It’s a tough question to ask. I sat and looked through folders of photos, bringing back waves of memories. Shockingly, mine has to do with food. As I’ve said many times, what I eat as I roam has everything to do with why I keep moving. As the years have gone on and my travels have curled out behind me, trailing promise and new experiences and colour, tastes remain. Tied to them, a vivid reminder of my state of mind and all the extraneous sensory remembrances – who I was with, what I was doing there and why I ate what I ate.
After a summer at home and whirlwind of a fall though South America for a short-term consulting contract, I was back in Asia. I settled into Chiang Mai and got into a routine of eating and reading a writing with my roommate Shannon from A Little Adrift. But I needed to get a new visa, so it was quickly off to Laos, starting in Luang Prabang and weaving my way south to Vientiane.
I got food poisoning in Chiang Mai the night before I left, arriving in Laos a shell of my usual self. I was tired, cranky and annoyed to be a traveler. I wasn’t excited to see the sights or the markets, I wasn’t interested in wandering the river – I just wanted to curl up and sleep.
From the airport, it was a direct shot to town where I dropped my bags and made a beeline for a street stall to get something to eat, since I had nothing left in my stomach after a night of misery. And that something was a bowl of soup – a perfect, beautiful bowl of soup. The broth had hints of cinnamon and was topped in fried garlic, the chicken was tender and the noodles perfectly cooked. The vendor seemed confused as to why I was so excited about his breakfast options, but to me this bowl of soup was a reminder of why food and travel are a perfect pair: what you eat reinvigorates you, it adds a layer of additional texture and brightness to your days. And thus, Laos was no longer simply a new country to discover, it became a place with a myriad of different foods than Thailand, ridiculous chicken bus rides and karst hills that rose from the water. For less than 50 cents, I was completely changed, and reminded that attitude goes along way to making your trip worthwhile. As does, of course, your food.
Plus, we all know chicken soup makes everything better when you’re sick, right?
My full photo-gallery from Laos is here – it was, it turned out, a wondrous trip.
What was your favorite travel memory of 2011? I usually flag links in the comments, but if you’ve posted your own ‘best of’ post, feel free to leave it here. ‘Tis the time for sharing 😉