I’ve always wanted to travel for as long as I can remember. I always told my parents when I saw an aeroplane: “That’s gonna be me on that plane someday.”

And sure enough, when I turned 21, that is what my parents gifted me. I didn’t want a fancy party; I didn’t want a key; I didn’t want a car. All I wanted was to go abroad, and finally I had the opportunity.

I’ll be honest with you, I was so scared. I was headed off to Bangkok, Thailand. I didn’t know the language; I didn’t know the culture; I was going in blind.

But I decided to go to Thailand because I had a Thai friend who visited South Africa as a foreign exchange student. The only problem was that he was going to be out of the city for a few days while we, my friend Benita Japhta and I, were in Bangkok; so we needed to find alternative accommodation for the first few days.

Landing in Bangkok

We tried to get a cab, but let me tell you that was already a drama. The cab driver couldn’t speak English, and he didn’t know where our hotel was. We were driving around for a long while before we realised we were not going to find our original destination.

Luckily, my aunt, whom I was also going to visit, sent me the name of a hotel. I showed the driver the name and we set off.

When we eventually arrived, our hotel room was small, but nice, and a relief after the long flight.

When I asked Benita what the worst part of the Thailand trip was for her, she said: “I would say that the language barrier was a bit difficult, especially if we wanted to do something and the (cab) driver didn’t understand… and nobody else did either!”

Exploring Bangkok

We knew we had to go out since it was our first day in Bangkok. Benita had made an itinerary of what we could get up to.

The city was huge! The streets bustling 24 hours a day, non-stop. It’s like these people never slept.

A few days later, we finally connected with my Thai friend. He took us to his home, and we were warmly welcomed by his family.

We visited all sorts of markets, and all sorts of stores. We ate amazing food too. The one thing I learned about the Thai folk is that they love their rice. They have rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner! And they have all sorts of rice, from sweet to savoury.

Benita says her favourite part of the trip was, “When we went to the museums and learnt more about the Thai history; and when we were taken to certain traditional restaurants.”

Another of our highlights was seeing a palace, a real palace. And it was made of real gold.

We saw how one entire road was empty because the king was driving through. Kinda cool if you ask me. I also got to witness ancient ways of making clothes.

We even got to ride on a subway. Let me just say that the public transport in Thailand is amazing!

What I learnt when travelling?

  1. Make sure that you have enough of the local currency in cash when you land. My friend learnt the hard way when she realised she could only withdraw from certain banks.
  2. Learn a bit of the language before you go. We didn’t know a word of Thai and I think learning just a little bit would really have gone a long way.
  3. People will stare at you if you look different – this isn’t in any way mean, but more curiosity.
  4. Be open to trying new things, whether that be food, transportation, or clothes. It’s so humid in Thailand that wearing a skinny jean is not even an option!
  5. I finally became an adult. This was truly the pinnacle point where I stepped into adulthood. I had to figure out everything by myself – well, my friend and I had to!
  6. Please do take proper shoes when travelling! You will be walking all over the show and wearing comfortable shoes is a must.
  7. Learn about the country’s customs and culture – for instance, when going into the palace in Bangkok or even visiting palace ruins, you must be completely covered. Women can’t show their ankles and shoulders.
  8. Grab a few snacks from the plane just in case you find yourself hungry and have no way to get food immediately after landing.

Travelling abroad really opens your world view; it takes you out of your comfort zone and writing this article has me feeling so nostalgic. I hope to travel again someday soon, and I hope to go to Istanbul, Turkey.

Benita also can’t seem to wait for her next trip overseas: “Travelling to Thailand really helped me along my journey to independence; and I cannot wait for my next travel adventure.”

Don’t be afraid to go after your dreams. I was so scared of leaving South Africa, but the trip was so worth it in the end.


Read more here about the scariness of new beginnings.


Tell us: What is your dream destination to travel to?