Southeast Asia. It has a certain allure and I’m trying to figure out why. I suppose it seems more foreign to me than other parts of Asia that I’ve traveled to in the past. Japan, China, and Hong Kong…. These places are different from where I am “from” but the cultural differences aren’t as great as many people imagine. Yes, there are differences. Take pizza in Japan (please!). It almost always includes corn as a basic starter ingredient, along with the crust and cheese. And mayonnaise is a frequent substitute for tomato sauce. Then there’s the very small, almost non-existent, amount of “personal space” people are accustomed to in Japan as compared to western countries. Yet other aspects of Japan (and China) were as “normal” as anywhere I’ve ever been.
So what is the culture like in other Asian countries? I thinking specifically of Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos? What’s the the island nation of the Philippines like in contrast to the island nation of Japan? Some of these places – especially Laos and Cambodia – appear much more untouched by the influences of western culture, although it is doubtful they will remain this way.
I’m considering quite seriously one of these countries as my future home – if they will have me. But I worry about the Road not Taken affect that western expats exert on the cultures that they visit or move to. One person alone is unlikely to be the impetus for the westernization of these places, but a lot of “one persons” combined have a lasting impact.
I intend to spend a lot of my time over the next couple of years writing, photographing, and documenting my experiences on video. I’d like to build some sort of an audience for the work I do, but at the same time I worry that the stuff I do could inadvertently cause harm by making the places I look at of more interest to viewers. It’s an interesting paradox – one that I’m going to have to think on some more.