When you read this post I will most likely be on a plane home to Denmark. Which is crazy to think about let alone write down. But I'll get back to all that soon enough. Julie and I spent our last three days in Bangkok well. We stayed at TT Guesthouse close to Silom road in the modern part of town - the area I had first stayed in when I started out on my solo trip after India, over 5 months ago. It was funny how my trip seemed to come full circle. We walked most places and took the local bus, metro and Skytrain to places too far away to reach by foot. After getting to the guesthouse on the first morning we went to Madam Suzy's down Soi 20 for breakfast - the delicious and cheap place that John and I had discovered when I was in Bangkok the first time.
Then we walked all the way down Silom road and took the Skytrain to the Sukhumvit area, spending the whole day walking down the main street, into the giant malls and down side streets, finally reaching the mall Terminal 21 in the afternoon for lunch. In the evening we took the metro to the giant Chatuchak weekend market and spent the night walking around there.
On our second day in Bangkok, we took the ferry to Khao San road and after doing a bit of souvenir shopping in the area we joined a vegetarian and vegan cooking class at May Kaidee. It was an amazing experience, our teacher Ice being the sweetest human and all the food incredibly delicious. With very full stomachs we took the bus back to Silom road, walked through the Patpong night market and back home. That night I barely slept a wink - I simply couldn't get my brain to switch off and stop thinking about how soon my trip would be ending. Instead, I spent the night looking through all the pictures from my journey and remembering all my incredible experiences.
Yesterday, on our last real day in Thailand we found a hotel with a rooftop pool and spent the day tanning, swimming and winding down, getting ready for going home. We still ended up walking just over 10 km though, so the day wasn't all laziness. We celebrated our last night in Asia by eating the most delicious meal at Veganerie and sharing a mouthwateringly good dessert. It was a really nice way to end the trip.
And before I knew it we were in a taxi to the airport at around 6 am this morning, very soon leaving behind Bangkok and Asia. And with that my 7 months in Asia are over. And I really don't think I've realised it yet. I've spent 48 days in India, 91 days in Thailand, 11 days in Laos, 39 days in Vietnam and 26 days in Cambodia. I've travelled around by bus, train, boat, aeroplane, scooter, camel, foot, bicycle and pickup truck. I've slept in hostels, guesthouses, homestays, bamboo huts, friends' houses, hammocks, every kind of moving vehicle, a desert and a national park. And I've seen the most breathtaking landscapes, monuments, cities and natural wonders. Exactly 7 months ago to the day I waved goodbye to my family and home and left for New Delhi. I had no real plan for my trip then and no idea what the journey would bring. But I don't think that I could've ever imagined how wonderful, beautiful, mindblowing and life-changing a journey I would come to have.
I set out on my journey believing that solo travelling meant travelling alone and being alone. And I couldn't have been more wrong - solo travelling seems the exact opposite. I have met (and re-met) so many incredible, amazing, open, funny and inspiring people on my trip that I've lost count. Some have become close friends, almost as familiar to me as my own family, others have become cherished pals to write and laugh with and others again have been brief one-time encounters and happy memories. I've actually had to consciously take off days from people, making sure not to talk to anyone, just to finally get a social break and some time alone. But it has truly been the people that have made my trip something special and I feel so lucky to have been able to surround myself with so many beautiful people all throughout my journey. But solo travelling has given me the freedom to ultimately decide everything myself, something that at times seemed a blessing and at times a curse. I chose where to go when - if I wanted to travel with someone I could, but at any given moment I could also choose to go on alone. And with that freedom, I learned to slow down a bit and take things as they came. With no plans and little time restriction, there was simply no reason to stress - travelling in Asia really taught me to worry less about tiny problems. A bus arriving late, a salesman getting pushy or a wrong meal being served seemed so insignificant in comparison to children living on the streets, animals and the planet slowly dying from pollution and our environmental carelessness and one-third of a population being wiped out by their own government only a few centuries ago.
And through having to ultimately make all my own decisions (and learning from my mistakes) and figuring everything out on my own in foreign surroundings I gained a whole new kind of independence and confidence in myself that I didn't quite have back home. Furthermore, through having to meet new people again and again, as well as having to become comfortable doing everything alone, my confidence in myself grew together with my social confidence. And living in the moment and having fun without second-guessing everything too much has taught me just how much of a gift spontaneity can be and not to overthink everything all the time. So now the big question: "have I found myself, then?". I don't think so, no, but I also don't think that I would really want to or even can. I change so much all the time and I feel like I might be a thousand different versions of myself depending on the day or even just the moment, so I don't think I can possibly " find myself" since that self might not be the same as tomorrow. What I have found is confidence in myself and in my future, whatever shape or form that might take. By meeting so many different people - most of which are in some way transitioning or completely without plans for the future - I've also realised that life can be lived in so many different ways and that success does not look the same to everyone. And I've realised that it's okay not to know what I want or who I want to be and instead live more in the present (however cheesy it might sounds) - everything truly seems to work itself out anyway. So I guess that is who I'm coming home as - Charlotte 2.0. I feel like so much has happened since I waved goodbye to everyone 7 months ago. I've had so many incredible experiences, met so many amazing people, been so many beautiful places and learned so much that it seems unfathomable to actually be going back home again. In many ways travelling has now become my life and my comfort zone and going home seems the leap into something new (and a tiny bit scary). After all this excitement and exhilaration and being surrounded by people who think so alike in so many ways and moving from place to place constantly, going home is a little bit frightening and unreal. But I have so much to look forward to, too - it's going to be incredible seeing family and friends again, I already have just about 30 plans lined up to keep me busy, I turn 20 in a week and Christmas is just around the corner. So, even though I feel sad to put life on the road on pause for the time being and waving goodbye to all the freedom and possibilities and memories that come with it, I am also excited to go home again and for everything (and everyone) that is waiting there.
And then before I know it I'll probably be off on my next adventure. And I can't wait to see what it will bring. Right now, everything is looking quite optimistic and I'm sure that I have a lot more incredible experiences waiting for me.