I was going to say I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, but really I probably haven’t been doing enough. About the trip and what it did to me and for me, how it rattled me and put things into perspective and chilled me out all at the same time. Since I got back, I’ve been in this rut of sitting surfing the web trying to work out what?s going to happen next, or thinking about (and occasionally working on) posting my tales and photos from the journey that’s past, but little or no time paying attention to the present. I know I don’t have much money but I?m not broke yet ? I know I don?t have any guarantees on any of the irons I’ve got in the fire, but I should be able to find a way to muddle through, right? And I’ve got all this richness of experience in me that I really shouldn’t let slip away.
So, OK, let’s think about it. What have I already articulated, what do I already know? I had allowed my world to become so small. I couldn’t see it until I left here ? it’s not just seeing the wide world, but also the people I saw along the way. Mostly younger than me, sure, but with so much less manufactured nonsense of rules in their lives. Here were people who got out of university (or skipped it altogether), worked for a while and decided it was crap. Now they’re divemasters in Southeast Asia, or they’re backpackers who’ve been on the road for years, or they’re working in some Irish bar in Queenstown and snowboarding whenever the mood strikes them. Or they’ve got businesses that take them to all their favorite places in the world. They made it. This was such a moving experience. What have I been so afraid of?
And then there’s the other thing. I’ve been a little ashamed of being me for so long that I’d got used to it and didn’t even remember it sucked. I would say things to make other people comfortable even if they weren’t true; I would play chameleon, a different person depending on the situation; with men, I would settle for not even close just because I felt it was (a) better than nothing, or (b) what I was supposed to do, somehow, taking care of these man/boys just because they needed me to. For possibly the first time, I don’t feel that way. I’m under no obligation. The me I’ve got to offer is a good thing. Love it if you can, I say. If not, I wish you much joy elsewhere.
Overall, I’m just much more comfortable with who I am. I know not everybody likes me. I know not everybody agrees with things I say and do. That’s OK. I don’t think anyone can say I’m a bad person, and I’m having a lot of fun being me.
And what about Southeast Asia? What did those times teach me? That I can do a lot more than I thought I could. That resourcefulness can get people a lot further than wealth. That even when I get scared, it’s going to be OK, but it’s a lot more fun when I?m not scared. That it’s universal human nature to want what you’ve never had. That it’s not always easy making friends, and not all friends are worth making. That being a good person really does pay off. That people are generally sweet, except when they decide not to be. That to get moving is so often the hardest part of the journey – and not just the first time you get moving, but every day when you walk out the door. That just because you’ve started something doesn?t mean you’ve finished it. It also doesn?t mean you have to finish it. And it certainly doesn’t mean that the thing you finish has to be the same as the thing you set out to do.
I’m glad I went out largely without a plan. I’m glad I talked to people and I’m glad I listened. I wish I’d taken more photos, but I’m so glad I can close my eyes and see another place behind my eyelids just the same. I’m amazed I managed to live for 7 months out of a single pack, although I’m not surprised it had 5 pairs of shoes in it by the time I came home. I’m amazed I learned a little Thai. I can’t believe I can give people advice on how to get around and where to eat in Hoi’an and Bangkok.
Shylo asked me the other day, ‘Where do you get your confidence?’ I didn?t know how to answer her, and I still don’t. I don’t know that confidence is something I acquired at one point or another, although I do have to admit that I’ve been pretty low on it at times, one of those times being the months before I left home. So it must have happened at some point along the road. But when, and how? It occurs to me that it’s probably related to this loss of fear. Isn’t the lack of confidence insecurity, and doesn’t all insecurity begin with a fear? Maybe that’s really all there is to it. I was afraid of so many things before I went ? that I wouldn’t be able to rough it, that I wouldn’t be able to get along in a country where I could neither speak nor read the language, that I would be lonely, that I wouldn’t be able to make friends, that I wouldn’t be fit or courageous enough to do half the things that were out there to see and do, that I wouldn’t be able to find people to keep me company, that I would crap out and fail and have to come home, that I would wind up holed up, sick in some crappy little room or bleeding somewhere in a drainage ditch? And I made it. I made it through on the dodgy buses and the even dodgier motorbikes and the places where there are no roads. And I sprained my ankle and still hiked on it. And I drove my own 650. And I learned so many things. And I made some excellent friends. And I got my Advanced PADI Certification. And I drank gallons of booze. And I got my heart broken and also lifted to the heavens. And I said no when I wanted to say no and yes when I wanted to say yes. And I confronted the things that bothered me, and the people too.
I met people along the way who only seem to travel to collect more stamps in their passports. I am distressed by these people. I mean, you expect a certain amount of that behavior from high-end tourists, but these people I?m talking about are backpackers! How much do they miss, with their regimented schedules and itineraries that cover 6 countries in 3 weeks? I don’t even know that that qualifies as travel. How can you say you?ve been somewhere when you’ve never left the safe little cocoon of your ways? Of course there are going to be things that scare you and things that piss you off ? if there weren’t, what would be the point of going? This is the price that comes with seeing things so different from anything you’ve ever seen before that you have a hard time coming up with words to describe them, even to yourself. This is the price tag on exposing yourself to as much beauty as you can possibly take in. That?s just the way it goes. Quit your bitching, people!
I’m sorry this post is so soapboxy. Phineas maintains there’s no such thing in the blogaday world, but I have a pretty serious issue with condescension, and don’t want to be the perpetrator.
Even more importantly, I don’t want to give the impression that one has to go halfway around the world to come to these conclusions. I’m just particularly obstinate (just ask any of my friends), and therefore required some fairly serious rattling to get out of my worst habits. But life, and joy, and beauty (and all the ugly and stupid shit that goes with them) are always around. Sometimes it’s just hard to see what you don’t expect.