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Things I have learned on the road

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6 months away from home. I think it's the longest time in one trip, that I have ever been away from New Zealand on my own, or possibly ever. Maybe because I am over the half year mark, or maybe because the year is approaching Christmas, New Year and my birthday and I don't have anyone to share any of these days with. Maybe because I am semi-trapped in a waiting game for my next flight because my plans messed up... but whatever the reason, I have been thinking a lot lately about the past 6 months and the 6 months that are on their way. I say 6 months approaching, not because I have any plans to return home yet, but because in 6 months one of my very best friends is coming to see me in June and we are going to travel together for 3 weeks. That is my most long term plan, oh and of course Disneyland for Grace's 10th birthday in 15 months time... which all of a sudden doesn't seem quite so far away as it did when I hugged my baby goodbye 6 months ago, tears pouring down our faces at the thought of our longest stretch of time apart ever in her life time.

They say when you travel, you find yourself. I was never entirely sure of what that even meant, figuring it was just another one of those quote photos that I love to compile in my ever expanding pinterest account. Turns out, that maybe whoever invented those pictures (or the quotes behind them) actually knew what they were talking about... because it seems that the longer I travel, the harder the road becomes, the more crazy adventures I have, and the more things I encounter that I really dislike - I learn what it is that I do want from my life, and I learn that I can make it (as Mariah would say) through the rain.
And no, I am not talking about rain in the mountains during rainy season - I mean when times get tough and you have only yourself to depend on to make the right decision for yourself. When you don't know which way to go, so you call home to speak to a friend but you can't get through, or they are rushing off to work or to a meeting, or they are unable to talk for an hour to discuss what it is you need to discuss and get off your chest because you are so sick of trying to speak about it in Spanish and never truly getting it off your chest, or it's 3am on a Wednesday and they're fast asleep and not in a position (I originally wrote prepared then changed it to wanting, but the truth is my amazing friends and family are always there for me and do an amazing job) to hear another 'the world is over Katy problem."
So you learn quickly, that there really is only one person you can count on to get you through - and to not only get you through it, but to get yourself through it by doing the right thing. Because you know something changed inside you a while back, something that makes you want to live an honest life, the life your Dodo always told you to live because at the end of your time you can look back and have no regrets because you were an honest and wholeheartedly good person.
Even though it can be hard because there is still an undying attraction to doing the wrong thing just for the adrenalin rush, probably the result of being brought back from near death a thousand times with either inhaled or injected adrenalin to get the asthmatic lungs working again. But you do the right thing anyway, and you stick to your recently-newly found guns. Like the time you are completely out of money (actually, less than completely out) and someone offers you a job selling drugs to foreigners because they say you can easily work with both the smugglers and the foreigners due to your big smile and your bilingualism. But you stick to your principles and you follow your heart and you say no way man, because you know that definitely isn't the life you want - despite desperately wanting the money just to stay on the road for another year. Or like changing your plans at literally two hours past the last minute, despite spending hundreds of dollars on flights, because if you don't then you just feel you are going to head into something dangerous. And then you wonder how you even know that, and why are you not following your original instincts? But you know, that as crazy as it seems, you HAVE to listen to that voice inside your own heart because that voice has always been right, and every time you haven't listened to it throughout your life - something has gone very wrong. So you put up with the rain - whether it be no money, wasted plane tickets, missing out on festivals or concerts, not knowing where to go or what path to take, because you hope that listening to your heart will see you right and mean you will get out of this crazy ride alive - and maybe even in a way that is true to yourself.
I think one of the truest signs that I am becoming more and more ok with the person that I am, was how after everything ended badly in the mountains I didn't even cry one single tear about it. There was no phone call to 'Daaaadddyyy' or 'Dommyyy", or "Erieeeee" ... I just accepted that the guy had serious problems, and that I was a good 'scapegoat on which he could project his unhappiness and dislike for his own life and self. I understand that it isn't always easy to be around a (95% of the time) forever laughing and smiling girl who seems to have an (almost) never ending supply of good luck in her pocket, and it certainly wasn't the first (and sadly won't be the last) time that someone miserable in their own life has chosen to see me as the reason for their bitter and twisted ways. However, what WAS the first time (and hopefully won't be the last), is accepting that the problem was his and in no way mine. It was the first time in my entire life where I haven't seen what occured as a problem with me, my behaviour, or who I am as a person. The first time where I did not take it to heart, criticize myself, and think badly about those things that make me, well, me! Yes I make mistakes, yes I am too loud, yes I have stupid crazy ideas - and act on them, yes I will force my flatmates into the car to chase a mysterious suitcase on the side of the road because I am convinced it contains $1,000,000 worth of kidnap money (or possibly a bomb), yes I still walk down the street spinning in circles and skipping along like a "fairy" as someone told me once (with disgust in their voice), and yes I act like a spoiled little princess when the world doesn't spin the way I want it to - but that is who I am and I am pretty happy with my wild and wacky life. And if he isn't, if you aren't, if anyone isn't, then that really just isn't my problem! And my god, is that a relief or what?!
I have also learned this year, by discovering more of what I dislike, what it is I really want to do with the rest of my life - career wise. I want to edit and I want to write. For who, and about what, and whether I will need to study more in order to do so, is all just details. I just know that I want to spend my life editing and writing. It's funny, I can sit at the computer and edit for what feels like half an hour, but when I check the clock it has actually been 6 hours straight and my stomach is rumbling and my bladder is bursting. It actually feels like the computer has sucked me into a completely different realm. I used to think it was education that did that, because I would have the same feeling when I wrote my assignments for university. But now I can see it was the writing itself, and not much at all to do with the content. It's strange too how I have reverted to the career choice of my youth, when I spent my hours either reading a book or writing in a journal. I wanted desperately to be the editor of the Chicago Sun Times - I know the press is not where my future lies (after my time as Princess in Mexico) but I can definitely see myself editing more books for a University, more novels, or perhaps even translating from English to Spanish or vice versa - one day.
I have learned that when things go wrong, or when plans change, it doesn't even matter. Money doesn't matter, nor do the everyday stresses that fill the thoughts of most people in the western world. When you travel at length through countries where people live on the streets, where dying dogs search through scraps of rubbish that people have already picked through first, when you walk down pavements that are broken, dusty, and filled with rubbish and holes that drop right down to the sewers and water ways below, it does something to you. At first you feel sad and you want to 'help' everyone and 'save/ change the world'. But then you that the biggest change comes within yourself, the worries that used to fill your mind actually aren't even real problems. Like if there is no garlic bread to accompany the pasta when your dinner party sits down around your table in a room dedicated solely to eating. It doesn't matter when your flatmate forgets to refill the ice tray for the millionth time, because there are people in this world who can't even drink the water that flows through their taps. Or the feeling of dilemma that goes through your veins during a spring clean, when you are deciding whether to donate that old "21st dress" or to keep it stored for another 6 years in a box with the thought of "I may use it again one day", or the desperation in the supermarket of which type of cookies to buy, or not affording enough gas to go and see your friend who just got married or had a baby. Yet when you travel, you meet people in third world countries with nothing, yet they offer you the best seat in their office/ house/ store (all rolled into one of course) as they serve you an equal amount of whatever they are all eating for their only meal of the day. And you eat it, even though you are a vegetarian and you know it will destroy your stomach the next day, because you know that for them, they are so happy to be able to share all it is that they have. Yet we at home, decide to pack away that dress we haven't worn in 5 years rather than giving it to the salvation army, we apologise at dinner parties that we 'ran out of time' to bake garlic bread instead of enjoying the great joy of sharing a meal with friends, we hide the cookies away for good occasions - or so that they aren't easily shared around everyone else in the house, and we stay at home and search photos of the new baby on facebook because we decide a little more money in the bank account will be of much better use than driving for 5 hours and actually being there in person for our friend. And I can only say all of this and say that these are worries within the minds of many western people, because I have been guilty of every single one. Currently, I owe money (or I will do soon) to IRD because I missed the cut off date. But I'm not even worried about it. My only options are pay it from here (which I can't do) or go home and work so I can keep paying my student loan for the next 400 years. I refuse to let a loan drive me home, not because I am ignorant or unaware of the danger, but because that goes against every single thing I feel I stand for. Westernised ideologies of money and debt will not drive me home, because they infuriate me. It feels like yet another way to keep people depressed, controlled, and working numbly towards a society driven by greed and desire for economical gain. Instead I would prefer to give every last cent I have to the lady living in a one room apartment with her child and three unofficially adopted orphan nieces, who cares for every sick and dying animal on the street. Because in this consumerist world I feel that she is what matters; people who are doing all that they can and giving all that they are, despite their circumstances, to make their lives, and the lives of others more positive...
And I can only hope, that my newly found attitude of letting the small things roll off my back, will stay with me for the rest of my life.
And I have half learned, or at least I am getting there, that it is ok to not know where I am going or what I am going to do. To not have my plan carved out in stone, because the plans of a true traveler are forever changing with the wind. But what I do know is that with the love of the amazing people in my life, I really am free to go anywhere that I want in this world, and that is a privilege not to be wasted as it is something that many people in the world are without. To chase an opportunity when one arises is of course something I have always done, but to accept that sometimes the universe is biding it's time, to be patient and understand that things will fall into place when they are ready, is something that is very new to me. To not know where I am headed can be scary and intimidating, but if the pattern of my life is anything to go by I know the future will certainly be an interesting ride!

Posted by chasingsummer 11:06 Archived in Colombia

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