December 17, 2014

Day 435 – Give thanks

It´s that time of the year, nearly Christmas and whether we celebrate it or not, we are surrounded by the festive spirit.  Celebrating Christmas in the heat, in summer, with no snow, doesn´t seem right but I´m not complaining.  Christmas on the beach with no Christmas tree is different and refreshing. I do miss the busy streets of London, especially this time of year, as the streets are flooded with people, Christmas lights on every corner and shops open until late. I miss my friends and family even more but wherever we maybe, I´m sure we are going to have ourselves a merry little Christmas.

Whilst I have been grateful for many things throughout this year, before this year ends, I want to give thanks, love and appreciation to all the amazing people I have been fortunate enough to meet this pass year. To people whom I may never meet again and to all my friends and family back at home, who do what they can for me.

Given that I had not planned to travel for a year, I only packed so many supplies and have been re-stocking as I go along. Now, this is all fair and well but the one thing you can´t re-stock or replace whilst travelling is your visa debit card. I left London with two bank cards, one of which had already expired in March this year and the other was due to expire September this year. Now, I was adamant that I would be back long before then so I didn´t worry.  Trouble was, I didn´t come back, so there I was in Sao Paulo trying to work out how I would be able to continue travelling with no visa debit card.  I had some great ideas, withdraw all my money and carry it around – sure great plan provided I don´t get robbed.  Second idea was to get a money card, so I could essentially transfer my money onto this card but for this I had to be Brazilian – shoot!  Then I worked out my flat mate could bring it with her provided I met her in Brazil well that seemed grand.  In the end, what happened? My parents posted my bank card along with more medication and they would have posted me a lot more had I asked.  Without this parcel arriving in Encarnacion, I would be long gone. So, with all the ups and downs I have had with my parents, I love them and appreciate this early birthday present more than anything.

Along with my parents, I message and speak to my sister, Seema on a pretty regular basis. For all the rainy days in Rio, to early morning treks, climbing mountains, volunteering, getting lost, feeling frustrated and feeling lost.   I have shared as much of this trip as I can with her over emails, messages and calls but of course it is never enough and words fail to illustrate just how amazing a moment truly is. Again, we have had our highs and lows as many siblings do and on days we both want to pull our hair out.  We have had periods where we are so angry that we have no communication and this is sad and annoying.  I stopped talking to her, this one time, and it took me getting sick, getting very sick before I called her and thankfully she picked up.  She gave me some advice and I was better in a week and whilst I was in some pain, had I not got sick; I know I wouldn´t have called her.  “No matter what”, she said, “I´m not going to stop talking to you whilst you´re travelling, maybe if you do something really stupid but even then”.  We are very different, Seema and I, we have very different lifestyles and expectations but despite it all, she was there for me and I´m thankful.

Before I left London, last year, I had an army of friends cheering me on and reassuring me that I was going to be just fine. A lot these friends were workmates or ex-workmates, who have travelled and explored many parts of the world, some solo others with friends. My Vietnamese friend, Thien was more excited than me when I told her that I was going to volunteer in Vietnam, she had a list of places I had to see, food I had to try and she introduced me to friends she has in Saigon. She explained that showers do not have curtains like we do in the West and cockroaches fly.  She´s the one friend with whom I share my highs and lows and everything in-between. I emailed her about my bank card expiring and she offered to transfer money through Western Union. I did something stupid and rather than freak out, she made me laugh with her email.  She hate’s being complimented on how amazing she is and sure I could stop but I can´t because she truly is one of the kind, warm, caring, funny, encouraging friend and there is nothing I would change about her. She is an inspiration to me and I hope one day I can do half as much for her.

I´ve had days I feel home-sick, confused and blue.  I am indecisive which never helps and there times which all I can see are clouds, there is no light. I get so caught up in whether I should continue living my life for me or whether it was time to head home and be who my parents want me to be.  To try and meet there expectations and do something that they would approve of.  We only get one life, one shot to do everything we want and more and I don´t want to have regrets when I hit 60 so my friends, quite rightly encourage me to do what´s right for me. My ex-workmate, Aurelia , quite rightly pointed out that my parents are never going to change and I should be living my life for me, meeting my needs.  We get so caught up trying to meet everyone else´s needs that we leave ourselves behind. She encouraged me to stay and continue travelling for as long as I want and to make the most of it.  She along with many other friends, miss me but I was reassured that they will be there when I came back.  Doing what´s right and good for us, how often do we do this?

My journey and blog posts have inspired others back home.  I have friends tell me that they can relate to what happened or how I feel.  I have had many friends say they are proud of me and happy for me. My openness and honesty has led some of my friends to also share how they feel.  My ex-workmate, Klaudia, shared her thoughts and joked she would never do what I do.  Now, I think it is possible for anyone to do what I am doing, truly because I don´t see it as a big deal, yes it can be difficult, lonely and at times crazy but with an ounce of courage and a pint of determination you are good to go. Klaudia and I are trying to reach this place where we are guilt-free, we live our life knowing what we are doing is not wrong just because someone else does not approve.  After speaking to her, I wish more than anything that I could come back to London, see her and my other friends and share everything I have experienced.

I am surrounded my supportive friends that live outside of London. I was lucky enough to meet Maya last year, in Serbia through two other friends, Irena and Jelena. She is as crazy as me and we talk about everything.  She is one of those friends that just gets you and is there for you. I don´t have friends that have known me my whole life or ones which stayed in touch after high school but does that matter? Not to me. I spent a week in Serbia with these guys and I have yet to go back. I know we will meet again someday but until then emails, messages and calls are more than suffice.  Where else? The Netherlands I have a handful of friends. I met Orisis last year through the change and we have stayed in touch ever since. All the messages and calls help immensely whilst travelling.

So these are all the friends and family back at home but I also have a circle of friends here thankfully. I was lucky enough to meet Sofi through another friend and I knew from the moment I saw her that she was crazy and I love that about her. She is ball of joy, spreading laughter and positive energy.  I have questioned on days, where she gets it from because she never gets tired of talking or drinking or dancing.  This endless energy is showered onto her friends and you can´t help but feel happy.  Her cousin, Paulo, (aka Coco) initially comes across as quieter and more serious. But peel back the layers and she too is crazy, there is more to her then meets the eye and she is unpredictable which again I love.  They both have traits from friends back at home which makes me smile.  I believe I attract certain kinds of people, for now I seem to attract happy, crazy, kind people which works just great for me.

Other than friends and family, what am I thankful for?  Travelling from South East Asia to South America.  To be on the road, to have experienced Christmas in Cambodia last year and in Paraguay this year. For all the world wonder´s I was fortunate enough to see, all the mountains I climbed, the endless sunrises and sunsets, going inside a volcano and coming out alive, finding nemo, trekking through beautiful national parks, all of the endless crazy nights out, the drinking and dancing, hang-gliding, sky-diving, zip-lining, getting two more tattoos and sharing my journey with some amazing, heart-warming, unforgettable people.

I have enjoyed volunteering the most throughout my trip be it in South East Asia or in South America.  Each time I have met and made some great friends, I have worked with adorable children who make you appreciate everything you have and more and I have seen the difference I can make to the lives of others.  I was fortunate enough to have some great teachers and inspiring lecturers so ultimately that is what I wish to be, an inspiration in the lives of others. I want to encourage others to chase their dreams, as I was by my friends. I will happily spend the rest of my life helping others, supporting them and empowering them to make choices. That is my calling in life, my purpose, it is the one I know how to do and each time I help someone else, I help myself because I feel good.

My new year´s resolution is to do one act of random kindness every day for the next year for the next 30 years so that would be 10,950 acts of kindness.  Wouldn´t it be amazing if we all did one act every day? My goal is to do something each day, maybe I manage two or three acts but I hope I can manage at least one.  “I don’t engage in acts of kindness to be rewarded later, I engage in acts of kindness because it makes me feel good to give”.

Sending all my friends and family nothing but love, kindness and peace. I wish I was there to hug you and have a cup of chai but until then hugs throughout email! Wherever you are or whoever you spend the holidays with, I hope you are nothing but happy! Much love to you all, always.