Feet to move, places to roam
After exactly 365 days, my year abroad has come to a close.
I avoided Gate 25 like it was a disease. My boarding card was stuck in my hand like glue, yet I wanted to rip it into a million little pieces and find a different terminal with an international flight that wouldn’t care if I jumped on an empty seat. I walked up and down the hallways hoping an announcement would be made to say my flight was cancelled. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t get on the plane and I didn’t want to. The last 12 months flashed before my eyes. I had been dreading this day since I left Canada a year ago. I am not meant to be in one place for an extended period of time. I kept thinking that maybe one day I will settle down in one place, but it wasn’t today.
This is the problem with travel. Once you start, you can’t stop. It is addicting, riveting and painful. Sometimes I want to tell people never to leave their home if they don’t want to get hurt because honestly, flying back “home” hurts more than breaking a bone or breaking up with a significant other. You may think both those things are excruciating however, I don’t agree. Staring at the departures board feeling like you are being deported is heartbreaking.
As I wrote this post at the airport, I wondered why I didn’t apply waterproof mascara instead of the regular kind. I knew I would cry. And cry. And cry. But I did not tell my eyes to stop, just let it happen. I allowed people to stare and have them wonder “What is wrong with her?” I experienced more in the last year than most will in a lifetime and I am extremely thankful for that. So let them watch me sob in front of Starbucks.
Gate 25 at the Honolulu Airport was filled with an array of different cultures and languages. That’s when I knew I was going back to Canada and I really did miss that diversity. I got used to identifying China as home. And Australia as home. And Hong Kong as home. Really anywhere on the other side of the globe I felt comfortable with considering home. I got used to living out of a suitcase that weighed almost as much me. I was constantly on the go. I booked flights and buses the day before I wanted to travel and ate Pad Thai for breakfast if I felt like it. I woke up and let the day happen as it should.
I took selfies with random Chinese families and paid $145 for a helicopter ride over the 12 Apostles just because I could. I learned to surf on Waikiki Beach, repelled down waterfalls in Vietnam, and swung through the trees of Tasmania on a zip line. I woke up at 3:30AM to climb a mountain and watch the sunrise in Taiwan. I celebrated New Year’s Eve in Shanghai and climbed the Great Wall of China within a week of moving to China. I swam in the Great Barrier Reef and went to my first AFL game in Melbourne. I rode an Ostrich, fed baby elephants and kangaroos. I attended a traditional Chinese wedding and was interviewed by Chinese radio and television crews. I took my mom on a sleeper bus through Southeast Asia and we both suffered from food poisoning (what is SEA if you don’t get poisoned once?) I caught up with friends I never thought I would see again and I stayed in homes with people I knew for less than 20 minutes that I met during previous travels. I wasn’t afraid of anything or anyone and I finally felt like myself. I was living fearlessly. I didn’t have a phone number and no one could contact me. Living off the grid was refreshing.
It is terrifying going home after a handful of things changed for me within a year. I come from the city of Winnipeg where the biggest building you can see when the plane descends is Ikea. Winnipeg has been a wonderful city to grow up in but when the opportunity presented itself to move to China, it was the easiest and quickest “Yes” I ever agreed too. I wanted to be immersed in a culture completely opposite of Canadas. A culture where people don’t say “Sorry” every other word and where I could hit someone with a car and no one would think twice. It was the most exciting type of chaos.
I taught 68 of the sweetest students English, finished some university classes, and still was traveling to a new city or country every few weeks. I learned to live with cultural differences and communicate without knowing the local language. Oh, and got over my fear of the squat toilet (always remember to carry toilet paper in your bag!) I wanted a year to prove to myself I can do things on my own and I learned that I am capable of whatever I want to be capable of. I could not have done these things in Canada.
I know whatever I decide to do now, it will be far from boring.