When Aaron Budnick landed in Bangkok, Thailand, he had nothing but a backpack and a Lonely Planet book.
It was the start of Budnick’s five-month backpacking trip through Southeast Asia, and he didn’t exactly know where he was going.
Budnick, who was 22 at the time, hadn’t really planned his trip ahead of time. He graduated from Syracuse University in May of 2014, and in October was offered a job with Microsoft in Seattle, but he wouldn’t be starting the job till June or July of next year.
He saw the free time he had as an opportunity that not many people get, and he wanted to take advantage of it.
“The way we look at the world is you go to college and graduate, and you get a job or you go to grad school, and then by the time you get to be 40, you’re like, ‘Oh wow I wish I went and did something,'” Budnick said. “The ride is the important part.”
So Budnick made the decision to backpack — by himself — through southeast Asia. It was his first time in Asia, and he didn’t speak the language of any of the countries he would be visiting.
Budnick started in southern Thailand, made his way to Cambodia and Vietnam, then flew to northern Thailand, and ended his trip in Indonesia. He got around by bus, boat, motorcyle, and plane. Throughout his trip, Budnick befriended many other backpackers from all over the world, covered 2,000 miles on a motorcyle he bought in Vietnam, stayed with locals, visited temples and beaches, and tried the local food.
Budnick started his travels in Southern Thailand. While there, he visited the Wat Arun, or Temple of Dawn, which stands on the western banks of the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok.
He then made his way to Cambodia where he saw the Ta Prohm Temple. Budnick said the temple is known as the tomb raider temple and is part of Angkor Wat in the city of Siem Reap. It was used by the Khmer Empire, but then abandoned, allowing trees to overtake the temple.
In order to catch of glimpse of one of the smaller, poorer villages in Cambodia, Budnick hiked up a small mountain. The homes here are built on stilts over water.
Budnick rode in tuk-tuks -- a common form of transportation -- while in Cambodia. 'They take you pretty much anywhere for about a dollar.'
During his time in Cambodia, Budnick visited the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh where millions of Cambodians were murdered by the Khmer Rouge regime. 'As you walk around you see all these fields where they buried the dead, and they put these bracelets for support for what happened,' he said.
He enjoyed lots of beach time while he was in Sihanoukville, a town on the southwestern coast of Cambodia.
While in Kep, the smallest province in Cambodia, Budnick stopped at the crab market. 'They catch the fish right there, and then they serve it.'
Budnick said not planning his trip in advance was what made the trip. 'There's a difference between taking an organised trip and doing this, you're able to be free. You can go down that dirt path if you want to, and stay down there for five hours. You can sit in front of a coffee shop and watch the old lady selling her ragged dolls for three hours and just have a conversation with someone. It doesn't matter and that's the best part.'
After leaving Cambodia, Budnick bought this bike on the streets of Ho Chi Minh in southern Vietnam and used it to ride almost 2,000 miles to Hanoi, in northern Vietnam. He said it's easy to find bikes in Vietnam, since many people make the trip from south to north, or north to south.
'I didn't really know how to ride a motorcycle, I just kind of learned in rush hour, which was an experience,' Budnick said.
Along the way, Budnick stopped in Mui Ne, a coastal town in southern Vietnam with beautiful beaches and long stretches of sand dunes.
He said the Vietnamese were very friendly and accommodating. During his ride, he came across a family that lived on a farm. He spent the day with them, exploring their home and farm and eating a traditional meal with them.
After his time in Vietnam, Budnick travelled to northern Thailand. He visited this Buddhist temple in the city of Chiang Mai. 'When we visited there was a ceremony going on, so you could hear the prayers.'
He and a friend went to an elephant sanctuary, where people help bring elephants back from poor conditions. Budnick said visitors are not allowed to ride the elephants, since it puts a strain on them.
Budnick spent New Year's Eve at a hostel in Chiang Mai enjoying local food with fellow travellers he met on his trip. 'Everyone has their little bits of information, and that's the best part is talking to travellers. You see where they went, what they did right, what they did wrong.'
On the road to Chiang Mai, there's the Pai Canyon, which Budnick said was the perfect place for adventure. The canyon's high rock cliffs offer an indescribable view of Thailand's Pai Valley.
He also stopped at the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a temple in Mae Hong Son in northern Thailand. When Budnick visited, the city below was covered by a dense morning fog.
Budnick said the Wat Rong Khun (also known as the White Temple) in Chiang Rai had a very grandiose and exotic style. 'As beautiful as it is, it's known to ward off greed and desire, and other bad things.'
After leaving northern Thailand, Budnick made his way to Indonesia. This is the view of the coast from the Uluwatu Monkey Temple he stopped at in Bali.
Besides the monkey temple, Budnick also visited Uluwatu beach, a secret beach that is reached only by climbing down rugged steps. 'No one really knows about it,' Budnick said.
Budnick then took a fast boat from the Indonesian island of Lombok to Gili Trawangan, one of the three Gili islands located off the northwest coast of Indonesia.
The owners of the hotel that Budnick stayed at in Lombok invited him and his friends to participate in the island's annual Bau Nyale Festival, which celebrates the sea worms that are caught along the city's coast in February. The traditional clothing that Budnick wore is known as sasak style. He said the festival takes hours and involves a long, hot walk to the beach.
While in Ubud, a town on the Indonesian island of Bali, Budnick visited rice paddies, which he described as amazing.
Near the end of his trip, Budnick took a bus to the Indonesian island of Java. He arrived in a small town at 1 am, with no hotel reservations. Budnick had been making faces with a younger boy on the bus, and as he was getting off the bus, the boy and his mum approached Budnick and offered their home as a place to stay. 'So I ended up going with them and just watching zombie movies till 3 am. I woke up to their roosters, I got to walk around their house; they were more than accommodating.'
These Indonesian workers are making marionette dolls out of buffalo hide. Budnick said, years ago, these dolls were used to tell stories and teach children.
While on Java, Budnick visited Temple Borobudur, a well-known Buddhist temple in Yogyakarta that dates back to the 8th and 9th centuries.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.