In making this trip happen, there is a lot of explanations to be given to family and friends, and even to many people I meet, as if I need to justify why I am doing this...there was a lot of pressure on me before leaving I assure you that. Leaving loved ones behind for a while is not an easy task either. Nor is leaving the amazing people you meet on the road.. Sure, many of you may think, "how does he afford this trip?" While most go out shopping on weekends, I was saving. While many (as I was advised) were solely studying full-time, I was working two and at times, three part-time jobs. What do you spend your Holiday money on? I DIDN'T SPEND IT.
Now, I cannot blame most of you following my blog for initially thinking that I am flat out nuts. I can only hope that you see things a little bit differently than the norm by reading my blog. Taking a trip like this is not what most USA graduates do, and why is that? Working hard in school and securing that perfect job is what our culture is all about! Work hard, earn that money, save, save, save! As you may have heard from me before though, "this is ONE way, not the ONLY way."
Let's talk about the reason I call this an "Out-of-the-Classroom Learning Experience." All children must attend school to learn! Then, they must go to University! Okay, great and I feel very lucky to have had such a fantastic education! BUT, here comes the heavy hitter! How much of what you learn in the classroom do you FORGET? You are sitting here reading this, saying "A LOT", I KNOW you are because it's the truth. I have remembered knowledge that is particularly useful, practical and/or strange. Some of my finest and most passionate professors' words have also taught some facts that have been retained in my brain. Now here's another tough question you need to answer, "How much of what you learn in school is PRACTICAL knowledge, that you can actually use?" For me, the answer in many classes was only a little bit. Don't get me wrong, learning the Spanish language and some great business skills HAVE certainly been practical knowledge. I can tell you that I learned more in my 3 months in India about myself and about the big bad world than i did in ANY one semester at university. With that being said, I think ALL students should have the opportunity to study abroad, but I think parents should fund a new type of education. Parents, send your kids to a foreign country to live for a little bit. Help them to understand the world from another perspective and to see that this world is not all the same. If I could only afford one or the other: sending my child to university, or sending him/her on a world trip, you would find my child on some other continent. WHY? Because it is a much more powerful learning experience in my opinion. You are FORCED to learn, when someone does not understand you, YOU CANNOT ASK THE TEACHER TO REPEAT THE QUESTION. YOU EITHER FIGURE OUT A WAY TO COMMUNICATE OR YOU LEAVE WITHOUT WHAT YOU WANT. It's a tough world out there folks, go hard or go home ;)
I read a book called "The Four Hour Work Week" by Timothy Ferriss, and while I find some of his views quite radical and some of what he says not as easy as he makes it out to be, I DO connect quite well with and agree with many of his ideas! One is the idea of taking a "mini-retirement" to see if you actually would enjoy it. Many elderly people retire and then find themselves with nothing to do (Which is why it is important to have hobbies) or they find themselves overwhelmed by their spouses' company because for years, they only spent time together on evenings and weekends and now it seems much more like a 24/7 affair.
In regards to a career, it's a nice thing but not for everyone. I have met many people who work a little bit and then travel, and then work then travel, continuing the cycle of doing interesting, different or even odd jobs to fund their travels. I have also met people who have residual income flowing in from a business, allowing them to travel (which could be from a job an thus a career... :) ) The point here is that doing different jobs in one's lifetime seems more exhilarating than negative, as I often feel interviewers feel, seeing the lack of continuity in one thing as a lack of discipline or focus.
We should see ourselves as lucky being US Citizens because we can relatively easily attain any visa we want. Although we make it a pain for other countries and they thus do it to us, with most visas having a separate US Citizen category requesting us to pay a lot more money than the rest of the applicants from other countries. Most of Europe also has this advantage as visas do not seem to difficult to attain. For the Chinese however, or Thais it is much more problematic due to their exchange rates and their governments making it a lot harder for them to receive visas.
Side note: I visited Bangkok's Weekend Market, and it was ENORMOUS, and SUPER HOT that day!! You could buy just about anything you wanted though, with numbered lanes where items from hats and shoes to chicken and milkshakes were being sold! As you walk through the market, you are greeted by smiles. Why? Because THIS IS THE LAND OF SMILES! The smile is a good signifier of Thailand's overall happy and non-confrontational culture; you will get a lot farther here with a smile rather than a loud voice :) Also, I feel that during many of my attempted conversations with the Thais, the smile most often is code for the following thought: "I'm so sorry but I don't understand a word that is coming out of your mouth, sir".
Thai habits: Women wear a LOT of makeup; they tend to do this black line above their eyes, and at the edge opposite the nose, they flair it up diagonally towards their ears - looks very exotic. Thais also seem to be fans of tattoos, sometimes sporting multiple visible ones! They also don't like to sit on the side of the bus where the sun is shining through, so if they are on the wrong side and there are seats, expect them to move! I also find it interesting how they pronounce the English letter "r" as an "l", so "Khao San Road" is actually pronounced, "Khao San Load". My personal favorite is the word "farang" which means "foreigner" (I think Western Foreigner) and so that one comes out as "Falang". I have begun pronouncing these words like this, as it is how the natural language sounds! Another favorite of mine is the way that "because" comes out sounding like "becaud" ...super cute, just what happens when the Thais translate the way their mouths have been trained into an English setting :) The many tones of the Thai language also make it an interesting sound to the ears! Seemingly long and drawn out and strange sounding words (as per my perspective), but I am trying to learn more Thai as I continue on here!
Lastly, for those dying to actually SEE the mayhem and madness I've been causing for the past 7.5 months, you are most welcome to sign on to facebook and check your newsfeed as I have finally began polluting it with my China pictures. Next will come India, Thailand and Singapore and I will be all caught up! Hopefully today!!