Reflections on the 1st Month

Posted: October 6th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: ATW Updates, Thoughts | 2 Comments »


A month ago, Rick and I sat in LAX, almost giddy with anticipation for a trip we’ve thought about and saved for years.  Now, after a month of travelling and 3 countries (3 and a half if you count our overnight stay in Korea), I’ve definitely realized a few things:

Home takes on a new definition

We’re currently “homeless” in the sense that we have no permanent home abroad and no permanent home in the US either.  We also have no idea where we’re going to end up when we do get back to the US.  This means, home is starting to mean something different to me.  I still have my childhood home.  And the US is still my home country.  But, home, to me right now, has become wherever we are + Rick + our two rolling pieces of luggage & our backpacks.  It’s not a PLACE, it’s a state of being.  Ok, rag on me for sounding all hoighty-toighty philosophical, but there’s a particular sense of freedom in that. 

Learning to judge the worth of our material possessions

Everything we buy falls into two categories: to be consumed or to take up space in our limited luggage space.  The very nature of our trip demands that we can only bring with us what we can carry.  And it’s not like we’re going to head home after our stay in each country.  Whatever we buy and don’t use up, we have to add that extra mass and weight to what we have to lug to our next stop. 

So, now, when we purchase souvenirs for ourselves or others, we weigh it in our hand and rearrange our luggage in our minds, trying to figure out what tiny space we can create to safely bring it home with us.  I’ve learnt to quickly assess whether I truly want something, if it’s “worth” it. 

And sometimes, we come across something SO worth it, we’re willing to ship it home at incredible cost, and that’s totally cool too. 

Plus, we’ve really learned to appreciate the few things we’ve brought with us from home, considering we’ve used them over and over again and they’ve (mostly!) come through for us time and again, making our life much easier.  The things that aren’t useful or sentimental have quickly found their way into the trash bin to make way for more worthy things. 

Don’t fall into the expatriate trap

There are moments when we find ourselves comparing the country we’re in to the US.  We dream about In-and-Out Burger and Netflix and English-speakers and cheap fruit.  And yesterday, after watching a bootleg version of The Help, I had the most intense craving for chocolate pie and no way to get to a Marie Callender’s.  But I have to keep reminding myself to see the good in the country we’re in, the things we can experience here that can never be found in the US.  I’m learning to stretch out of my comfort zone (slowly!), to squash my social anxiety and experience what the world is waiting to teach me. 

Expectations rarely match reality

3 countries!  And yet my blog only reflects one.  I know I’m two weeks behind.  I suppose I could whip something out but I don’t want to skimp on quality for the sake of quantity.  But, each blog post takes time: to write, to edit, to add photos, etc.  And time, I’m finding, is a dwindling resource. 

Rick and I went into our trip with grand plans and a list of projects to work on.  We thought, “Hey! We finally have the time.”  Ha!  We’ve definitely have to scale our ambition back quite a bit to balance with our wearying pace of travelling and actually enjoying ourselves.  When we have free time, I’m slowly learning to allow myself time to breathe, to nap, to read a book.  You know, have a vacation, instead of my frenetic pace before where I went to work and when I came home, I kept working on all my personal work late into the night.  So, if that means I’m two weeks behind on my blog, or I don’t know what we spent every penny on, or I go a week without answering any emails, or I haven’t gotten to editing the dozen short stories pending, then so be it. 

Don’t worry, though.  I have lots of half-written blog posts in the pipeline. 

Privacy is a precious commodity but people are pretty darn cool, for the most part

Wherever we go, there are people.  People I don’t know.  Constantly.  And so far, pretty much every person we’ve met (apart from a few mouthy Chinese taxi drivers) have been nice and try to be helpful.  We’ve heard a lot of life stories and it’s fun to learn about the differences and similarities between us.  The only thing is, we don’t get a lot of privacy, so we have to take privacy where we can get it.  That’s why I’ve learned how important spending that extra money for private rooms are,just to have a place to shut out everyone else for a little bit.  Rick and I are also starting to develop ways to discuss things without other people overhearing.  I can’t wait until we can have whole conversations with just our eyebrows. 

There are going to be ups and downs (so better have a good travel partner)

Most of the time, travelling is awesome.  But, even in the short time a month affords, things don’t always go according to plan.  Nights sleeping in airports aren’t comfortable.  There are long periods of waiting.  We miss our stop on a bus and are stranded in an unknown place in the middle of the night.  Insane crowds.  Not being able to communicate.  And, as a married couple, there are bound to be disagreements and conflicts, especially when we’re both tired and hungry. 

Conflicts with my husband are especially tough for me, because he’s the only person I know and the only one I can turn to in the particular country we’re in.  So, we’ve both had to figure out how to deal with each other in our enforced constant state of togetherness and how to deal with problems that crop up together as a team.  Everyday, I’m realizing more and more how blessed I am to have Rick as my travel partner because he complements me so well, and he’s a steady presence that I know I can trust no matter what happens.  Travel is really a test of relationships and I’m glad that (so far!) our relationship has only grown stronger. 

So far, we’re having a blast!  I wonder what the next month will bring. 

2 Comments on “Reflections on the 1st Month”

  1. 1 Oliver said at 9:42 am on October 20th, 2013:


    My wife Miting and I like your blogs, especially the reflections. Miting said you are a good writer, both in mastering of language and depth of thoughts.


  2. 2 ctbideas said at 8:56 pm on October 24th, 2013:

    Thanks Oliver! I’m glad you’re enjoying reading our blogs. I hope you and your wife are doing well =)

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