Why now is the time to visit Myanmar (just don’t tell the tourists…)

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Myanmar? Why did you choose there?’ was a question I was greeted with recently.

The truth is, my life was going in a different direction to the traditional expectations heaped upon us 30 something’s – so I made a decision. If my life didn’t look like I expected it to (with a husband and 2.4 children), what did I want it to look like?

The first step toward finding that: Get away and live life to the FULLEST.

Naturally, the idea of jetsetting off to an exotic country seemed like a good place to start. Where? It didn’t really matter. As long as it was somewhere refreshingly different to my past vacations, I was game. A few Google searches later, I found myself hungrily scrolling through the itinerary of Flash Pack’s Myanmar group adventure. No hostels you say, joined by fellow 30 & 40 something’s, awesome landscapes and activities- I’m in!

Read more: 5 common fears of joining your first group tour

Now I know what you’re thinking. Either ‘wow, how spontaneous!’ or ‘jeez Terra, that’s one risky move’. Well, for those of you in the latter camp, I’m here to reassure you that my time in Myanmar was nothing short of AMAZING. After finally opening its doors to travellers, this stunning country is on the cusp of a big change. You may have heard people say that now is the time to visit Myanmar, and they’d be totally right.

If you want somewhere that the tourists haven’t yet discovered, that’s off the beaten path, wildy beautiful, bursting with culture, breathtaking views and incredibly welcoming people, Myanmar is all you could ask for… and then some more!

My trip was filled with those rare, life-affirming moments that you forget exist going through your daily grind. Staring down at glistening, golden temples from a sunrise hot air balloon ride is not something I’ll soon forget, nor will hiking up into the pure air of Kalaw, and being shown how to spin thread in a local woman’s home in Pinpat village.

Read more: Three great places for solo travel

I had my concerns about visiting the elephant sanctuary (we’ve all seen those unethical tourist camps) but washing and feeding these rescued giants was genuinely one of my absolute highlights -and that’s saying something!

Pristine Lotus, the amazing floating lodge on the banks of Inle Lake was my favorite hotel of the trip. In fact, all the hotels we stayed in were so much more opulent than I was expecting and sharing a room was such a fun change to normal.

Read more: How being single can enrich your life

I had an image in my mind of going back to basics in Myanmar, with no wifi and limited hot water, but how wrong I was. This trip really hit the sweet spot between comfort and adventure, we would discover places that the local Expats hadn’t even heard by day, before returning to charming and authentic hotels by night.

So if you’re at a stage in life where you’re questioning how things have turned out, my advice to you is to be spontaneous, open-minded and just a little bit selfish. Go for what makes you happy, not what society expects of you. If that includes exploring amazingly beautiful countries like Myanmar, then my advice is short but sweet: JUST DO IT! I would (and will) do it again in a heart beat.

Terra Zvara is a Washington-based 30-something who loves all things travel (when she’s not working for the US government -which keeps her quite busy…)

Ready for a Myanmar adventure of your own? Let the adventure commence…

Photos: Terra Zvara, Flash Pack

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