This Spring, Amanda R. traveled to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand with ACIS Tours and got to experience cultures completely different (and yet, in surprising ways very similar to) the life she has known in the United States. She also launched a vlog for a daily journal of her trip! We spoke with her about the kind of impact the trip had and how the vlog came to be a significant part of the journey.
Tell us about yourself! Where do you go to school? What are your interests?
My name is Amanda, and I’m from Brookfield, Wisconsin. I traveled to Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam in March of my junior year during the Cities of Indochina 2019 ACIS trip. I play field hockey and softball at my high school, and my favorite subjects include Biology, History, and Art.
What made you sign up for the Indochina trip?
Prior to the trip, I had never left the country without my parents or visited anywhere in Asia at all. Luckily, a couple of my best friends on my field hockey team were ecstatic about such an opportunity and convinced me to step out of my comfort zone and join them on the trip.
Looking back, what were your favorite or most memorable parts of your experience?
My favorite part of the trip was learning so much about the history behind these countries that is often skimmed over or ignored in American schools. From the royalty in Thailand to ancient civilizations of Cambodia and the War Remnants Museum in Vietnam, my experiences were eye-opening to a whole new timeline of history of which I was previously ignorant. Best of all, I got to experience these incredible places with my best friends.
Tell us more about your vlog project!
I was so eager to share my daily experiences with my parents, I decided to vlog every day of my trip so my parents could experience the same adventures I did. I knew it was unlikely that my parents would travel to anywhere in Indochina on their own, so I took advantage of my opportunity to show them my gratitude by sharing my trip with them through my videos. I also shared the links with my other friends and family members that were interested.
What was your favorite vlog post?
My favorite vlog post featured our first day in Bangkok, Thailand. In the morning, we visited the Grand Palace before taking a river taxi to a Thai restaurant on the riverfront. Before the trip, I thought Venice was the only city in the world with consistent water traffic and small canals in place of roads. This expectation of mine was soon proved wrong as we visited floating markets in both Thailand and Vietnam. My other favorite video clips were from the boat trip in Vietnam to the floating fishing village on the biggest lake in Southeast Asia. The village even included a floating school and a couple floating churches.
Any fun stories from the trip to share?
By the final days of the trip, our tour group had all gotten close and began air dropping original memes to each other. These memes usually concerned the constant source of seafood or the presence of lemongrass in almost every soup. Being from Wisconsin, most of use weren’t accustomed to the large amounts of seafood, and our teacher let us stop at a Vietnamese McDonald’s on the last day. Did you know the Happy Meals there come with rice? They also serve a divine blueberry cheesecake.
Did that trip change your perspective on the world, if so, how?
Yes. I noticed countless similarities between all the countries I visited and my own. Despite living on opposite sides of the world, all cultures seem to share similar traits. I thought visiting these countries would be like being on another planet, but in reality, the experience was more similar to an alternate dimension full of déjà vu.
What was the biggest challenge you faced?
I struggled to convince myself to ask my parents to go on the trip. I knew I couldn’t afford the trip myself, so not only would I need there permission to travel somewhere they knew next to nothing about, but I would need them to help me pay for it. Luckily, they were very supportive and just as excited as I was.
Did you acquire any skills that might help you in the future?
Well I did learn how to carve fruit into flowers in Vietnam and bargain for good pair of earrings, so if I become a chef or a salesman, I totally have a head start. In all seriousness, however, my exposure to these cultures will likely come in handy later in college or life; I am now familiar with the ancient ruins of Cambodia and the details behind the various war conflicts in Vietnam.
Did the trip affect your interests or choices for what you hope to study when you get to college, and if so how?
Before the trip, I knew I had an interest in Classics and archaeology in the Mediterranean area, but our visit to Angkor Wat in Cambodia showed me that my interest does not stop with the Ancient Greek and Romans. I am truly fascinated by the study of all ancient civilizations and anthropology all around the world.
What message would you share with younger students would may or may not be considering travelling outside the US?
Traveling to a different country might seem scary, but there is no reason to be afraid of the people because they live somewhere else. At the end of the day, we are all humans who can’t pick in what country we are born. The world is amazing because it is full of people with diverse perspectives, and you need to travel to truly see it’s beauty. The real deal says so much more than any picture or video.