2015 marked a year of several tough decisions. In the span of the last 12 months, I have graduated, chosen my field (with limited success), and started my career. No matter how tough the decision, my choices this year have been to pursue opportunities, albeit with some deliberation. Many of my decisions have ended up being mistakes. These choices have led to a year of stress, but one where I can happily say that I am very different from the person I was a year ago. It was the first time I worked 70 hour weeks, became (almost) fully independent and moved away from home.
Of the many difficult decisions of this past year, the choice to travel after graduation was one of the more complex decisions I had to make. The period of four months surrounding the completion of my courses was a heap of stress infused with the excitement of adventures unknown. I juggled resumes and interviews with classes and trip planning. I had a few promising interviews that were tempered by the fact that I wouldn’t start until the summer due to my planned travels. At times, I debated to postpone or cancel my trips altogether in the interest of finding a stable full-time position. It may not have been the adult or the most logical decision, but I went ahead with my travel plans.
I spent 2 1/2 weeks in Asia, headed home to Canada for 2 weeks then spent another 5 weeks in Europe and I don’t regret a single day spent abroad. I finally had the opportunity to learn firsthand about my heritage in Hong Kong, which was the birthplace of both my parents. Growing up, I heard stories about the city from my grandparents and had a preconception that was shattered by my actual travels. I looked forward to the food, amazing scenery and tourist attractions in Hong Kong, but left the city with a much better understanding of the culture and my heritage. I learnt that Hong Kong residents are very familial; they treat close friends and family with an astonishing generosity, but acted almost hostile towards strangers. The two places that held the most significance for me was visiting the place where my father spent the first ten years of his life, an apartment complex that had seen little change in 50 years, and visiting the burial site of my great-grandfather on my mother’s side (he looked exactly like me!).
My trip to Hong Kong was personal and reserved (or safe) if the use of that word can apply to a trip. I was with family and friends of my family for the entire 2 1/2 weeks when exploring this foreign city, leaving much of the planning to other people. My upcoming adventure to Europe would be nothing of the sort.
Many of my blog posts are about my backpacking adventures in Europe over my other travel experiences because the value I place on this experience far outweighs my previous travels. Before this trip, I had visited fifteen countries (and many more cities) spanning North America, Asia, Central America and Europe, but no experience comes remotely close to my trip to Europe this year. I am probably the perfect example of why someone should try to travel young. My trip pushed me towards independence, an important factor in my decision to move away from home to work.
When travelling alone or with a friend who is similar to yourself, there is a freedom which allows you to seek the experiences that you think you would love. Since you must make your own plans, it leads to a higher understanding of your own passions and a higher value on the adventure (even if you don’t end up loving what you did). I realized that I could recall my experience much better from this trip than my previous ones. I don’t think the clichéd phrase “travel opens your eyes” is accurate; rather, travel leads you to realize that your eyes were truly never open. Even now, words struggle to describe how little I know of life outside my sheltered little ecosystem.
I have made more mistakes this year than probably the last five years of my life combined. Some mistakes hurt more than others, but the constant among all my mistakes is the learning that comes after. I am incredibly lucky to have family and friends that provide me with endless help and support through the tough decisions and the inevitable mistakes.