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Category Archives: Reflection

Bring it, 2014

It’s the eve of the new year, so of course, I’m reflecting on the past year.

I rang in 2013 surrounded by new, yet lifelong friends on a beach on Koh Chang, Thailand with a bucket in hand, and I’m ending the year in the exact opposite way. It’s absolutely freezing in Toronto and I’m getting prepared to get all dressed up and head downtown to one of the fanciest hotels in the city for a party that I wouldn’t have been going to if it weren’t for work.

Throughout the year I’ve said emotional goodbyes to friends, my students and colleagues and had emotional reunions with my truest and dearest. I’ve gone from being gainfully employed, saving to travel to being contractually employed, saving to pay off debt, with a large period of (f)unemployment in between. I’m not really ending the year with a bang, but I’m ending it on a high note.

I’ve done a lot this year that I can be proud of. Of course there were low moments, lonely moments, but there were also (and continue to be) moments that I wished would never end.

I’m not too psyched about this New Year’s Eve, as I can barely afford a glass of wine at this hotel, let alone a buckets worth of alcohol, but I am excited about the coming year. I’m working with a company that I love (and think they love me too) and feel secure in what’s to come.

I’m preparing to move out with a close friend, and I feel like this is the year for growing up and doing things the adult way. I know that I’m ready; I can feel it in my bones. I’ve grown so much this last year, through so many unique and wonderful experiences, that I can hold my head high and say “Bring it, 2014.”

The materialistic mind frame and the secret to being happy

Recently, having received a few pay checks and being back in the swing of things, I’m hating my current mind frame.

When I was packing my bags and seeing how much I was leaving behind, when I was away and saw how little I needed and again when I got back and saw how much I left behind, I vowed that I would never return to my materialistic ways. After being home (and avoiding the blog updates) for 6 months, I’m sad to say that it’s all too easy to get sucked in.

I want / need everything. Everything.

I want / need new work clothes. I want / need a new phone. I want / need, I want / need.

Living in a cold climate, I’ve realized that adding warmer items to my wardrobe is an absolute necessity. As is dressing for the job. I’m lucky that I’ve landed a job that doesn’t have me working from an office from 9-5, that comes with some quiet little perks, and that feels rewarding when I’ve done something that made an impact. I couldn’t have done it without my friends. However, those client meetings wearing the same dress pants I wore as a teacher everyday for a year just doesn’t cut it.

Now that I’m going to be receiving semi-regular pay checks, I need to keep myself in check. I need to remember how little a person actually needs to survive and not go crazy with the shopping sprees. I need to remember what’s important; to save, pay off debt, and travel more. Always travel more. I need to remember that having material things doesn’t actually make me happy. It only adds to the illusion that I’m a contributing part of society, whatever that actually means.

Two articles this morning inspired me. This beautiful article about running towards life and not away from it makes me want to spend NOTHING so that I can be on a plane as soon as 2014 hits, escaping the harsh Canadian winter (oh, so harsh). Then, a friend bringing me back to reality shared this article about the pain required in order to be happy and successful.

Two very different articles, two very different messages, both completely accurate. I’m quoting the first article here though, and it’s something that rung true: “The real secret to life is that you get what you want when you do what you want.”

Yes, travelling and experiencing different cultures makes me incredibly happy, as does the freedom of not being tied down to anything. But in order to travel extensively and still feel fulfilled, I need to endure the “pain” of working hard. Again, I’m incredibly lucky that my work doesn’t feel like work, (especially when it’s mostly in my pajama’s), but to be well-rounded and achieve my goals I need to have both of these things in my life.

SO, while I have many goals, first and foremost my goal for 2014 is to include both of these things in my life simultaneously and find a happy balance.

(And to finally post some catch-up blogs… Sorry!)

Some deep thoughts and life lessons for a Monday morning.

Coming Home

I’ve been back for little over a month now, and while I’m not even up to date on blog posts of my travels, I’ve got to say that it feels good to be back.
Yes, the full-time job hunting gets depressing. But having some freelance writing to do fills the days (and the bank account) a little.

A lot has changed in a year and a half, but a lot has also stayed the same. I came across one of those sappy pictures on Pinterest one day while I was away and sent it to one of my closest friends, but I’ve realized that it applies to all of them.

friendship Read the rest of this entry

Love note to my passport

Because of complications with obtaining a work visa (I couldn’t) I was forced to do Visa runs if I wanted to stay in the country and work for my school. Along the way, I completely filled my 25-page passport and was worried about having the space to get home. So literally as soon as I rang in 2013, I headed to the Canadian Embassy to get a new passport.

Despite having the forms printed off the internet, and filling everything out thoroughly, plus extra, I was asked to fill out a new form. I handed in the new form, my two pictures, and my fee and that was it. “The new one will be sent to you.”

Seriously easy. Despite worry that I didn’t have a guarantor that could sign my photo or the documents, despite fear that I would have to spend the entire day running around Bangkok finding a lawyer to act as a guarantor for me, sign everything and follow-up with my four references and previous addresses of the past 5 years, it was the most simple process. To be honest, I think it was easier even than in Toronto.

I am excited to have 48 brand new pages to start stamping and plastering with visas. My passport hasn’t seen me through a million countries; it hasn’t been all around the world with me. But it does clearly define the last 5 years of my travel life: Amsterdam, South Africa, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, and of course those random stamps through American customs despite not ever leaving the airport. WHY do they do that?

Looking through a passport is always one of those things that you reserve to do while you’re waiting in line at the border, when you’re terrified that you’ve overstayed, when you’re trying to plan the next few months of your life and wonder how in hell a visa run is going to fit into it, or simply when you’re feeling nostalgic. I love the pages in my passport. I love looking at all the stamps and all the visas and remembering the exact moments that I crossed the border and with who. I’m glad that they returned my passport in pristine condition so that I can continue to be nostalgic.

Maybe if I’m feeling crafty, I’ll make sure to save my passport in a scrapbook of the past year so that I can accurately remember dates when I look back.

I do have a favourite page, simply because I love the variety of stamps that share these two pages.

South Africa, Amsterdam, Laos, Thailand and America all on two pages..

South Africa, Amsterdam, Laos, Thailand and America all on two pages..

Do you have a favourite page in your passport? Do you sit and look back through it in the same way that I do?

The last hoorah

I’m back in Lopburi. Although in approximately 24 hours, I start my journey home in a bus that will take me and my accumulated mementos to the airport.

I thought that I would have time to write and relax and catch up on everything that I haven’t been keeping up with while I was travelling. I have not. Instead, I’ve been catching up on the gossip, drinking until the sun comes up and sleeping until I have to peel my melting skin off the blankets. Then repeat.

Instead of writing about the monks in Yangon, the feet steering fisherman in Inle Lake, the art and architecture in Penang, or love notes to this crazy little town I’m leaving, I’ve been lazy.

Being in this unemployed transition is quite depressing, and I’ve had no shortage of craving to stay. Most people that are here at the moment are no longer in this transition. They’ve moved into houses, moved into new jobs, started their regular routine again. It’s making me wish that I had decided to stay on for another term, another year, for life.

While I do have to be home for some of the best moments of my best friends’ lives, things that I wouldn’t miss for the world, I really only have a 6 month obligation to Toronto. I love my city, and it will be where I eventually settle down. But, unless I find the job of my dreams, meet the man of my dreams or am simply too happy to get the itchy travellers foot (how likely is that, really?) Than it’s quite likely that I could pack my bags and leave again once those 6 months are up. Now that I know just how easy it is, and just how happy it can make me, I’m ready to take on the world.

We’ll see just how much of the world I can afford in 6 months’ time though…

Reflection: March 11, 2012

I wrote this one week and one year ago in a private note on Facebook. Something that I needed to get out of my system, and one of those rants where I can only collect all my thoughts when I’ve properly written everything down. It’s funny to think that I’m in almost exactly the same position as last year, but in reverse.

As people start leaving and goodbyes continue, I’m lonely again, but in a very different way. I feel confident that I have made friends from all around the globe that I can literally pop in on any time and be welcomed with open arms and tears of joy. This time I’m just sad that everyone’s moved on, and the implication that I may never see some of them again.

I’m doing the whole full-time  job search, but for positions in Toronto this time. Related to anything that I find remotely interesting – mostly travel agency related.

I’m questioning my future, what direction it should take and what coming home is going to be like. But I wanted to share this, because I think it’s what everyone goes through when they’ve packed their bags and moved to the other side of the world.

I have to be honest. I don’t know exactly what I’m trying to prove or learn about myself by being here. I thought my life had direction; I’m a published writer with a degree willing to start at the bottom and work my way up. But instead I’m here. Throwing my life on an entirely new path, not because I had no idea what to do with myself, but because I felt like I was given a chance, a sign and I ran with it.

But now that I’m here and I’m going through the motions of job interviews and planning and researching what town I want to live in, I’m asking myself, “is this what I really want?” I should have done the soul search before I said goodbye to everyone, before I applied for the course, before I had even researched all my options.

I was happy at home. I realize that now. As unfulfilled as I might have felt, I finally had a group of friends, three even after new years, which consider me an integral part of their crew. I may have been losing my job, but I hadn’t really tried that hard to find another one.

My biggest challenge in the past two weeks has been spending so much time on my own. I’m not one to be that much in my head. I don’t over think a situation unless I have a strange gut feeling, and I try to take the world at face value, rarely expecting more or less than what I’m given. As much as I love my personal time doing absolutely nothing, quiet walks and my “me dates,” I’ve also realized that I’m mostly a social person, I need to get me out of my own head. I’m a Leo for crying out loud. I’ve learned that for me, home is where friends are. They could be friends for a month, a year or for life, but I need the built in support that people that love and admire you provide. Not having that built in support has been emotionally draining these past two weeks. I fear that something will happen to me and no one would know. The question still hangs in the air: would anybody here even care?

It would be so easy to give up now. To pack my bags, get rid of any excess and charge the next plane ride home to my credit card. However, I do know myself well enough to know that as soon as I got on that plane, I would beat myself up for not sticking it out, for not taking the jobs that are being thrown at me and for caving in to my emotional wreckage. I don’t want to have to live with that regret.

I want to be stronger. I want to be that woman who does things without needing approval, who can go to a movie alone and not feel awkward eating alone and doesn’t need to run her decisions by anyone.

I want to make the right decision, I want to pick the right job, and I want to do what I originally came here for.

Just as I wrote the above self-doubting rant, “Let Go” by Frou Frou came up on my ipod. It’s been randomly showing up recently on shuffle, but the lyrics have this perfect soul-calming quality. It’s like the voice of a friend telling me not to stand on the sidelines waiting for life to happen and that it’s sometimes okay to be an emotional wreck.

“So let go. Jump in. Well whatcha waiting for?
It’s alright ‘cuz there’s beauty in the breakdown.
So let go, just get in, it’s so amazing here.
It’s alright, ‘cuz there’s beauty in the breakdown.”

It reminds me that I’m doing this because I’ve always thought about it, because I didn’t want to have the itchy traveller’s foot for the rest of my life without doing something serious about it now.

The choices I make in the next week are going to shape the next year of my life, yes that’s true. But I don’t have to make the drama out of it that I have been in my head.

I am extremely glad that I’ve taken the last year to do the things I’ve done, to meet the people I have, to teach the most wonderful children in Thailand and that I didn’t cave into fear and pack my bags for the next flight home.

My flight home is now booked and I’ve seriously started the job search / interview process and can only cross my fingers that when I get home I’m not going to feel the same about leaving Thailand as I did when I was trying to get settled. I’m sure that the support of friends that I’ve so dearly missed, and a comfortable atmosphere will mean the difference between despair and irritation, but you never know when that black wave of self doubt can rear it’s ugly head.

Wrong Train

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I wrote this a little while ago about a two-day span of incredible bad luck that left me feeling unsafe and terrified during a stay that was relatively unmarred by anything remotely dangerous.

Re-reading this now, I sound like I was terrified of poverty. Keep in mind that I had spent the month and a half previous to the incident working at a newspaper based on stories from the townships and was repeatedly told by other journalists that I should never, EVER, for any reason take an unknown train, be out late at night or head into townships without one of them for whatever reason.

This was from people who grew up and lived in Cape Town, South Africa.

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I didn’t realize immediately where we went wrong. I was still in a state of shock from the night before. Those tiny, grubby faces surrounding me, the band-aid on the face of the oldest and the crazed look in the eye of the youngest haunted my recent memories of the train station. [“Give me your cell phone.”]

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Reminiscing before it even ends

On the verge of getting too sappy too soon, I’ve compiled a slideshow of pictures of my Thailand family. The people who were strangers once upon a time, but who are currently the closest of friends.

Today is officially most people’s last teaching day. And while I may not be officially leaving Lopburi until the middle of May,  people are going to start shipping out. Whether they’re taking an epic train journey through China, Russia and Mongolia ending up in London, travelling around South East Asia, or jumping on a plane home, my home away from home is going to start thinning out. So I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic about the last year. The things we’ve done together, the laughs, and the experiences. It makes a girl start to get really sappy.

So without further depressing ado; here’s my recollection of a year spent with some amazing people.

I’m in the home stretch… and it’s kind of terrifying

I feel like I’m in the home stretch. The final month before classes officially end, the final lessons, the final goodbyes. March is going to be an awkward month. I’m still not sure if I’ll be working until the end of my contract considering that there will no longer be a summer camp. I don’t know if that means that I’ll be finishing up within the first week, and then spending a few weeks hanging around waiting for the vacation portion of my home stretch to start, or if they’ll find work for me to do and I’ll work up until the end.

People are going to start leaving. That’s going to be really hard: saying goodbye to people who were strangers a year ago that I’ve become so close with that I now consider my Thailand family. My roommate is going to be the first to go, planning on shipping out to Germany to live with her boyfriend as early as the 19th of March. My little heart is going to break.

The group, with a couple exceptions, at our Anything but Clothes Themed post-halloween party

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Remembering my first encounter with Bangkok

I had been looking forward to my friend from home, Leslie’s, arrival for a while, and as she finally arrived in Bangkok, I was ready to just ditch the last day of camp and head down to meet her. I endured the grueling last presentations where activity teams gave their final presentations – ours was a song about our environmentally friendly house model. “If you want to save the world use solar power” sung to the tune of “if you’re happy and you know it” all the while describing the attributes of the model they created, complete with a water powered electrical plant, solar powered house and solar powered car.

I say endured, but in reality the last week had been an epic week full of fun and laughter and arts and crafts. I had a lot of fun and was really proud while the kids were coming up with their own ideas for the model based on the lessons throughout the week.

Once the kids had been picked up by their parents, it was time to head home for a quick meal (SUPER quick – literally take a bite, straighten my hair, take a bite, change my clothes) before heading to the bus that would eventually take me to Leslie.

I had forgotten how overwhelmed with Bangkok I was when I first got there. If I remember correctly, Khao San completely scared me away. I don’t really like Bangkok, initially I was completely appalled; Leslie, I think, was the same. While we are both city girls through and through, I watched her watch the streets and people passing literally wide-eyed trying to take everything in.

She had made it to the Grand Palace in her first day, so after a night out on Khao San with some of my teacher friends, we braved the rain for a visit to the John Thompson house. It wasn’t really what I was expecting, but is literally in all the travel books as a place to visit. John Thompson was an American who built up the Thai Silk industry to what it is today by endorsing it and establishing world-wide trade. However, his home isn’t really as much a history of the silk industry as it is a museum of Chinese collectables that he accumulated over time. After a brief wander around his beautiful Thai / Western Style home, we headed to the real China town just in time for everything to shut down, and for us to get lost trying to find the ferry docks. We were hoping for a moonlit ride down the river, (how romantic) only to miss the last boat by mere minutes.

The next day we attacked the markets at Chattuchak. Chattuchak (or the Thai name for it, JJ) has become my new favourite place because of the endless maze of amusement and things that anyone can convince themselves they need – especially when they’re so cheap. Clothing, jewellery, furniture, trinkets, pets, bedding, the list goes on; whatever you could possibly need – if you can find it. After taking the long way home just to incorporate the ferry ride down the river, and a quick stop at MBK to check out the electronics section and buy a couple things I’ve been lacking in my life, I think it’s safe to say that I had Bangkok’ed her out and it was time to head to the beach.

Despite my frequent visits to Bangkok, I still can’t seem to stand the city for more than a couple days. I can completely understand how people could love it, but I wanted to move to Thailand to experience Thailand, not a watered down Western version of it. Which is the same in many tourist places throughout the country, but it is ever present in Bangkok. Despite that, it is a good place to visit to ease into the culture, and acknowledge the differences before heading out to greener (or bluer) pastures.