Traveling is a superb way to try on what life might be like somewhere else. And like everything else in life, some aspects are better than others. Here are a few things that Southeast Asia does better than the U.S.
1. Mosquito repellent. Several years ago while traveling in Jamaica, I needed bug repellent, but all I could find was Johnson’s Baby mosquito lotion. I bought it figuring, “If it works for babies, why wouldn’t it work for adults?”
Guess what. It does. Better even. It smells great and has a light, non-greasy texture. I loved it, and when I brought it back to the States, my friends at the beach, barbecues and other outdoor shenanigans loved it, too.
I don’t know why our mosquito repellent is so awful — that chemically, greasy, strip-your-skin-off stuff that prevails in most American drugstores — but it is. Maybe it’s because these fancy-pants mosquito repellents have banned chemicals that give kids ADHD, but I could not have been more thrilled when I found Johnson’s delightful little green bottle of baby mosquito repellent in Thailand.
Other countries, like Vietnam and Indonesia, had their own awesome versions, too. In fact, I bought one in Vietnam called Remos thinking it was a light moisturizer and didn’t even realize what it was until it started burning my face off. Mistake noted, it ended up being a great repellent when used properly.
2. Natural food. Food is harvested, taken to market and served in a pretty tight timeline. When you’re sucking down coconut milk served from a coconut(!!!) for 50 cents and eating fresh pineapple, your digestion system starts to thank you for giving it a reprieve from all the preservatives, chemicals, hormones and nonsense we pump into ourselves in the States — even if we try to avoid it.
3. Outdoor showers. Nothing beats washing off a day of saltwater, sunscreen and sweat than an outdoor shower. It’s a luxury every warm-weather place in the U.S. should have. Plus, you can hose your kids and dogs off outside. What’s better than that?
4. 4G in Thailand. When I popped my SIM card in and fired up my Thai 4G I was blown away by the almost instantaneous speed. America, we got a lot of catching up to do.
5. Paper face masks. They sell these paper face masks in practically every convenience store throughout SE Asia. Having a grimy day? Get too much sun? No worries. For about a buck, you can put on one of these masks that make you look like Jason from “Friday the 13th” for 15 to 20 minutes for a little skin-saving treat. I can’t wait until I can buy one of these things alongside a pack of gum and Lotto tickets here.
6. The idea that you don’t need to work all the time. While it might seem counterintuitive to the way Westerners have been programmed, businesses tend to open and close when the owners feel like it. Are they leaving some potential cash on the table? Sure. But they probably see their friends and family more.
7. Cheap massages. Amazing. $12-$20. Once-a-week treats isn’t unheard of even for the locals. Be sure to tip the practitioner a lot.
8. Cheap food. No meal was over $6 in Vietnam. And believe me, I tried.
9. Little hand-held spray hoses by every toilet. This should be self-explanatory.
10. The “it’s all gonna be all right” mentality. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. But stressing out about stuff doesn’t help anything.