With classes starting February 25th in Sydney, I found myself with the biggest chunk of free time I had ever and probably will ever have in my adult life. I knew I wanted to spend some of this time traveling, so after I took my last final on December 10th, I jumped head first into the planning process.
As a very indecisive person, the decision of where to go was my first big hurdle. I started by asking around to see where my friends were studying. When I realized that my friend was studying in Hong Kong and would be there during the Chinese New Year, the decision became easy. We decided to spend 4 days in Hong Kong to experience the festivities before taking advantage of her time off from school and jetting to Thailand. We’d spend a week making our way down Thailand from Chiang Mai to Phuket, where we’d part ways and I’d make the final leg of the journey to Sydney.
We carefully selected our hostels looking for that perfect balance of a good location, clean rooms, and a social atmosphere. After months of planning, we were ready to go. But nothing could have prepared us for what we would experience. From the second I touched down in Hong Kong, I was amazed by the festive decorations and events surrounding the New Year. We were instantly swept away by the parades, dim sum, and lantern-lined streets.
In Thailand, we filled up on heaping plates of Pad Thai from street vendors for the US equivalent of $1 USD. We swam with elephants, learned how to make a traditional Thai meal, and explored the hidden coves of Koh Phi Phi island. Finally, we exhaustedly parted ways and she flew back to Hong Kong while I began the next leg of the journey to Sydney.
South-East Asia is the perfect destination to experience a vastly different culture with an attractive price tag. Dine on Pad Thai and spring rolls with a beer for $2 at a local market, get a 60-minute Thai massage for $7, and sip from a fresh coconut on the beach for $1.
If you have the financial ability and time, traveling on your way to your study abroad destination is a great way to see the world—often at a fraction of the price compared to taking the same trip as a round-trip journey from your home destination. My flights from LA, throughout Asia, and to Sydney ended up costing only slightly more than a one-way ticket from LA to Sydney and I was able to see an entirely new part of the world.