life lessons learned traveling, part vi

by Holly on June 20, 2011

in travel

My favorite country I have ever traveled to is, without question, the friendly nation of Laos.

Colonized by the French in the late 1800’s, Laos is permeated with an unmistakable French-Asian fusion in everything from its architecture to its amazingly delicious food. And for the record, Laos is pronounced Lao {silent s}. When the French colonized Laos, they added the ‘s’ onto the country name to Westernize its pronunciation. Don’t ever pronounce the ‘s’ in my presence or else you will get a politically-charged language lesson from moi.

Consider yourself warned.

It took me but two mere minutes to fall in love with this extremely impoverished country.

As soon as my passport was stamped for entry at the Northern border of Chiang Khong by the immigration officer Chansamone Lengsavath, a name and gregariously smiling face I will never forget, I somehow instinctively knew I was going to like it there.

I liked Laos before I even knew it was home to BeerLao, the best beer in the world.

I liked it before I knew $1 U.S. dollar = 10,000 Lao kip and bartered my way through gorgeously-lit night markets saying, “Khawp jai!” {thank you} at the end of every pleasant transaction.

I liked it before I realized the streets of Luang Prabang + the capital city of Vientiane are home to sketchy-looking food carts which sell the most delectably finger-licking dessert on the face of this multicultural Earth: banana + Nutella roti, a fried version of the French crêpe.

I am pretty sure I ate this more than once for dinner.

And more than once in a day.

Most important to note, I liked it before I even knew Laos would be the closest I would ever come to an Argentinean love affair. Let me just say, if you meet a cute 20-something farmer from rural Argentina named Adrian on a long-tail boat cruising the Mekong River, make a serious move on him. If you don’t, all you will have left is a gifted copy of The Hunchback of Notre Dame in Spanish signed “Amor, Adrian” you can’t read and a lifetime of wondering just how cute your little Buenos Aires babies would be.

As Adrian and I somberly parted ways on the streets of Luang Prabang, he kissed me ever so gently on the cheek and to this day, I would like to believe not immediately jumping Adrian’s bones is the greatest regret of my life. However, Laos doesn’t live in regrets. It doesn’t live in what ifs. It doesn’t live in “Life’s not fair.” And it certainly doesn’t feel bad for itself.

Despite the fact more than 1/4 of the population lives on less than $1 U.S. dollar per day, people in Laos are happy. They are friendly. They are some of the most giving people I’ve ever met. And they smile. A lot.

Laos taught me to relax. To breathe. To enjoy the moment.

Laos showed me there IS a higher power. Whether it’s Buddha, God, Allah or whomever else you deem spiritually appropriate for your life, there is something bigger going on here in this crazy world. I am sure of it.

It taught me there are two kinds of people in this world: those that can ride mopeds and those who get kicked off mopeds and furiously yelled at by moped rental owners because they almost crash their bike into a busy street swarming with oncoming traffic.

The latter group ends up on bikes. You connect the dots.

Laos taught me how to enjoy the moment.

Not the past.

Not the future.

But the immediate present moment.

Most importantly, Laos taught me to be grateful for what I have.

And reminded me to smile…a lot.

part v

part iv

part iii

part ii

part i


grace b June 20, 2011 at 10:10 pm

After a hard day (uncle’s funeral, long shift at work), this was a great post to inspire and make me smile. Thanks Holly!

Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga June 20, 2011 at 10:14 pm

“Laos taught me how to enjoy the moment.” – That’s awesome.

What is also awesome is that you have so many great travel pics! Many of my trips, i.e. 95% of them, were taken long before I was bitten w/ the photography bug and I regret and wish I had had any camera. Or better skills. Oh well, I have the memories.

And you have Adrian memories. Your future Adrian is out there. :)

Jess June 20, 2011 at 10:15 pm

Beautiful + lovely written post!! I love the part about being grateful. And living without regrets/in the moment. Words to live by!!

dana @ my little celebration June 20, 2011 at 10:28 pm

Beautifully written, friend. Just beautiful.

Katie @ Nourishing Flourishing June 21, 2011 at 12:34 am


Kristen - Anywhere There's An Airport June 21, 2011 at 3:10 am

I love your travel lessons! No matter what your lesson, I am reminded to enjoy every minute of my journey. The happy ones and the hard ones. Thank you.

Lauren June 21, 2011 at 5:48 am

I’ve never heard of Laos but it sounds incredible!

Laura June 21, 2011 at 6:16 am

This is such a lovely post! Beautiful photography, wonderful message and it taught me a little something about the culture of Loas. How did you end up travelling there? Have you ever made your own version of the foods you ate there?

Pure2Raw Twins June 21, 2011 at 6:54 am

Laos sounds like an incredible place! Beautiful!

Hillary June 21, 2011 at 8:05 am

I love, love, love these posts. Your traveling adventures are hilarious, insightful, and enviable, and you seem like pretty much the coolest traveling companion ever.

Amanda @ ImagineAmandaJean June 21, 2011 at 8:21 am

I’ve been reading for about a month – and love your blog. This post was amazing, you’ve totally convinced me to want to visit Laos! June 21, 2011 at 8:33 am

probably one of my favorite posts. mostly because of the “not jumping adrian’s bones immediately” part. especially that part, xo

brandi June 21, 2011 at 8:44 am

i love these posts, Holly. Love them.

Shannon June 21, 2011 at 10:31 am

What a beautiful country! It makes me want to go visit there! Plus, I’m 1/4 French so I love the French influences.

Gillian Young June 21, 2011 at 10:42 am

I love the post and adore you even more. Seems like such a magical place! Nutella fried roti crepe sounds like something out of my fantasy world- I would like one now. I would also end up on a bicycle before they would realize I can’t even ride those and then I’d be left to walk.

Beautiful post- and important lessons! Hope to meet you somewhere magical one day.

Cait's Plate June 21, 2011 at 10:44 am

Aw, I loved this post. I wish I got to travel more but while I can’t, I’ll happily live vicariously through you :)

Teri [a foodie stays fit] June 21, 2011 at 11:17 am

I have a new goal in life: to go on a trip with you. Can we make it happen?

Megan (Braise the Roof) June 21, 2011 at 11:54 am

Awesome tribute, Holly. One of my best friends is from Laos (she pronounces the “s”, though!) and I’m actually in her traditional Laos wedding in about a month. It’s in Iowa, though. Not Laos. Oh well. ;) It should be really interesting, though! I’m told I have to learn some kind of dance…

Madeline - Greens and Jeans June 21, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Love this and you. And I get to see you in less than two weeks, which makes my heart sing.

amanda June 21, 2011 at 4:28 pm

LOVE this!

gahhhh. talk about a major craving to travel. i seriously have been plotting in my head how to get my booty back to ecuador for like two years now. but something always seems to fall through. there is just something about being over in an impoverished country that makes you appreciate what ya have and the usa and how to be truly thankful.

however, i don’t think i ever felt as alive as i did when volunteering.

ps, i highly dig that feet picture.

chelsey @ clean eating chelsey June 21, 2011 at 7:58 pm

I cannot believe all of the places you have been in this world. It is amazing.

Shelley June 21, 2011 at 8:56 pm

you’re honestly such an amazing writer/blogger and i love all of your posts! what an amazing travel experience. It is SO important to enjoy the present… I would never think to travel to Laos but it looks unreal.

Anica June 21, 2011 at 10:37 pm

Omg! I don’t know why we didn’t add Laos to Em and I’s itinerary! What a beautiful city!

Brenna [fabuleuxdestin] June 22, 2011 at 3:22 am

I want to go there!

Sarah@The Flying ONION June 22, 2011 at 6:33 am

Beautiful, beautiful post, Holly! I felt as if I were right there with you.

Andrea@WellnessNotes June 22, 2011 at 9:34 pm

Sounds like a wonderful country and wonderful travels. I love all the pictures. Beautiful!

Lauren June 22, 2011 at 10:40 pm

I am crazy jealous of all your traveling adventures but mostly, you inspire me to save money and go on my own! Great post as always :)

Liz Scala June 23, 2011 at 7:20 pm

This is something I have been working on, learning, and living. I am realizing to live in the present. I am living to be grateful for everything I have and not take a thing for granted; the water that comes out of my faucet, the toilet that flushes each time I want it to, the light that turns on so I can read. I am seeing that smiles go a long way. I walked into a suit store the other day with a large smile on my face and the entire shopping experience was fun, entertaining, and friendly. I am living in the moment. I am taking each breath. I love this post as it is what is going on with me right now. I encourage people to find this beauty and to realize this peace. Thank you for sharing your experiences! It sounds like a great country!!

Katie June 26, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Holly, this is gorgeous. With each part of this series, you’re helping me realize how much I really need to do some exploring on my own. And Laos will most definitely be on that list.

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