Friday, May 10, 2013

The End: 10 Things I Learned From Traveling the World

Today, I realized that I've pretty much left this blog hanging since my last entry in Thailand.  I suppose I have been putting off ending the written journey.   I am no longer going to be updating here, as my travels in Asia have come to an end... FOR NOW. However, I have started a new blog- which can be found here: My Fleeting Heart.  In closing, I will end with one last entry:

10 Things I learned while traveling the world:

The world is such a vast, fascinating, rich, and luscious place. We often find ourselves bound by the restraints that we build for ourselves, preventing us from ever really getting to experience it. I broke those restraints, if not permanently, just for a little while. The lessons I learned from traveling the world will stay with me forever. If you chose to take the path less travel, I promise that, you too, will learn more about yourself, humanity, and the beauty of the world we live in. The experience is invaluable. Below I have listed just a few of the things that I have taken from the world and elaborated on them to the best of my ability.

We are all different, but really we are all the same. We are plagued by judgement. It's an initial reaction to any one person we meet. Although it's not always vocalized, the instant we meet someone, we have an automated opinion of what kind of person they are, how they look, the way they speak, etc. Whether it's based on stereotype or first impression. How often do we really take the time to SEE someone? Take a step back. Take away all of the judgements and stereotypes. Imagine you see a woman from Thailand in her home, interacting with her children. The house is barely what you would consider suitable. The baby is sitting in the dirt naked. You see the baby reach out her hands beckoning her mother to embrace her. The mother smiles and holds her child close, as she plants kisses all over her cheeks. She has something in common with you, she shows love. Imagine you have a student in your classroom who is a North Korean refugee. You often see sadness in his eyes. He has something in common with you: he greives. A tuk tuk driver in Cambodia, haggles you to earn an extra dollar. He has no other source of income. He is trying to do whatever he can to feed his family. He has something in common with you: he knows the struggles of life. Little girls walking to school in Cambodai, shoeless, stop to smile and wave at you. They are going to learn, just as our children learn. At different times during my travels, I have seen my judgements and stereotypes of others dissapate. I have so often, found myself, sitting on a train watching the interactions of the people around me. I can see hurt in peoples eyes. I can see love between a mother and a child, I can see romance between man and wife. We might look different, dress different, act different, encounter different hardships of different calibers... but we all have one thing in common: we are human. We all give and receive love in the same way, we all feel pain and suffering, we are all one.

Children walking to school in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

It's okay to talk to strangers. As children, we are raised and taught not to talk to strangers. As an adult, I sincerely encourage speaking with strangers. Backpacking alone leaves you in no position to be selective in who you choose to converse with. I now have friends from all over the world. I can honestly say, I have gotten into the car with strangers, I have shared rooms and taxis, and minimal bus space with strangers. Strangers often tend to have the most interesting stories and perspectives. It's amazing to think how many people we walk past on a daily basis without giving it a second thought. Strangers become friends, who become people who change your life.
The United States, Italy, Canada, Germany: I met these two guys on a boat en route to Railay, when they asked me to take a trip to Au Nang with them, I said.. WHY NOT. We met Greta in a hostel- we were both checking in separately and decided to get a room together. Her and I ended up traveling together for about a week. Robbie, the Canadian, and I, ended up meeting again later in Koh Tao, Thailand. Lucas is the most laid back 19-year-old free spirit. They were all once strangers, now they are friends.

And to SMILE at them.(not much explanatin is required here) Smiling at strangers, strangers smiling at you... it just makes the world seem a much better place. I NEVER saw more smiling faces than I did in Thailand. A smile- a simple and under appreciated act.

My English friend James making friends with an agguma in Korea.
Just look at that unmistakeable smile. How contagious.
 Appreciate the life you live.I have always worked hard to get myself to where I wanted to be, and I would say, I've always appreciated the things I had: the family I was given, the security of a home, the opportunity to go to college and make a life for myself. I THOUGHT, I appreciated my life. Then, I went to a third world country. My heart EXPANDED. It hurt and I cried (for real). I saw more struggle than I have encountered in my lifetime and more than my heart could bare. I also saw happiness. For a country like Cambodia, where people are more poverty stricken than not, they have one thing that many of us don't... that being, happiness. In a place where struggle is nearly unavoidable, I found that there was also an undeniable presence of good feelings, smiles, and love. I often thought to myself, how disgraceful, we as Americans, are. The things we complain about, how dramatic we make little problems out to be, how we overlook the things we have- among those things, a warm house and bed to sleep in. Our luxuries far exceed the warmth of a home. I see my life in a different light now. I try harder not to be bothered by small burdens or mishaps, I try to smile and be happy every day for what I have... because when it comes down to it... I have a hell of a lot, and just by the hands of God, I was lucky enough to be where I am.

A home on the outskirts of Siem Reap, Cambodia.

 Music is a universal language. It brings people together. In Korea, I spent countless nights in Hongdae Park listening to young starving artists jam- all the while bringing crowds of people together in appreciation. I've spent a week with a band from San Francisco that was touring Korea. I've crossed the ocean on a boat with a boy and a guitar. I've sat on the beach in Tonsai, jamming to Bob Marley with the Thai locals. I've exchanged music with people from all over the world. Sometimes music speaks for us and between us.
This is my friend, Robbie, from Canada. He's a super talented musician.
 Here, he is playing at an Irish Pub in Au Nang on St. Patrick's Day.

This is my friend Thurbo, from Germany. We met in Chiang Mai,
Thailand.  A specific song, I would say, brought us closer together We
still send each other videos of ourselves jamming to the song,
between Germany and The United States.

 Get lost. Only when we are lost do we begin to find ourselves. A cliche? Perhaps... but it sure is true. I used to be the girl who needed to know when, where, what time, and with who. I was such a creature of habit, I was fearful of the unfamiliar. I completely let that part of me fade away during this past year. I can remember the exact moment, where I was, what I was doing, and the way the sun was shining when I realized that I had found myself. I was in Busan, South Korea and I had decided to leave my friends behind and attempt to find a way back to Seoul on my own. Something that was a bit out of my character... but on that day, I found it to be somewhat empowering. Once I had found the bus station, purchased a ticket, and realized that I was ALONE in an unfamiliar place, with no agenda, satisfaction washed over me. In that moment, I believe that I came into my own a little bit more. After that it just continued. I thoroughly enjoyed hopping on the subway and getting off at random stops, places I'd never explored, just to get lost for an afternoon. Those were the times that I often found the most satisfying things. I later decided on a backpacking trip... a journey in which I took completely alone, just me and my backpack, no agenda. I got lost, sure... and with that experience, I feel like I became a Rachel that I am incredibly proud of.

Bangkok, Thailand- where I spent a lot of time wandering
and getting lost.

 Fate is imaginary, but man, is it real. It's not something you can see, but rather something that presents itself to you within a moment. Sometimes, it seems that you are just in the right place at the right time. Things reach you. People find you.

(well- you can't see it.)

Be fearless. Try anything and everything. Don't say no to things. The more you do, the more empowered you will feel. Bungee jump. Play with snakes. Lay with tigers. Bathe with an elephant in a stream. Eat something absolutely insane. Actually, eat everything that seems absolutely insane: SO. MUCH. FUN. Climb mountains. Don't let anything hold you back.

Yellow Python- Floating Markets, Thailand

Some people travel, some people vacation.  There IS a difference. Too much time can be wasted sitting on the beach drinking Bahama Mamas. Explore the surroundings.  Go see temples, go see ancient ruins, visit an orphanage, wander through an authentic town, go hiking to a lookout, swim in a lagoon. Make friends with locals. Look for things around every corner.  The best people I've met in this life have been travelers.  Travelers all share the same innate curiosity. They wander, they explore, they discuss. They are filled with something we like to call, wanderlust; desire.
  Doi Suthep- Chaing Mai, Thailand

Home is where the heart is. If you find that you heart is in two places at once, then perhaps your heart has two homes.  That's ok.

Seoul, South Korea- A year of my life: my second home.

“The bridge will only take you halfway there, to those mysterious lands you long to see. Through gypsy camps and swirling Arab fair, and moonlit woods where unicorns run free. So come and walk awhile with me and share the twisting trails and wondrous worlds I've known. But this bridge will only take you halfway there. The last few steps you have to take alone.”      Shel Silverstein