Friday, November 18, 2011

The Last One

It's a little anti-climatic to be writing from home. I've been busy with work and even when I was off Whistler has a sneaky way of keeping me distracted and outside away from my computer. Even though the blog has been put on the back burner for the last couple months, it's always been there in the back of my mind, nagging at me. I can't leave the story half finished! Now that winter is creeping in and the hours of daylight are dwindling I'm running out of excuses. If I'm going to finish this thing I better get a move on! So here it is, the last post, finally. . .

Beautiful Whistler has a way of distracting me, I took this near my house on November 15
I'd been putting it off, trying not to think about it since Peru. The dreaded budget. I knew I'd been spending a bit more than expected, but I'd saved enough to have a little bit of leeway. Here's a tip: always budget more than you think you will need. Things will cost more than you think they will. The prices in your guide book have inflated since the time of printing, believe me, and something will always go wrong that will cost you money. I knew all this before I left. I am intuitively good with money - how else could I budget such a trip? But now, as I stared at my banking information online I was cringing. My account balance was bleak and my credit debts high. Things were not looking good.

A mild episode of depression ensued. I couldn't afford to do much of anything, and as a result, I began to lose my way. Things were all blurring together, everywhere was starting to look the same. The absurd had begun to seem normal, the amazing was average, and everywhere I was could be compared to somewhere else better I'd already been. It's no way to travel, my normally astute observation of my surroundings was turning into indifference. Most of all, I was disappointed in myself for getting so absorbed by my own negativity.

I'm not going to lie to you, many of my last days spent in Central America were about passing the time and spending as little money as possible. There were towns I spent days in that I can barely recall except for the dingy cafe where I would sit and sip delicious Central American coffee con leche and leave my nose buried in a book. Finally my type-A travel personality was growing weary. I was weary.

Electrical Storm of Monumental Proportions
On top if it all, things kept going wrong. I lost my cell phone in Honduras, I was almost mugged in Nicaragua, and was stuck in an electrical storm of monumental proportions while kayaking that left our group stranded and needing to be rescued. Strangely, these are the memories of my last days on the road that I now look back on and smile.

I don't want to bash Central America - people can definitely have fun and rewarding travel experiences there! The scuba diving was amazing, the small Caribbean islands were awesome, and there were some really sweet things to see and do. If you like surfing it will help, I would say it is one of the major draws there. I don't surf. If you have some change in your pocket it will be a lot better. I had none. I feel it is very comparable to South East Asia in terms of climate and landscape, where they differ is in culture. I personally liked the Buddhist culture of South East Asia better and I was at a point in my travels where my patience was dwindling and the Spanish language was starting to piss me off. But it remains a personal choice, and I'm sure there are many that will disagree with me. Who knows, if I was in Central America in a different time and mindset, maybe I would disagree with myself.

For those of you reading my story I just want you to know that you don't need to be special to undertake a trip like this. You also don't need to be overly bold, or brave, or outgoing. I am none of these things - if anything I'm quiet and subdued. What I am is restless. When I left home for the first time for a work placement in northern BC I was terrified. I thought everything would change while I was gone, that my friends would forget me, that I would regret leaving. What pushed me ahead was the fact that, as long as I can remember, I've wanted something bigger. What this big thing is I'm searching for exactly, I still don't know, but it doesn't stop me from looking. What I learned that summer was no one forgot me. . .when I returned things were much the same. I didn't regret leaving, in fact I was glad I went! Over the years since then I've put that restless energy into many different things but none of them have satisfied me. So, I think what you do need to undertake a journey such as this is a sense of restlessness. A need to search for something bigger, a pleasure in the unfamiliar, a hunger to lay your eyes on things that you couldn't ever imagine. Plus, I think you'll find the world is not so scary once you're out in it. People are born good and most of them stay that way. There is no where I have been where I haven't had to trust strangers, to put my faith in the unknown, to follow blindly. I put myself in the the hands of people far more disadvantaged than I am. Helpless and out of my element, they could have taken whatever they wanted from me, but guess what? They didn't. Of course I was scared sometimes, but I've learned to trust my instinct, and I can tell you it never let me down. You'll be surprised in the generosity and kindness of people all over the world.

As for what you will have to give up, it will be a lot. You are saying goodbye for your life for a while, sacrificing the safety of stability in favour of the unknown. You will miss the ones you love, and some days you will want a familiar person so bad you will want to pack your bags and run for home. It's often cold and lonely when you are alone in a culture and place you don't understand. But then again, the ones who matter will be waiting, and in the mean time new friends often offer you some of their warmth.

Crazy, Hectic India
Here's a little secret: the world is not a mysterious and unknown place beyond our shores. And please don't expect it to be. The Internet has forever ruined the mystery of travel and the modern globe is wrought with ingenuine experiences, over commercialization, and other travelers are EVERYWHERE. Despite this, travel can also be monumentally rewarding, educational, and eye opening. Just don't expect to be "the first" to be somewhere, this is not the world we live in, and in all honesty, you may think this is what you want, but you may find yourself somewhere so foreign and disorienting, you'll be seeking out and clinging to anyone and anything that is more like home. I wasn't new to international travel, I'd been all over other parts of Asia, and this still happened to me in India. It will fade, but you have to force yourself against your flight instinct to get out there, and it's not always easy. I find having a friend with you cuts the effect of culture shock in half. I never really realized this until I was alone in the unknown.

Travel is an escape from your everyday reality. We all need this from time to time, but I think people that always need to be on the move are running from something. I'm no different. I wanted to put the inevitability of being a grown-up off, just a little bit longer. I was tired choices I didn't know how to make. I didn't want to waste my life, rotting away at work and getting lost in the bubble of my daily routine. This is easy in Whistler, where we often forget there is, in fact, a real and flawed world out there. Most of all, I was running from the fact that I'd graduated university and hit a dead end, not sure where I wanted to go next and with no real opportunities in my field presenting them self. I wanted to open my eyes and mind and find a new direction. Now that my trip is at an end and reality has crept in, I'm ok with it. I'm done running. I'm exhausted from it actually.

I thought this journey would help me to discover myself, realize what I wanted, help me plan my next move. But I'm back and things are much like they were before I left, the whole experience feels like little more than a vivid dream now that the reality of daily life surrounds me again. Have I changed at all? Sorry if I disappoint, but not really. What I've seen and done is like a little secret I keep to myself. I find it extremely hard to explain to anyone what it was like, how to share the totality of my experiences with an explanation of events or a story. I haven't even fully digested how or if this trip has changed me, but I still feel like the same person now that I'm back here. I just know more about the world and the people in it than I did before. Maybe this makes me wiser, but I don't know. I definitely feel more aware of my strengths and shortcomings, they are glaringly obvious when you are picking your way through cultures you don't understand. As for my next move, what I want. . . .Who knows. If I've discovered anything it's that I'm fundamentally indecisive. I feel like I've been taught to go for something concrete and tangible, like a science career, and when it comes to doing something abstract, like writing, with no clear way to acheive success, I have next to no confidence in the matter. Now that my science degree is beginning to feel like a useless and overpriced piece of paper, I really don't know. Maybe I should have gone with what I've always been told I'm good at. It's just getting started, I have no clue where to begin. . .

Hiking near Whistler
And now I'm back in the land of pointed trees, clear, clean waters, and crisp mountain air. I get to live in a place where, once you get past the overbearing commercialism of a resort town, you can practically hear the magic whispering to you as you walk the streets. It's a little niche that is sheltered from poverty, starvation, and despair, where everything is beautiful and fun is foremost on everyone's mind. It's a place where residents are more likely to get on their bike and ride somewhere than get in their car. It's where we wish for snow rather than riches, embrace a sunny summer day more than materialism, and will put the future on hold to just live in the moment. I love living in a place where it's socially acceptable for boys to have shoulder length hair, where it's the norm for girls to wear skate shoes to their night out, and you won't get laughed at for wearing a toque in July. People from around the world are drawn here, and it's not by mistake. I'm extremely lucky I get to live in Whistler, there isn't a day that goes by that I'm not thankful. But even living in this magical place hasn't cured my restlessness. Travelling the world hasn't cured my restlessness. I'm still looking, searching, waiting for that something big. Stay tuned for my next move!



  1. Beautifully written! I had shivers reading that.... well done Jordan!

    I can't wait to catch up with you next week! Carrie

  2. You are an absolutely beautiful and thought-provoking writer Jordan. Thank you for sharing a small part of your adventures with the blogosphere. I enjoyed every single post you wrote. -Karyn