When I was 19, I traveled independently for the first time. I visited Thailand, a country that encapsulates some of the best tourist experiences the world has to offer—as well as some of the worst. In the bewildering metropolis of Bangkok, we were taken on a whistle-stop tour of the Buddhist temples by a very enthusiastic taxi driver who then proceeded to take us to tailors and jewelers to make purchases that would have cleaned out our entire six-week budget.
It was then that I realized that travelers need advice from experts in order to navigate their way through unfamiliar countries. I had a guidebook with some helpful advice but I felt that there was a lot I could add to it. I began to keep a diary of my experiences and, in particular, my observations about the idiosyncrasies of both local people and other travelers. I experienced so much on that backpacking trip—temples, paradise beaches, and lush hilltops during the day, and freakish full moon parties and a darker type of tourism at night.
It occurred to me that, while I was on holiday, working life continued for everybody else in Thailand. I was determined to travel with my eyes open and ensure that those glimpses of fantasy were tempered by reality. That’s what led to me to become a travel writer.