This month has been all about changes, and I’ve certainly been going through a few.

After giving up on my travel plans for the next six months and heading to Thailand, I knew that I needed to stop moving so fast. The subsequent month in Chiang Mai was therefore perfect. I ate great food, was inspired by fellow digital nomads and got tons of work done — all while recovering from the past few months of fast-paced travel.

A month feels like the perfect amount of time for me to spend in a place — it’s enough time to start to get to know a city, to discover new favourite restaurants. It gives me enough time to work without feeling rushed and I get to leave looking forward to returning in the future.

I was therefore extremely excited when we decided to spend this month living in Saigon — one of my favourite cities in the world.

Sunset at Saigon airport

A gorgeous sunset after arriving in Saigon.

This was a huge mistake.

Dave and I messed up and it’s left us both wishing we’d decided to go somewhere else instead. 

Our first mistake was choosing to stay on Pham Ngu Lao, the backpacker ghetto of Saigon. I had loved staying in this area previously, but I’d never really stayed there long enough for it to start irritating me.

A month of being constantly surrounded by drunk backpackers, noisy bars, annoying touts and crap food?

Yeah. That got very annoying, very quickly. 

Our next mistake was booking a guesthouse for a month and ending up in a room without windows. Waking up to an alarm at 9am every day when it was still pitch-black inside the room was horrible. I felt permanently jet lagged and I’ve had a constant headache for the past month.

Living without sunlight left me drained and unwell — I had no desire to move or go outside (stepping into the bright sunlight every morning would make me feel like vomiting), which meant that I never had the energy to venture outside of the backpacker area, even though it was driving me crazy. This month hasn’t been great for either of us.

We should have found a different guesthouse and we shouldn’t have stayed in the backpacker area. Because we ended up getting our crypt of a room for a great price because we were staying for a month, we thought that we’d be able to handle it, that it wouldn’t make much difference at all.

We decided to stick it out and I wish we hadn’t.

My opinion of Saigon has changed, and unfairly too. I know that I can’t judge a city after choosing to stay in the worst part of it but… I can’t help but feel relieved to leave — and with no desire to return any time soon.

My month in Vietnam wasn’t all bad though — my birthday trip to Hoi An was incredible!

Hoi An hotel panorama

Panorama of the amazing Vinh Hung Emerald Resort, taken on my birthday.

Dave surprised me for my birthday by generously buying us flights to Hoi An, booking four nights in a wonderful hotel and treating me to some gorgeous tailor-made dresses.

It was one of the best birthdays of my life and I felt so ridiculously lucky, spoilt and loved.

Our time in Hoi An was perfect. After almost bursting into tears when I saw the floor-to-ceiling windows of our room, I stashed my laptop away and for four glorious days we sunbathed, swam in the pool, relaxed on the beach, ate good food and fell in love with Hoi An.

Tailor shops at night in Hoi An

beach in Hoi An

Lanterns in Hoi An

Those four days were the highlight of this month and inspired my birthday post listing all the changes I’ll be making over the next few months. I need to start forcing myself to stop working and to go outside and explore, and I need to stop moving so much. Hoi An showed me why I began travelling in the first place — and it wasn’t so I could spend 80 hours a week in a guesthouse with no windows.

I’m excited for all the changes I’m going to be making and I’m certain it will give me a much better quality of life.

The biggest change of all, however, will be my location!

Little Lauren eating a big meal

A photo from one of my first visits to the US: Hawaii in 2008. I look so young! The plateful of food is probably what I couldn’t manage to eat. 

As you read this, I’ll be on a plane over the Pacific Ocean on my way to the United States!

After spending the majority of the last two years in Southeast Asia, I’m finally leaving — and for the first time, I have no idea when I’ll be back. It could be 3 months, it could be 3 years.

I’m nervous.

I find it hilarious that I’m now much more intimidated by travelling through the US than I was when I travelled solo through Morocco, Eastern Europe or anywhere in Asia.

I can’t finish a meal in Southeast Asia so I’m terrified by the portion sizes I’m going to be greeted with. I’m not looking forward to having to walk on the sidewalk, to only being able to cross the road when a sign or a light tells me I can. There’s going to be rules, unnaturally sweet bread, talkative locals, enormous shopping malls, supermarkets and pharmacies.

Despite this, there are hundreds of things I’m looking forward to. No more humidity! I’ll be able to step outside without having my hair bounce up into an instant afro. I’ll be able to wear make-up without looking like a clown whose face is melting. I’ll be able to understand the language and not attract stares wherever I go. I’m looking forward to cheese and greasy food and being able to order anything from the (children’s) menu. I’m looking forward to water pressure and having hot showers. It’ll blow my mind to be able to drink tap water again and being able to flush toilet paper down the toilet instead of putting it in a pee-soaked bin? Amazing.

Most of all, I’m looking forward to sleeping in a room with windows. 

 

Onto the statistics for the month!

Map of my travels in May/June 2013

Countries visited: 3

Thailand, Vietnam, United States.

Cities visited: 4

Chiang Mai, Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An, Los Angeles.

Distance travelled: 15,576km

Number of flights: 6

Bowls of soup eaten: 17

Money spent:

Thailand: £30.15 over 2 days = £15.08 per day

Vietnam: £403 over 29 days = £13.90 per day

Miscellaneous:

Flights in the United States: £120.70

Total amount spent:  £543.15 = $850

 

The next month

I’m fully expecting to be violently slapped in the face by culture shock as I spend the next month exploring the United States, starting with 10 days of solo travel through California. I’ll be relaxing on the beaches of Santa Monica and Venice in Los Angeles and then heading up to San Francisco, thanks to the recommendation of pretty much everyone over on Facebook!

After California, I’ll be heading up to Seattle to meet back up with Dave and we’ll be spending a week hanging out with friends and getting our tourist on. I’m incredibly excited to announce that after Seattle I’ll be moving to Portland! Dave and I have found a gorgeous little house in a fantastic area and we’re going to be living there for a month. I can’t wait!

Though I’ll be sad to leave Southeast Asia, I’m also surprisingly excited about my month in the US. I’ve never been to San Francisco, Seattle or Portland before, so there’ll be lots of exciting new cities for me to explore!

 

Looking to follow along with my travels through my monthly summaries? You can read the previous month’s summary here, the next month’s summary here, or head on over to the monthly summary page to read from the very beginning!

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