Ten years ago I heard my 30s would be so much better than my 20s. I was skeptical; how could older be better? Yet lately I’ve been comparing this trip to one ten years ago when I moved to South East Asia. I knew that trip would define my life. It’s fitting that a decade later, on another life changing adventure, I’ve started evaluating my past choices and wondering what my 23-year old self would think of me now:
Prior to leaving for the Philippines I had broken up with the (then) love of my life because I knew he would follow me anywhere in the world and I didn’t want someone who would simply follow me. I wanted someone with their own dreams. I thought about him every day.
Ten years later I ended the most significant relationship since because he wouldn’t follow me even though I really wanted him to. I think about him every day.
Ten years ago I wasn’t sure if I wanted kids. I still have no idea.
Ten years ago I didn’t think about food or photography. Today they monopolize my thoughts.
I moved to the Philippines after university for an international internship. I hadn’t had a real job yet but had dreams of returning to Canada and making it big. I was ready with a boat load of drive and a closet full of second-hand suits waiting for me in Canada so I could make my great debut in the business world.
Ten years later my younger self would be impressed with what I have achieved. Once I ‘made it’ I started to wonder if I got caught up in the ambition and forgot what I realiy wanted. Now I just want to work somewhere with nice people and earn a pay cheque that pays for my lifestyle.
I had no fear when I was younger. I jumped right into things. I’m not sure if I was brave or just naive. Now I imagine all the ways I could injur myself. Only 4 years ago I went to New Zealand and bungee jumped along with many other crazy things but somehow the last 48 months have left me fearful of things. In Mexico I was petrified riding on a horse, positive that I was about to fall off, until someone reminded me I was supposed to be enjoying it. On this trip I’m trying to regain some of that, letting go of my fear and embracing the unknown.
I didn’t plan. Sometimes it worked out and sometimes it didn’t. I’m not exactly sure why I didn’t have a guidebook as the Internet existed but certainly didn’t have the proliferation of information that it does now about travel.
I lived with another Canadian, Samantha, and we just jumped on buses and found accommodation when we arrived. I didn’t have anxiety about how to get there, or where I would stay.
It wasn’t all rainbows and roses. I remember once going to the “Traveler’s Hotel” and the guy at reception told me I didn’t want a room even though I insisted on looking at one. That’s because I didn’t notice the room full of girls with vacant eyes swaying to soft rock music. When the nice man took me down the amber-lit hallway to a room with a dirty mattress on the floor I realized it was a ‘by the hour’ kind of hotel. At least he was kind enough to warn me.
But those are the badges of traveling and I earned many of them. I loved meeting other foreigners and hung out with the handful that lived in Cebu, I didn’t extend myself enough to locals; I didn’t know the value.
Now older, a bit wiser, I’ve learned my lesson and am taking Spanish lessons. Living with a family in Leon has changed me. Their kindess has been overwhelming. I would have never known that Nicaraguans don’t eat dessert after dinner or how to cook fried beans. My Spanish teacher, Karin, taught me so much more than the language, she helped me understand what it was to be a Nicaraguan, explaining the struggle that I don’t see, answering questions that don’t have easy answers.
The changes have been gradual but profound, I’m the same person but much better and much of it due to traveling. I don’t know who I’d be if I hadn’t experienced all of this.