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Day 19: How we Paid for the Trip

Ko Pha-Ngan

Lazy Days

My sociology teacher once said that people feel most home in the place they learn to be self-sufficient. This is one component leading to people's pride for their universities and hometowns. While traveling around, I started to think about this statement. I wonder if this is a reason travelers repeatedly conclude their trips with a higher sense of self-appreciation. As we move from place to place every several days, we can't really attribute a physical location with the newfound independence. We only have our bodies.

This might not be true, but it's a nice thought. I've met so many people who agree that traveling to other countries increases their sense of self-acceptance, and it's interesting to ask why. The interaction with other cultures, of course, helps -- education about other peoples really only brings about benefits -- but I'm starting to believe solidarity on the road has a bigger impact than I previously realized.

There hasn't been much happening within the last day, so I figured it was a good time to jot down some notes I didn't want to forget. Roxanne and I planned to use this part of the trip relaxing, taking a break from cultural sightseeing for more of a vacation than an adventure. While this is good for our mental states and bodies, this isn't the best for blogging. I, of course, am not regretting this decision at all.

We took the ferry to Ko Pha-Ngan yesterday morning, landing here in late afternoon. The reason for our visit is simple: like the other 30,000 travelers, we came for the Full Moon Party. While not the most culturally upheld aspect of Thailand, it's something we've been told every traveler has to see once, and almost every backpacker passing through Thailand supposedly makes it to the monthly, massive beach party during their stay. We'll see how it goes.

However, before June 9th, we'll be lounging on our first beach of the trip. With white sand, salt water, and a palm tree-lining on the encasing bluffs, it's a gorgeous place to rest. Tropical paradise, here we come.

There is also a lot of time to reflect while hanging out on this beachside town. Thus, I've brought to the topic of my sociology teacher's comments. However, before travelers can be independent, they have to be very dependent, as I've found. Traveling is not something that comes easy.

Financing the Trip

While every traveler shares the most beautiful part of their journeys through pictures and, you know, daily blog posts, the thing we most often don't mention is the amount of work we did to get here. But between us, AKA the in-crowd AKA sweaty backpackers with dirt caking our feet, we know.

Roxanne and I have talked about our biggest pet peeves, and we both agree that this statement is near the top of the list: "Oh, so your parents are paying for the trip." You can insert the words "helping to pay for" or "partially paying for" in that sentence as well, but the outcome is still the same. It's an insulting expectation.

The response to that statement is no. Our parents are not paying for our journeys, and they wouldn't be able to if they wanted.

The only way we can pay for a trip is by buckling down and doing hard work. It's really as simple as that, when you come from our economic backgrounds. Don't get me wrong, we understand how fortunate we are -- even something as simple as living in the rich country of America makes us privileged -- but we also know how to read our bank account balances.

In my case, I worked for a year at a coffee shop during high school to save up for this trip (alongside daily expenses during my first year of college). I only spent one singular paycheck, and that was for presents during the holidays; the rest of the money went directly to my savings account. I only used money from the tip jar to fund my daily activities.

I also really lucked out with the scholarship department. Or, lucked out isn't the right description, because I worked very, very hard in high school for the grants I received. Like I took a full AP course load/was Editor in Chief of my paper/was student council president/created a now-annual charity production/was in national honors society/made nationally-awarded artwork/was a four-year varsity swimmer/had way above 4.0 GPA/worked over 20 hours a week/slept four hours every single night/didn't have time to cut my nails kind of busy. Yikes even reading that I'm overwhelmed. High school wasn't the greatest time for me.

However, because of this work, which came from the full intention of getting scholarships because I knew my family couldn't afford the U.S.'s unreasonably expensive higher education costs, I succeeded in getting proper money for school. This allowed me to work and save money for a trip abroad, which is also a luxury I understand many don't experience. But look at this: I couldn't travel until two years after the initial savings period began, and I worked very hard within the time span.

Roxanne, as well, worked extremely hard to save up for her trip. She took a gap year between high school and college, needing to work and work and work to save up for her journey. She worked six days a week, sometimes more, constantly signing up for extra shifts and similarly saving every paycheck. In the U.S., people often look down upon a gap year as well, which is an odd concept but a true one, so even socially, it wasn't easy.

In addition, both of us lived at home during our financing periods. That's an important topic to cover.

The best way to save is by living at home. I saved in high school, when my parents where pretty much obligated to fund my rent and feed me. Roxanne didn't move out when all her friends were leaving their childhood homes. Keeva, too, said she lived at home, and when my mother went traveling in college, she moved back from her apartment into my grandparents' house. This is the same with many other people I talked to: the best way to save money is by sacrificing some freedom to live under a different person's roof, thus reducing rent costs and allowing for an easier ability to save money.

This puts an extra emphasis on the whole dependence/independence topic. It's interesting how reliant we had to be before the crazy adventure could begin. Maybe that adds a new level to my sociology teacher's statement, emphasizing the balance between reliance and its counterpart, self-sufficiency.

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