Mandarin is one of the hardest languages I have tried to learn.
There are so many things to consider while realizing my need to teach english in China. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher and plan on homeschooling my own children until they reach high school. In fact, while abroad I will be studying for the GRE to apply to grad school when I return for my MFA in Creative Writing – which is what I need to become a college professor. I love the look in a person’s eyes when a concept clicks and they get that light that says they genuinely understand. It gets me fired up.
The thing about China is that I have never been to Asia or a communist country which poses completely different cultural norms and hopefully a huge shock. I’m ready for it and I need it. I yearn to make a difference in other human lives, this opportunity would definitely help bring that credo to life. The experiences of everything from Shanghai to the Himalayans makes me tingle inside. I want to know what life is like on the other side of the world.
What makes me nervous about China the most is that I’m a vegetarian and I don’t know any Chinese. Not even hello. I’m a pleasant individual overall so I think I will get along just fine and I plan on taking some kind of basic mandarin or something. Finding food I can eat to survive while I’m there is very frightening because I can’t say ‘I am a vegetarian, I do not eat meat. Dairy and eggs are okay.’
For a bit that was a deal breaker. Then I came to the realization that while living in the Netherlands I did most of my eating from a grocery store which meant visceral stimulation. As long as I can see it is a fruit or vegetable I am okay. I can cook rice and meals for myself at a lower expense as well.
Once that got me over the major hump, I stumbled upon a few youtube videos that shed some light on the experience for people who eat like me by people who eat like me. This one in particular I found exceptionally helpful:
So this is something I will be practicing for the next few months and am certain I will be referring back to once I get abroad. Now to think about how much I actually plan to bring with me and what to pack in. I was thinking of investing in a 60L pack or something and staying minimal. Perhaps a small checked bag for hygiene products to get me by the first few weeks and a picture or two of my family.
The meaning of a pilgrimage through the eyes of a pilgrim:
The journey takes many forms, there can be a religious aspect to it however it is not a requirement. For me, it has more to do with a personal journey and growth. I don’t subscribe to any particular creed. Be happy, be honest, and be kind. That is my mantra. Finding your true soul is a journey that starts inside of you, therefore any one person’s pilgrimage will not match any other. It starts when you allow it to.
Although the Camino De Santiago is largely rooted in a catholic background, the pilgrims on the route of Saint James are of various backgrounds. Any pilgrimage begins when you allow it to, traditionally from your front door. However the traditional route of St. James starts in St. Jean Pied de Port, France and ends in Santiago, Spain. Spending, on average, thirty days walking from France through to the tip of Spain is not an easy feat for anyone. Especially not when you stick to the true path of a pilgrim, relying on the way to support you through your travels. Breaking down both your physical and mental being and building you up again – much like daily life.
You see, a pilgrimage does not have to be some set trail that has been walked for centuries. A pilgrimage can be you getting up from your chair, going out your back door, and walking to another town or through the woods. It may not have much significance to an outsider however on said walk through the woods you may have reached a personal ‘aha!’ moment that alters the way you view your life forever.
I can’t wait to have a pilgrimage of my own, to travel and reach a true transcendental state must be absolute bliss. Although I’m not so sure I can wait until I find my way back to Europe to complete the Camino. That goal will never leave my mind but I think that some preparation is required. Some cultures and religions believe in yearly pilgrimages; so why can’t I take multiple pilgrimages throughout my life? I can and I will!
I want to call myself a citizen of the world and travel across our earth however when looking at my list (I keep a list of places I have been before) I realize that my focus has always been out of the Americas and I never took the time available to explore the land on which I was born. The land that my parents fell in love in and travelled across both together and alone. I need to experience the Appalachian Mountains and the Continental Divide. I need to see what the Rockies look like and the West Coast. I need to know what it is like to breathe in higher altitude, to truly be cold in the winter, and to see Redwood trees that I can’t wrap my arms around. I wish to hike and camp and build fires in as many states as I can. I want to simulate parts of the Oregon Trail and try to understand what the Gold Rush was like. Stand on old battlefields and put myself in the shoes of the people who fought there.
I am a firm advocate that seeing is believing and believing leads to true understanding. Emerson said, “All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” I feel that he uses the term experiment precisely because they are meant to be learned from. Scientists create a hypothesis and then conduct experiments to prove their hypothesis is correct or debunk it. But no matter what, any good scientist will always try the experiment.
Last week called for an impromptu road trip to the East coast of Florida to beach hop down the coast with my boyfriend, Michael. Packing the cooler with water and snacks, we embarked on our journey at four in the morning. The two of us marveled as the sun came up over state road sixty — greenery all around us and open road ahead. It was glorious. We made a pact to take the back roads as much as possible for any trip we do. We want to see as much of the natural beauty the world has to offer as possible.
We arrived on the east coast at 8am ready for some breakfast and a nap. While we ate, we found the nearest beach about twenty minutes away from I-95. Hutchinson Island was delightful; so much different from the beach I grew up on. There are sand dunes with foliage blocking your immediate view of the Atlantic, the wooden stairs were picturesque. They took us over the dunes and down to the beach where the sand was darker than I’m used to and filled with bits of shells that stick to your skin. The roar of the ocean swam through my head as I drifted asleep on the shoreline. A bit colder than the Gulf of Mexico, the waves enticed me in. We watched the storm roll in from the water and decided it was time to move on.
We raced the storm and successfully made it far enough south to avoid the rain and hit another beach. Hollywood Beach was a cute little town complete with a fabulous beach front. Instead of dunes we encountered a line of retro, stubby bars and hotels with a stone broadwalk about ten feet wide and two and a half miles long to walk or ride along the beachfront. The ocean was crystal blue with a few patches of brown seaweed, but the water was shallow for a good while which was perfect for a little crashing around in the waves. The storm was nowhere in sight but as per Florida guidelines it stormed a few hours later and we found ourselves stuck until it passed. Gotta love happy hour showers.
It is so important to fit in little trips throughout your month to inspire your soul and help you clear your mind. It is a rejuvenating experience embracing what nature has to offer both nearby and far away. Crashing on the beach, driving all day and night, and showering at the beach accesses made me yearn for a cross-country road trip. I am certain that I can live that lifestyle and be completely happy; the vagabond lifestyle has whispered in my ear and I cannot shake it off. I’m convinced that traveling is a drug – heroin of sorts. I don’t care where I get it, but I must go!
Sunday nights at Treasure Island Drum Circle is the perfect end to every week; the best way to gear up for a new one. The beach is captivating and offers some of the best sunsets I’ve seen. The drums are plentiful and fill the air with rhythm from the late afternoon to sunset. The entire island seems to crawl out for the experience. It restores my faith in humanity to see so many people coming together and enjoying the beauty in those moments. There is a spiritual feeling similar to a church gathering. People of all walks of life come and dance, play music, and watch the sun part ways with the earth. It reminds me a lot of old practices such as chasing the sun and praying it returns tomorrow. As the sun escapes, the glowing paraphernalia comes out. The sky is now lit up again with vibrant colors. There are drum circles all over the world with good vibes and good people. You don’t need to be afraid to check them out alone or with your own group of friends. To find a drum circle near you visit http://drumcircles.net and check out the plethora of information it provides. When I first began exploring these experiences I started there. Below are some pictures of the Treasure Island Drum Circle in St. Petersburg, Florida as well as a link to a video from June 7th’s circle.
((Short Story written by me, Sam, in 2011))
Before everything I was still a child, innocent and happy. We were both happy at one point splashing in the water, the wind blowing salt through our hair. But one day our world shattered as if it were a thin stained-glass globe at the wrong end of a rocket launching. Funny thing is, I can’t quite pin point when it was. It all happened so fast: the drugs, foster care, mom came back, more drugs, dad came back, the violence started, and my sister couldn’t handle it.
I just found my happy place, I tried to take her there but she couldn’t see it. She was always afraid they were coming back to get us. So we left, and every time we left we had to leave where we went because they were still coming. The problem was that they never stopped chasing us. Instead of enhancing our lives, we lived on the run.
‘Vagabonding is about gaining the courage to loosen your grip on the so-called certainties of this world. Vagabonding is about refusing to exile travel to some other, seemingly more appropriate, time of your life. Vagabonding is about taking control of your circumstances instead of passively waiting for them to decide your fate.” – Rolf Potts writes in Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel
Rolf Potts’ explanation of vagabonding is absolutely on point. Forget about social networks and lavish apartments, embrace the realness of the world around you. As you sit there in your chair millions of wondrous things are occurring in different places around the world, don’t you want to experience the spectacle?
Vagabonding is about letting go of the things that hold you back from these experiences. Refusing to believe that the world has borders that cannot be broken; embracing your inner citizen of the world. Go on youtube and look at some satellite footage from NASA or any other reputable source. Look at how the land is aglow with light, the water dark and vast. Marvel in that glorious sight. Did you notice any borders? Anything except water separating us from one land to another?
Refusing to let your circumstances hold you back from any dreams you hold, vagabonding preaches minimalism. If you really want to spend a long period of time traveling the world that is set out for us, then stop putting so much emphasis on the ties holding you back and cut back on your spending. Live frugally where you are and save. Prove to yourself that you deserve this trip. Nothing good ever comes easy, but it is proven to always pay off in memories. If you can’t afford expensive trains or taxis, walk you’ll see much more.
Don’t sit by and let life hand you whatever it chooses, grab life by the balls and decide your own fate. At the core, I believe that is the spirit of vagabonding, deciding your own fate and living it through. Experiencing as much as you can and sharing your insight with all those interested. I think the hardest part for me will be not getting too attached to any one place. There is so much to see and I’ve only got one life to see it.
He also gives many resources for cheap travel, work abroad, and other valuable information that you can find in his book. I purchased it at Barnes and Noble for $15 but for all you bargain hunters I’m sure you can find a steal. I’m not trying to sell you anything but it’s a lot of information that I’m not ready to get into quite yet. This is just some thoughts I had after reading halfway, once I finish the book I will give you a proper synopsis.
Until next time bloggers, remember, vagabonding isn’t a verb it is a state of mind so go suck the marrow out of life!