16 September 2019 – one year abroad solo ~ 11 questions for me about my reflections and insights

Last night I fell over after trying to check some tour prices here on Gili Air (Air Island). I thought my ankle would be OK but the pain was much more excruciating than I hoped ~ I had to sit down for about 30 minutes and needed some ice to reduce the swelling. The bone on my foot just below my ankle was so big, it was like there was a tumor the size of a golf ball attached to my leg, especially when I looked at my skinny baby ankle on my non-injured leg. Luckily some friendly witnesses got me some ice and stayed with me to make sure I was ok…but I still had to limp all the way back ‘home’.

I don’t know if the timing was the best or worst because I was literally set out to go to Lombok the next day and do a hike on Mount Rinjani the following day (a 3 day trek). My original plan was to just go and do as much hiking as possible for the remainder of my Bali trip…

At first the injury didn’t phase me. I thought:

“I already injured my ankle before and hiked for the whole week in the Dolomites pretty much straight after I twisted it. This will be fine!”

But I don’t know what happened after eating dinner and seeing a doctor…

I started questioning my life and carefully analyzing how I felt about continuing my trip or going home…

“I probably can’t hike in two days and need more rest”

 “Do I really want to continue my journey?”

“It’s also my best friend’s birthday. Should I go home just in time to surprise her?”

These were the questions which were running through my head over and over again.

The more I questioned my situation, the more tired, unmotivated and overwhelmed I started to feel. Travelers’ fatigue had come back with a vengance. Apart from not being able to hike again, at that moment, I truly felt like I had no more energy to continue exploring. I didn’t really feel like doing anything…I didn’t feel like going out to see any more beautiful landscapes and I certainly didn’t feel like meeting any more people or spending more money (ever since I got to Bali, all I could feel was me racking up more and more of a debt (Bali was far more expensive than I anticipated and I’d already exceeded my budget by deciding to come here).

There wasn’t much convincing me to stay…(apart from my fear of reality)

And…just like that…in matters of minutes…I decided that it was time for me to finally throw in the towel and book my dreaded flight home…something that I’d been mentally putting off for as long as I could.

I found a flight home straight away and bought that ticket.

I couldn’t believe it. I was finally going home.

Gili Air

 

Back to the present…

The reality hasn’t fully sunken in yet to be honest…but I’m not going to lie… I had a few anxious moments today of continuously asking myself:

“Have I really made the right decision?”

I can’t help but wonder and worry that I’ll regret my decision and failing to persevere…(I guess it’s only normal)

Only time will reveal how I feel about my decision…

There’s not much point in dwelling on it anyway.

You’re probably wondering what this large introduction is all about and why I’m waffling on about my story about how I decided to go home (it’s relevant I promise)! For a long time, I’ve been wanting to write a blog about my reflections about my journey. I don’t know why but I find it extremely interesting (and heart warming) to write about this. And I’m dying to share my thoughts and emotions! I guess because just so much has happened and it’s nice to reminisce about it.

It’s been just over one year. I’ve achieved my goal. I’ve fulfilled my dream to travel the world and it’s just so interesting to me to think and reflect about what I’ve learnt, what happened and just how much changed along the way ~ I’m talking about myself, my itinerary and all the other stuff which sparked changes in my journey and myself like the people and lands I crossed paths with, as well as all the challenges which came my way.

I’ll be honest ~ my initial inspiration was wanting to write about my original itinerary vs what my itinerary ended up being…but then somehow this blog has evolved into 11 questions I’ve decided to ask myself about my journey.

 

My Questions

  1. What are the top bundles of wisdom you’ve gained from traveling?
  2. What was your original itinerary and what ended up being your actual itinerary?
  3. What were your favourite destinations?
  4. What were your least favourite destinations?
  5. What were the highlight events of your trip?
  6. Which place surprised you the most?
  7. What was the most difficult thing you encountered on your journey?
  8. What was your biggest regret?
  9. Who were the most interesting people you met on your journey?
  10. What were the best things people said to you?
  11. Who do you think you were before you traveled and who do you think you’ve become?

 

What are the top bundles of wisdom you’ve gained from traveling?

  • Always follow your gut – time and time again, my gut (which is my intuition) was always right. Whenever I followed the feeling, I got what I wanted…but when I decided to go against my gut feeling, bad things happened. The feeling is there for a reason!
  • Always follow your heart – only stay if it feels good and leave if you’re not enjoying yourself. It’s wasted time.
  • Always check beds for bed bugs BEFORE putting any of your things on the bed
  • Don’t except a good sleep if you’re going to stay in hostels – I don’t know why I had such a big expectation of some hostels providing a good sleep. It seems like the majority of people don’t care about you or your sleep and don’t care about making noise no matter what time of the day it is.
  • It’s OK to do nothing – it’s stupid and a waste of time to beat yourself up over having a day off. Sometimes we need days off. We have to remember that in ordinary life, we don’t go go go all the time and sight see every day. To do so would simply be exhausting
  • When you’re feeling down and unmotivated, it could simply just be from tiredness
  • Keep your belongings together if you take them out – you’re less likely to lose them or leave them behind
  • If you’re curious about something, just do it – it’s better to know 100% for sure about something than to wonder
  • Be prepared and expect the unexpected – let go of not being able to do all the things you planned and expect changes and problems to be thrown your way
  • Leave your fear behind – don’t listen to what others say ESPECIALLY if they haven’t been to the place you’re thinking about going. The media wrongly portrays the wrong message about a lot of countries….and this sadly takes away A LOT of enjoyment you can take from a place ~ quite a lot of wasted energy on “what if” right? This happened when I was in Brazil. I was petrified at first and didn’t enjoy the first month I was there…but when I finally let go of my fears and accepted anything could happen, I had the time of my life and Brazil is now one of my FAVOURITE countries in the world. I would live there in a heart beat despite the problems which exist there.
  • Don’t listen to what other people say about a place, see it for yourself – quite often, people would tell me how awesome a place was or that they didn’t like a place but when I’ve gone, I’ve had a completely different experience to them. For example, all my friends and people I’ve crossed paths with absolutely LOVE Barcelona…but both times I’ve visited, I have barely enjoyed it in the slightest and couldn’t wait to leave. Other people’s words = expectations…and on that note…
  • Be prepared but go into a country with no expectations, go with the flow

 

What was your original itinerary and what ended up being your actual itinerary?

I don’t know why but as my journey was nearing towards the end…I kept on wanting to share my original, planned itinerary and my actual itinerary to compare the two. I just find it super interesting and it just goes to show that when you travel, many plans change especially when you haven’t made solid many plans and are open to anything (after all my one plan was to have no plan and just to follow my feet).

 

 

Can you see how different they are?

I completely skipped Cambodia, Philippines and Myanmar, Greece, Croatia, Africa, Chile and Argentina and unexpectedly ended up going to Portugal (and LOVING it by the way) and Bolivia.

I was overly-ambitious again! (surprise surprise) I went to WAY less countries than I envisioned…but this was mainly because I hate rushing when traveling because I like to properly get to know a place and soak in the culture ~ something I believe is IMPOSSIBLE to do if you’re just rushing through.

 

What were your favourite destinations?

Vietnam, Italy, Portugal and Brazil

 

What were your least favourite destinations?

France, Bali, Laos, Bolivia

 

Which place surprised you the most?

Brazil – without question! I went in with no expectations and ended up having the best time of my life. I would have to say that of all the trips I went on during this journey, I don’t think I’ve had so much fun and lived so much in a country! I literally feel like I experienced everything here and this country completely changed my life.

Rio de Janeiro – my favourite city in the world

 

What were the highlight events of your trip?

  • Cat Ba Island and Lan Ha Bay, Vietnam
  • The Ha Giang Loop, Vietnam
  • The slow boat from Thailand to Laos along the Mekong river
  • The bus ride from hell from Laos to Vietnam
  • Family dinner, chili eating and unexpected drunken shenanigans in Da Lat, Vietnam
  • New Years Eve on Copacobana beach, Brazil
  • Carnaval in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil
  • All my time in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • My holiday romance in Cabo Frio, Brazil
  • Staying in Cartagena unexpectedly for 9 nights and befriending the most awesome people, Colombia
  • Salkantay trek in Peru to Machu Piccu
  • My time in Lisbon, Portugal
  • Dolomites – all of it, Italy
  • Unexpected food reunion with one of my besties in Bologna, Italy
  • My 2-day trip in Lecce, Puglia, Italy

 

What was the most difficult thing you encountered on your journey?

Without question credit card fraud – I’ve written a blog about this but to sum it up, I think losing access to your cash is worse than losing your passport. As soon as I lost access to all my cards (yep I was THAT unlucky!) I went through this downward spiral of lots of tears, screaming, card rejections at all ATMs and card machines, running from bank to bank and my emergency being rejected and having to keep borrowing money from complete strangers (not to mention all the extra fees I had to pay in transfer fees or international calls)

 

What was your biggest regret?

Without question my choice to take a flight instead of a boat down the amazon river ~ before going to South America or just at the beginning of my trip, I already had it in my mind that I would catch a slow boat down the Amazon river from Brazil to Colombia. I heard many good things and it was reasonably priced…but when the time came, I was so exhausted from partying too hard at Carnaval that I became too lazy to even try. I just wanted to sleep all day every day (I completely burned myself out).

Then the more people I crossed paths with, the more I heard about how amazing the Amazon is…and people who went on the slow boat trip also had the most amazing time. I realised after that the boat trip was exactly what I needed, especially if it involved lots of sleeping in a hammock! Instead, I rushed to catch a flight to a busy, polluted city in Colombia where I spent 5 nights resting in the same hostel.

 

Who were the most interesting people you met on your journey?

For obvious reasons, I’m not going to disclose people’s names but I’ll just go with a general description 😊

  • The life/business coach who’s wifi I used when our bus broke down – this girl was just awesome because she had a no-bull, straight-shooter way of thinking. Her mind was so clear and I liked how she didn’t sugar coat anything.
  • My Couchsurfing host in the Dolomites – this guy was one of the most amazing people I met. He was vegan, very healthy and into fitness, in touch with nature and such a beautiful soul with a lot of love, compassion and empathy. For such a young guy, I feel like he had everything right. He was so in tune with his emotions. It’s always nice to meet a beautiful listener
  • The fearless one – I’ve never met a woman so content, self-assured and brave….so fearless. Anything that happens is ok. She lived in the moment so much and just enjoyed any experience which came her way.
  • The fearful woman without any consciousness – the complete opposite of the fearless one but I found her really interesting because I couldn’t really relate or connect to her and didn’t agree with her way of thinking. She blew my mind in disbelief…especially for not giving a damn about the environment
  • The crazy guy – I met this guy randomly at a hostel and he seemed a bit strange and lonely…but I’m pretty friendly. Anyway…turns out he might have been a little crazy. One day, he wouldn’t stop calling me so I blocked him because I was too disturbed
  • The middleeastern French woman – we just instantly clicked. She was a beautiful soul and had a VERY interesting drug-abusive-environment history.
  • The guy who didn’t stop traveling – I met him on Couchsurfing in Medellin, Colombia and he unexpectedly left his country and never returned home…now calling Colombia his home.
  • The guy who didn’t stop riding – a Spanish guy who’d been traveling for the past 9 years. He used his bicycle to travel around most places and ended up finding the love of his life in Colombia.
  • The guy who didn’t stop walking – a young Korean guy I met in Porto who decided to walk and hitch hike around the world to send a message to Koreans that you don’t need to fall into the life of working so hard and making money to enjoy your life
  • The true hippie – my very first Couchsurfing experience. It was just interesting to live with him because I’d never lived in such a minimalist and hippie lifestyle where the door was open for all people and animals to come in whenever they pleased. It was a pretty confronting experience which I guess helped made me more humble
  • Mountain man – a true artist which expressed his words like an art form. He chased after me in the mountains and was a true, romantic gentleman. He said things like “women are life” which I couldn’t relate to…but he had such an interesting brain and way of looking at things. Somehow it impacted me.
  • The American-Israeli – this guy was awesome! We met via Couchsurfing for Carnaval in Salvador, Brazil. He was highly religious but then decided to change his life 180 degrees, give up everything in his life explore the world of party, drugs, dating, exploring. We had a lot of long, deep and meaningful chats. I loved how open, curious and honest he was.
  • The giver of empathy and love – I met him spontaneously via Couchsurfing as well and I just found his presence to be a breath of fresh air because he was so loving, empathetic and most important…he was a giving human. He is a feminist who is trying to fight against the machismo society in Peru and also advocating for change via different projects for the less fortunate animals and kids in the world
  • The man from the favela – I’ve already written a story about him on my blog but I will summarise. This guy’s also a giver. He left Italy to search for an NGO project he cared about and ended up in Rocinha (Rio de Janeiro’s largest favela). Three years later, he’s still there deeply contributing to the community!

There’s actually a whole lot more people but I think I’ll leave it at that 😊

 

What were the best things people said to you?

The best (mis)quotes from people you’ve crossed paths with…

There were very beautiful but rare moments where someone would blurt out some of the most beautiful words which had such a profound effect on me…because it opened my mind further and changed my life (my perspective) from the moment I processed what they said.

These are their words (from my flawed memory)…

  • “I think we die when we are supposed to die” – this hones in on my point about not letting fear dictate and rule your life. As soon as I heard this and the accompanying story I built the courage to let go of what could be. That’s when I truly started to enjoy the magic Brazil had to offer. I realised I was so blinded before by fear.
  • “Tolerating is not good because it stays with you” (the discomfort) – I’m an advocate for confronting something that’s bothering you so you can move forward and let go. For a long time, I’ve held things inside me which have eaten me up inside. Now I’m realising how pointless and unproductive it is.
  • “People need to create to thrive. If we are stuck in monotonous, robotic jobs then we suffer.”
  • “I see realising that you need to let go of something is a part of finding yourself.” – this resonated with me a lot because I was feeling lost and confused about myself, knowing deep down I probably don’t want to be a lawyer. When I heard these words…it was as clear as day ~ I hold on too much to what I think I should be doing rather than what my soul and heart truly desires.
  • “No matter how bad someone makes you feel in a relationship there is always someone else in the world who will love you.” – I couldn’t agree with this more. It had a lot of weight and meaning for me because of all the issues I’ve had with my self-esteem and love (put it this way, for most of my life, I’ve felt extremely unlovable).
  • “If you’re feeling down, it’s because you haven’t been doing enough of what you love” – I also couldn’t agree with this more! It’s funny because this was a quote my friend put on Instagram but it resonated with me because I was feeling down for a bit in Europe until I got into nature. That’s when I realised I should have left the cities a long time ago and went straight into nature when I felt down. As soon as I was in the mountains, I felt reborn, ecstatic, motivated….and I was running around like a child!

 

I’ve saved the best for last 😊 (my inspiration for this whole blog)

Who do you think you were before you traveled and who do you think you’ve become?

The first thoughts which come to mind are a little superficial. On the outside, I was pescatarian who loved going to fancy bars, cafes and restaurants…but I was starting to get into some serious fitness at the same time (I ran about 2-3 times a week, did yoga maybe once a week and salsa class once a week). I’m not going to lie, I was also a little obsessed with the Latin-American culture (listening to reggaeton all day, everyday and watching lots of telenovelas). But despite my new-found obsession, I could barely speak a word of Spanish confidently and certainly could not speak any Portuguese (nor did I have the interest to learn it).

I could ramble on and on about the things I did and what I enjoyed doing but that’s not the important stuff…I think it’s more important to look at what’s changed on the inside…but you know what? Without stopping to think about this carefully, I’m finding it pretty hard to compare who I was then to who I am now. It’s very hard to remember exactly, especially when I’m put on the spot.

I think I was very serious and far from calm. Maybe I was a little bit restless all the time. It was hard for me to sit there and do nothing. I felt like I needed to constantly be doing something otherwise I would feel a little useless and like I’ve wasted my day (that’s why I ended up jamming as many activities in while working two jobs).  On a more personal level, I was a little bit lonely and maybe bored in some ways too. I remember…before going on this journey to see the world, I suffered severe anxiety about work, life and love.

The main thing I was anxious about…the question I kept asking myself was: “am I really doing the right thing?”

I wasn’t sure if taking the risk of putting my career on hold to go on this trip was a big mistake. I remember one of my good friends throwing a reality into my face. I’ll never forget her words:

“If you go on this trip, you have to accept that you might not ever become a lawyer.”

After all the years of struggling and suffering…paired with all the money I spent completing my degree, it’s unsurprising that it was so hard for me to accept what she said and potentially let go of my career.

But it wasn’t just the career department which gave me anxiety…it was coming from the love department too (unfortunately). Not long before I left, my heart was broken. Let’s just say I got the cold shoulder from a guy after falling pretty deeply for him. It made me question my self-worth as a person and start questioning those silly, self-damaging words: “is there something wrong with me?”

If I had to sum up how I felt before my trip in one sentence ~ I was riddled with self-doubt and lacked confidence with little ‘faith’ in my future.

Now…let’s put those thoughts on pause for a moment and move forward to who I think I’ve become today (I’m still not 100% sure yet and am still reflecting on this).

When I look in the mirror, I see a person who is much more golden and tanned – lol! (I spent a whole year working on it). I can now also speak basic Spanish and Portuguese! Even though I’m so proud of all these things, like I said, I want to focus more on what’s changed on the inside…cos it’s the inside which counts…right?

I think mentally and emotionally (maybe one could even say spiritually), this trip has definitely made me more patient, open-minded and empathetic…

Some simple examples are my old hate for the rain and my inability to enjoy the moment when things unexpectedly went wrong.

I used to absolutely HATE the rain. It affected my mood. I let it make me feel down and ‘depressed’. Ever since I went on this trip, I was exposed to torrential rain so much that I learned to accept it instead of keep fighting with it. In other words, I got used to it! Now it doesn’t really bother me 😊

I also used to HATE things going wrong unexpectedly. Everything used to have to be perfect and happen the way I pictured it to be. Traveling has really shown me just how unexpected life can be – you truly have no idea what will happen tomorrow! I’ll give you just one example of my hundreds ~ when I first arrived to Barcelona, I didn’t expect to meet this guy which I ended up chasing to Lisbon (which wasn’t on my itinerary at all). I also didn’t expect to fall so much in love with Portugal that I ended up adding it into my itinerary when I returned back to Europe in summer. Needless to say, I had a pretty amazing time the second time too!

But the best part for me was that it taught me to embrace bad experiences because I realised that all the less than pleasant experiences are the ones which make the best stories and usually where you learn the most. What’s a trip without some hiccups right?

Another important effect the trip has had on me is just how inspirational and motivating it’s been. I’ve definitely become more inspired to increase my skill-set and to change the things I do and who I am. When I was in France, I wrote a list of “what I want to achieve” and “who I want to be”. I’m not surprised my list was about a page long (I’ve always been a little TOO ambitious) but I love to read it and think about it because it’s a list of things that I’ve always wanted to do mixed with things I would have never imagined myself doing, like learning guitar, motorbike, scuba diving, and cooking a new recipe every week.

I also think one of the biggest changes that’s sparked in me is that I constantly crave being away from cities and into the nature (especially mountains). I no longer desire living or want to be in a big city any more. I just want a simple life and have become obsessed with hiking/trekking in mountains. My huge love and longing for being in nature have definitely made me question whether I really want to be a lawyer? Because some of my favourite times during were just working on a farm ~ it made me realise that I like working outdoors, not being boxed up behind a computer and in an office all day with barely any sunlight.

(I really can’t pinpoint and remember everything) I don’t know if this is really a ‘change’ but I learned something important about myself even though I have no idea what it actually implies ~ I learned that in some senses, I don’t have a strong cultural identity. I don’t identify as a Chinese even though I look like one. I don’t identify as a Malaysian even though I was born there…and I don’t fully identify as an Australian even though I grew up there. Even though I’ve been influenced by all three cultures, I have trouble identifying with any of the cultures…which means that I don’t have the true traits of any culture, nor do I feel 100% ‘at home’ in any of the countries. I guess I really noticed this while I was traveling and it’s become even more highlighted now.

 

There you have it – the answers for my 11 questions!

I hope you enjoyed reading through this with my mini stories, thoughts and emotions 😊

I know this is the end of my journey but it’s not the end of my blog! I still have so much unfinished, half-written, unpublished content which I will continue to work on and share with you. So stay tuned for some more stories! For now, I have to work on re-adapting back into ‘normal’ life and figuring out what I want.

Until next time!

Have a great night, weekend and week ahead!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s