A whopping two and a half scribbled pages of my so-called “travel journal” and an absolutely blank canvas of a blog indicate that, as they often do, my intentions to write about my time in Southeast Asia these past few months failed miserably. There were many times I thought about writing something other than a Rustic Pathways blog post, social media caption, or a reply to a freaked out mom concerned about her daughter’s international data usage, but wanted to capture everything so perfectly that I shied away from doing it at all. Despite the very few anticipated readers of my nonexistent blog (hey, mom!), I was scared that what I wrote wouldn’t actually portray how I was feeling. Or what I was experiencing. Or how moved I was by the stories and faces of the people I met.
Now that all is said and done, and I find myself at home, deliriously recounting the trials, tribulations, and victories of my summer and all too quickly being forced to put on REAL CLOTHES (wtf), answer emails about my next professional pursuit, and confront the realities of rent checks and resumes, I have to write something. Just before some of it slips away.
The actual recounts will (maybe) come later with miscellaneous photos and memories, but for now, here’s a little letter to my future self. Not so much my twenty years from now self, or even my ten years from now self. This is for my tomorrow self. For my “when this all sinks in” self, and for my lady boss self who I KNOW will find herself with a Moleskine planner and a bulleted checklist in the days to come, weeding through prospective opportunities and almost forgetting that “Thailand time” was ever a thing at all.
So want to avoid being a failed travel blogger like me? Here’s how.
1. Don’t be intimidated.
Though your new world certainly won’t be as judgment-free or filled with fleeting friendships and quick connections, it’s okay to approach people in the same way that you would while traveling. You can ask strangers questions about their interests, prompt them for stories about where they’ve been, and forget about any assumptions they may be making about your intentions. You’ll probably get some weird looks and confused stares, but you may also make some friends who are just as curious as you are.
2. Don’t worry if you aren’t a free spirit.
Let’s be real. You aren’t exactly going to go traipse around Southeast Asia on organic farms, dedicate your life to saving the planet, or be okay with an “open” relationship. Your occasional hippie attire, odd music choices, and wild and free attitude don’t exactly make you a member of the “free spirit” category. In fact, the real free spirit doesn’t even recognize that he/she is one.
It’s that friend you met who went months without wearing shoes, that girl you talked to who is baffled by your nervousness about what comes next in life, and that dude who literally got dropped off with his small, worn-out backpack and no destination. You might not have their way of thinking (though sometimes, you want it), but if you are ever feeling trapped by the conformist ways of society or need a break from the assholes in your life, you can call these new friends to guide you in loving unconditionally and embracing the moment before you. These are people you’ll want to hold onto.
3. But still live the adventure.
Adventure doesn’t have to be found across the world. Find it in little moments, in spontaneity, in conversations that challenge your thinking. Embrace the confusion of this time of your life and accept it as a challenge to see and experience as much you possibly can. You’ll learn more that way.
4. Let yourself be crazy.
You will fall in love many, many times. Really, you will. In fact, you kind of already have. It may be for a couple of nights in a country you had never heard of three months prior, it may be with a specific place, an impromptu adventure, or your loving friends, or it may be for real. Regardless, you’ll eventually find yourself in the type of relationship you want to be in.
When you’re ready. And you’ll be the person you need to be, having experienced all that was necessary to get to that point. Like running on the beaches of Koh Phi Phi telling guys it’s your 21st birthday so they would buy you drinks. Or changing your mind when you need to to make time for all of the things you want to do for yourself. It’s all part of the process. Good job for finally not only understanding but believing that – now, don’t stop.
5. Learn how to find your way out of a cardboard box.
You are an adult, have visited countless countries, and call yourself a “city girl”, yet you get lost in the aisles of 7/11. Your sense of direction is laughable. Actually, I’m shocked you made it home. WORK ON THAT.
6. You don’t have to label yourself.
You can be a businesswoman and a wandering nomad. Sensible and the life of the party. A hometown girl and an expat. A five-star hotel lover and a mosquito-netted bungalow nester. A relationship person and a wild child. A hockey fan and an Emerson a cappella nerd. You may not be able to do all of it at once, as you’ve sometimes learned the hard way, but to feel like you don’t know who you are just because who are you falls under so many different categories would be ridiculous. Don’t confine yourself to a label, because the label could change whenever you wanted it to.
7. Don’t get stuck.
Or, if you do, remember that feeling you got when you quit your job, packed up your room, and hopped on a plane across the world (okay, it wasn’t quite that easy). If you’re feeling uninspired, unchallenged, or even just freakin’ bored in whatever it is you decide to do next, don’t forget that you have options. It may not always be realistic to up and leave, but there are places and people near and far that can make you feel alive again. Like that view on the hike in Burma that made your jaw drop, or the Thai friends you could sit with in complete silence over dinner and feel at home, or that mountain view in Mae Sariang that instantly made you feel lighter.