Five hours, two magazines and a meal later, I’m giving myself time to reflect whilst waiting to board my flight here at JFK on the past two weeks I have spent in the United States.
Firstly, I can whole-heartedly now say that I hold no regrets on bucking the trend of at-home studies for two weeks during mid-semester break, and instead, opting to embark on the longest journey of my life. I left Sydney with hopes of having a great time keeping Giang company during the two weeks there and I’ve returned with that and even more than I could possibly ask for. I have had the pleasure to meet some of the most intelligent and generous friends of her - people who have welcomed me with open arms, helping me with anything and everything I possibly needed during my stay. From sneaking me into the cafeteria, to driving me to the local stores to buy basic needs, and taking me out to college events to enjoy as much of U.S. culture as possible. These are the same people who can be super wild and entertaining come party-time, yet at the same time, could provide some of the most though-provoking conversations. These are people who I can see myself getting to know better and becoming very close to, and I’ll cherish that and hope for more opportunities in the future.
Secondly, to my wonderful girlfriend - Giang - for putting up with me whilst I’ve been here - getting things organised before I arrived; taking up extra space on the bed, wardrobe and room in general; making sure I wasn’t dying of boredom; taking me out on a weekend to Bar Harbour/Acadia National Park despite swimming in school work. You are the one who makes this entire trip worthwhile even if it meant I had absolutely nothing to do on a daily basis :) and I hope that we get through this rough patch and before we know it, we’ll be able to see each other again very soon! Thank you!
Thirdly, the U.S.A. is so similar yet so different in so many different ways to Australia. The lifestyle; costs; people; cities; landscapes; food and so much more.. What a wonderfully divergent country and yet despite all of that, I can’t help but have a trepidate-d feel towards this powerhouse nation. There are so many opportunities to be made in a great country like the U.S. yet there are so many things that are backwards that makes me turn my head back towards Australia and realise what an amazingly safe and prosperous country I have grew up in. I’d grown up thinking that the U.S.A - the bigger brother - was always better and more efficient at the same things, but I can safely say now that I have no regrets towards the country of choice my parents chose to migrate to. Perhaps I’ve judged too quickly of the American people, but I’ll be back soon to make another analysis.
The best aspects of travel involve the reflections and tale-telling of the amazing highlights of your holiday. People love to depict the finest details of how astonishing and impressive the locations were that they had visited. However, there is a greater form of adventurous travel that warrants story telling of a whole different benchmark - one of struggle and bewilderment.
What am I talking about?
The stories you hear of travellers finding themselves in situations so outlandish, one would think that it was a carefully crafted thriller written by a novelist. Stories of travellers whom somehow find themselves on the back of a maniacal rickshaw, or perhaps being forced to drink the urine from a holy cow during an Indian festival! These are the stories I want to tell! Not of how white the sand on the beach were, or how friendly the locals were or what amazing food I had for dinner.
That comes completely part in parcel with travel. It’s a given. It’s the unexpected that makes our trips memorable.
And in mentioning that, China almost felt too smooth.
Sure, I have plenty of hilarious stories from the trip that I’ve yet to share, but the little voice yapping in the back of my head tells me that I should have wandered a few more steps outside my box of comfort. Being fluent in the local language perhaps would’ve contributed to the lack of obstacles, however there were innumerable situations I recall throughout my month on the road where I had told myself “nahhhh maybe next time!” that may have helped contribute to my growing archive of travel anecdotes. Ultimately, there were more opportunities made available that I had failed to seize.
Travel reflection will forever be one of positivity and take this as important advice, that no matter how traumatic the predicament you find yourself to be in on the road, if you’re alive out the other end, it is a worthwhile experience. As cliche as it sounds - what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger - can very much so epitomise how you can improve your travel experiences.
As one of my travel buddies would say, ‘live life a little!’. So the next time you find a strange Chinese man at the food market offering you goats testicles for a quid, make sure you accept and have it medium rare. I guarantee you that the taste will matter very little once you return home.
Disclaimer: There was no intension to offend any Indians. It was simply written in jest. :)
Reflecting back on the experiences of the past four weeks of travel has taught me a thing or three about accounting for certain decisions during preparations. I’d overlooked the importance of who you travel with and the daily dose of social ‘medicine’ required to keep your mind stimulated whilst abroad. My four weeks of travel felt like the right amount, however not so much in the context of what I had seen and done but more or less to do with who I was with:
Consequently, I felt that that was the most tragic aspect of this holiday.
I surrounded myself with people who shared differing interests; people who weren’t game enough to try outlandish foods; people who wanted to sleep in instead of waking up early on a regular basis to get to the best tourist spots; people who were more worried about their looks than immersing themselves in the culture of a foreign country; people who were not receptive with any kind of obstacles that travel put forth; people who did not speak the local language (though that’s not the major issue); and people who could not appreciate the little niches of joy that travel should bring to those who seek it. To put it brutally, they felt like dead weight (at times) who I had dragged the lengths of the paths I had drawn out. And here I was, seeking for constant reprieve, wherever I could, from the responsibilities I was constantly drawing myself into for the inadequacies of those I traveled with.
And as a result, that lack of maturity left me both frustrated and disconcerted. I was burnt out. There were things I had wished to do which were bridled with and often needed to be compromised in order to facilitate everyone’s demands. However, that’s not to say that I had a terrible vacation, but at the same time it could’ve been that much better than it already was.
Those I travelled with were not so much trouble-makers, though neither would they succeed if I were to conduct a compatibility test. They were simply just the wrong piece of the jigsaw - fit for another type of a puzzle.
So by now, most readers of this blog post would know that the moral of the story is to choose your travel partners wisely. However, it’s often the finer details of one’s interests, habits and temperament that often cause the most trouble between travellers - aspects of one another you presume are similar (that obviously aren’t) that eventually lead to friction and even dissidence. Suitable travel partners are hard to come by - which explains why so many people prefer to travel independently - but to find one is an appreciable asset to hold onto.