Try to worry less about them and focus more on the experiences, and friendships you gain; these “best-case scenarios” will be far greater and far more likely. Before my trip, I never could have imagined making international friends that would visit me in the United States.

Long term travel is the best gift I have given myself and hope to inspire others to do the same.