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Chicken feet simmer in a soy based broth as my concentration boils over. I’m in unfamiliar surroundings, in love with the chaos. Beauty is embodied through BBQ smoke-filled streets as my comfort zone is punctured.
At times, we have an idea of what we want, yet once we get our hands on it, we want it even more. For me; that’s traveling. In anticipation of exploring Asia, this adventure pierced my daily thoughts for months. Every spare minute, my mind drifted to a beach and a bucket. I wanted to see everywhere. I wanted to experience it all. “You’ll come back different” I was told. I fobbed it off and just said yeah I’ll have my dreads and ankle bracelet by then. But alas, this didn’t happen (the dreads that is, still wearing the bracelet). What did happen was much deeper, priorities shifted dramatically.
Expectation can impinge an experience. Excessive planning can take the fun out of the adventure and this applies to all areas of life. Plans used to be my security, yet nowadays, they serve as an invasion to my freedom. I’ve tasted the freedom of walking over-populated streets of Hanoi to eating scorpions in Bangkok. The freedom of moving from Cambodia to Thailand in less than a day or not knowing where your next destination may be, is freedom like no other.
And “things”? Things don’t matter. That new coat, new shoes, new anything. None of it. What mattered to me was being in a tube in the middle of a river in Laos on a Wednesday afternoon. As their new year approached, locals splashed passers-by with water exclaiming “Happy New Year.” I won’t remember the top I bought in the night market years down the line. I will however, remember the smiles and sunshine in the distance as I turned a nice shade of cherry in 38 degree heat.
Things change us whether we like it or not. Sometimes, we undertake experiences in the hope we will gain some miraculous transformation. New jobs, traveling the world and meeting that someun’ special are textbook mid-twenties milestones. Success is the pinnacle of life’s journey, so we are told. This millennial generation is joked about having too much freedom and the world being presented in a rose-tinted parcel for us to unravel. That’s why more and more individuals are venturing outside routine. And that’s exactly what I did. I didn’t expect to transition into a new-found person, but I did expect an insight into other ways of life. Amazingly, I achieved both.
It’s easier to spend time with those we hardly know. They don’t know our flaws or our attributes. All they can see is we like traveling and we have that much in common. We compare ourselves less to fellow travellers and it’s easier to see ourselves in a more positive light. Traveling has unravelled a new perspective of how people really work. From country to country, it was as if a secret into how we all work as people was presented: trust. Trust in ourselves, that we can handle any conversation or set back and trust in whoever you are with that they have your back.
Traveling is mysterious. It’s addictive in its ability to enlighten a path that has become dimmed in day to day life. Three days previously I paid €3.50 for a coffee in Dublin. 72 hours later, I sit in a mesmerising market 20 minutes from the Kho Shan road as the only white person paying €2 for my full meal. Being on the back of a motor bike in a pitch-black side street in the middle of Cambodia; lost and in the midst of rain, I see a row of shacks with a simple antenna TV peering out and families sitting on the floor. All smiling. It was contagious.
It’s in these simple moments that shifting cultures humbles the background we come from. It revitalises the place that we call home. Waking up in Bangkok in the morning to being in Dublin 16 hours later to “real life” was surreal. Transitioning from Siem Riep to South Dublin is hard, but what makes it easier is the character a place provides. We don’t have street food or humidity but we do have an atmosphere and a charm like nowhere else.
So as I sip my expensive coconut cappuccino, I reminisce and appreciate the lessons that traveling has brought. Different cultures are intriguing, unusual foods are inviting and traveling is like nothing else you will ever experience.