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So, you went to South East Asia? And once the holidays are over you try to hold on to the last rays of sunshine in your mind, whether you are aware of it or not. You sport a tan and smug grin which are sure signs that you have just returned from the sunny shores of the Philippines, the ancient temples in Thailand or from playing with monkeys in Borneo. While those might obvious and enough to alienate envious friends and enemies alike, there are some other giveaways upon closer inspection. Whether you want to flaunt or hide them is up to you, but here are ten sure signs that you have just returned from a South East Asian paradise.

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1. I ♥ bug’s life

Before you left you used to have your exterminator on speed dial? Not anymore. It seems that these late night Fear Factor sessions on Khao San Road were good for something after all. While they may never become your favorite pets, you don’t scream for help anymore when you see cockroaches & co. Eat a Tarantula leg in Cambodia I am pretty sure afterwards you won’t die of heart attack if you see one crossing your path. In fact, sometimes you may even entertain the thought ‘snack time’ upon seeing an especially juicy specimen. Nothing wrong with that, but rather leave it to the Asian master chefs if you get a craving for deep fried crickets and don’t try to turn your city’s sidewalks into a street food market.

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2. Casual everyday

Who said that brushing your hair, putting on make-up or wearing underwear are necessities? You got by splendidly without all of that on your trip – your hair was salt water tousled, make-up replaced by that tan and a bikini worn instead of knickers. Free from the shackles of beauty conformity you decide that you may just try this at home and that casual Fridays are simply not enough anymore. While you might get away with the bikini instead of underwear for a little longer, friends and coworkers may start giving you weary looks. After all, things that happen in Thailand should stay in Thailand and elephant hippie pants are definitely should!

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3. Leave only footprints

Especially your feet mourn the loss of freedom after weeks of walking barefoot through Koh Tao’s soft sand, warm water or dusty roads. Now even your formerly comfiest shoes hurt your feet. Who needs shoes in any case you think and chuck them into the Goodwill bin? What is this society that wants you to squeeze your freedom loving, world traveling toes into these contraptions of leather, rubber and fabric? Oh yes, that very same society that made the floors in the frozen goods aisle, well, freezing as you discover during a barefoot shopping spree. Was Woolworth’s ever that chilly? Next time, stop at a shoe shop as well and get yourself a pretty pair to get you and your feet through the pains of civilization…

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4. The price is never right

Prices for everything seem to have gone up since your return. Whether you are at a restaurant, the supermarket or buying clothes to keep you warm again, everything is so much more expensive! Everything was one dollar in Cambodia so paying any more than that for lunch or a pair of pants seems outrageous and you won’t have it. So while your friends may cringe with embarrassment, you have no shame to ask for a discount and haggle a little. After all, this is how it’s done at the markets of Bangkok, Boracay and Siem Reap and you don’t see a reason why Wholefoods and Abercrombie can’t follow suit with this practice.

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5. Smile and let go

Before your trip, you didn’t suffer fools gladly and you meant business whether you argued with a restaurant host or the taxi driver who tried to take you on yet another detour. Not anymore. You smile, let it go and take a nap if it all gets too much. You don’t argue, you just nod along and bow a little hello and goodbye, even to strangers. You have learned to keep the peace by keeping the face. While your new-found serenity may annoy everybody around you, you enjoy a lower blood pressure. Arguably that is the best holiday remainder, but it’s also the one that is likely to fade quickest. That is at least if you live in New York or any other place with such hardcore hosts and cab drivers.

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6. Say it in writing

You actually got that new tattoo. The one whose meaning you spent hours contemplating about and whose foreign lettering – isn’t Sanskrit so much prettier than regular Thai? – you carefully selected. The one you deep down know might very well say “chicken fried rice” instead of “love conquers all”. But when you finally get enlightened by a native speaker, you shrug it off thanks to no. 5. Surely you can conquer the world with yummy fried rice too?

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7. The taste is gone

It seems that the last few green curries have finally burnt your taste buds away, because everything back home just tastes so bland. Whatever you eat, you just want to cry and not in a good, chilli-induced way. The fruits are tasteless and no amount of salt can be enough when all you really need is a little dash of fish sauce. You try to recreate your favorite holiday moments at the Vietnamese restaurant around the corner, hoping to bring your appetite back to life, but you leave crying even harder. When you try to bring the East’s tastes to your friends’ table to give them a flavor of what they have missed, things get even worse: they will ask for milk to kill the burn and you sprinkle chilli flakes into your mouth. Eventually, you give up and return to good old faithful mac ‘n’ cheese from the supermarket – at least that tasted bland to begin with.

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8. Lightspeed

No dial-up modem? More than one bar wi-fi signal? Welcome back to the real world! One should assume that you are delighted to be able to browse and stream to your heart’s content again, but all you can do is complain. After all, the bad internet connection on any given South East Asian island was your number one excuse not to return your annoying aunt’s email, check your account balance or get any work done whatsoever.

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9. Frozen

Your friends are excited because it is spring yet you still mourn the loss of eternal summer. Everybody is taking their jackets off once temperatures reach the mid-sixties, but you put on an extra layer. Sitting outside? Hell, no, it is freezing! You spend way too much time in the bathtub because nothing else comes even close to swimming in warm water. Prune is the new black and if you can’t come to the ocean, the ocean must now come to you. If you don’t have a bathtub or can’t take refuge in a Bikram studio you may just….

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10. Institute a ‘wear your wetsuit to work’ day

If you are anything like me, you may just wear your wetsuit to work. Sure some people may stare at you, but there really is nothing else that keeps you warm in these sub-standard temperatures. Only comes Christmas time you realize that oversized wooly jerseys were made for a reason: there is no way to hide holiday pounds in a wetsuit and the real world has you back for good.

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Thank you Cynthia Rowley for my beautiful wetsuit and
thank you freelance life for allowing me to wear it while I work from home!

This post was written by Annika Ziehen who was a Travelette until 2019. Originally from Germany, Annika has lived in New York and Cape Town and now travels the world full time. She considers herself a very hungry mermaid and writes about her adventures, scuba diving and food on her blog The Midnight Blue Elephant. You can also find her on Instagram here!