Hello friends! How have you been? I’ve been WONDERFUL!!!!! I’ve been on a high since I returned from the trip of a lifetime last week. As mentioned in a previous post (https://unicorninbrooklyn.com/2014/08/22/unicorn-in-dubai-thailand-cambodia/), I visited Dubai, Thailand, and Cambodia.
I’m currently working on a series of humorous and informative blog posts (which I will break down by country and start pushing out next week) to summarize my experience – stay tuned!
In the meantime, I thought it would be a good idea to write this post, a concise recap of the the logistics of my trip.
I diligently shared several photos and short videos of my experience via Instagram (@UnicornInBrooklyn, hashtag #UIBTravels) and Facebook (my personal page as my Instagram posts are simultaneously posted there). This was done because I wanted to “bring” my family and friends (new and old) with me across the world to inspire and expand their horizons. As expected, I received various comments on my posts and garnered a few new followers on Instagram – it seems the pics/vids were a hit! What I didn’t expect were all of the messages sent to my Facebook inbox.
The main questions asked were: How did you plan your trip? Did you use a travel agent? Are you really traveling alone/solo? How much did this trip cost you? How long will you be gone? Where are you planning to go next? Are you looking for a travel companion? Who’s taking your pictures?
I will answer ALL of these questions in this post :).
In addition to the questions, I received countless words of encouragement to keep ME inspired and going – THANK YOU!!!
This post is dedicated to you, my inquisitive friends that want to know how I planned my trip of a lifetime so you can start planning your very own trip of a lifetime.
THE most asked question, “How much did this trip cost you?” This response will be a rather lengthy one because I need to break my expenses down, to ensure that my response is as accurate as possible.
I went to three different countries over the span of 2.5 weeks and spent approximately$2,400.00 USD (excluding souvenirs (I purchased a few articles of clothing (a shirt, beach towel, Muy Thai shorts, jewelry (inexpensive bracelets) and a souvenir plate) in Thailand and four pairs of pants and a bag in Cambodia), drinks (mainly beers), tuk tuks, and miscellaneous things like toiletries & nightclub admission) .
In retrospect, I am certain that I could’ve saved a few dollars here and there, but I didn’t – on purpose. This was my first trip abroad so I went all out. I intentionally splurged on certain things like my airline tickets (sure there were cheaper flights than the ones that I opted for, but I wanted to fly Emirates – I’ll elaborate on why in a future post), my accommodations (I could’ve stayed in dorm rooms for the majority of my entire trip, but I wanted comfort and solitude, so I chose to pay for private suites when possible), and excursions (if I wanted to do something, I did it. I do NOT like to nickel & dime when I’m on vacation). I wanted this inaugural solo trip to be pseudo luxurious (from a backpackers standpoint it was) so that I could learn firsthand how to cut my costs for future extended trips/vacations/holidays. This will prove helpful when I start planning my next lengthy trip (I’m eyeing a 3 – 4 month trip abroad in 2016).
The biggest expense was my airline ticket to and from Bangkok, Thailand. My flight (roundtrip ticket from JFK -> Dubai -> Bangkok) initially cost me $1,143.80, but I extended my layover in Dubai from 14 hours to 24 hours (so that I could participate in a sunset desert safari with a few new friends) and paid an extra $276.80. This bought my Emirates grand total to $1,420.60 USD.
My airline ticket for Cambodia Air (from Bangkok, Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia) was $118.61 USD.
Bus from Bangkok to Hua Hin – 180 baht/$5.48 USD
Bus from Hua Hin to Phuket – 1,058 baht/$32.24 USD
Bus from Phuket back to Hua Hin – 832 baht/$25.35 USD
Bus from Hua Hin to Bangkok International Airport – 305 baht/$9.29 USD
Bus from Cambodia to Bangkok – $18.00 USD + 200 baht/$6.09 USD (extra charge to be dropped directly to the Bangkok International Airport).
I was slated to split the hotel expenses at the Corporate Executive Al Khoory Hotel(http://www.hmhhotelgroup.com/corp/unitedarabemirates/dubai/corpexecutivehotelalkhooryalwasl) in Dubai with my friend (fellow blogger and Abu Dhabi expat) Nelly, but she wound up taking care of it (pays to have good friends right?). Had we split the cost my half would’ve been $58.00 USD for one night (Thursday, 10/30).
My stay (in a private air conditioned room with a queen-sized bed, a spacious bathroom, stocked mini refrigerator, cable TV. Wi-Fi, and guest chairs) at the Saphaipae Hostel (http://saphaipae.com/ – I friggin’ love that place! I will elaborate on my experience in a future blog post) in Bangkok, Thailand (from Friday, 10/31 to Tuesday, 11/4) ran me about $114.00 USD.
I lucked the hell out in Hua Hin, Thailand. I was slated to spend 450 baht (Thai currency)/$13.71 USD for small air conditioned room with a queen-sized bed, Wi-Fi, and a shared bathroom, but wound up staying at a new friend’s place for free! Her studio was luxurious; we shared a plush queen-sized bed, air conditioning, cable TV, a terrace, Wi-Fi, and a spacious bathroom (from Tuesday, 11/4 – Thursday, 11/6 & Sunday night, 11/9).
My weekend trip to Phuket, Thailand wasn’t planned when I left the states, but since I’m spontaneous I seized the opportunity! I wound up going to Phuket (Patong Beach and the Phi Phi Islands) and stayed at the Hemingway’s Hotel (http://www.hemingwayshotel.com/) for three days and two nights (Friday 11/7 – Sunday 11/9). I split the cost with my new friend (and Thailand expat, D’Andra aka “D”) – my cost, $70.00 USD.
Lastly, my accommodations for my hostel in Siem Reap, Cambodia, The Siem Reap Hostel (http://www.thesiemreaphostel.com/ – another hostel that I LOVED and will elaborate on in a future blog post) ran me $68.00 USD. I had a private room (which included a queen-sized bed, a twin guest bed, cable TV, air conditioning, a modestly sized private bathroom, and a terrace, and free Wi-Fi) for three days and two nights (Monday, 11/10 – Wednesday, 11/12) and a co-ed dorm room (that included 3 bunks, a total of 6 beds – I had top bunk, air conditioning, a modestly sized shared bathroom, and free Wi-Fi) for one night (Wednesday, 11/12).
The Sunset Desert Safari in Dubai (https://www.arabian-adventures.com/en/tours-and-safaris/index.aspx – which included hotel pick up and drop off, a falcon show, sand duning, camel riding, belly dancing, wine/soda/water, henna, hookah, and an all you can eat buffet style dinner and dessert) ran me $98.01
BTS transportation (Bangkok’s IMMACULATE train system) – 30 baht/$0.91 USD / ferry service from the pier to two temples (Wat Arun & Wat Pho) 150 baht/$4.57 USD + 3 baht/$0.09 USD (ferry to transport me across the river from one temple to the next). Admission to both temples ran me about 300 baht/$9.14 USD.
My all day excursion to the Ayutthaya District in Thailand (I split this expense with a new friend, Natay – an adventurous avid traveler that is currently on a 8 month tour of the world. Talk about inspiring!!) ran me 1,000 baht/$30.47. This included roundtrip transportation to about 10 temples (in an air conditioned private car) from the Bangkok railway and a drop off out my hostel. Admission to each temple was either free (I’d say a good four of them were free), 50 baht/$1.52 USD or, 100 baht/$3.04 USD.
The Bridge River Kwai/Tiger Camp/Elephant Trekking Experience (that disappointed me tremendously (again I shall elaborate later), booked through my hostel in Bangkok – included hostel pick up and drop off, free elephant ride, free admission to the tiger camp) ran me – 2,100 baht /$64.00 USD. I wound up spending an additional 500 baht/$15.23 USD (I was ripped off while on the excursion) to pay for pictures (taken with my phone) of me on the elephant and an additional 180 baht/$5.48 USD to skip the long line to take pictures with the tigers.
Tour of the Phi Phi Islands – 1,500 baht/ $45.71 USD. I wound up paying 100 baht/$3.04 USD for a souvenir picture plate of me boarding the speed boat.
The three-day pass to visit the temples in Cambodia cost me $40.00 USD. My tuk tuk driver for two days cost me $45.00 USD.
I treated myself to a total of four one hour long massages while away and they left me feeling different. I had three in Thailand (one on the beach) – 300 baht/ $9.14 USD , one in a sketchy massage parlor in which I think I received my first happy ending (LOL, don’t worry I will elaborate on that in a future blog post) – 400 baht/$12.19 USD , and one in an icebox (ok it wasn’t really in an icebox, but the AC was blasting and took away from my massage experience) – 400 baht/$12.19 USD. My fourth massage was in Cambodia and it was my favorite one of all – $13.00 USD.
The average meal (lunch and dinner) in Thailand ran me about 200 baht/$6.09 USD. This included a non-alcoholic drink (I kept downing delicious mango shakes and sugary ass strawberry Fanta & Pepsi cola sodas) and a delicious meal of one to two entrees and a vegetable. I saved on breakfast because my private room accommodations included free breakfast (soup, eggs (scrambled or omelet), toast, sushi, stir fried vegetables, fresh juice, pork sausages, salad, and sticky rice)
The average meal in Cambodia was a bit more, about $5.00 – 9.00 USD. I didn’t mind spending a bit more on the food here because the food was even better than it was in Thailand AND the mango shakes were I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E! My most expensive meal in Cambodia ran me $15.00 USD because I splurged on a hearty meal that included an appetizer, main course and two mango shakes (I was starving that day and that lunch was just what my body needed). Again, I saved on breakfast as my private room accommodations included free breakfast (included tropical fruits – mangoes, papaya, dragon fruit – fresh juices, toast, cold cereal, and pancakes. I wound up spending $1 for two scrambled eggs) in the hostel restaurant. When I stayed in the dorm room I had to spend $2.00 USD for breakfast.
This is being MORE than generous, but I would estimate that I spent about $100.00 – $150.00 USD during my trip. This includes meals at restaurants, in my hostel(s), and at the airport.
Flight (Emirates & Cambodia Air) – $1539.21 USD
Buses – $96.45 USD
Hostels/Hotels – $252.00 – USD
Excursions – $320.03 – USD
Massages – $46.52 – USD
Food – $100.00 – $150.00 – USD
Estimated Total – $2,404.21 USD (using the higher end of the food expense range)
Planning My Trip
Choosing My Destinations: In addition to my intrigue with the rich African diaspora and ancient temples/ruins in Cambodia (http://www.africaresource.com/rasta/sesostris-the-great-the-egyptian-hercules/the-khmer-hindus-of-cambodia-black-asian-history-by-oguejiofo-annu/), the beautiful beaches, gorgeous views, the temples/ruins, and food of Thailand, and the prospect of walking in the desert on a Camel’s back in Dubai the proverbial “icing on the cake” was that the USD would go such long way in in SE Asia.
Dubai became a part of the equation once I chose my airline (Emirates). I had the option of a layover in either Seoul, Korea or Dubai – I chose the latter. Being the thrillseeker that I am, I initially wanted to skydive over the palm islands in Dubai (http://www.skydivedubai.ae/), but they were booked through December (I was crushed). Instead of skydiving I participated in the sunset desert safari experience (it was so worth it).
The Inside Track: I received travel tips from friends (mainly in a DOPE ass travel group known as Nomadness Travel Tribe. This group was founded by a young Black woman, by the name of Evita Turquoise Robinson, three years ago. It is comprised of some 8,000 + members worldwide. The best part, the majority of the group members are young minority travelers. Everyday we change stereotypes – Blacks do travel dammit!) that visited SE Asia (Thailand and Cambodia). I learned about the best places to stay (centrally located hotels and hostels (with good reviews) close to restaurants, active nightlife, and public transportation), where to eat, cultural differences (east vs. west), and estimated expenses for accommodations, excursions, and bus/airline tickets (to travel to domestically within Thailand and to Cambodia) .
Did I Really Travel Alone?
Yes, I did and I enjoyed every single minute of it! I was able to be social when I wanted to and I was able to relish in my solitude when I wanted to – to reflect, do some journaling, explore the country that I was in, or take some pictures.
How Long Was I Gone?
2.5 weeks (including travel time).
Who Took My Pictures?
My pictures (taken with my Samsung Galaxy 5 phone & Canon T3 DSLR camera) were taken by new friends that I met, my cousin, and I (took a few selfies) in Thailand. While in Cambodia I targeted couples to take my pictures. The reason that I did this was because they were in my shoes – couples want pictures together and solo travelers want pictures of themselves. My pitch, “Would you like me to take a picture of you together? I take one of you, you take one of me – deal?” This worked every single time.
Asking was the easy part, selecting the best photographer was a bit more involved. I didn’t just randomly ask anyone with ANY camera, I studied their camera and their skill. I was drawn to a large lens on a DSLR as this was usually indicative of a photographer with experience. Next, I observed their style – I noticed whether or not they crouched down, changed lenses, and climbed to certain vantage points for optimal shots, as this is what I did for my own shots when the picture called for it. Once I saw that their style was cool I willingly handed over my phone and/or DSLR and let them snap away. The results were typically good.
Where Am I Planning to Go Next?
As of right now I am a free bird, if I catch wind of a sweet deal to the Caribbean (Bonaire, Curacao, Trinidad & Tobago, or St. Maarten) or Central America (Costa Rica), I’m out! If not, I will gladly sit tight for my upcoming mystery trip; I will not know where I am going until I get to the airport. All I know is that this trip will be anywhere from 8 – 10 days (including travel time), its slated to take place in late April/early May of next year, and that I am going to have an awesome time (I’m going with a group of avid travelers, about 10 women)!
If you would like to plan your very own mystery trip check this website out (they’re endorsed by Oprah which means they are official!) -> http://magical-mystery-tours.com/
The last question, “Am I interested in a travel companion?”. Hmmm…. To be honest, no. Traveling solo does something to you. Once you realize how “BAWSE”/BRAVE it is to travel alone (being able to do whatever you want, whenever you want ON YOUR OWN TIME) to a place that you’ve never visited in your life, you embrace your freedom and live in that shit. It feels WONDERFUL. It feels LIBERATING. It feels POWERFUL!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not shutting down the prospect of good companionship for future trips, but I am no longer married to the idea that one has to travel abroad with a companion.
What Did I Learn?
This question wasn’t asked, I’m simply sharing because I learned a lot during my trip.
(1) My trip taught me that as long as you’re comfortable in your own skin, genuinely enjoy your own company, are social, and outgoing you can make friends along the way. I’ve tasted solo travel and want more.
(2) I learned that I have zero passion for HR (I already knew this, but I was drinking the same Kool-Aid that so many drink. They tell themselves day in and day out that their current job is all that there is and that they should be grateful because they have a “steady” paycheck, health insurance, benefits, and paid time off.). No more. I cannot swallow unhappiness day in and day out any longer for a “consistent” paycheck. I am now actively taking the necessary actions to leave the HR arena forever. I am a creative being, I flourish in creative environments in which I can indulge in my passion – creating, writing, and traveling. So that’s the game plan, to get into that line of work that encompasses my passion and allows me to support myself and finance future travels.
(3) Jetlag is the DEVIL (I’m still recovering).
(4) I need a GoPro (http://es.gopro.com/) in my life.
(5) As dumb as they look, those selfie sticks are poppin’, I need one – EARLY.
(6) I want to start learning new languages (one at time – baby steps). Spanish is a good start since that is one of the most frequently used languages in the states. I would like to at least be conversational; to interact with others more and to make myself more marketable.
(7) Americans eat CRAP. I already knew this, but eating so much fresh food during my trip made me want to cut certain things out of my diet permanently.
(8) I live in excess. People across the world have way less, but are so satisfied.
(9) I am blessed, IMMENSELY.
(10) I would rather own little in this world if it meant being able to see more of it.
That’s it. I think I covered just about everything that I set out to cover in this post. If you have any questions please feel free to ask them below.
Until Next Time Friends!