On The Move

Why Southeast Asia Creates the Travel Bug

Southeast Asia is nowadays a well-trodden path. In fact, it has been for many years, but more and more people are heading to these shores without a thought or worry in the world. Despite it being foreign to most westerners, Southeast Asia has an unprecedented reputation of being safe and well-known. It’s fast becoming a student gap year ritual, a “thing to do” before you settle down and is popular for bachelor and bachelorette celebrations.

Taking all of this into account, as well as cheap flights, the access to social media, and the ever increasing confidence of youth, Southeast Asia is no longer the “mysterious region” that you must dare to visit.

As a previous backpacker of Southeast Asia, the place that brought me to the world back in 2012 I very much appreciated where I was, and actually tried to live in the moment rather than treat it as a “holiday” or an “Instagram trip.”

So why does Southeast Asia inspire so many people to travel and from then onwards?

The culture in Asia is generally warming, for whatever reason you may believe, but in terms of tourism there is a heavy reliance on this industry. This is especially true in places like Thailand, as tourism is 7% of their national GDP. Cambodia and Vietnam are close behind with the prior, touted as “the next Thailand” because of incredible beaches. The Philippines is a little off the beaten path but still quite popular, Indonesia has always had Australian tourism to rely on (beginning in the late 1970s), and Myanmar has recently opened its doors. Yes, Southeast Asia is a place on the rise.

If it’s not the hoards of locals or street vendors trying to sell you packages and deals, the more hostels and guesthouses and travel agents are outweighing everything else. If you want to go somewhere tonight, you can. Also, by western standards—i.e., the British pound, euro, U.S. dollar, and Aussie dollar—it is cheap. And I mean cheap. Money goes further and if you want to go into true explorer-like survival mode and live off of US$20 a day, you can do it, and not have any difficulty in doing so.

If you head to a hostel, which even looks reputable, you are bound to find other travellers there. Solo or not, you will never be alone in Asia in this case. More hostels are opening up, especially party ones, and in Asia the party brings people together.

Expanding on my previous point, the partiers are many in Southeast Asia. Partying and alcohol are the biggest social tools on the planet. I was shocked at the amount of partying done and how easy it is to do so. Myself as a lad from the Northeast of England, where we are not shy of a drink, had to head for a mini rehab. It’s almost like being at Uni, only multiplied exponentially. The parties inspire people more, bring them out of their comfort zone, and give them the idea that this is what travelling is. It creates the want for “more” … also known as the travel bug. Yet not all backpacking regions are like Asia, infact, Southeast Asia stands on its own really.

Taking a photo of a tuk-tuk, an exotic beach, street food vendors, or a famous temple is a far cry from taking a selfie back in your hometown. Due to social media being overused, and because it seems that people only want “to show” via social media outlets, this in itself creates the lust to visit more places for more pictures.

tropical beach Southeast Asia

So, yeah, the travel bug? I’ve got it. And although I’ve been travelling ever since my Southeast Asia trip, it will always be the most memorable for me because it was new. What I didn’t realise then that I did after is that nowadays, certainly in 2016, Asia can be done by pretty much anyone. Previously, to westerners it was more suited (or at least thought to be) for people who had a more alternative, open way of thinking and living. Understanding the different cultures and religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism and just accepting them would also have been more unique than it is today.

Southeast Asia will always be fun, or at least the places that most people go will remain that way. Being in a different country, in a different environment, and experiencing a different way of life, all the while having money in your pocket and no real reason to feel threatened, who wouldn’t love it? Of course you are going to get the travel bug.

To see the real Asia, I would advise to head off of the well-worn tourists path a bit. Head to Myanmar, or perhaps even the Philippines. Dig a little deeper. Asia is unique to itself, because other backpacking regions aren’t anywhere near as easy.