There’s no other way to put it. I love my life now and have no intention of giving it up anytime in the foreseeable future, and it will only get better come October. Still, there are certainly some things I wish had done a little differently at some point or another. So, building off of this week’s Weekly Reblog, I’ve also compiled my own list of regrets. Honestly, It was a little more difficult than I would have figured. That said, that aren’t necessarily specific instances.
Not starting earlier.
Back when I was 18, after reading a whole slew of travelogues and buying the backpack I still use today, I was ready to put off college for a little while and try my hand at globetrotting. Unfortunately, this was entirely unrealistic. While I’m sure I could have adapted to it just fine, I had little to no financial resources after working at jobs like Subway for the last 2 years.
Still, there were a few times, particularly after a summer working on Mackinac Island, where I could have taken off into the blue and started an indefinite life abroad. But those never panned out. Different perceived obligations or comfort levels or relationships stopped me from moving on into what my life is now.
Not getting into my Wanderbird crewing experience.
Spring of 2011, after ending one of those relationships, much in part so I could move on, I found myself onboard a ship in the Caribbean called the Wanderbird. This would have been an amazing opportunity for exploration. We’d be spending the next 5 months working up the North Atlantic coast into remote landscape, towns, and eventually into the Arctic Circle.
Unfortunately, it just didn’t click with me. The work and the isolation onboard the boat during the month I was aboard was enough for me to decide to jump ship when we arrived in Massachusetts. After spending years watching freighters running through the Great Lakes and the frigid seclusion of an Upper Peninsula Michigan winter, I was more into the idea of the unbound life on the seas than I was in tune with the reality.
Still, in the process of leaving, I was giving up the chance to see many places that I may not get to see again for a very long time, if ever.
Missing out on things due to lack of time or research.
I don’t make plans and rarely make reservations. I prefer to just arrive somewhere, find out what’s around, and go from there. Often, this is fun just because you get to test your resourcefulness. I rarely know too much about a place unless there is something I came there specifically for. This occasionally means that I’ll miss something and find out about it later, like when I arrived in Surin for the Elephant Round Up festival, I hadn’t studied the schedule close enough and ended up sleeping through one of the main events because I thought it would be in the evening rather than a morning.
Another reason I can often miss out on certain things is because of time constraints. The unfortunate truth is that you simply can’t do everything you want to when travelling, often because of time rather than money. You can prepare all you want to go to a place, do all the research possible, and find that there’s just too much to do in the short time you might have there.
These both seemed to culminate in Penang, Malaysia. I went there as an afterthought following the ruins of Lembah Bujang, only knowing that it was a popular backpacker destination. Upon arriving, I was blown away by the city’s cultural mix and found out there was so much more on the island. Unfortunately, I only had one night to spend there, as I had a schedule to keep moving south. Still disappointed by that.
Spending way too much when I first came to Thailand.
Budget travel is something that took me a long time through trial and error. Of course, I always had the staples of cheap accommodation and food. But, actually honing your spending habits to minimize unnecessary expenditures really takes some work.
I arrived in Thailand in November 2011 with about US$6000. In my first month of unrestrained travel, I spent about $2000. Of course a decent chunk of that was bills back home and money lost by accident or misfortunate online reservations. The rest was my untrained spending habits: new activities, extra meals, and nightlife. A lot of nightlife.
That said, I had a fantastic time in that month and it was a great way to usher in my new life. But, it wasn’t a good way to set myself up for long-term life abroad.
Not putting more effort into learning language.
I’ve been living in Thailand for a year and a half and I’m sorely lacking in any Thai conversational skills. I know a handful of rudimentary phrases; enough to get by when buying things or going places. Granted there was a point in spring of 2012 where I actually made quite an effort; daily language software and vocabulary cards, but that wore off after a couple months. It’s a little saddening.
But, the unfortunate truth is that Thai, and most languages, are quite useless outside of their home country. Unlike many foreigners who come here, I don’t intend on staying in Thailand for the rest of my life. Instead I’ve been focusing on reviewing my Spanish and re-learning Arabic from scratch. Unlike Thai, I’m hoping these, being major world languages, will help me out a lot more when travelling in the future.