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Archive for August, 2011

Almost my entire life, I’ve had this terrible habit of biting my lower lip.  Biting and/or picking at it on a daily basis until it ultimately bleeds (slightly disgusting, I know).  I’m not sure why I do this and even worse, don’t even realize I’m chewing on my lip until my sister, parents, or friends I’m talking with call me out on it.  I’ve had this painful habit for as long as I can remember and have never been able to remedy it…coating my lips in gloss, lipstick, thick-ass lip balm – nothing works.

Then something strange happened in September of 2009.  Kelly and I left for our round-the-world trip and a couple of months into our journey, she said to me, ‘Hey I noticed that you haven’t really been picking your lip much since we’ve been on the road’.  When I thought about it, I realized I had actually not done it AT ALL since the day we hopped on that first plane to Costa Rica.  A huge accomplishment for me, but not one I truly thought I’d maintain…we’re talking about breaking a life-long habit here.  I chalked it up to the excitement of new adventures but figured after a few more terrifying bus rides in third world countries, I’d be back to unconsciously bloodying my lip in no time.

Months went by and I never really thought about it.  As our trip came to an end, I suddenly realized that I hadn’t been biting my lip THE ENTIRE ELEVEN MONTHS we had been traveling.  Amazing!  I felt I had kicked this nasty habit for good…and without even really trying to!!  Yay me!

Unfortunately, this didn’t last.  Literally the day I set foot back in the US, I started knawing on my lip again, not even realizing I was doing it until I tasted the blood in my mouth.  As much as I tried to be conscious of what I was doing and control my actions, I’d always end up messing with my lip again.  I’ve been home a year now and I’m still picking at it, as if that fantastic year of progress never even happened.  WTF?

I had never really considered that jacking up my lip on a regular basis was a quirky way for me to deal with stress – after all, I did it during other periods of my life when I felt stress-free.  Or was I stressed and just didn’t know I was?  Is there something about the daily grind and living a socially acceptable, ‘normal’ lifestyle that makes me anxious on a level that I’m not even aware of – and this anxiety manifests itself by making me tear at my lip on a daily basis?  What was it about traveling in foreign countries for a year that seemed to cure me?

I have no fricken clue, but it’s definitely worth pondering on an uneventful Wednesday evening.

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You may think that taking a year off to travel the world and leaving a huge gap in your resume would lessen your chance of getting hired by a kick-ass employer…and you would be dead wrong.   Ironically enough, my travels were the KEY to me landing my current gig – working for a company that sponsors visas for international university students.  The students come to the US to participate in cultural exchange work/internship programs and we help recruit them and find them jobs.  Sort of like what I did for my work abroad program in New Zealand over 10 years ago…damn, has it been that long?

Anyway, I LOVE this job.  Not only does it allow me to promote something I feel passionately about (cultural exchange, long term travel, etc.), but I get to travel too, both here in the states AND internationally.  I’m not making near as much money as I made as a property manager, but the trade off is that I actually like going to work every day.  At this point in my life, I’m willing to make less money to do a job that I enjoy and although I’ve had to adjust my lifestyle quite a bit, it’s soooooo worth it.

Surprisingly, after a few months at the new job, they decided to send me to Thailand for 5 days!  I basically accompanied one of our clients to an overseas job fair (hosted by one of our local partner agencies) where they interviewed and hired Thai students to come work for them.  I was super pumped to go back to Thailand, simply to eat the food.  Pad Thai, green curry, nutella pancakes, and fresh fruit shakes available at every corner?  Hell yeah!

Not surprisingly, this trip was very different from when Kelly and I were in Bangkok.  Instead of a shady guesthouse in the middle of the backpacker craziness that is Koh-San Road, I was put up in a posh hotel in a modern shopping area of the city.  Our Thai partner agencies wined and dined my client Stephanie and me in fancy restaurants and bars, although one of them did take us to Koh San for some yummy street food and drinks, just so she could see the madness of that particular part of town.  It was really weird being back there less than a year later – it was as chaotic as I remembered it.  The pad thai, green curry, nutella pancakes and fruit shakes were as delicious too.

Me, Stephanie, Pookie (one of our Thai partners...I wish my name was Pookie!) in a tuktuk on Koh San

 

We had a ‘cultural day’ amidst our job fairs where Stephanie and I were taken to see the Grand Palace…I had been there previously with Kelly, but it was no less impressive than when I saw it the first time.  We also did a long-boat ride on the river, which I had NOT done before, wandered around in a couple of swanky malls, did some shopping, and got a 2 hour Thai massage.  Thai massages are super intense and somewhat painful (you are pretty much getting your ass kicked by a tiny Thai woman), but you feel fantastic (albeit a little disoriented) afterwards.  Definitely get one if you have the chance.

Back at the Grand Palace

 

Me and 'O', who works with another Thai partner, on the boat!

On the boat ride

It was a short and exhausting trip…but I loved every minute of it.  I was also reminded that much like people, cities deserve a second chance too.  Kelly and I didn’t really care for Bangkok the first time around, but after experiencing a different side of the city and getting shown around by a few locals, I started to appreciate what Bangkok has to offer.  Oh and next time, I’m totally hitting up a ping-pong show.


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We’re Back, Baby.

I know.  It’s been a long-ass time since we’ve posted in this blog.  According to this, I’m still in Jordan and Kelly’s somewhere in Eastern Europe.  The truth is that we’ve been back home in Texas for a year now…and I figured what better time than our 1-year anniversary to pick up where we left off?

Unfortunately, I don’t think I can.  Keeping a detailed travel blog turned out to be a crap ton of work, and although somewhat a result of laziness, Kelly and I really wanted to enjoy our last few months having fun on the road instead of camped out in front of my netbook all day.  And now, we’ve forgotten a lot of those little details we used to meticulously jot down in our notebooks…what hostel did we stay at?  What was that name of that awesome restaurant?  Where did we go after such-and-such city?  What did it all cost?  It’s all become kind of a blur and would be extremely difficult (and probably inaccurate) to try and recreate our stories a year later.

So instead, I’m starting fresh.  This will still be a blog about travel…turns out I scored a sweet job with international travel perks upon my return to the States and have/will continue to have plenty of travel adventures to write about.

For now, I’d like to share some of the big (and little) ways the trip has changed me and how it continues to affect my outlook on life in general…even one year later, I’m still realizing how it has altered my perception of the world and made me (what I feel to be) a better person.

So here you have it my friends…the top 5 (plus 1) life lessons I learned on our RTW journey:

1.   It’s pointless to get worked up over things that are out of your control.

Those of you that know me well know I get worked up quite often, usually over someone being late or when things don’t go according to plan.  I would waste a ridiculous amount of emotional/mental energy being pissed off and annoyed when things didn’t turn out how I envisioned them.  Although it does still bother me, I’ve learned to go with the flow a little more and remind myself that some things are out of my hands and I need to chill the fuck out.  Buses will be late, weather will suck, and tours will be cancelled.  So what?

(*Please note that this new outlook DOES NOT give my friends permission to continuously be late to/cancel our social engagements…you know who you are).

2.   Australians are EVERYWHERE

Seriously, there is no escaping them.  They will find you and drink you under the table.

3.   This one is extremely cliché, but it’s so true…don’t judge a book by its cover.

I can’t tell you how many people we met during our trip that I immediately judged based on our first conversation – whether it be because of their age (young = immature/naïve, old = dorky/weird), where they were from (canada = boring), what they wore (Ed Hardy = asshole) or what they looked like (attractive = shallow) – and ended up adoring them after spending a few days with them.  I would have missed out on a lot of great friendships if I hadn’t taken the time to get to know the person better.

4.   Life doesn’t always turn out like you thought it would

This kind of goes hand and hand with #1, but my life now is completely different from what I thought it would be after I got back.  I had always expected that upon my return to the States, I would marry my long-time boyfriend (THE ONE!), we would move out to the country, try and start some type of business together and I’d start thinking about popping out a couple of kids.  After all, I’d be 31 and it’s the ‘time’ for those sorts of things…and I really did WANT them, specifically with him.  After travelling for a year though, I had changed – a lot — and I no longer want the same things I wanted before.  So now I am single, have no immediate desire to marry and have children (or live in the country), and have found a job I absolutely love and plan to make a career of.  And I’m HAPPY.

I also thought the trip would ‘get travelling out of my system’, but really our trip had the opposite effect…it just intensified my desire to see more of the world. Long-term travel will never be off the table for me.

5.   Street food is the best food.

This is the case almost everywhere in the world.  I promise.  It’s not gross and you (probably) won’t get the shits from it. It’s fucking delicious so eat it already.

6.   Having a positive attitude changes EVERYTHING.

Again, those of you that know me well, know that I used to take pride in my cynicism…people called me pessimistic, but I considered myself a realist.  But after a year of travelling and meeting amazing people, seeing the incredible beauty the world has to offer, and truthfully – seeing the poverty and other shit conditions people live in everyday with a smile on their faces – I have no reason to be so bitter about life.  It’s a daily struggle for me, but just trying to think positively everyday has really made me a happier, healthier person.  LIFE IS GOOD…as long as you believe it is.

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