Inspiration: tales of sleeping in haystacks with backpacks

I was nine when I first came to know that near-penniless youth could “backpack” around Europe. I had spent many weeks carefully studying the souvenirs placed around my best friend’s house–a ceramic Lock Ness Monster, a German beer stein, an English flag, and a French travel poster–before her parents noticed and explained that they had “picked them up” in Europe. I listened in awe as they casually mentioned traveling around foreign countries with Eurail Passes and backpacks. My lust for travel was cinched with their romantic story of sleeping on a haystack under the stars only to be awoken by the sound of cow bells.

In Paris: post-snubbing, pre-hostel search

Ten years later I found a like-minded friend and bought cheap airfare to Europe. We did not sleep in haystacks, but in youth hostels where we ran into the backpacking subculture. As we whizzed around Europe, we hit a swift series of backpacker must-dos: snubbed by a Frenchman, nearly had our passports stolen while topless sunbathing on the Mediterranean, lived on baked goods, found a cigarette butt in our set-lunch lasagna, carefully spent down our cash money before crossing pre-Euro boarders, panicked when a surprise bank holiday left us cashless, and sought out McDonald’s for the use of their clean bathrooms.

During that whirlwind trip, I kept leafing through our 1995 Berkeley Guide to Europe, looking at the tantalizing sections on Turkey and Morocco. Both places that seemed so exotic and on the very fringes of where I thought it was safely possible travel.

“Cheena Peak,” Nani Tal, India: post-exasperation, pre-horid illness

Several weeks after returning I met my now husband and started daydreaming about going further. Sometime later we set off for India and Nepal. And, as is requisite if one travels on the cheap in the Sub-Continent, we were challenged physically, mentally and emotionally on a daily basis and fell seriously ill several times. In pre-internet days, we called our folks in America using an “STD” international phone both and quickly told them we had malaria while watching to red-digit Rupee price swiftly tick higher.

We’ve only been going further and longer since. Our current “extended trip” of sorts has lasted seven years.

And so, many years later, I can point to my best friend’s parents and say that they were the ones who inspired my interest in travel and “exotic” places. Thank you Mark and Susan, wherever you are today.


I was inspired to write this post by Kristen at Expatially Mexico who nominated me for the Inspiring Blog Award several weeks back. Thanks very much Kristen and I hope you are thoroughly enjoying your holiday in Chiapas.

In recent weeks, I have been inspired by the following bloggers:

Hong Kong (& Macau) StuffBlue Balu, and Zhongguo Jumble have all inspired me to get out and explore more. My settling-in period here in Hong Kong is over and the temperatures are on the brink of dropping off: time to hit the streets.

Lonely Girl Travels wrote a post on her complete medical check-up in Bangkok that, in addition to being hilarious, also inspired me to be more creative and detail-oriented when writing my own posts. Stupid Ugly Foreigner has also inspired me to up my writing game. See especially his very relatable post, Travel Partners, or, the Gentle Hate Cycle.

Finally, Building My Bento has inspired me to inspect or buy all kinds of oddly packaged Asian food products and has even tempted me to visit the infamous Chungking Mansions (as of yet on the “to do” list, as I’m intimidated as hell).

To all of you: thanks for the inspiration. If you’re keen on “pass it on” awards feel free to join in, otherwise, just know that you’re appreciated.

9 responses to “Inspiration: tales of sleeping in haystacks with backpacks

  1. Thank you mate, for the praise! If Chungking Mansions serves as your gateway to South Asia and West Africa, let Causeway Bay by Warung Chandra,and a compact mall on Sugar St. treat you to a glimpse of Indonesia!
    Also, should you venture out to Shenzhen and any (or all) of its numerous border crossings, let me know; I lived there for longer than in HK!

    • And yet another inspiring tip: a visit to “little Indonesia” in HK!

      I’m applying for another China visa this month. My first order of business will be re-visiting some of my former haunts in Zhuhai, but crossing the border to Shenzhen is certainly one of my plans. Especially as I’m only a few MTR stops away from the border. Maybe you can tell me how to avoid all the “missy, missy” hassles that I’ve encountered every other time I’ve ventured to Shenzhen…

      • Unless I’m really off on this one, you can take a bus to Zhuhai from HK from either Mongkok (argh, can’t remember the name of the street, but it’s a place where you can catch buses at all times of day/night, because they use the 24-hour border at Huanggang) or the Wan Chai ferry pier. You DEFINITELY can hop on a bus from HK airport to Zhuhai without having an airplane ticket, but unless you live on Lantau, that’s a bit of a hike, eh? It would save you the guff of looking through the Luo Hu bus depot for the Zhuhai ones (not that it’s a big deal really).

        As for the hassles–if you’re just going to the Luo Hu (in Cantonese, Lo Wu; in either language, it’s the Shenzhen side) bus station, it is right below Luo Hu Commercial City, the mall at the train station. As you exit customs, stay on the street level (that is, the level at which you exited), going straight as you hit the few Shenzhen city buses on the right. That’s an entrance to the bus station (there’s another entrance closer to the customs exit; if you see a baggage “security check,” that’s the one), at which point you can go all over Guangdong, and in your case, Zhuhai (possibly to at least three destinations in Zhuhai; Gongbei, and one or two more, if not others). You shouldn’t encounter any of the older woman chanting missy missy if you’ve gone the right way! They are up on Jianshe Rd., which is A)too far (in this case), and B)by the Shangri-La Hotel.

      • The only way I’ve previously traveled directly between HK and Zhuhai was by ferry, but being this close to the border it makes a lot of sense to try the bus. Thanks a million for your directions and tips!

      • Ack, I embarrassingly forgot about the ferry! I even took (just once though) to the China Ferry Terminal on Canton Rd. from Zhuhai (Jiuzhou, specifically)! That’s the more costly option, but the MUCH shorter option. Well, the next time you are just going to Shenzhen, let me know~

  2. Thank you! 🙂
    Wow, you did some pretty exotic travels! And isn’t it funny how the scariest and most uncomfortable situations later remain to be the funniest ones that will always stick with us? Great post!

    • Getting snubbed in Europe and very ill in Asia was much more fun than staying home! So glad I was inspired to get out there and travel. Can’t wait to hear more about Chiapas. Cheers, Jen

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