Category Archives: Relationships

Travel Makeover

To the popular sense of the word ‘makeover’….I’d say I’ve only gone downhill. I’m quite curious to see how I look in not silver threaded neon singlets from lululemon and with a swipe of mascara…god maybe even a nice watch…But for what I’ve let go on the outside, I’d like to think I’ve made leaps and bounds with on the inside (enough cheese?).

They say travelling changes you. Sometimes instantly, sometimes gradually, and sometimes long after the fact….The joy of travelling for nearly a year, is that I can look back and see all those changes while I’m still in it. I’m sure I will get home and things will continue to shift from my previous comforts to new ones, and people will tell me I’m ‘different’….but even now, alone, sans-internet in my room in Delhi, I can tell you I’ll never be the same.

It’s interesting, when other people leave and come back, how easy it is to put your finger on what’s different. However, when it comes to yourself it feels weird…vein almost…to think about how your travels have changed you, and it’s that much harder to see the shifts. As I’ve begun practicing for job interviews, mostly practicing explaining why I thought peacing out for a year after graduation was a good idea and what I learned, I’ve come to see how different my trip has turned out than I first expected or intended.

If I ask myself why I left to travel I could give you what an employer wants to hear “to enrich my understanding of the global community …blah…blah”….but honestly, I wanted to have fun and explore cheaply (at times dirtily) while it was still acceptable to do so personally and socially. I had no intention of changing my life or my personality. It wasn’t until I was in Bali that I recognized the true magnitude of the venture I’m on. I was speaking to a yoga teacher whose reaction was “wow, this is going to be the year you wish you were re-living for the rest of your life”. In that moment I realized 2 things. 1) there was no way in hell this would be the best year of my life…peaking at 22 does not interest me…therefore, its ok not to see it ALL, because I will have awesome years to come that will include travel all the same. 2) even though I didn’t want this to be my glory year…it is by far the raddest year I’ve had so far, and it is pretty freaking cool that I saved enough cash and had enough guts to do what I’m doing so I might as well carpe diem.

So, that all being said…if you talked to me after Byron Bay I would have been gushing with my ‘epiphanies’ on life, and myself…but now I come to you with another 6ish months under my belt. I have completed the majority of my trip, and what I haven’t is pretty much planned (for once)…so now, all those hours on planes, trains, and buses aren’t spent rigorously flipping from one page to another in Lonely Planet…and as I polish off Shantaram, all that’s really left to think about is what has been done (and getting a job…but that’s less fun).

Not until lately have I noticed my thoughts shifting from future to past, and as much as I enjoy watching slideshows of my photos and thinking of the friends I’ve made, it is a bit depressing. I am stoked to go home, don’t get me wrong…my Egyptian cotton duvet and real pillows are calling my name loud and clear…but I am having a really hard time accepting that it’s almost over. More so, knowing what ‘it’ is…this way of living I’ve become accustomed to over the past 9 months has been far from normal, but after months of resenting it, I’m attached to it.

I’m attached to the ultimate freedom to do what I want and go where I please, the constant meeting of sweet people, the sense of accomplishment after beating a scam, the fact that I can say I was at the Taj Mahal yesterday, Angkor a few months back, and swimming the great barrier reef months before that and knowing soon it will be ‘last month at work’. I’m attached to what my friendships have become, the fact that I don’t associate with people I don’t want to, and I’m so far away that it is acceptable; the lack of waste in general…not wasting money on things I won’t need…and knowing I won’t need much out of bag restriction, and the stigma of being a ‘traveler’. Most of all, that moment when you adopt a local ‘ism’ or impress a local with your cultural awareness, and you feel for a second like you are becoming a global citizen, but more so…that moment right following that slaps you in the face with humility as you realize once again how little you know about anything at all.

Back to the point….or maybe that was the point….but I meant to write about how I’ve changed…or how I think I’ve changed….which is probably, if I’ve learned anything, the opposite of how I’ve changed. All in all changed might be the wrong word, evolved or grown may be more fitting, but to which direction I’ve changed will all be a matter of perspective. I know that when I go home some of my ideas are different…so much so that people around me may be thrown off. I know that when I go back I will have to face the friendships I’ve let go in person, and perhaps most daunting to me at the moment is this notion of work. Not that I’m lazy, but more so that I have become picky. I’m coming back from travelling for 11 months, I need a job and beggars can’t be choosers…but at the same time, I’ve become so strongly rooted in what I think is important that I’m scared, almost terrified, that I won’t be able to find an employer who shares my perspective, even if part of it is that we must remove ourselves and see the perspective of others.

When I look back to October of last year before I left, it seems like 5 years ago and yesterday all at the same time. In terms of what feels like years ago, I remember being bitter that plans had changed and I was going alone, caring a lot about what people thought about my trip…mostly to justify to myself that I was leaving to spend money for a year (or two at that time) instead of getting into the workforce as somebody of my age ‘should’ be doing. I remember worrying about keeping in touch with all the people I felt I had to, I wasn’t scared…well I was, of dying on the plane because the tarot card reader told me so…but otherwise I was arrogant as hell to my travel abilities. I was all “yeah I went to Peru by myself when I was 19, I’ll be fine”…I figured I’d pick up the lingo and Asian phrases and find bargains easily because I looked local.

As per the part that feels like yesterday, I can still smell my old laundry detergent, remember the taste of Dad’s eggs benedict, and it feels like yesterday I had a beverage cup in my hand that wasn’t water that was bigger than 8oz. I remember showering and feeling clean, and walking outside without looking like I’d been swimming in my clothes. I remember being cold, and I remember ….remembering. That sense of ‘home’, of knowing where things are—not in a backpack but in a house and a city. Yeah, Sydney, Bangkok and everywhere else I’ve been have a slight sense of familiarity that could almost be home. But I don’t know any running paths the same way and no baristas know my name. I know I’ll get home and it will feel like I never left, but that everything is different all at the same time, and I think that’s what III fear most….I just don’t know what half.

Since I’ve been gone I’ve learned a lot about nothing…and a little about big things….
I’ve learned how to drink ‘goon’ straight from the bag, that if you crush a cockroach it reproduces 10 fold, that the ‘no ozone’ thing in oz/nz is not a myth, that Sydney has the best NYE fireworks in the world, that Wellington is the place for coffee….other than Vietnam (obvi), that I pick up accents very quickly, that I can indeed live without a phone, that it’s much harder to learn languages that don’t use the alphabet…or that or tonal, getting visas is expensive-and a bitch, the French only speak French, the German’s say they want to speak English but speak German, the Scandinavians will speak English, and Americans will yell. I learned not to use airport exchange booths—on that note that there are Commonwealth ATMs in Bali, to research holidays before travelling, not to get menthol talcum powder in the eyes but that it is to humidity what lotion is to dryness, find a good laundry lady and never let go, looking same same doesn’t mean paying same same, distance on a map in NZ has no correlation to time, and apparently I really like tennis. Belgians have good beer….even in Laos, put money in separate pockets to avoid actually being robbed of “all monies”, skyscanner kicks kayak’s ass, sometimes you do need to weigh time vs money (i.e. 48 hours of buses to save $10 over flying for 1), everything can be bought for a price, everywhere has a dollar store, cheap pens aren’t worth it, losing weight from the flu isn’t attractive, wearing scarves in 38 degree heat is worth not getting eye raped by creepy men, don’t require medical attention in Cambodia, always ask to see a room first, go up behind a local paying then pay the same amount no questions asked…works every time. McDonalds is truly amazing: wifi, toilet paper, 30 c cone, air conditioning, visa at no fee; Starbucks in asia doesn’t have free wifi—the 5 dollar coffee isn’t worth it, never trust the lonely planet, know your exchange rate at all times, withdraw large amounts infrequently to avoid fees, get travel insurance and keep all receipts. Cameras don’t have international warrantees, choose your moments to be that tourist wisely, make them cut fruit fresh at carts in Asia, AEON ATMs charge no fees, Cambodia’s USD atms are more valuable than you ever realize while you’re there, 24 hour buses aren’t bad if you have sleeper beds…and are Asian sized, always carry toilet paper and sanitizer, always have a scarf for chest/bum/nose coverage, new doesn’t mean clean, there is such a thing as too local. Air Asia is the shit, don’t eat on long haul transport, budget a LOT for water in asia, a quick stroll is probably 45 mins up hill in NZ, boys will be boys anywhere in the world, don’t take clean water for granted, always check beaches for clam shells and coral before drunk wandering, don’t surf with stitches in your knee, there is a point when silverescent starts to stink, per MB internet sucks balls, foam beats springs always. Of all things, don’t forget your ipod at home, you never know what somebody wants to steal, you get what you pay for applies to fake havaianas/birkenstocks, always have a a flashlight/swissarmy knife/lock, brushing teeth will make you feel better no matter how nasty your surrounding environment is, dentists are CHEAP in Thailand.

*I know that above is all commas and below is all periods…but I’m far too lazy to change it. I am also acutely aware of the poor grammar…sorry.*

I’ve also seen how privy I am to be a female in the western world and to have an open minded family that has allowed me a well-rounded and unbiased upbringing, and given me their blessing to trot the globe as a girl alone. I have realized how un worthy men are of tears, on so many levels. I have experienced the friend version of soul mates with people I’ve met for short periods that I think know me better than people I’ve been friends with for years. I know that I would rather be fit than thin. I have learned the value of my time, and the importance of not letting others use or abuse it. I have learned who my real friends are and see the superficial bonds I thought I had with others. I have learned that it really is possible to have 13kg of possessions to live off of for a year. I am less cynical, and I compensate less for my cynicism with disingenuous optimism. I believe in energy. There are more galaxies in the universe than there are grains of sand on earth—don’t sweat the small…or ‘big’ things. Even the most amazing ideas are worth sleeping on. It’s all a matter of perspective, and the more you think there is only one, the more there are. People can sense fear, so can dogs…and camels. Moments are only ever as frustrating as you allow them to be, accept what you cannot change. Sometimes even when you know you’re right, it’s easier on everybody to be wrong just for a minute. Gratitude goes a long way. Email is efficient but nothing is greater than the sincerity of hand written words. The less you wear makeup the worse it looks when you do. Some people are just good, accept that they may not be out to get you, maybe…just maybe you have some good karma banked. As morbid as it sounds, the best way to make decisions can be to consider if you’d do it if you were dying…considering the most extreme things will teach you your own priorities realllll quick. Know your own countries facts when you go abroad, hearing Americans brag that they are all the most populated, largest, and highest profit generating country in the world is nauseating on too many levels. I’ve learned that none of the world is as multi-cultural as North America, and to expect the knowledge of other countries about the rest of the world is unfair. Some books will completely change your perspective on life, others will make you sure of the opinions you already hold. Right effort is a beautiful thing; karma lies in intentions not outcomes. There will always be cool kids until you are happy with yourself, because you create the cool kids as who you wish you could be. On that note, there are times when ass-kissing is necessary. Health is cyclical, the better you feel, the better you treat yourself, the better you become; the opposite is true. Unexpected people will step up to the plate, don’t hesitate to be the unexpected person once in a while. There is a large moat between knowing and believing, typically we try to build the bridge with self-talk and faking it til we make it, but every so often life comes at you like a heard of lions and makes you leap…and most of the time you land safely, without a way back. I am most thankful for the people I loathe the most; in a world of endless possibility knowing what not to be is more liberating than thinking we know what to be. Striving for an endpoint is restricting, it’s finite, it’s in the box…acting with intention is open ended and allows possibility we didn’t know existed. When you see something beautiful tell at least one person, it might completely change their day. Compliment others. It’s ok not to be the best, and when you know you are, you don’t need to make sure everyone else does too. Sometimes it’s OK to follow the status quo. I am thankful for the safety in Canada, safety I never understood I had until I lost it all in India. Have a little faith in people; one day you’ll realize it grew to a lot of faith, and that you’re better off for it. The human race is fascinating.

I read a hand journal entry I made a few months ago about who I want to be when I’m 25… now I want none of it. Mostly because I don’t want to know now what will be in 3 years, I want what will be in 3 years to be better than me now knows exists. I don’t know much about what will happen when I go home, but I’ll tell you what I do know. I know that I will put my family and a few friends that are like family first always and make sure they know it through my actions. I know that I won’t brush what I feel under the rug for what I think. I know that yoga needs to be in my life. I know that I need more than just an income as a product of my work in order to be happy. And more importantly I know that I’m sweet, I have sweet people in my life, and if like attracts like (which I’m more than positive it does), life will be sweet too. I feel no need to fit a mold for a job, friend, or man, and gratefully I can say I am on the side of believing all of the above instead of only knowing it, and ultimately that is the meat and potatoes of what I’ve learned so far…so seeing as how I wanted to have a little fun and an authentic pad thai, I’d say I’ve done alright.

Backpacker blues

A slight disclaimer…Its been about 4 days since I typed this up…I’m feeling a lot less ’emo’…but there’s nothing like puking in the squat toilet on a night bus, having a broken camera, and waking up drenched in sweat, leaving your room to get heckled into rides, flashing lights, and 60 cent pad thai to make you wish you were either home for a day or just rich enough to …well be rich for a day. Anyway…I figured, lets post it anyway and keep the blog honest. I’ll post something a bit less depressing to follow

Railay beach was a stunner. Absolutely gorgeous, happy people…a bit overpriced, but it didn’t even matter….oddly, I laid there thinking only how great it would be to be at an all inclusive in Mexico again. I was with my new friend Becky, with an amazing plate of green curry and a freshly cracked Chang looking on to the first beach to compete with the Whitsundays since October…and yet I had no interest in being there. I don’t know how to explain it really…without sounding like a total brat that can’t appreciate things. I’ve just hit a wall with travels….lets rephrase….backpacking. I know how dumb it sounds, but if I’m practicing what I’m preaching….I am going to say how I feel even if I know it sounds ridiculous, even if I know people will tell me my feelings are ‘wrong’ or ‘selfish’.

I don’t think it’s a matter of being ‘lonely’…or ‘alone’…which have different meanings….but the former isn’t true and the latter doesn’t bother me. It’s moreso a matter of being sick of calculating how every meal and bottle of water will affect my budget. How I can’t even buy the cheap things I want because I can’t carry them around for the next 6 months. How I’m sick of wondering if a toilet has a seat…or toilet paper, and I’m tired of being constantly paranoid that everyone is out to scam or rob me. I’m tired of questioning the hygiene everywhere and trading off wifi or air con to save literally a couple dollars. I want to feel like I’m doing something, not avoiding something. I am sick and tired of people asking how I’ve changed, or telling me I will. I want the anticipation as to how the job market will be when I get home to end; I want to stop knowing rates for the dollar better than I know what’s going on in the lives of my loved ones. I don’t want to have to change 3 times a day because my clothes are drenched in sweat with a sprinkle of pollution, and I want to be wearing different clothes than I wore last month, the one before, the one before that, and the two before that. I am tired of making decisions about where to go or what to see and hoping I’m not missing out. I’m SO tired of explaining where I’m from, why I’m travelling, how I have the money for it, and the world’s unanimous hate on for Americans. I want a bed that isn’t the same softness of a piece of MDF, I would like my hair to dry properly, and I would love a wax. I want to drink tap water. I want to run when it’s not a million degrees outside and still have it be safe, I want to not have to plan workouts around laundry and having enough time to air out clothes before checkout. I want my ipod. I want new music. I want an income. I don’t want to think I’ve caught dengue or malaria every time something bites me. I would like good shampoo and conditioner, different sized handbags, and accessorizing not to attract thieves. I want a giant leafy salad, with dressing not derived from fish sauce. I’d like to eat lunch without being swarmed by flies. And I’d like to meet people that I could feasibly have long term friendships with, because my logical side has no interest in friends for a night…and most men in Thailand don’t want to be ‘friends’.

On the note of doing rather than avoiding. Contrary to the words of even some of my closest friends…I’m not running away or avoiding anything by travelling…in fact I’m pursuing many of my goals. That being said, there are some days…like today, where all I do is walk around and snack on street food that I begin to doubt what it is I’m accomplishing. I’m finding it hard to absorb that not every day will be a productive one. When you’re gone for a few months or less it doesn’t really matter because you can see your travels as some sort of long vacation…but you get to a point in the long term where you start to need some sort of direction. Even the ‘not hipster German hipster’ said the same. His breaking point was 6 months in….he worked on a farm for a few months, just to feel like getting up in the morning you might do more than see stuff. Australia was fine to be on a 3 month long spring break…literally: Beach, booze, boys…but as the culture gains normalcy in south east asia, I’m getting quite antsy about my day-to-day. I’ll be volunteering in Cambodia next week…so I’m sure I’ll start to feel better…I hope.

Whiny, I know…but I had to get it out…it’s been over 5 months of living out of a backpack and travelling alone. So sue me. The nomadic life really isn’t for everybody. Everyone says they’d love to pick up and leave forever, but it’s not all its cut out to be….and I know for a fact the people I know that say they want to travel the most would actually have the hardest time with it…perhaps they know it too, and maybe that’s why they’re all talk. And it’s those people that give me the hardest time about not ‘loving life all the time’. Don’t get me wrong, I do love travelling, I did have a great time at Railay, and I’m sure I’ll be back to loving life completely in a few days. Also important to note that travelling is much much different than living and working abroad… When you work you establish a routine and a network, comfort, and familiarity. AND INCOME. It’s not so much that I’m homesick….more that I’m sick of backpacking. It’s not that I want to be home….if somebody gave me even 10,000(not much these days), I would travel. I’m just sick of ‘backpacking’….poor man’s travel….I’ve been raised to be so money conscious that I have to actively try to enjoy myself while on a budget. To a fault. Hence why, to the detriment of my grades, I worked over 40 hours a week while enrolled in 5 classes a semester for the past 3 years of my undergraduate degree….hence why I sacrificed having a fun Bondi holiday to work….to make more money…to have money. I bank ‘security’ and success pretty much exclusively on my bank account which I can’t seem to change no matter how hard I try.

Anyway, this post makes me look like a glaringly terrible person…but it’s honest. And as postsecret seeks to do…perhaps one of you reading has felt even one of these annoyances while travelling and beat yourself up about not being grateful…you’re not alone.

On the bright side…Bangkok is actually amazing. I have been sick since I got here (I don’t recommend spewing in squat toilets on a night bus) and my camera is broken…and still I find it to be a great city…not nearly as crowded as I thought, and everything in excess….just as ye handy old lonely planet states. Mostly fake ray bans, havaianas, asics, and james bond dvds.

Travel IQ

Funny because I actually did watch the Silver Linings Playbook (Loved it!) while in Auckland…but I’m not even just saying it to convince my self to be less bitter when I say I’m glad I scuffed up. Ask me when my flight lands safely in Bali though, because part of me is still having a ‘maybe you were meant to be on a different plane for a reason and [shit] the other one didn’t crash’ moment….BUT a touch on the personal side of lately.

For the first time in a while I realized everyone I was meeting was just starting their travels, and were travelling for weeks or a month, maybe two…to everyone I met in my hostel (Nomads Auckland—Beauty!! Rooftop hot tub HELLO!) I was some sort of travel legend. They wanted all my tips from Australia and New Zealand, taking my every word like gold. That’s all fine and dandy, I’m happy to help out…especially because I know that I researched everything (Except my flight dates) to death and actually felt confident I was giving everyone the best possible advice. As I sat on the balcony drinking my last flat white this morning it dawned on me that this wealth of information I have been sharing is all knowledge I’ve acquired in the last 4 months. In 4 months I have arguably learned more than I did in any given semester of my undergraduate degree, personal and tangible.

I didn’t think much of the people in my room at the beginning of the week but they all made me feel just a little more confident about going to asia and a little more proud of myself for getting as far as I have.

The boys from Minnesota: Both who pointed out how ‘fit’ I still was…even though I feel like I’ve fallen off the wagon. Also, they both couldn’t stop about how impressed they were that I had enough money to travel right after undergrad…which, I guess is pretty cool. I often forget what an accomplishment it is that I worked full time for the last 3 years of my undergrad. What this gave me more confidence in was actually my ability to support myself upon arriving home. This whole time I’ve been terrified about not finding a job, but I realized that I’ve never had an issue with employability in the past, and never have I had a year of solo travel or a completed degree on my resume.

Daniel from Toronto: An investment banker…money, not an object. Seemingly life sorted, visiting New Zealand for a month before going off to a new job…and yet asking me how to turn on outlets, what water is safe to drink, what hostel faux—paws are in NZ, what a good rate for something is, what activities there are to do…and I realized how much about travelling in general I have learned. From hand washing/drying on a bunk bed, to actually doing my dishes, to how to get the most out of a city in 2 days and everything else in between. I realized how resourceful I’ve become…and how I actually know where to find answers sans-wifi….and if not at least 5 walkable places to get wifi. Maybe not the most practical of knowledge…but knowledge learned none the less.

The Frenchman: So full of life! So excited, the guy that makes it happen….NOW. Perhaps impatient….but that’s not the point. The point is that he was eccentric, a bit intimidating, and yet just wanted everyone to have the best time ever. He drove a lot of people nuts for reasons I couldn’t really grasp until I realized how accepting I’ve become of different personalities, and how I’ve actually embraced the concept of ‘yeah but they’re a nice person’…not just using it as a mask to hide behind and bitch later. In the past that’s been a phrase to burry my judgements hoping to hide them from karma…but since travelling and meeting so many great, different people, I’ve actually come to believe it.

The Brazilian: Taught me a great deal of patience. Probably one of the worst English speakers I’ve met…but…BUT…perhaps the thing I needed as I head into Asia. To avoid being that middle aged woman in Italy yelling at the 80 year old man “WHY DON’T YOU SPEAK AMERICAN”…it was humbling, as I said to him, don’t worry, I don’t know your language. Really I’ve been so lucky to be in an English speaking country of Christian dominance. Not because I am Christian, but because growing up in the same culture I know what is and isn’t acceptable…I know how to act around the religious, the atheists, and the religious parents of the deviants… In asia I have no clue what to do…I’m attempting to learn please, thank you, and sorry and hope for the best…

The Danish guy: Not as creepy as Denmark in cairns…thank god… Who was like “FOUR months? How have you done it?!” I keep looking at my trip from the perspective of a 1 or 2 year trip and feel like I’ve done nothing, or that I’m being a cop out if I were to go home earlier…it’s always good to run into people travelling for less long, who are on what is, for them, a long trip. Not to say it isn’t…but to put my own in perspective…4 months, a third of a year, a semester, the difference between Canadian thanksgiving and Valentines day….A lot can happen in 4 months, and it isn’t a year yet but it is longer than lots of people travel for. I have been in constantly new and uncomfortable situations of learning, mistakes, and being totally alone across the world for 4 months…that’s not too shabby.

So, that is me tooting my own horn to pump up my confidence before I head off to Asia where shit’s about to get real. But it’s also my way of looking back and thinking of where my head would be at had I not met each of these people..The fun thing about travelling …and life, is that you’ll never know. I’ll never know how my trip would have been different had I not missed my flight. But worse things have happened, and for me, it was probably just the slap in the face I needed to be a bit smarter in Asia, and also realize who was there to support me an ocean away .

I have never been in contact with less people in my life and I have never felt like I have had even close to as much love and support from my friends as I do now. Even if realizing how amazing some of my friends are and how temporary others were was all I got from this (which it isn’t) it would be worth it. I have found a flight with AirTransat from London to Calgary for 500 bucks which will probably be my flight of choice home sometime in October of this year which is creeping up just a little too quickly. Also, I’ve been through a revolving door of travel agents, and I’m back at square one… My initial agent in Edmonton is actually the only agent that had travelled, was honest with cost/value, and on top of things. If you want details comment or message me on the “Anika” tab. He is honestly more help from Canada than any of the quacks here who can’t book flights or do proper currency conversions.

Yes, lots of writing….but I chose to get to the airport 9 hours before my flight instead of leaving my hostel at 3am…so deal with it.
I’m also getting ultra nostalgic about my time in Aus and NZ…so don’t be surprised if you see a post pop up about that too..

goodnight. xx