Friday, December 25, 2015

My first time travelling, but not the last

I've been travelling around Southeast Asia for 7 months. Really. 7 months!

I recently returned home to Australia and am now capable of fully admitting that I failed spectacularly in my goal to update this blog regularly while I was on the road. I am sorry. I have always been sorry about this. Usually my problem is I have too many things to say, and in my painful, circular attempts to gift you the blessing of conciseness and precision, I give up, red-faced and puffing, mashing my face into the keyboard, and ultimately not saying anything at all. But let's face it, I also made a commitment to choose life whenever it was a choice between living and writing about living. So in that, I won.

Still, I do want to share with you my thoughts, hopes and feelings. All of which have intensified in importance and meaning in my past 7 months away. So thank you for your patience as I try, yet again, to blog.

Reflecting on this past year, I have to say, I made it! Who knew I'd last this long? From May 17th to Dec 11th, I visited Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. It's a magnificent Google map waiting to happen.

Far from sating my travel urge (I am trying to avoid use of the word "wanderlust" here) by living out of a 60L pack for almost a year , I have merely whetted my appetite to see more places, meet more people, and taste more food. And while I still wonder about how and when my completed university degrees and a successful career will collide in a bankable fashion, I worry about it less than I did before I left Sydney with a ticket to Saigon in my hands. Because I can now, completely and wholeheartedly, own the truth that my true interest lies in travel, and that I'd like to make it priority for at least the next 5 years. If a career happens along the way, whoopee. But come on, choices, people! We can't have everything... although we try. So we have to think about what matters to us most, right now.

(More on this later.)

For now, after realising I have actually invested over 11 months out of the past 24 in travel, I think it a reasonable outcome that at some point, while adjusting to my return to a developed first-world country, drinking tea made from delicious diarrhea-free tap water, I thought back about the first time I truly "travelled" - because I consider myself a late bloomer to the jet-setting, backpacking life. The answer would seem obvious - it was recent, right?

In fact, the result was surprising.

My first travel experience

I remember the first time I travelled outside of my hometown alone, and I mean "travel" in a way that I'd consider more than simply going from A to B. It made an impression.

I was 19. I'd gotten a summer job with a minerals exploration company. I was very excited because I was one of the earliest in my university cohort to find industry-related work experience. Almost everyone else in the company was an experienced older Caucasian male geologist, with greying hair and thick Australian accents.

View from the train window.

Every weekend for 3 months I left the sleepy outer-city suburbs where I grew up, and took a 4 hour train journey to a place further away from the ocean than I'd ever been before. There I spent my days traipsing about the rugged Aussie countryside in steel-capped boots, digging around in soil and rocks, to the operatic tune of heavy machinery. It was a culture shock for me, and a great learning experience.

One morning when I woke up early (not by choice, come on, I was 19) and crawled out of my little metal donga to get ready for work, I went outside before I met my workmates and took a moment to take in the pre-dawn.

Our work camp, consisting of nothing more than a few "dongas" or mobile tin buildings.

The first light of dawn.

An outback sunrise.

This was a new site we were investigating just for a week, and it was my first true-blue taste of The Outback. We were 600 km inland. The ground was as red as rust. The horizon was a dead flat thin black line rising to ever lightening heights into a diluted navy sky still dotted with a few exhausted stars. It was as close to the desert as I've ever been; cold, quiet, and empty. I was totally alone. Yet I remember thinking to myself, "I don't feel lonely. I feel peaceful."

Later that day, the heavens opened up and flooded the dusty, parched earth with torrential rain that lasted barely an hour. It was beautiful. My workmates and I waited for the mud to drain away and took photos of a giant mushroom that exploded out of the ground.

I love a sunburnt country. My country.

Sudden shroom!

This experience was the first time I travelled. The disappointing thing is, I didn't realise it until now, simply because the way I got there was through work. I saw it as only work. Which means I lost years of appreciation for what I am capable of. It took me so long to understand that there are alternative ways to make my dreams happen.

Work. Study. Family. The ultimate triad of life priorities, and they are good ones indeed. But when you've got other interests like travel, and you're not told how you can combine them with the other things on your list, you can feel like you've spent forever waiting to pursue that dream.

All I can say is, don't wait. Find a way. It will be worth it. You will surprise yourself.

~ ~ ~

Hope you enjoyed my return post and my photos! I dug through 6 years of archives and countless feels to find them.

If you like what I write (and forgive me my lack of discipline) please share!

Perhaps you could even Vacuuming On Holiday

Finally, and most importantly, I hope you have all had a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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