Back in early October I had decided that going a year without seeing my family would just be too long. This is my fourth year living abroad, so any chance I get to spend with family is very important to me. I figured I've already been so fortunate with my travel opportunities, that going home would be a better decision for me. So this is where my "Operation Home for Christmas" plan began. I had a long string of lies going about a trip to Thailand for the holidays. I had everyone (with the exception of a few close friends) convinced that I would be spending Christmas and New Years on the beaches of Phuket! Two and a half months after booking my trip home I eagerly boarded a flight and prepared for a long 41 hour journey across the Globe. Luckily for me, I usually sleep like a baby or easily entertain myself on long flights or car rides, so it really didn't seem too bad and after a long month of running Christmas play rehearsals, report cards, parent teacher conferences, etc, I was more than ready for a long lazy journey of just sitting still and resting. Plus, the thoughts of my family's reactions when I walked through the door was enough to keep me excited through four airports, two layovers in China and three crowded flights through the night.
I arrived in Toronto the night of the 15th and went straight to my friend Cassie's house. It was so great to be back on Canadian soil and sitting around Cassie's Christmas tree catching up with my high school best friend. It was hard to sleep that night (jet leg and excitement), but the morning finally came. I was off to surprise my family and what a surprise it was! Tears, laughter and hugs made me feel so loved and reminded me how wonderful it is to be home.
Throughout my travels I've had a few people ask me if I'm close with my family. Some find it odd or hard to believe I would want to move so far away from home if I'm so close with my loved ones. I've come to realize that it's because I have such an incredible family and group of friends that I'm able to leave home for long periods of time. Knowing I have such a strong support system at home allows me to leave and live my dreams because I know that my home is always there with them.
Spending many hours on flights, in airports, hostels, hotels, on buses and so on, you begin to meet a lot of other travelers. Some with many similarities and reasons for journeying to new lands, others for completely different reasons of their own. It's always a nice feeling meeting someone who shares the same interest and passions as you. When I moved to the Bahamas and to England I was very lucky with meeting great groups of friends that shared similar interests and passions for travel and desires to explore the world. When you're so far away from home and you meet people who share that passion a strong friendship is usually immediately formed. Jakarta has been a bit different. Bahamas and England seemed natural and easy. This place has definitely made me work harder. The culture can seem so different at times and there are days when everything is so unfamiliar and I find myself in a place where nobody understands me (both linguistically and sometimes culturally). But truth be told, this very thing that can seem scary is also thrilling.
There aren't a lot of moments in life when you get that feeling in your stomach of excitement mixed with nervousness and eagerness. For example, the first day of kindergarten, entering high school for the first time, the first time you move away from home or begin a new job. I absolutely love that feeling of a new beginning - a beginning to something in which you really don't know what is in store. Well, that's the feeling I get when I travel to a new place or move to a new country.
There are days where all I do is work, come home, have dinner, shower and go to bed. Those are days that I completely forget where I am or how exciting it is that I am living in such a foreign city so far away from my home country. In fact, a city that is the fourth most populated city in the world. Sometimes I have to remind myself of where I am and take time to soak in all of the differences that are around me. Today for example, I watched from my balcony as a man and barefoot children walked through the field next to my apartment catching grasshoppers to eat! Later, I saw a security guard at a road side check point near my building yelling and chasing a cow that was walking down the road holding up traffic. These sights that are so foreign to my eyes can make everyday life pretty exciting.
After being home and visiting friends I have to admit I did feel a little envious. I see so many people in my life settling down, buying houses and making homes, getting married and having babies. I couldn't be more happy for them, but there are times when I think what am I doing living on the other side of the world?? Everything I own fits in a suitcase or in my bedroom at my parent's house. Every now and then I even get a judgmental comment here and there such as "When are you going to finally come home and get married?" - as if I'm some college kid who took a year off and never came home. Fortunately, my friends and family are quick to support me and encourage me to continue following my dream of being an International teacher and traveling the world. And the truth is, I love my life and the opportunities that I've been given. I'm so lucky to have family and friends that support me and don't view me as as someone who would rather travel than have a mortgage and explore rather than have an abundance of responsibilities. They know I'm simply doing what I love!
Having seven months in Indonesia behind me, and many more ahead, I have no immediate intention of ending my travels anytime soon. I have no idea where I'll end up after my time in Indonesia and I'm completely okay with that. The thought of not having a solid plan or a course of action lined up might sound scary, but not following my dream would definitely be a scarier path.
Thank you to my family and friends who always support me on my adventures and always send me messages of love from home.
This year is sure to be a great year of adventures with upcoming journeys to Sumatra, Lombok, Thailand, Cambodia and a Canadian summer on the East Coast!
My hope for 2013 is that all of my loved ones feel the support to follow their dreams - whatever they may be.