Reasons Julia is The Best Travel Buddy

- You put up with my insistence on walking everywhere and exploring "by foot," even if it means getting lost and winding up in an alley full of women washing clothes and children chasing puppies.
- We have the same budget. The last day of our winter trip, Julia and I were looking for any air conditioning that could salvage us from the sweltering heat of Bangkok. We walked into a Big Fancy Mall that obviously catered to tourists unlike us; those with fat wallets bulging with multiple credit cards, who stayed at Best Westerns or Marriotts with their rolling Samsonite suitcases. We strolled in with our bright green backpack, sweaty and thirsty, intent on using the McDonald's bathroom, refilling our water bottle at the fountain, and enjoying the air con for 5 minutes. It turned into a 3-hour ordeal...
First, we discovered that the mall had a humongous food court and grocery store that outrivals any Whole Foods. Both of us grew ecstatic when we saw that there were free samples of sticky rice, Japanese buns, peanut brittle, soy milk, sausage, dried fruits, and western cakes. We calmly meandered through the different tasting stations, returning to those that served the more delicious foods. This was better than Costco on a Saturday! After we agreed that the employees would begin to recognize us if we sampled just once more, we headed off to use the clean and sparkling restrooms, after which we casually strolled back to the mall area and applied the sample lotions and creams to our now-unsalty hands and faces – you chose rose scent, and I chose lemongrass.
On our way out of the mall, we saw a sign that advertised an 80% off clearance sale on the 8th floor. I should've known then that any mall that has 8 floors is too grandiose for me; but we were still giddy off of the treasure trove of free tasting samples and were feeling lucky, especially with the bright red digits of 8 and 0 yelling at us, "I'm only a fifth of my original price! You can afford me!"
After two hours of trying on designer clothes from labels like Diesel, Calvin Klein, Armani, and others I can't pronounce, we realized that we had miscalculated the final cost. A shirt that I had thought would ring up to $3 turned out to cost $30 after the discount. A pair of jeans I approximated to be $12 was really $120. Somewhere between calculating 80% off the tag price and converting Thai Baht into American dollars, I must have moved the decimal one place too far to the left.
We left the clearance sale empty-handed, accepting the glum fact that people like us are condemned to shopping in the streets, where bargaining is a necessary skill, everything comes in "one size fits all," and there is no air conditioning.
- We do our laundry in the hostel bathrooms, albeit by different methods. I prefer to wash my dirty laundry before I shower, but you prefer to just shower while wearing your dirty clothes.
- You're not ashamed to crash weddings with me.
- You drink nothing but water.
- You're always ready for free food. When we went to the Grand Palace in the Ratanakosin area in Bangkok, we stumbled upon tents with massive pots of curry and rice cooking. Judging from the huge banner strewn across the entrance and the man yelling/spitting into the megaphone, this was probably a buffet supporting a political revolution...or preaching Buddhist teachings...or asking for donations in that white box in the corner. All we wanted was the free food. Just walking within two meters of the tent did the trick, and we found Styrofoam plates (meaning this certainly wasn't an environmental campaign) filled with delicious, spicy curry and rice pushed into our hands. We sat at one of the many long, plastic tables and had a rough conversation in English with a Thai man and his mother about how great the free curry was. After we finished our bowls, we were urged by the locals to get dessert, which was steamed pumpkin swimming in coconut curry and tapioca pudding. Happy stomachs = Happy Julia and Mindy
- Your support throughout my frustrating ordeal in Cambodia. When my passport was stolen, you came along with me to all the pit stops – the police office, the US Embassy, Air Asia's office, and the immigration office. You never showed any impatience or anger, even though days spent waiting at the US Embassy and processing a new exit visa meant missing exploring Phnom Penh, rock climbing in Krabi, and snorkeling in Ko Phi Phi.
- Swimming in the waterfalls and Crater Lake, scaring each other by wondering out loud if there were eels or leeches in the water.
- We both pack all we need for a 19-day trip into a small backpack.
- We get equally excited about airline flights. Our conversation before we boarded our Etihad flight from Abu Dhabi to Bangkok: "What do you think they're going to serve us? Do you think they'll have seafood? Should I order a Coke or Bailey's? Are we gonna have the personal TV's? It's a 6-hour flight...that means I can watch 3 movies. Can we keep the blanket and ear plugs they give us at the beginning?"
- When other backpackers are just heading out at 10 p.m. to drink a few beers and experience Bangkok's famous nightlife, we're both curled in our Queen bed for two.
- You don't mind surfing couches.
- We have fun examining and poking your blisters.
- A "splurge dinner" for us was a meal at the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar – a delicious bowl of Khao Saoi (egg noodles in coconut milk soup), sticky rice, and fresh shrimps with steamed asparagus. Total cost for both of us: $5.
- You put up with my insistence that we go into every bakery we walk past, just to smell and stare.
- You don't judge me when I wear the same outfit for 5 days in a row.
- You don't spend more than two hours at a museum.
- Who else would sympathize when I complained that my butt hurt from the rented boy's bike?
- We have the same bowel movements.
- You always remind me to wear sunscreen.
- We can talk endlessly about what we would eat if we ever found a seafood buffet for less than $8 a person. Sashimi, lobster, crab, ceviche, sushi rolls, salmon, miso cod (No, we haven't found that buffet yet).
- We get easily annoyed at the same things: shabob, vendors not willing to bargain, slow walkers, kids peeing in the aisle of a Cambodian bus, people with a lot of money but not a lot of generosity, fruit stalls that don't let us pick our own grapes, honking vehicles, and buses that are five hours late.

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