This month we’re Straying with Remy-Leigh McCoy Glendinning from England. He wanted to escape the daily routine of work, so he dropped everything and travelled to Asia. Check out his story.
Remy completed a bachelor’s degree in film production and was making a living freelancing and working in hospitality but he felt like he was living each week on repeat. The numb feeling of routine started to get to him. He felt like he was searching for something but he didn’t know what. He knew he needed to change things up and see something new. So he did.
He dropped it all, bought a flight and a Stray Asia pass, and headed out on his own. “Like a stray dog; I went looking for something that felt like home.”
What has been the highlight of your Stray adventure?
Probably my last night with my tour guide Keo in Siem Reap. He wasn’t working so we managed to convince him to drink with us to say goodbye. It ended up being the most alcohol-infused night I had in SE Asia. But it was so much fun. The hangover the next day was glorious. Matt was ill for days!
What would you say to yourself one month before you got on the Stray bus?
Laugh louder. The people I travelled with for weeks and weeks I miss now. I look at photos and wonder if I’ll ever see them again. I hope I do. I can’t talk about the stuff I did with my friends back home because they weren’t there. They have no frame of reference. These memories I cherish were with complete strangers that grew to become my friends. If I don’t see them again I know I’ll remember them for the rest of my life.
What is the best thing about travelling with a guide?
It takes away part of that wall that westerners stand outside of, peeking through the cracks. Wondering what food that is, what they are saying, what does this and that mean? But aside from the knowledge, you gain from them, they are an absolute laugh!
What is the most interesting thing I have learnt or did?
While in Vientiane in Laos. I went to the Cope Centre. This is where I learnt a lot about the history of Laos. How it’s one of the most bombed countries on the earth, due to a war it was never a part of. I remember looking at the kid’s drawings and there was one that stuck out the most and brought a genuine tear to my eye and made me so angry at the same time.
The locals in Laos have so much reason to hate and to be hurt but instead, all they showed me was how civil, kind and friendly they are. I haven’t dared to moan about anything since that day. I have no right to.
What are your favourite hot spots in Asia and why?
In Laos, I’d say Vang Vieng because I was told tales of this place years and years before I came here. I wrote it down in my notes on my phone to remember thinking hopefully I’d visit one day. I forgot about the note and the name of the place. But when I was in Vang Vieng I did the same things that were told to me unknowingly; tubing, renting a motorbike and finding the lagoons and caves, rock climbing. I couldn’t shake this feeling of familiarity.
Later, I was scrolling through the hundreds of pages of notes on my phone and I found it – the first note I wrote on my phone: “Laos, vangviang go there, tubing story”. I felt like I was meant to come to this place and make those stories my own tales to tell.
In Cambodia, Sihanoukville was my favourite. After travelling all the way through Laos it felt nice to feel a sea breeze. I went to a bar and grill called the big easy. Which honestly did the best ribs I’ve ever had in my life. With some awesome live music and friendly staff. It was paradise after a 12-hour bus drive. You can get a boat to the islands, enjoy volleyball, sun and good conversation with anyone. Siem Reap was mind-blowing but Sihanoukville hurt my cheeks from smiling.
But Vietnam was by far the best place in SE Asia. Choosing my personal favourite hot spot is difficult. But when I think of Vietnam, I can’t help but think of Hue. I think I probably spent over 2 weeks there altogether. The Forbidden Kingdom is interesting if you haven’t already ‘templed yourself out’. The abandoned water park makes you feel like you are lost in time.
But it’s my favourite because I made friends there who were locals. I’d go to Brown Eyes bar to play some pool and sit by the bar and relax and just soak it all in. A female bartender behind the bar was playful and friendly. She invited me to go karaoke with her friends when she finished. I went and had an awesome time. When I finished my stray trip in Hanoi I got a motorbike and rode back to Hue to see my new friends again before I went back to the western Groundhog Day.
What made you want to travel and any tips for potential first-time travellers?
“Because he takes from me what he takes from you. The merciless thief towards our youth. So while I still can I want to see the world. Flee my safe haven and look danger in the eye. Measure myself, challenge myself. Understand my limitations. I want to see behind walls, peek through the cracks. Know what’s on the other side of the mountains. I want to learn names, language, culture. Have fun with the locals and help where I can. I want to get lost and stray away from my comfort zone. Embark upon new horizons, far away from anything I ever knew. I want to draw closer, to find each other. To live not just exist.
I want to stray here…So I did and am doing all of the above.
Don’t be afraid of what you want. Don’t hesitate. Just grab it with both hands and brace yourself. This road of joyful memories will scar your very being. It will show you what truly matters. I can’t tell you what that is. But if you are curious and reading this. You’re already on the right track. Put your phone down and come find out for yourself. Also if you think she’s a dude, she’s a dude.” – Original words by Remy
What is your favourite photo that you took on the bus?
This is a group pic from the Lao homestay. That place meant a lot to me. It was the first time I saw a village hidden in the leaves. Made mostly out of sticks. But the kids were playing outside having fun. Doing the kind of stuff I did when I was a kid. Different environment yes, but still running around playing with sticks and stones. Same, same but different.
Back home I don’t see kids having that much fun anymore. They are indoors playing computer games or always looking down at their phone. I got my first smartphone when I was 18, I still have the same phone. I see 12-year-olds today with better phones than my own. Anyway, we went and gave some books and pens to the school. The children were so happy. We also got them a ball and played football with them. It made me happy to see these kids having fun and smiling. It felt weirdly nostalgic. So I choose this photo as a defining moment where my perspective started to shift for the better.
What’s the thing you’re going to tell everyone back home about your trip?
Probably about my time at the Laos homestay. The ceremony, the Lao Lao, the culture shock, the elders, the school kids and the bonfire by the river. Where I looked up and saw the most breathtaking night sky I’ve ever seen. Surrounded by fun locals and my Stray family.
Remy is back in England now but is planning to return to Vietnam within the year and says it’s the only thing that keeps him smiling at work. He wants to travel again entirely by motorbike, Che Guevara style. He’d like to stay and teach English or even become a tour guide. Vietnam and Southeast Asia have really gotten under his skin.