Muang Ngoi and Slowboat of Laos


“Hello, hello, I have a guesthouse, take a look.”

“Bungalow, good view.”

“I have hot shower, cold drink.”


A group of guesthouse owners are trying hard to get customers in their house as soon as the boat from Nong Kiew arrived. An hour of long boat ride made my butt sore, but we kept walking and found a reasonably priced guesthouse with a river view. And I wondered if our boat mates found a comfortable place to stay. Because surprisingly, a lot of them were about my parents’ age.


‘How did they end up here?’ I thought.

I mean, this is no Egypt, there’s no pyramid, and this is neither an Angkor Wat nor the Great wall. There’s even not many people would know where ‘Muang Noi’ is. And here they are, in their late 50s and 60s, in a random town in Laos with their backpacks.



Muang Ngoi is a small riverside village you can only reach by an hour boat ride from another small town Nong Kiew. There’s no road, no car, and no electricity. The reason we came here is because of these reasons I mentioned above; no car, no electricity, no civilization and hot shower means extra money.



Are you going go backpacking in your 60s?


I’ve never thought about what would I go travel when I’m old. For me, in my 20s, backpacking and budget travel is the way to go. I can trade a comfortable bed for a good meal, I can put myself in a 16hours bus ride, and travel with 15kg backpack. But, can I do that in 30 years?

We met a couple, in their late 50s I assume, in the bus on our way to Luang Namtha. They are traveling Southeast Asia for three months, and the places they’ve been are backpacker’s trail and they are traveling with their backpacks. That bus we were in was one of the hardest ride in Laos. There was no room, the road was bumpy and dusty and the seat was hard.


Camping in the rainstorm


I admired them; their adventurous spirit, their patience and their curiosity. They are willing to give up comfort to explore the world and enjoy the little country town. They must have sacrifice a lot of comfort to travel up here. I couldn’t imagine take my parents to Muang Ngoi. They can’t handle it, I think. Small-wooden boat without a seat is not an easy ride even for me. Cold shower is not pleasant even in summer. The beds in most of the guesthouses are not the most comfortable ones. You need a headlamp to go to toilet at night. And really, there’s nothing much to do around here.


We grew up in a different era, them and I. What I’m doing is probably the things that they didn’t have a chance to do when they were my age. But still amazing they still want to be adventurous. Over the physical discomfort for traveling.

So I decided,


Keep myself healthy

Keep being curious

Enjoy this moment to the fullest so I won’t have any regret when I’m old

Be thankful for the opportunity I have



What kind of traveler are you going to be in 30 years? Have you ever thought about it?



22 thoughts on “What Kind of Traveler Are You Going to be in 30 Years?”

  1. Juno, your posts never cease to amaze me! I’m not sure that I could handle that whole part of your trip at my age and I’m young. My idea of getting away and relaxing is calling 1-800- JWMarriott. Ha! Although I do love a great adventure.

    As I read your post, all I could think of is WTF am I doing with my life and where am I going? You’re so much younger and you’ve got a great grasp of life! I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes. “Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of traveling.” – Margaret B. Runbeck

    I need to start enjoying the traveling…

  2. If you do the four things you listed and have a little bit of luck (because some of staying healthy is luck), you can surely still be traveling when you’re “older”! I’m doing it my 40’s without much trouble. Though I am more likely to splurge (hot water and television) every few days.

    1. Sounds great! 🙂 Thumbs up for your adventures! I really wish I can keep explore the world. Keeping myself healthy would be the biggest key. Good luck with your adventures!

      1. My wife and I are going to Japan in a couple of weeks. I am 62 she is 58. I went to Ecuador in the fall last year and will return again this year. Eat healthy (not a lot of red meat, but lots of vegetables, fruits, rice, beans, etc) excercise (I do 50 minutes daily at 3.2 MPH on the treadmill daily) and don’t stress over the little things in life. You will be still exploring if you follow these thoughts!Sorry I don’t have a website yet, but I am attaching my blog on your twitter page.

  3. I think there are just different types of travelers (or tourist). It’s who you are, not how old you are. I don’t think you change just because you have more birthdays. I am much closer to your parents age than yours. I have a mortgage and a full time job which means I can’t travel nearly as much as I would like to now. When I travel now I can pretty much afford to do anything I want to. I could stay at the nicest hotels, eat at the most expensive restaurants and hire drivers (or tour busses) but I don’t (at least not often). I stay at guest houses, take local transportation and eat street food or at small mom & pop type restaurants. I travel with just a day pack and my camera bag. Last fall when I was in Kyoto, I could have stayed at any of the fanciest hotels. I chose to stayed at a capsule hotel (hostel). I can’t stand the thought of a cruise, tour group or an exclusive resort. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with those things. It’s just who I am.
    I am sure you will still be adventurous when you are their age. If you can make it without any regrets you’ll be doing better than most of us.

  4. Juno you are really adventurous! I think you will definitely still be traveling when you are older. Do you fear becoming the ajumma in the visor hat and bright hiking clothes?? haha. I dont think that road is for you! Youre very inspirational to female solo travelers, esp if people know about Korean culture and know how unusual that is for a Korean person to be sorta breaking from the mold and striking out on their own. It makes you very unique!

    1. Thanks Kaylin! I think I will be different type of ajumma when I grow old. 🙂 Thanks for good words, and good that you understand the cultural background of mine. I followed your journey through your Korea-based life.
      Hope someday, people get inspired by me and decide to live their own life, not someone else’s.

  5. What an interesting topic. I don’t know what sort of traveller I will be in 30 years. I just hope that I am lucky enough to still be exploring the world, meeting wonderful people and always learning new things.

  6. I have no doubt you’ll still be exploring your world! Ian and I took our first trip in May 1995. 17 years and 2 kids later we’re still traveling. Ok, we’re not doing any bus rides like that with two little kids. But we still stay in hostels (private rooms) and I’m sure we’ll be more up for that kind of trek when the kids are older. 🙂

    1. You two are my hope and inspiration! 🙂 Life decision doesn’t need to be ‘sacrifice’ ourselves. The main goal is to meet the right person to share the life visions with. And I think you two found each other really well. I can’t imagine traveling with two kids, but I’m sure they will learn a lot from their wonderful parents. Thanks for sharing your story!!

  7. Daniel and i always wonder about this too. I don’t think we could ever stop traveling and that makes me think that I will need to remain so fit and healthy so that I’ll always have the option. Because we live in Australia I think we will always travel through Asia so I hope we will continue to backpack and do it the cheap way. I think even if we were rich we would travel budget style so hopefully when I’m 50 I will agree with me still!

  8. I love the setup of this post because I asked myself a similar question after arriving to the very same town in Laos 9 years ago! My husband (then bf) and I caught a ride on one of those wooden boats with an American family of 4, and we spent 7 hours on this tiny, super uncomfortable vessel w/them, en route to Muong Ngoi. The kids were about 10 and 13, two girls. It was the first time I’d encountered a family from the U.S. traveling in this manner, and I found it very inspiring, asking myself–and promising myself–to continue traveling to all corners of the world once I had kids of my own. I’ve yet to have to fulfill that promise, but I’ll never forget it!

  9. I’ve seen older travelers (50s) staying in hostels but have never actually seen backpackers (with an actual backpack) in this age group. Cool to see their is no age limit on this kind of travel 🙂

    1. I know. It was inspiring. They are from Alaska too! 🙂 Travel with backpack doesn’t mean that we’re traveling ‘tougher’ but I think that’s a state of mind. I’m just hoping I can be healthy and happy enough to travel with any condition. Hope you and Jake will too!

  10. Hehe, I guess you do not turn in to porcelain all of a sudden after you hit 50 ;). But I think you are right. We are not used to older travelers because people did not travels that much in those days. In 30 years I will be 61 and I am not sure how backpackers will respond to me if I want to hang out with them in the common area of a hostel or share a room. I am sure they would love to have a chat for a while but in the end I would not be one of them anymore. I like the backpackers society so in order to avoid that ‘problem’ I try to look young for as long as possible. To achieve this I do not worry too much, I do not take myself too serious and I use sunscreen. Ok, maybe I am not too serious now either 😉 !

  11. I am already 42 and just started working on my plan to take a RTW trip. I should be headed out in 2016, when I am 44/45 (depending on what month I leave).

    I already do not use a backpack and I have yet to sleep in a dorm style room because I am an introvert. This greatly affects my traveling costs I guess, but as a 42 year old woman, I am saving out of a paycheck that comes from a job I have been at for 14 years. So I am likely making a bit more than a 20-something, which means I have the ability to save more.

    It all evens out in the end!

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