136 days, 4 to go until I’m stateside. It’s nearly impossible to comprehend this. I’ve been planning this trip for so long, and the end of it has continued to feel like an abstract point in time I may or may not ever reach. In the past few days the realization that I will indeed be leaving Asia has finally taken hold. And while I’m certainly excited to see family and friends back home I’m also sad to be leaving. It feels as if I’ve been gone for such a short amount of time, how can it be time to go? Of course, I’ll only actually be home for about a month before the big move to Dublin, where Alex and I will be in school. My acceptance to Trinity Dublin’s Masters in Global Health also seems unreal. I’m really excited to go, and to have the opportunity to continue my education in something I’m really passionate about. I finally feel as if I have a clear direction and plan for my future “adult” self. It’s taken three years to figure out my next step, and while it feels right I have to admit, it really scares me. I’ve talked a big game about pushing myself to do things that scare me. Now, to jump on a plane by myself and spend months in a foreign country doesn’t scare me at all. It is exhilarating, and comforting. There’s little else in the world I’d rather be doing. But what really, truly scares me is the idea of routine and structure. I have confidence in my academic ability, but the schedule and structure of academia means commitment. Something I struggle immensely with. “What ifs” flood my mind in the way travel worries used to back when this all started. So I suppose that means I ought to be taking this leap, challenging myself. And yet, it terrifies me. I’ve had moments of panic. While I absolutely can’t wait to dive into a career that I feel has the perfect mixture of what I’m passionate about, and have talent for, I can’t shake the questions from my mind. Specifically, “what else is out there?” I know getting a masters degree isn’t like buying a house, I’m not tying myself to something physical. I’m sure all my anxieties will be assuaged once I take my first class. But it doesn’t help my wanting to hold on to Asia. I don’t want to leave, there is much to explore. I loved it more than I thought I would. Though I tried not to have any preconceived ideas, I was never the less surprised at every turn of this journey. I loved Bangkok, a city I almost wrote off entirely. I didn’t much care for Bali, an Island I had wanted to visit for years. I was enamored with Laos and can’t wait to return some day. The food, cheap and delicious has been a major highlight, just as expected. The people, friendly and welcoming constantly challenged my western skepticism. There is so much here to love, and so much more to discover. I can completely understand why so many travelers return year after year.
And even though I still have a few days my mind keeps wandering to the next trip. You might think that moving to Europe would satisfy my wanderlust. But in fact it intensifies it. I’ll be so much closer to places I’ve wanted to travel to, I want to take the best advantage. More, I don’t view Western Europe as travel, more like an extension of home. Of course, it has many places I really want to explore. But I feel less inclined at the moment, Europe will always be an option. Right now I’m fascinated with other places. High on my travel list is South America, over-landing Africa, more of Asia (Mongolia, China, Tibet), and the Middle East. The one frustrating fact of travel is the realization that I’ll never have enough time to see even a fraction of all the incredible places I want to visit. I spent nearly five months in Asia and feel I’ve barely scratched the surface. But I feel fortunate for the opportunity at all. I recognize my complaints or concerns about not being able to continue to travel endlessly is, relatively insignificant and superficial. I am endlessly grateful for what I have. But it is the nature of travel, once it grips you its very difficult to untether yourself. Not that you’d ever want to. This trip has been immensely rewarding, in ways I hadn’t anticipated, but that’s a future post to come.
It’s going to be hard to say goodbye, Asia has felt more like home than I ever could have anticipated.