To Sundays and Starting Anew

I knew it. I just always knew it.
I always had dreams of doing some sort of humanitarian work, of going to places unknown, and learning about the world in ways that my life in Montreal just couldn't provide me with. I wanted to shake the world and get shaken by it. I longed to dig deep and understand the meaning of it all. If there's none of that, then what's the point, really? The future generation deserves to be raised by people more open-minded than the last.

A night at the Turtle Wildlife Reserve in Costa Rica, 2008. 
In my early 20's, the feelings for these dreams would fester in my gut. Looking back now, I have visions of unwinding at an old bar, not more than a fifteen-minute drive from the house where I grew up. It had two floors, and one back room which used to serve as a concert venue. I actually held a fundraiser for my trip to China back there. My great friends came to support me and some great guys from my youth group performed to help me raise money for my first Asian excursion. I don't think I've been back to that bar since. There was a long, cheap wooden stairwell near the front doors. I used to hop around between the pool tables on the top floor and my cheap SoCo and 7s on the first. My friends were scattered all over the place. We were usually unwinding after a day of work at the bookstore, and a week at school, with the stress of writing papers and taking exams which we couldn't have cared less about once Friday night hit. I spent almost every Friday for two years during my precious University years running, usually aimlessly, around that bar and up and down those stairs.
The DJ was a metalhead, but knew how to entertain the anxious Friday night kids, so he filled our heads and hearts with the rock and roll staples of Bohemian Rhapsody, Sweet Caroline, Sweet Child of Mine,  Sunday Bloody Sunday, with the random Morrissey or Smiths tune thrown in for good measure.

With Steph, a fellow wanderer and partner in crime. She was teaching Marine Biology at the local Uni and I had just spent three blessed days snorkeling and monitoring with marine biologists in the barrier reef.  Belize 2008. 

When I turned 20 I wasn't accomplishing anything I'd wanted for myself, as a sometimes ambitious teenager. 20 passed and then I was 21. The story didn't change and I felt like I was taking giant steps backwards.
For some (maybe cosmic) reason, Sunday Bloody Sunday would start to play whenever I'd be heading down the stairs. I'd typically be walking down alone, on my way to find a friend or another drink. I would always take a moment during that song and think about the bigger picture. I'd think about the world outside the tiny one I'd created for myself, and I knew that one day, I'd be doing something more. I thought of the selfishness in our self-indulgence, when my friends and I were experiencing such great years of our lives, being given the opportunity to pursue education in a rather stable and wealthy country and we spent a lot of our time whining in bars, cars, and coffee shops. I had so many great times and still so many great friends from those times, but in the back of my mind I knew we could all be doing a little better, a little more.
But then I had moments when I knew that the steps backwards would just mean a giant leap forward. I wasn't being lazy, or cowardous, or apathetic. It just wasn't the time yet.
I've taken a ton of leaps in my life so far. I've failed, and a lot of the time I feel like I'm living the life of a young 20-year old, having no stable career or assets, or even an address. (I've been mailing a few things to Canada recently and it's a bit of a struggle with the post-office people, having no return address or phone number in which to reach me).

During my first trip to China I learned about the liberating comfort in being somewhere completely unknown. Beijing 2009.
I'm a little disgruntled over the birthday coming up in a few weeks. A lot of people I meet on the road are a little shocked when I tell them I'm the big 3-0, and they usually ask because my travel bio I guess seems a little extensive. My favorite so far was on a Saturday night on Peel St. in Hong Kong (it's not exactly like the one in Montreal, but not totally unlike it. That's the beauty of Hong Kong). I was hanging out with people from all over the place. One girl in our circle was English and living in Beijing, like I was at the time. We were both in town for the inevitable visa-run. We were sharing our stories and when they asked my age and I answered (truthfully!) the dude from Vancouver standing next to me, who was on a random journey himself, took a long pause before nodding his head and said, "Respect". Then we clinked our cheap 7Eleven beer cans and walked off to continue our night.

Jean and Jen have lots of adventures. Seoul, Korea 2011. 

Then there's a few great 30-somethings I meet who know we're in the same decade. We can sense these things. And we all care about family, in whatever form that may take. We all want to love. Lots of us want kids someday. There's just a whole lot of world to see. And I hope that all of the valuable lessons I've learned on the road will help me be a better wife and mother. Just like the father of the orphanage, a pastor and ambitious Akha man, told me at dinner tonight, "I hope one day you can bring your family here." As I spent the day playing with their babies, him and his family could sense something in me. He also said, "some people just have a different definition of what it means to be 'home'".

Helping baby turtles to sea.  Malaysia 2012

I have to say that I had a moment today (for some reason Sunday Bloody Sunday popped into my head) where I knew that if the anxious and bored 21 year-old me; black t-shirt, thick eyeliner, thick belt wearing me, saw this nearly 31 year-old wanderer, she'd be proud.

House Bethesda Orphanage, Chiang Rai, Thailand, 2014.

Stay true to what you feel inside, and reflect on how those feelings can work to make this world a better  place. It's Christmastime, after all. Even if there's no snow on the ground where you step, even if you don't worship the same Spirit as others, this is always a time for people to share. So go out there, and share it with others!