We’ve reached the halfway point of our trip and as usual for this sort of thing, time feels like it’s both flown and gone really slowly. On one hand, we can’t believe we’ve only got six or so weeks left, while on the other we feel like we’ve done and seen so much, not to mention been away from home and the people we love for a long time.
The halfway point feels like the perfect time to sit back and reflect on our travels so far. We’ve been in seven countries up to this point (the US, Samoa, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, and in transit in Fiji and Australia), and we plan to spend the rest of our time in Thailand (one week), Vietnam (three weeks), and Sri Lanka (two weeks). Over this time, we’ve gone from beaches, cliffs, and canyons, to fjords, mountains, and cities; we’ve stayed in hostels, houses-under-construction, beach huts, hotels, airbnbs, a campervan, and guest houses; we’ve had the pleasure of getting to know people from America, Samoa, Germany, Portugal, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, and France; we’ve eaten food from too many different places to name; AND, most importantly, we haven’t got the shits yet…great success!
If somebody asked me to pick the one thing that has stood out most so far, it’s that enjoyment and happiness don’t simply come from immaterial things—seeing something you’ve always wanted to see—or material desires—staying in a luxurious hotel. Rather, we’ve felt at our happiest when we’ve combined three simple things: comfort, friendship, and adventure.
- By comfort, I’m talking about being in a place that can make you feel at home in a fairly short space of time. For us, this has tended to come in the form of cheap hostels or airbnbs that do the simple things well: being clean, having great facilities (good showers, a well-equipped kitchen, a pleasant lounge area to chill), feeling safe, and being in a town/village/city that ticks the right boxes for us.
- As for friendship, there are different ways to look at this. It could be as simple as chatting to someone in a café for half an hour to clicking with other travellers in your hostel, and even to staying in an airbnb with incredibly nice and interesting owners. Some of the moments that we’ve loved most have been sharing experiences and learning about others’ lives and stories as we’ve gone along.
- Third, and this is probably what most people associate with travelling, is adventure. You clearly don’t just go travelling to be comfortable or to have friendship—you’d just stay at home if this were the case! You want to see places you’ve seen amazing pictures of for years and you want to do things you couldn’t do at home.
These all sound like obvious things, you’re probably thinking. And of course they are! But what I’m trying to get at is that we’ve been happiest when all three have collided. In Samoa, for example, I imagine that most people would see our pictures of golden sand beaches and lush green forests and really want to go. However, if I’m being brutally honest, we didn’t love our time there. Yes, we saw some beautiful, insta-worthy sights to tick the adventure box. We also chatted to lots of different travellers and locals at different points of our time on the island. However, we weren’t ever that comfortable: the food was probably the worst we had on our trip, Lauren felt sidelined for being a woman more than she’s felt anywhere else, and our supposedly luxurious hotel for the second half of our week was mosquito-riden (leading to poor Lauren getting the Zika virus) and not particularly clean. And because the comfort box wasn’t ticked, we were ready to hop on a plane and get to our next destination by halfway through the week.
The polar opposite of this is our time in Hawaii. Here, we felt SO comfortable in our cheap (for Hawaii) hostel because it was clean, safe, and in a great location. We also made really good friends at the same place. Such good friends, in fact, that we spent our whole trip with them and had the best time exploring Kauai and Maui as a group.
So, with this in mind, we’re going to live by a simple principle for the next six weeks: find places to stay where we feel comfortable, never shy away from getting to know others, and see the places and things that we’ve always wanted to see. And we’re going to try to do this by staying in hostels wherever we can. I know, I thought my hostel days were over too—I pretty much considered meeting the love of my life in one mission-accomplished as far as they were concerned—but it seems they offer so much more than just pub crawls for 18 year-olds looking to find themselves. They (the nice ones, let’s be clear) can offer quarter-life, more mature (ha!) travellers the perfect base for the most enjoyable travels—and they don’t break the bank either!