When planning for our gap year, Leslie and I considered many options for our travels. However, we eventually decided we wanted to see more of our own country and stay in the United States. We figured by eliminating the cost of airfare and instead road-tripping the U.S. we could stretch our travel budget further and travel longer.

And then my friend, Alex, returned from two months of backpacking in Southeast Asia. On his first night back in the U.S. he told me all about his Southeast Asia adventures; from relaxing on the beaches of Thailand to exploring Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

It only took him a few hours to convince me to add Southeast Asia to our gap year itinerary. Thankfully, Leslie felt the same way and we began to plan for our trip. Now we are three weeks away from flying to Southeast Asia! We will leave on January 26th and return on March 3rd.

Why a month in southeast asia?

Several people have asked us why we are going for so long, but the truth is there are many reasons why we are going to Southeast Asia for a month.

The first reason is that we have time to kill before our West Coast road trip; with temperatures dropping we decided to push our West Coast road trip back until April. We figured what better place to spend most of our winter than on a beach in Southeast Asia.

Waves crashing on the beach at Phuket Beach with a boat floating in the water

The second reason for staying a month is the amount of time it takes to get there from the United States. As it stands right now, the flight to Bangkok will take us 24 hours (with a 4 hour layover in Seoul, South Korea). Considering transportation to and from Southeast Asia will take up two days of our trip, we wanted to make sure we had enough time to explore the region.

Another reason is that it is more affordable for us to travel in Southeast Asia than it is to live at home in the U.S. Consider this, our $40 meal at a restaurant in the states could get us 20 meals in Cambodia. Or our $300 Airbnb rental for a weekend in Savannah could get us 30-nights at a guesthouse in Thailand.

Buildings in the countryside of Pai Thailand with mountains in the background

However, the biggest reason for spending a month in Southeast Asia is our desire to see as much as possible, while traveling slowly. We are not interested in jumping from city to city every few days. Instead, we would rather stay in one place for a week and really get to know the area.

But doing so means we are limiting the amount of countries we can visit. By extending our trip to a month long we can fit in more destinations while traveling how we want.

Where will we go?


While we haven’t set anything in stone yet, we do have a few rough guidelines. After 20 hours in the air, we will arrive in Bangkok on January 27 in the early afternoon. I can’t even imagine how hard the jet lag will hit us, so we’ll give ourselves a few days in the city to put ourselves back together.

The view of the Bangkok skyline from the balcony of a building

From Bangkok, we will most likely travel north to the city of Chiang Mai for a few days. Compared to southern Thailand and chaotic Bangkok, Chiang Mai is calm and laid-back, with beautiful mountain scenery and lots of outdoor activities. Mainly, I’m just dying to visit an elephant sanctuary.

Next we will travel to Vietnam and Cambodia, not particularly in that order, for a little under two weeks. Although we like to leave our itinerary open for free-style exploring, we do plan on hitting some of the classic landmarks.

In Vietnam we’ll most likely start in Hanoi to visit the famous Halong Bay, and possibly make our way to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). In Cambodia we’ll check out legendary temples like Anghor Wat and Ta Prohm during the day, and head back to Siem Reap at night for its unique dining scene, relaxing ambiance and hopefully a massage or two.

Mountains in the background at Phuket Beach

Next we will either detour to Laos, or make our way back to Thailand. This time focusing on southern Thailand and its famous beaches and island resorts. Finally, we will fly out of Bangkok and head back to the U.S. on March 3.

This “itinerary” can and most likely will change at a moment’s notice, which is one of the most exciting parts about this trip. The inexpensive accommodation, transportation and food allows us to make up plans as we go.

As long as we have a bed to crash on once we arrive in Bangkok, we are good to go! Oh, have we mentioned that we are only bringing two backpacks?

Note: A special thanks to Alex for sharing some of his photos from his Southeast Asia trip with us for this post.

Have you been to Southeast Asia before? If so, let us know about your favorite memories in the comment section below!