At the time, Shirine had just finished 6 months of travel and was looking forward to another 5-6 years on the road.
I remember thinking “Wow! 6 months?! That is such a long time!”
The other day I passed the 6-month mark, and I really can’t believe I’ve made it this far, especially after getting off to such a rocky start.
I’m not a seasoned traveler like many bloggers – I’m a total newbie, especially compared to folks who’ve been on the road for 3, 5, 10 years.
But 6 months has been enough time to a) completely shift my perspective on, well, just about everything, and b) collect some awesome travel quotes.
I like when bloggers do milestone check-ins, recounting what they’ve learned after 12 months, 2 years, or a decade of nomadism.
Instead of going into what I’ve learned, which can be easily summed up as “Everything I thought I knew about everything was wrong,” I thought it’d be more fun to honor some of the verbal gems that have been thrown my way during my time in Nepal, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
#10 – “Why are you so fat?”
Where it happened: A remote village somewhere outside Chitwan, Nepal
Who said it: A paper-thin, impossibly frail, startling ancient grandmother. She was 87 but looked about 127, and she wasn’t trying to be rude. She really wanted to know what the hell I was eating to make me 4x her size.
My response: “Because I’m American. Can I take your picture?”
#9 – “Your number is old, but your face is young”
Where it happened: Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Who said it: My friend Thida, after asking how old I was. She was interested in hooking me up with her friend Ritti, but once she found out I was 32 (ancient in Asia, but especially in Cambodia), she changed her mind.
My response: “Thank you. In my country, it’s hip to date older women. Ritti should reconsider. I can be his cougar.”
#8 – “You give me your money!”
Where it happened: On a rickety local bus somewhere between Sa Dec and Chau Doc, Mekong Delta, Vietnam.
Who said it: An old woman sitting next to me on the bus. I was the only foreigner on the bus, and when she saw me, I could see the wheels start turning.
I could tell she used to speak English, used to use it regularly, but that it had been years since she’d spoken the language, and languages have a funny way of abandoning you without constant attention.
She sat next to me, smiling and struggling, and I waited patiently for her to remember “Hello” and “How are you?” and “Nice to meet you, my name is Phuong.”
Instead, what popped out what the most important phrase in the English language,
My response: I smiled, repeated the phrase back to her, and held out my palm so she could give me her money. We had a good laugh and she didn’t pester me again.
#7 – “I would never eat my own dog”
Where it happened: Cat Ba Island Vietnam
Who said it: My friend Mr. Tuyen as he was explaining the subtle nuances of dog-consumption to me.
“But to me, a dog is like a member of the family. I could never eat a dog.”
Mr. Tuyen then clarified that one never eats the family dog – that would be barbaric – one only eats other people’s family dogs. Or stray dogs, because they’re tasty too.
My response: “You’re sure this is chicken, right?”
#6 – “Why must you wash your body every day?”
Where it happened: The middle of nowhere in Nepal
My request was denied because there was a) no shower, and b) no reason that Deepak could see to shower, since I’d just showered yesterday.
My response: Silence. Because when pressed, I honestly couldn’t think of one good reason that I absolutely had to wash my body every day.
#5 – “Turn! It! Off!”
Where it happened: That same village in Nepal
Who said it: A group of 12 screaming children who were first frightened, then awed, then utterly bored with my iPhone.
They sort of hated my iPhone, in fact, and had much more fun chanting “Turn! It! Off!” then they did playing with the phone itself.
My response: I turned it off, and we played with the goats instead.
#4 – “My father is possessed by the Monkey King”
Where it happened: Siem Reap, Cambodia
Who said it: My friend Ritti, as an explanation for his father’s symptoms of mental illness.
My response: “Why the Monkey King?” Why? Because my father screeches, scratches himself, throws things, and crawls around on the roof, that’s why.
The diagnosis actually sounded pretty reasonable to me when explained like that.
#3 – “What is this remedy?”
Where it happened: Chitwan, Nepal
Who said it: Deepak’s brother, after I asked him for some soap and hot water.
My response: “This remedy is called soap. It is a foamy liquid that, when used regularly, can prevent rounds of vomiting like the one I’ve just endured due to your total lack of soap-use in preparing my meal.”
Just kidding, I didn’t say that. But he really was curious, as if hot water + soap was some sort of magical elixir with powers to wake the dead and move mountains. As if he’d never seen someone combine the two before (and truth be told, he probably hadn’t).
#2 – “She is 13 and just married. I think it is too young.”
Where it happened: Nepal. The village. Are you starting to notice a pattern of one-liner awesomeness here?
Who said it: Deepak, when a 13-year old newlywed stopped by my sick room to ogle me along with the rest of the villagers.
My response: “Ya think?!”
#1 – “You know, I won’t be a monk forever.”
Where it happened: Muang Ngoi Neua, Laos
Who said it: A 16-year old Buddhist monk who had just given me a tour of his temple.
My response: “I’m old enough to be your mother.” Ok, if I had gotten knocked up at 16. But still.
We then took some photos together, him giggling the entire time and saying things like “You know we can’t touch you, right?”
What’s the best one-liner you’ve heard while traveling?
What questions do you get asked all the time?
When people ask you questions that would be considered rude in your culture, does it piss you off or do you take it with a grain of salt?
Author: Rebekah Voss – the Founder of TheHappyPassport.com and a cheerleader for solo female travelers everywhere.
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10. "Why are you so fat?"
9. "Your number is old, but your face is young."
8. "You give me your money!"
7. "I would never eat my own dog."
6. "Why must you wash your body every day?"
5. "Turn! It! Off!"
4. "My father is possessed by the Monkey King."
3. "What is this remedy?"
2. "She is 13 and just married. I think it is too young."
1. "You know, I won't be a monk forever."
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