It is crazy to think that two years ago, I stepped foot into your crazy, unique, chaotic continent. 26 months ago I was packing my bags to uproot my life to Thailand, and now I am packing my bags in Taiwan to replant my roots back home (maybe…)
For most people, they would never choose you as their first destination. With only about 35% of the American population holding passports, I think it’s safe to say that most of our knowledge of the big wide world comes from the internet, not from firsthand experience. Which is why I want to thank you Asia, for allowing me to break all the stereotypes that American media portrays about you. It’s sad that when I first told people I was moving to Thailand, they immediately assumed I’d be living in a hut, would have no access to internet, and would eventually die from malaria. And when I told friends I was moving to Taiwan, they assumed it was the same country as Thailand. The media’s portrayal of cities is often skewed, and many countries deemed ‘off-limits’ are actually safer than most people’s backyards. The media makes it hard to get a taste of reality behind the lens as nothing compares to touching a place with your bare hands. Asia, you allowed me to not only scrape the surface, but also forced me to wake up and experience reality every single day. Reality like riding a 12 hour-long crammed, no AC in 100degree weather, bus ride across Myanmar – a mixture of foul body odor, sweat, crying babies, throw up on your leg and claustrophobic conditions shoved down your throat reality. But, then, a fresh waft of tropical Asian air pours through the carriage and a beautiful woman standing outside her home, holding her baby smiles the most genuine smile you have ever seen, and then it hits you: happiness, a pure, unaltered bliss.
You scare people Asia, because of your dramatically different lifestyle, your unknown cities, your diverse food, language and culture. I would be lying if I didn’t say I was scared when I first moved out here, however, over the years I have seen firsthand, just how amazing of a place you are. You are unlike anywhere else in the world. A place I am proud to say I explored, lived and loved for the last two years of my life.
The funny thing about travel is that once you start, you can’t really stop. The travel bug bites, and before you know it you are saving up every last quarter, nickel and dime just so you can take a bus to a waterfall outside of town, or to hop on an airplane to a remote beach in Bali. Asia, you gave me the opportunity to see this beautiful world. You infected me with this passion and desire to embrace all things new and unknown. You taught me how to truly live. I have been faced with challenges after challenges because of you, which has taught me an immeasurable amount of knowledge and valuable lessons.
You taught me how to accept failure. Failing is inevitable. Failing happens every single day on the road, and in life. But, what does it mean to fail? Does it encompass the draining feeling of missing a train due to circumstances beyond your control? Or stumbling in broken Chinese to the stranger next to you, or getting lost in town, and then finding a new adventure to call your own? Traveling in Asia allowed met to redefine what failure is, and it forced me to fail forward, fail backward, fail anyway – and then get the hell up. Failure teaches us that it’s okay to be wrong about our preconceptions of ourselves, the stigmas of other cultures, and about any perception we construct about the world. It is okay to be wrong, it is even better to embrace it.
I really don’t know how or when I got the idea to travel abroad, but all I know is that I am extremely thankful that I did. It is hard for me to put into words how much I have gained from this experience. Simply put, I feel alive. Truly alive. When was the last time you hopped out of bed with eyes full of wonder? Asia, you threw me into new environments and reinvigorated the notion that life is good, people are good. You reactivated my thirst for discovery and an innate need to explore more, live more, uncover more.
Being alive is such a different experience for every human. It is tougher for some, and easier for others – and I will never really understand this existential lottery we are all born into. For me, being alive means smiling through life, experiencing and not only consuming, and continually struggling to find the balance between it all.
If you are feeling burnt out, upset, numb, or even depressed – travel. It does not have to be far, I don’t mean you have to buy a plane ticket across the pond, I mean try getting into the traveler’s mindset. Try moving through life with a little more awareness, a little more wonder for what the next moment of uncertainty may bring. Travel helps me create a little more appetite for life. It nudges me alive, and I hope it makes you feel alive too.
Asia, you forced me into the beauty, the guts, and the rawness of life. You allowed me shred the perfect picture and touch my hands and stomp my feet onto something real. With all the madness going on in the world now, sometimes I find myself on an emotional roller coaster between hating the world and loving it. Sometimes it’s easy to get wrapped up in the chaos, the turmoil, and the horrible situations humans put each other in. This is why travel matters now more than ever. You helped me open myself up to the world and everything in it. Thank you.
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman
For those of you have kept up with my blog over the last two years, thank you. I know my stories were random, spread out and definitely crazy. However, I feel really happy to have been able to share these experiences with you. I hope wherever I end up next, that I still have the passion and desire to keep writing and keep sharing. As well as keep you intrigued and entertained with my words. Thank you to everyone who followed my journey and gave such positive feedback! Love you all. Even though Globetrotting Jessie is heading back to America, my desire to explore all things new and unknown will never end. Stay tuned…