‘Jump jump‘, my heart says. ‘But what if I fall?’ my head says. ‘But what if I fly?’ Heart speaking…
That basically summarises where I’m at right now. I can’t claim that my opening line is original, it’s heavily borrowed from Erin Hanson, but it’s pretty much perfect for me today. Hilariously (well I thought so, but then I am a bit too easily amused) when I tried to Google her original poem, I kept seeing ‘eh’ at the end of it. This confused me. Er? Uh? Eh? Um? Eh what!? What is the necessity of adding this postscript to each reproduction of her work? Are you ahead of me. It’s her initials of course! But I sort of have warmed to this apparent expression of incredulity that punctuates the end of her mini poem. Perhaps it is apt.
You can think of this little offering as pretentious, naive nonsense if you wish, or you can take it as a licence to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway‘ as the possibly more familiar saying goes. For me right now, I’m not sure, but I’m going to blog about my process of trying to take that leap of faith. My desire is to reboot travel adventures that were cut short a year ago, almost to the day.
So the story was I went careering off to Vietnam to teach at a university out there. It was to be a career break of sorts, a year of travel and exploration. I set off, arrived, was welcomed, met fantastic people, learned new things, had adventures, felt newly alive, then very suddenly everything changed, and I had to come back to the UK. I don’t regret the return to England, it was important and necessary, but it has been a very hard and rather direction-less year since then and I feel I have unfinished business in relation to my plunge into the unknown.
Now, I feel I need to try again. Not so much pick up where I left off, but give myself a new start and a new adventure. I’ll take the lessons I’ve learned from my sojourn to Vietnam, but apply them in a new destination. Right now I hear Cambodia calling. The plan is TEFL – that’s the only thing I feel I have the skills to do, and in Vietnam I came to appreciate just how much some local people need access to native English speakers to become fluent, and how hard that can be to achieve. I wanted to get across to Cambodia whilst I was in Vietnam (Angor Wat – who wouldn’t), but never got the chance. Cambodia does need English teachers, and I’m seduced by South East Asia, this could work.
Post fifty I’m pretty game, but my dorm sharing days are behind me. Working allows me to settle a bit, hopefully get to know local people and see life a bit differently than you do if you just flyby like an anonymous runner spotted later on Strava. I have pretty modest needs, but I don’t want to be out of pocket. I’ve done paid for ‘volunteering’ before, in Africa. I really enjoyed it, but I think it was my financial contribution that made the difference rather than my labour. The experience of working in Vietnam was entirely different, and for me, very much more meaningful. I want a bit of that again. It can be done, but I’ll need to put some effort into making it happen, that’s for sure.
So, this is my first post as I start researching what’s out there, and you can come along with me if you like, and see how it all ends. I genuinely don’t know if the endgame will have me land at Siem Reap airport, giddy with the heat and pinching myself I’ve finally made it, or staring through the rain covered skylight of my attic room in November older but not really having moved on. I just can’t predict if my dream is realistic, there are many obstacles that make it a thoroughly ill-advised plan, but then again, if you don’t try, you never know, do you. I don’t want to be left wondering ‘What if..?’ The hardest part of any journey is not even the first step, it’s the germ of an idea that you decide to allow to flourish and grow instead of stamping it back into the dark cold earth before it’s even had a chance to see the light of day. So I’m going to let this little seed grow a bit, and see what it might yet become if I just give it enough space to have a chance.
For the purposes of spin, I think I shall henceforth refer to this period of my life as a ‘sabbatical’. That sounds way better than breakdown or mid-life crisis. Besides, it is a dearly held belief of mine that no experience in life is wasted, as long as you get an anecdote out of it, and that criteria is one I’m really confident will be met.
Little victories, perhaps, but important ones. Thanks for reading, dream sweetly, and tread softly on those dreams.