AES’EA – Ever After We Lived, The End

It’s really good to be home. I woke up very tired and mildly hungover, which makes a lot of sense giving how much I must have drunk the prior night. Moreover, there’s a non-zero percent chance that there was something extra in the last couple drinks I had. So, all in all a great start to a full few days of traveling.

Regardless, the show must go on (or rather, the show must end), so I pulled myself together and we headed out to the Chiang Mai airport. We left ourselves plenty of time because our first flight technically marked the beginning of an international trip, but had no problem getting through security and departing immigration in under an hour. I lounged around the airport for a few hours, spending the few remaining baht I found in my wallet and binging Steven Universe, my new guilty TV obsession. When did Cartoon Network get so trippy and randomly super deep? It’s nothing like the Cartoon Network I remember from my childhood, and yet oddly reminiscent of what it was, somehow.

Regardless, we eventually got on the first plane and began the journey home. All told, my trip home included:

  • Four flights – CNX -> BNK (Bangkok) ->AUH (Abu Dhabi) -> JFK -> IAD (Dulles)
  • Going through security four times
  • Going through some form of international customs twice
  • A two hour uber ride from Dulles airport to home in Charlottesville

Summed up, the trip took a grand total of 41.5 hours. I arrived at the Chiang Mai airport at noon on Saturday the 2nd, and got home at 6:30pm on Sunday the 3rd. Additionally, Thailand is eleven hours ahead of the eastern United States (and thus there are eleven hours of travel not accounted for by the time differences between arrival and departure). Thus 12:00-6:30 + a day lost + 11 hours of time change = 41.5 hours. The trip wasn’t so much bad as just unbelievably long. By the end I was falling asleep on my feet, but somehow managed to make it home.

The vacation on the whole was amazing. I would wholeheartedly recommend anyone considering a longer, less traditional vacation to jump at the chance. If you have the ability to take the adventure of a lifetime, don’t pass that chance up. In that direction, here are some tips should you decide to take a trip that is in any way similar to mine.

Pack smarter, not more. One big thing I didn’t realize is that the standard bag weight of 50lbs is only an American thing. Many of our flights throughout the trip had a 15kg bag weight limit, which converts to just over 33lbs. Thus if you truly do pack a 50lb bag, you’ll either have to throw out a third of it, or pay an extra $100 for each 15kg-weight limited flight you take. I was lucky enough to have only packed around 38lbs, but I did have to carry a very heavy carry-on through a bunch of airports, which is never fun. Also, on a larger scale, vacationing on the go means physically moving your own luggage a lot more often than a single destination vacation. Every pound of luggage you leave at home is a pound you aren’t carrying from location to location. Make sure to bring what you need, but try to avoid the “I’m not sure when I’ll use this but it can’t hurt to pack it” mindset.

Second, hostels are awesome. There are of course the simple arguments for such: hostels are usually cheaper and usually more centrally located than their hotel competitors. If both (or even only one) are significantly true, picking a hostel is an easy decision. Even if the hostel you are evaluating is equivalently priced and located to a hotel, I would even still push for the hostel. Whereas hotels are focused on an individualized vacationing experience, hostels naturally push the current occupants together towards a more group oriented experience. When your goal is to get out and experience the area, there’s little better than having a group of similarly-minded new friends who will both nag you away from spending the night doing nothing on your computer and also accompany you on your adventures. Each new person you add to your traveling group reduces the likelihood that you waste a day or night, and because you aren’t even technically traveling together you can break away from them at any point if you discover you have different vacationing goals.

Finally, ahead of the vacation, think about how full your want your vacation to be. In an average day, how many activities are you going to try to do, how many activities would you be satisfied doing? Just one? Two or three? For whole day activities, how long can they be? Are you ok with twelve hour activities? Sixteen? Are you ok with having a day to sit by the pool, read and drink something cold? Or is the very suggestion offensive? Different people vacation in different ways, and thus have different expectations of what a vacation should be. Personally, I need a chiller vacation. I’m perfectly happy doing one main activity each day and filling the remaining time with aimlessly walking around the area and relaxing. Moreover, I tend to need a lot of sleep, so after a few early mornings and heavily physical activities, I need a lazy day. I am able to persist, but it stops being fun and stops being interesting once I’m tired the moment I wake up. You, of course, will have your own travel-related quirks. Remember that the point of vacationing is, ultimately, to have fun and at least mentally (if not physically) relax. If you ever catch yourself thinking, “I need a vacation after this vacation”, you probably packed it too full. It’s your vacation! There’s nothing stopping you from just doing fewer things per day. Alternatively, if you’re just not enjoying doing nothing as much as you imagined you would when you were overworked and planning the vacation, get off your ass and do something else!

So, that’s it. Thanks to all who kept up with my travels along the way! This marks both the end of the vacation, and the end of semi-daily posts. For next time, back to the regularly scheduled programming.

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