Tag Archives: growth

The One Thing Travel Doesn’t Change

If you know me well, you know I’ve had my fair share of travels. I’ve been to places near and far, places similar and comfortable, and places wildly different with not much the same at all.

I’ve been gone for simple weekend trips. And I’ve gone for 14 months. I’ve eaten the best food of my life and some food I hope to never taste again. I’ve seen sites, met people, and learned histories that I didn’t know existed until they were right in front of me.

I’ve watched sunsets and sunrises in places that I can’t speak the language. I’ve packed and unpacked countless backpacks, suitcases, and purses–some with perfection and some without an absolute clue. I’ve sweat my ass off in hot and humid climates. And I’ve frozen in crisp, rain-soaked winds. I’ve walked under waterfalls, through archways, and into caves. I’ve sat in cafes, looked at art, and listened to local music. There have been countless tours and miles walked.

There have been nights filled with laughter surrounded by amazing people and there have been nights filled with tears missing amazing people.

It’s dramatic and cliche, but also thoroughly true, that travel does indeed change you.

It’s challenging to visit a new city and not see something about it worth appreciating. Have I loved every single place I’ve visited? No. Have I respected and admired at least one thing about every place I’ve visited? Yes.

Your eyes are opened to new architecture, foods, wildlife, and customs that each place holds within its borders. You hear local languages that you can’t understand, but that can be stunningly beautiful. You visit historical sites that you can’t imagine a world without. You find the ability to compare and contrast this new place to your home base and your eyes are opened. You see things you like and things you don’t.

There may be animals that scare you (huntsman spiders in Australia,) smells that disgust you (sewage in Thailand,) and noise that bothers you (traffic in Vietnam.) But there may also be gorgeous structures like nothing you’ve ever seen (Angkor Wat,) tastes that you wish would never go away (real Italian cuisine,) and stars brighter than you’ve ever imagined (game reserves in South Africa.)

You are also introduced to different ways of life. You see the effect of different political systems, social policies, and societal norms. And it makes you stop and think. Should we be doing that? Is it okay to question something I’ve always known? Should I take a leap and try something new?

It can also make you feel fortunate for the life that you know so well. Your eyes may be opened to a different, less-comfortable standard of living. You learn to appreciate things that you didn’t even realize you should be appreciative of. It teaches your heart to be compassionate, understanding, and gentle.

While places themselves can surely cause the ripple of change growing inside of you, I’ve found that it’s the people you meet along the way that send the wave into motion.

Traveling introduces you to like and unlike-minded people. You’ll meet best friends and you’ll encounter people you never hope to see again. And while each one plays a very different role in the passing days, they still play a role.

You encounter people with incredible stories–some who have endured hardships that you can’t imagine, some who have accomplished great things already, and some that are stunningly similar to yourself.

Everyone comes with their baggage–literally and figuratively–and some how you all manage to unpack together. Some of these people may convince you to leave behind that old sweater (bad job, failed relationship, or mistake,) that you’ve been clinging on to. And some may remind you the value of the simple shirt (blessings, relationships, and accomplishments,) that you’ve worn for years.

Because you are all on a journey, you manage to bring things out in one another that you’ve forgotten about. You’re encouraged to tell the story about where you’ve come from and what’s brought you here. You also have the ability to create new narratives with these people, creating stories for those waiting for you at home.

You’ll meet strangers who are curious and compassionate. You’ll laugh with people of different tongues over language barriers. You’ll ride planes, trains, and automobiles with a million people going to one place for a thousand different reasons. Interactions may be small, but it doesn’t mean they’re insignificant.

Travel allows you the opportunity to step back and question your norms, appreciate your values, and reflect on the good and bad because of the people your path intersects with.

Travel changes you in uncountable ways. Plain and simple.

I am not the same person I was when I boarded my first international flight. I can’t undo the miles and memories formed around the world. I can’t unsee the landscapes and structures different from my own life. I can’t stop comparing what is and what could be based on the places I’ve visited. And it would be impossible to forget the faces and laughs of those who have made my travels so wonderful.

There is, however, one thing that all of the countries in the world couldn’t change.

Home.

Regardless of distance and time traveled, nothing can change the place and people that raised you. While the exteriors may look different with each return, the memories and lessons learned run deep inside each of us.

Some people may resent that, but I don’t. And no one should. Every piece of your journey has led you to where you are today—whether it’s been on a plane trip across the world or simply a stroll down the street.

I’ll never forget knowledge learned, places seen, and the beautiful friends met on my travels. But I’ll also never forget to keep coming home.

And for all of that, I’m forever fortunate.

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The Trouble with Time

Time has this funny way of inching by at the speed of light. It’s ironic, really. One second you’re longing for the never-ending week to reach Friday and the next you’re realizing that an entire 6 months have passed.

My time abroad has been no exception to this oxymoron.

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September, tearful goodbyes, boarding the plane alone, and arriving to the hustle and bustle of Bangkok wasn’t that long ago. In one sense it seems like it was only last week that I was working on my TESOL certification with 100 friends from across the world. Getting a grasp on lesson plans and learning more about my new found friends was only yesterday.

And yet at the same time I feel like I’ve been gone forever. My routine and familiarities at home aren’t at the forefront of my mind anymore. I’m no longer walking to the driver’s seat instead of the passenger’s. I’m not overwhelmed when I’m surrounded by conversations I can’t understand. And I’m no stranger to the many differences between eastern and western culture. (Time is so crazy that since writing this post, I’ve already managed to settle into my new routine in Australia.)

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This isn’t to say that I fully adjusted to life in Southeast Asia–I’m far, far from that still. I certainly haven’t adjusted to the crazy heat of winters or the rice diet. And I never go a day without missing my people at home.

Instead, what I’m trying to articulate is that as daunting as a year sounds, it’s really only a year. And it’s stunning how quickly it can slip by without you realizing.

Some days I can’t wait for my head to hit the pillow and other days I’m afraid that when I go to sleep I’ll wake up and be 80 years old.

Time is an extremely, sometimes frustrating and agonizing, beautiful and meaningful gift when you consider the memories, experiences, and friendships that can be made during our short and long time here on earth.

Whether it’s just one more day or another 100 years, we should embrace our time. Don’t sit at a job you don’t like. Don’t spend time with people who don’t make you a better person. Don’t feel bad for not following someone else’s plan. Your time and their time are two very different things.

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Most importantly: don’t let the time you think you have get away from you, because we never truly know when the clock will run out.

I like to think that I’ve got a lot left, but if tomorrow I do wake up as an 80 year old woman, I know I’ll be able to look back and smile. And for that–ironies, challenges, the good, the bad, the ugly–I’m grateful.

The Key to New Joys

Week one of teaching is officially in the books. How crazy? I swear I was boarding that early AM flight just a few days ago.

What a wonderful week it’s been! The kids are so fun, the Thai teachers are welcoming, and I definitely get my 10k Fitbit steps everyday running from class to class.

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(Teaching day one!)

I have 32 different classes with a range of proficiencies. For the most part, it’s been smooth sailing. I’ve been having a blast making the kids laugh with my singing of Justin Bieber songs. And I love seeing their wheels in motion as I watch vocabulary and conversation click. It’s such a good feeling. Sure, I have to repeat myself a million times and it’s extremely challenging to talk over a 45 student class, but I really am loving it!

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(Ellie, Lisa, and myself at Railay)

I am beyond thankful to have my friends, Lisa and Ellie, in my school. We have quite a bit of fun laughing about our confusion and the communication barrier together. It’s made the transition so much easier and more enjoyable. Having people to share my meals, enjoy a good laugh, and walk to 7/11 for snack with is more than I could have ever hoped for on this crazy adventure. It’s the little things, I tell ya.

Because we’re the only foreigners in our small town, it’s all eyes on us all the time. The students are always saying hello, waving, and waiing (a bow of respect.) While this place is so different than the US and Minnesota, it’s comforting to see smiles and hear sa wat dee’s (hellos) from almost everyone we pass. The people here are so unbelievably friendly, it’s amazing.

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(Railay Beach)

I spent this last weekend in Ao Nang,  a cute beach town and a tourist hot spot. It was a blast. We met new people from around the world, saw beautiful sights, and got our fix of western food (I love you, pizza.) It was an all-around fantastic weekend. Lisa, Ellie, and I all agreed that it exceeded our expectations by far. But Sunday came and it was time to get home.

Home.

Home for me is 8,554 miles away. Home is a little, stucco house with round garage doors. Home for me is the family and friends that I talk to and miss everyday I’m away.

But now home is also my little hotel room at the PN Mansion (just a hotel, not an actual mansion–don’t worry) in Ao Luek, Thailand. Home is my fellow teachers turned friends. Home is Ao Luek Prachasan School.

It’s only been a little over a week since the farang (foreigners) moved to town, but I’m already feeling fairly settled. And it’s such a good feeling to have.

I still can’t understand a word people say around me, read most menus, or get used to the constant heat, but I’m establishing a routine, finding my favorite spots, and truly unpacking my (growing) piles of belongings.

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(Exploring our neighboring Thanbok Khoranee National Park)

Before I left, my beautiful friends gave me 56 letters to read throughout my time here. Special days, sad days, when I need a hug but can’t get one. You name it, there’s a letter for it–seriously, everything. They even got my family in on it. I’ve been slow to opening these letters because I’m trying to hold out for when I really need them most.

Sunday, however, seemed like a good time for one. “Open When You Move to Your New ‘Home.'”

The card reads, “May the key that opens your front door be more than that to you… may it be the key to brand new joys.”

Thailand has been exactly that “key.”

I’m missing everyone, fall, cheese, my bed… I won’t bore you with the rest. But I know this is where I’m supposed to be right now. XploreAsia has this saying, “you might not get what you want, but you’ll get what you need.”

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(My first sunset in the new apartment)

And it’s too true. No situation is perfect, but it, in some way, will enhance your life (or at least give you a good story.) At the end of the day, we are better people for the lessons we’ve learned, regardless of whether or not it was what you were hoping for.

I’m finding what I need here: Clarity, challenge, excitement, beauty, knowledge.

Let the journey continue.

XOXO

For more consistent updates and pictures follow me on Instagram! mts25

My, Myself, and Thai

If you know me at all, it comes at no surprise that I find myself packing my bags and printing boarding passes.

The past year has been an interesting one. Graduating college. Moving home. Starting full-time. And feeling completely passion-less.

My busy, exciting, and social college life was gone, and I found myself horribly comfortable. It seems like an odd way to describe comfort. And it is. I am never one to deny comfort. Comfy clothes, evenings on the couch, sleeping in; I love it all. But to say that my entire life was comfortable, and not seeing an end to that, was terrifying.

I knew it was time for a change: a new job, a new place, a new passion, a new path. Anything. Everything.

img_1730Here’s what I’ve realized in the past year and half since graduation, something they don’t tell you when they hand you your diploma: There is no set path that you have to take with your life. There is no need to compare yourself to your classmates, peers, or coworkers. There is no one else you have to answer to besides yourself and God.

I was doing what I thought I should be doing for a 23 year old, but I wasn’t doing any of it for myself. I got comfortable and bored and completely scared to make a move.

So here I am, once again, packing my bags and printing my boarding passes. But this time is different. I’m not doing it because everyone else is or because it’s the next logical step on a timeline. I’m going to make a difference. To learn. To experience something new. To cross things off the bucket list. To figure out the future, my future. And to figure out myself.

We think we have forever to take chance, but the truth is that we only have today. So why sit and be comfortable when you can be scared, excited, happy, sad, confused, amazed, and hopeful? It’s time to stop comparing and time to start growing.

Here’s to new adventures and working on me, myself, and Thai (lots and lots of Thai.)