Tag Archives: travelling

On coming home…

In one word: weird.

There’s a rush of everything and everyone you’ve missed being so exciting, and the urge to do everything you used to do, and the hype of getting a job and a place….then a week or two passes…then all of the sudden it becomes more apparent than ever that perhaps you have actually changed…and perhaps more frightening, the notion that it might just be more comfortable to be new in a new place than new in an old one. I’d rather not know where to go in Hanoi than in the city I was born and raised in….and I surely do not want to be surrounded by 1995’s NINETY FIVES at the bar that are like so totally jacked about toonie Tuesdays and want to tell me about how they just got accepted to trades school and don’t know that Africa is a continent not a country.

I have pretty much kept Starbucks in business the last couple weeks, all the while well having already done 2 jobs, bought a new iPhone in cash, and already taken a week long trip back to Edmonton (where I went to uni). …in 3 weeks. I have been in Canada for 3 weeks. This year so far, I have spent more time in 10 of the countries I visited.

It’s a bit weird though, having the most clean slate I’m bound to have for the rest of my life. I have every choice I could want, but I want everything but to make the decision. I legitimately could go to grad school or work anywhere in the world and in an entry level position in virtually any career path. I have landed softly at home with my parents where my belongings are still in the boxes I moved them home in a year ago. I have enough in the bank to sit back and make ‘the right choice’ …

Additionally everyone thinks my opinion should either be so happy to be home and back to routine or so depressed and wishing I was still travelling. I don’t actually know where I stand. I think I’m in a complacent state of wondering. Probably a state most young people have encountered, but as I’ve blazed through the last 5 years without a spare minute or looking back, this might have been my first take at it.

Anyway….’on coming home’…it’s weird. I advise any traveller to prepare for it before you leave. I hid money around my room, bought fresh lululemon pants, and left myself coffee gift cards. Everything I would have gulped at after a long trip was there for me, and I had a solid 1500 budgeted for ‘homecoming’ just so I could be a little choosier with jobs and have fun with the people I missed as opposed to mooching (we’ll save that for the bday next month). I set myself up for it well, but I will tell you that any choices you thought you’d have to make will have exponential amounts of possibility based on things you’ve learned while travelling…and opinions you thought you had will be tested real quick. I guess in a weird way I feel like I don’t know myself because I know in theory that pre-travels Anika would have blown through 20 job applications by now, and had it ‘all figured out’….I’m not saying that I’d have it any other way, but I’ve definitely been forced into much harder choices much quicker than I anticipated.

The good news. I have great people in my life. Ones that stayed in touch and ones that didn’t really….but I gained the strength while travelling to take a stand for what friendships I value. Everyone I’ve wanted to be there has been, everyone I’ve needed has exceeded their ‘friend obligations’, and even some unexpected gems have risen to the challenge of making me feel happy to be back, and welcomed back.

I wasn’t forgotten. And as many annoying or daunting tasks that I have in front of me, that matters…a lot.

Open

I’m sure there are big things that I’ll look back on in however many years and attribute to this [nearly] year I devoted to seeing the world. In foresight, I’m grateful because I can’t think of a piece I’d rather be placing in the puzzle of who I am becoming… But I’m also grateful right this second. I’m in the back of the family CRV driving the 16 hour journey home from Seaside, Oregon and for the first time since we first came over a decade ago, I’m marvelling at the scenery. The lush greenery leading up rigid peaks to the East and rolling hills of golden grass past the Columbia river to the West. We’re breaking the drive to two days, 8 hours a day, toilet breaks, food stops, lingering salt water taffy…compared to 24 hours with a squat toilet and Asians just a little too comfortable with bodily functions, I’m laughing.

The 8th and final semester of my Human Ecology degree was the most important to my degree. Not because it literally determined whether or not I’d get the 40,000 dollar piece of paper, but because it all started to make sense. Not to say I was in the dark for four years, but I always felt like I was going through motions, learning semi-useful theory, and doubting my post-graduation opportunities. In that final semester every presentation I made seemed a little easier, each paper contained ‘aha!’ inclusions from research done in other classes, and most importantly I finally integrated my core values with the profession of Human Ecology.

Academically it all started to mix, but that final component followed an assignment to write our mission and vision as practitioners. I’ve had jobs with a couple big ‘brand’ companies; mission statements weren’t a new concept, in fact I was sure I’d find a perfectly cheesy tag line to satisfy the passing criteria easily. But when I sat at my computer type out a simple sentence for 5% of a 4th year course, I was stumped. I felt like I had to choose in that moment what I wanted to do with my life because mission statements are goal specific. So if I chose to pursue HR it should be about recruiting, targets, development…but a position in cancer care should be about compassion, support, and empowerment. In writing this simple (changeable) statement, I felt I was choosing my career path forever. Obviously I wasn’t.

My personal values weren’t conflicted, I just didn’t understand until the eleventh hour what my whole degree really meant. If ‘Human Ecology’ were greek and I were giving you that disproportionately long translation, I would say it means ‘it’s all connected’. And when I stopped writing company mission statements and started writing my own I realized that no matter what career I was targeting it at, it turned out the same. Go figure. I strive to empower individuals and communities to achieve their highest potential through providing accessible resources, inspiring education, and being a role model for integrity. Sure, a recruiter may want to hear about my success in achieving sales targets for business versus my volunteering and understanding of families for patient care…but in terms of my personal attitude and intention towards what I’m doing, that’s all same same but different.

The last couple months of travel have been sort of like that last semester; every weird moment, accident, and world wonder fit together in just the right order for me to experience situations and meet people at just the right time so that in the end the ‘why’s melted away and my confidence that I was meant to do it all is unwavering.

I’ve been in Oregon with family for the past week in what a friend of mine referred to as a state of suspension. I’m not home, but I’m not still travelling; I’m with family, but not friends; it’s familiar, but not home. It’s a pleasant yet potentially detrimental place for introspection (…and job searching) . It has been good though, to condense my whole ‘speech’ before meeting the masses and facing job interviews.

As I drafted cover letters I found myself doing the same thing I did with my mission statement over a year ago. Using ‘organization, adaptability, cultural awareness’ on business letters and ‘empathy, understanding, humanity’ on patient care positions…then I stopped. I took a step back and thought about what nearly a year, 4 sub-continents, and hundreds of people met ultimately meant for me…hoping that it would be something a little more profound than characteristics I could get just as well from being part of multi-racial school club or petting some cats at the SPCA. What I’ve decided is this: travelling has shown me the value of an open mind and heart; an openness that empathizes with needs, appreciates all perspectives, and recognizes every opportunity for growth.

Sure, there are other great by-products to travel like Aladdin pants, bargaining skills, using a squat toilet, or knowing how to describe the taste of zebra…but in the end, even the less lame things like saying yes when you would say no, acting with right intention, letting go of outcomes, and recognizing the contentment that can in fact be found in simplicity all lead back to having an open heart and mind. I would have heard every golden nugget of advice or food for thought just for being in the right place at the right time. It was the openness that allowed me to accept, processes, and live it.

So, when I really think about it…after a month of Yoga Teacher Training, making my body (and probably my heart) as physically open as it’s ever been….it’s really no coincidence that the months following were when it all ‘came together’. Whether we realize or not, our discomforts arise from a lack of openness, in hips or in life…

Carolyn said on day one of training, “People are happier when they do yoga”. I heard it, I smiled, and thought of my own superficial benefits from practicing asana. Somehow though, in this state of suspension it has returned to me and I’ve brought it all together. You know how they say body language says it all…like if you’re standing in a circle, your feet and hips may point to who you’re most interested in…duh, it’s in cosmo…maybe right, maybe that’s the angle your blisters don’t hurt in. What is true though is that the more open your body is, the more open you are. Your posture improves so your aura can shine bright and you are open to receive the love and opportunities headed your way. Years of running will produce tight hips, it doesn’t make you a close minded person. However, in working through the tightness physically you are allowing yourself a greater range of comfortable motion which subconsciously is mirrored by the heart and mind.

So my friends, travel young…not because you can’t travel old, but because you will have that many more years to share your stories, see things more openly, and go again. And do yoga. Stick with it. Trust me.

Phnom Penh 3

….I think it’s 3?

Anyway, we’re in our last week of volunteering at the special needs orphanage. We’ve dusted the cobwebs off of our nursery rhymes and mastered all of the Khmer names and eating habits of each child. It’s a bit gutting to know we’re leaving so soon…but I am looking forward to properly travelling again.

We’re gathering our gifts for the orphanage which consist of formula, cereals and diapers…all essentials that the kids end up going without if volunteers and donors don’t provide contributions. In once sense I really don’t agree with how we’re expected to provide these essential commodities when we’re already donating our time (I don’t have spare cash…hence donating my time?), but at the same time if the kids need it 100 bucks is worth heaps more to them than to me, even in the dire circumstance of backpacking.

My legs are led at the moment due to the fact that we’re biking 15km a day as we traded in our turfed tuk tuk for push bikes saving on cash and contributing to the calorie burn….probably good considering I have an empty bag of soft baked dark chocolate cookie purchased tonight by my side…We’ve also been pretty dedicated to doing the workouts at Olympic Stadium, which are 25 cents for an hour of zumba/tae bo, and cater to every and any cambodian of any age, social standing, and/or attire…
our nurs
Otherwise the stadium is great, there’s stairs, track, soccer pitches, tae kwon do, tennis, and impromptu badminton.

We’ve also discovered some sweet restaurants this week including an Indian joint called Taste Budz on street 282, just off of Monivong and Sihanoukville. Pretty good indian….if I hadn’t been to Penang, great Indian. Relatively cheap….but we hear there are cheaper all-you-can eat places by the lake. We went in search the other night to find out it was ‘closed’. Must love Asia and it’s ‘yeah, it was grandpa’s birthday last month and now we got a new cat so I think we’ll take a day off to watch soaps’ holidays…

Friends is also amazing…pricier because it is an NGO cafe, but the food is great. I’m going to interject here and present my beef with Cambodia. Yes, it is very poor; Yes, it has seen complete turmoil I will never understand; and Yes, I might do the same if I were them…but the use and abuse their tragic history. Every cafe is run by street kids or teaches them to cook, every shop has things made by mothers in need, every traveller is a volunteer… So, all these shops charge extra because they cater to empathetic Westerners who are here volunteering their time…when really they are Massive cash cows for their western owners. All of the major NGO cafe/shops are owned and operated by westerners. Hence the English menus, tons of advertising, and all in one heart string teasers to get the biggest bang for the buck out of each visitor. You would honestly be better off buying from the super local cafes where nobody speaks English…betcha they need your cash more than the others. It’s funny, each of these NGO places always has air con, fresh paint, and recent renovations…Wonder if they hired street kids to install it?

I know that they are in fact poor, and that I couldn’t imagine what they’ve been through. However they definitely have taken their past and turned it into a pity story to scam westerners….not even the Khmer people, more sickening…its the westerners that come, use the story, and benefit off of other westerners. I feel a little sick every time I go to one of these places but it seems all my other ‘good hearted volunteer’ friends quite like it. What gives. Perhaps I’m a cynic…I like to think I’m smarter than ‘scambodia’ as I’ve called if from the minute I entered it. Eating local, buying local, and staying in our somewhat bug infested guest house makes me feel better than eating a ‘really good apple crumble’ recipe by nana in Georgia executed by a Khmer kid, whose brother comes to sell me DVDs during my dinner with begging hands…

Somehow in the next 10 days I am trying to get visas for India, Vietnam, and a 60 day for Thailand. Cambodia is the cheapest place in SE Asia to get all of them (moreso I need Vietnam to continue my journey), but the office hours are while I’m at volunteering…time will tell. Either way these three will cost me upwards of 200 combined…yeesh! good thing I found cheap flights to India, from there to Africa, and from cpt to Athens–Skyscanner I love you.

Lunch tomorrow is Tofu, cucumber, and Carrot…made possible by the knife I bought for 80 cents. Arguably my best purchase in Asia so far.

I’m also going to yoga at Yoga! Phnom Penh tomorrow for a ‘sweat and samadhi’ class. Not only do the instructors and classes seem sweet but they are also doing me a massive favor and helping me get my books for yoga training which would have costed upwards of 80 bucks to get shipped, for only 6 bucks each here in PP!

That being said, I’m doing a pretty good job of keeping fit, probably because we have one home and the laundry lady is AMAZING, so any excuse to get a fresh load washed, dried, and folded for a dollar is a gooder.