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Not your usual trip report - INSTEAD, a PRE-TRIP report

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Many on this board ask questions on how to get started planning their trip to Asia. And many more provide fabulous trip reports when they get back. But few if any ever offer a blow-by-blow description of how they put their trip together. So at Bob’s suggestion, :-) I’ve decided to give you a “PRE-trip report” laying out the logistics I’ve worked out and what I’ve got planned for February. So for those of you who relish the details, herewith begins the tale of “How a 49-Year-Old Asia Neophyte, With a Lot of Help from Fellow Fodorites, Cooked Up a Fabulous Three-Week Trip to Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia... ALL BY HERSELF... and If She Can Do It, Surely Any of You Can.”
By althom1122 (aka Karen)

It started over a year ago with a dream of expanding my horizons. The U.S. had become old-hat, and even Europe, after nine trips, was starting to seem bland. I’m not, after all, just your average government worker with a stable job and suburban lifestyle. (Well, I am that, but) I’m also a travel junkie who, as the years pass, needs more and more travel spice for the same travel kick.

So in 2004 I turned my imagination loose, and Morocco, Turkey, China, and Egypt all beckoned. But it was Southeast Asia that grabbed hold of my heart and wouldn’t let go. Visions of wonder danced in my head: Buddhist temples, floating markets, monks in orange robes, elephants that I might actually touch, and architecture with designs more intricate than anything my Scandinavian ancestors in their plain wooden boats had ever dreamed of. Ah, Asia. A plethora of sights, sounds, smells. My fancy was captured, my trip decided (my fate sealed?).

But... how to do it? Sure, I’d done Europe on my own – mostly with a husband at my side. And I’d been to the Middle East – on work trips where Uncle Sam made all the arrangements. But how in the world was a rather naive, somewhat timid 49-year-old West Virginia native to embark on a journey to Southeast Asia with her 24-year-old daughter, a Penn State grad with a degree in, of all things, philosophy?

I could picture it clearly. We’d arrive at the airport in Bangkok, I’d say to my daughter, “Well, here we are,” and then... then... then, what? We’d stare at each other wide-eyed, look around, not have a clue what to do, and I’d burst into tears. (She, being the more mature one, would figure out our next step.)

To avoid that nightmare, I had a lot of work ahead of me. I started with Fodor’s
(TIP #1: START WITH FODOR'S) and read every trip report I could find. One thing I’ve discovered is if I’m not interested in visiting a place it’s because I don’t know much about it. Before long, every place in Southeast Asia seemed fascinating. I wanted to see as much as possible and posted my first draft itinerary.

Fodorites went to work on me. I was “trying to see too much,” “wouldn’t enjoy it,” “needed to slow down,” “would definitely be back.” Humph, I thought. I LIKE to travel fast. Didn’t wanna slow down. Didn’t think I’d be back. But I also knew that the experts here are just that – experts. And I was not. So I went back to the drawing board to rethink my plans. Unfortunately, I got side-tracked – a year at the National War College for a master’s degree (and a trip to South Africa!) derailed my plans for a 2004 Asia vacation.

To be continued.

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