I know that I've changed my mind a few times about what destination I'll be headed to for my big trip. First it was Australia, then it was Europe, until I realized that not only was I leaving out the area of the world I want to see the most, I was leaving it out because I thought it was somewhere I couldn't go.
Once I started to seriously look into south east Asia as a viable option, it became clear that not only is it an amazing alternative, it's also VERY within my budget. My reasoning that it wasn't an option were as follows:
1: An airline ticket to south east asia is MUCH more expensive than to Europe:
FALSE -Airline tickets on the same day (May 21, 2012, my estimated departure date) from St Louis cost nearly the same! $700 to London and $850 to Bangkok. If you're looking for the cheapest airfare, you need to take into account which airports are most commonly flown to, or can handle the large airliner traffic. Flying into Vietnam or Italy directly can cost much more. The easiest way I found to pick somewhere was to take a look at what stopovers there are in the area. Set your flight to where you're wanting to go and look at the stopovers. From the US to EU the most common one I found was London. To SE Asia, it was Hong Kong and Bangkok. Since China isn't on my itinerary at the moment, though it may change since I can stop in Hong Kong and check out a little of China on my way back home, I chose to fly into Bangkok even though where I want to go is Cambodia, Vietnam, and possibly Bali.
2: SE Asia will be more expensive than Europe:
FALSE -This was a pretty ridiculous notion in the first place. SE Asia contains many nations that are considered third world and as such have MUCH lower costs of living as well as some VERY cheap options for housing. As I started looking at the options for budgeting I was given average statistics:
For Europe I was suggested a bare bones budget of €50 (or about $75 USD) per day. Thats staying at the cheapest hostels, eating two small meals a day either from the cheapest restaurants or going to a market and living off food I make myself. Not using any private transit unless its a bicycle and not taking taxi's pretty much at all. This includes paying for very cheap activities if any and limiting any kind of museum visits. Add into this that I'd be traveling during the peak tourist season and it can be more expensive since I've been told that the cheaper hostels can fill up quickly. Even more so, the 2012 summer olympics are in London so that will be something else that has the possibility to stretch my budget even thinner. Though my budget can make it at that level, its not the most ideal situation.
For SE Asia I was suggested a budget of around 1000 Thai Baht ($33-35 USD) per day. This includes staying at hostels, guest houses, though in some areas can include low end hotels (though still not your expensive rooms). Eating food from vendors and cheaper restaurants, taking public or some minor cheap private transportation. So with the budget I have in mind, This is a MUCH better alternative, I can leave open the option for the occasional treat or if I really need a good night a decent hotel, I can spring for it. Plus it leaves open options for cheap domestic flights around the area if needed or desired (some are around $70 or less). This all adds up to being able to do much more with the same budget, more flexibility, and all around ease of mind.
3: SE Asia is dangerous to travel through. Especially for Americans
FALSE: -The Vietnam war is over. Its cliché for me to go to that as my argument, but it is something that came to mind. I've been reading and getting information from people traveling in the same areas right now. They've been saying that its a pretty amazing locale that isn't nearly as dangerous as other areas they'd been to (ex: south africa, areas of south america, etc) and that I should “definitely make the trip.” Another person suggested “As an american traveling with some aussies, I've noticed that people can pick you out simply by the gear you wear. Avoid North Face like the plague, it tags you as an american.”
Now that I've fully decided on SE Asia as my official destination, I'm working out what to take, where to go, and what to do once I get there. Look out for upcoming posts on Gear, Itineraries, as well as Ideas on what I'm going to do. For now though, 300 more days until the big trip!