Three months ago I returned home to California. For 14 months I had been in Australia — the longest time and farthest distance I had been away from everything and everyone close to my heart.
Yesterday, via text message, my Mom asked me about my future plans: “What exactly are your plans, anyway?”
“Well i am thinking i’ll go abroad towards the end of the year,” I wrote.
“Why do you want to go abroad again?”
I’ve been asked this question so many times and not just by my mom. Other family members, friends and even acquaintances have wondered the same thing. The feeling is hard to explain, but if I had to describe it in dramatic terms I would say that I fear being at the end of my life and looking back with regret because I didn’t live in a way which made me feel truly satisfied — that I didn’t live life according to my own terms.
And yet, when my mom confronted me, I felt insecure about my dreams as though they weren’t good enough for her. I replied, “There’s not much going on here. Why not?”
A while later (she was probably stewing) she wrote: “Don’t you think you should acquire a skill set that will be applicable to a career goal? If you’re going to travel, go someplace where you can learn a language that would be useful in America. Duh, like Spanish. Hey, there’s a novel idea: Travel to Spain after you’ve enrolled in an intensive program in Barcelona.”
I met one of my Mom’s cousin’s for the first time a couple months ago in Orange County. I asked him about her and he said his strongest impression was that she was very articulate and intimated that she had a tongue like a sword. Agreed. And yet, my Mom had every right to be upset. I did just come back, and I’ve been living in Los Angeles. Meaning: I’ve only seen her for 2 or 3 days in almost a year and a half; far and away the longest amount of time we’ve gone seeing each so little. I missed her, too.
I replied that it was a good idea and I would take a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course. We’ve talked about this extensively. She knows I’m planning to teach abroad and that there is a need for EFL teachers worldwide.
That reminder must have set well because her next text lost the bitchy tone: “I think if you have to keep traveling, then it is best to also keep adding to your skill base. When you finally decide where you want to be and what you want to do, you will be more prepared.”
Of course, she’s right. Both of her texts reinforced my own thoughts. I’ve been thinking a lot about my next adventure abroad. I need to have a purpose. If I’m going to honestly look back on my time in Australia I would say this: it was a bit of a hot mess and certainly harder than it had to be. It was my first major world traveling experience, I was alone and I was grossly unprepared for that reality. My inner life was a perfectly disastrous cocktail of hubris and naivety. I left for Aus without a plan; I didn’t even take a travel book!! I had nothing to keep me grounded: no school to attend, no work to start, no central question to ask myself, no goal to obtain, no fucking travel book!! I was foolishly determined to let the wind guide me. And in a real-life moment of irony, the weather was stormy on my first day in Australia and fierce winds blew from every direction.
For me, traveling abroad without a plan (or a clue) came with a steep learning curve; however, once I figured it out a bit more and made some quality friends, the time I spent abroad opened up a new place in my being. A chord I never knew existed was played and the sound was beautiful. Coming home, I can see an amazing potential in extended traveling for me. I see my Self growing in ways I never imagined.
And so, if I must continue traveling (as my Mom might put it), I need to leave as prepared as possible and carry my future/career goals with me. To keep me focused and on-track I will be documenting my preparation and the ways in which I am incorporating my future/career goals into my traveling lifestyle.
This blog is for you, Mom.