Why Should You Visit Asia?
Western people have a negative image of the East—in particular, the Far East. While this prejudice isn’t as dramatic as it is, say, against Africa or the Middle East, and I don’t think it’s always racist, it is pervasive—shockingly, even among travelers. Travelers who have never been to Asia, at least.
Indeed, having taken nearly two dozen trips to East and Southeast Asia over the past 10 years, I can safely say Asia is my favorite part of the world to travel. And while not everyone becomes as enamored with the world’s most populous continent as I have, I have never met a person who traveled to Asia and didn’t love it. Below, you’ll find the 10 reasons I adore this massive landmass so much.
1. The Term “Asia” is Misleading
When people think of “Asia” (and, thus, form their negative opinions of it), they usually image China, Japan and Korea—maybe Southeast Asia, too. The fact is, however, that Israel is technically as Asian as Indonesia: If you discount visiting Asia, you’re writing off the majority of the traversable planet.
2. Same Same But Different
With that being said, this article will talk mostly about the eastern portion of Asia, so I have to address the white elephant in the room: East Asian people not only don’t look alike, but their cultures and languages are very different as well. The good news is that you very quickly realize this as you travel there. Spend long enough in Asia and all white people will start to look the same to you!
3. You’re Welcome
From the brief period when I lived in Shanghai, to every time I return to Asia, I’m shocked at how immediately and completely welcomed I feel (and, indeed, I am) throughout Asia. Asian cultures are world-famous for their hospitality, which extends to all travelers, whether you’re an English teacher, a backpacker, a luxury traveler, or anything in-between.
4. Even Non-Foodies Become Foodies
I’ve written before about my disdain for food writing (and, especially, food Instagramming), but if there’s one region of the world that made me wish I was a food writer, it’s Asia. From obvious highlights like the sushi of Japan and the noodles of Thailand, to the more obscure delights of Taiwan and deep, mainland China, Asia is a foodie paradise.
5. From the Depth of the Pacific, to the Height of Everest
Human diversity notwithstanding, Asia is the most geographically diverse place on the planet—the elevation this Ani Difranco-inspired headline references is only the beginning. Whether you want to chase orangutans in the jungles of Borneo, freeze your ass off at a Chinese Ice Festival, or ride a camel through a strange Japanese desert, you quite literally never know what’s lurking around the next corner.
6. Safety First
Obviously, the sheer scale of population and development means that Asia is not completely or always “safe,” particularly not in mainland China. But in terms of personal safety, i.e. not being robbed or physically harmed by another human being, I never feel safer anywhere else in the world, particularly in Japan, where I feel you could leave a suitcase of money for days and come back to find it untouched.
7. A Value Proposition
Speaking of money, Asia has always proven a high-value destination for me, even when it’s not extraordinarily cheap. Part of this is to do with the ease of traveling independently here, whether with a Japanese rail pass or thanks to low-cost airlines like AirAsia, while part of it is due to the current strength of Western currencies as opposed to Eastern ones.
8. Opportunity is Knocking
As I referenced earlier in this article (and, frankly, countless times on my website), I started this whole lifestyle thanks to a gig teaching English in Shanghai. That’s only the beginning of opportunities in Asia, even if you’re not a teacher. East Asia’s economies continue to be among the world’s fastest-growing, so if you want to live and work abroad, this is the place.
9. Stereotypes Suck
From the aforementioned bit about all Asians looking alike, to mythologies about pet-eating (they are true, some places, to be fair), sanitation and other ridiculousness, countless mostly-false stereotypes about Asia and Asians exist. By traveling to Asia and disproving (most) of these for yourself, you can help stop their spread in society.
10. There’s Always More to Explore
My readers sometimes give me flack about traveling to Asia too much, particularly my spiritual home of Thailand. The fact is, however, that I could travel to Asia two dozen times each decade for the rest of my life and only experience a small percentage of the continent’s treasures. Even if you only end up visiting Asia once or twice, now is the time to start.