Guest Blog: Red Back Pack Abroad

Alex and I met Maren while rafting down the Ayung River in Bali- she was friendly, vivacious and well she was backpacking alone through Asia. Over all I would say if I lived in Denver we would be fast friends and chat about travel over craft beers at a cool bar. Here is her story- I hope it inspires all of you as much as it did me!

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Here we are…GoPro gave me a nice water drop face.

Some people thought my approach was a little crazy, but sometimes when you want do something there is no time like the present. 

I’ve been living in the beautiful Denver, Colorado for the past five years and international travel has always been something I wanted to do. Finding the right travel partner or timing always seemed to be off. So standing on the edge of this proverbial diving board, what made me jump into 3 months of traveling alone in Asia..? It was a mix of a few things. I turned 30 this year, was tired of cubicle life, was single (at that time) and just overall was feeling restless. 

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Why Asia? It’s cheap ($50 a day allows you to live well!), I had heard from other female travelers that it’s actually pretty easy and safe, and let’s be honest, the pictures and movies I’d seen had me day dreaming of turquoise waters, sandy beaches, limestone karsts and lush rice paddies. 

To make things a bit more complicated, I had just bought my first house and most wouldn’t recommend quitting your job a month after taking on a mortgage for the first time. I tend to be a bit stubborn once I’m on an idea though and the allure of sandy Thai beaches were calling. So I saved, rented my place out via craigslist and Airbnb, found a cleaning company to help, told the guy I just started dating that I was leaving for 3 months, quit my job, packed my belongings into a red, secondhand backpack and set out for my bucketlist adventure. 

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My initial plan was to be gone 3 months and try to hit Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Bali, Taiwan and Japan. I bought a one way ticket to Bangkok, booked my hostel for the first night and that was it! I get that that can invoke some feelings of panic, but it was actually incredibly easy and liberating to not have a plan and to figure it out as you go. I’m a planner and I love to check off my to-do list daily. So making myself live in the moment and decide what I felt and wanted each day was pretty interesting. That’s also the beauty of traveling alone. When you’re hungry you eat, when you’re not, you don’t. When you want to stay at this really cool guesthouse on the beach in Koh Lanta, Thailand for 2 more days, you can and you do, because there is no schedule, no obligation, and at the end of the day you can figure it out! 

Cambodia and Taiwan got cut out of this trip due to time. But there’s always next time! :) So, it ended up being Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Bali and Japan. I was never mugged, harassed, got food poisoning or was fearful of my safety. I rode elephants in Loas, scuba dived with sea turtles in Bali, took a cooking class on a rice farm in Thailand, cruised the stunning karsts of Halong Bay, Vietnam and skied a foot of fresh snow in Japan. I felt excited, exhausted, loved, lonely, happy, frustrated, restless and content on my journey. 

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I also met incredible people that I will remember fondly. I shared sake with a Japanese family at a sushi bar in Kyoto, heard the story firsthand of a Thai guy that watched the tsunami hit the beach that we were sitting on, learned the love story of an American au pair and her now Australian husband while in Bali, searched the night market in Luang Probang with a German guy for the perfect gift for his girlfriend that is expecting their first child, shared whiskey with a group of German, New Zealand and French travelers on the slow boat in Laos, and celebrated the Lunar New Year in Vietnam with new friends from India and Germany.

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I’m writing this from the airport in Beijing, as I wait for my flight back to the US today. I am ready to come home to see my dog and my boyfriend (who ended up meeting me in Japan for a week). I’m excited to sleep in my own bed, wear clothes that aren’t the same 8 outfits that I’ve been wearing for 3 months and to eat Chipotle. But I also can’t wait for my next trip.. Spain 2017 and skiing in Japan again in 2018 (see, I told you I’m a planner). 

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It wasn’t what I expected, but in a good way. I didn’t have an epiphany about what my life’s calling is, but I did gain a new perspective on many things.To Abby’s point, the roads are filled with female travelers and technology and resources make it very achievable and affordable. I hope my journey encourages some others to get out and go. Who knows.. Maybe I’ll be reading about your adventures next! 

All the best,

Maren Kirlin

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See she is a pretty rad female who I admire so much for choosing this adventure! You can read more about what she did and where she went on her own blog here: Red Back Pack Abroad

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