Exactly one year ago today I was heading to the airport to catch a flight to Vancouver, bound for Shanghai, heading to Bangkok.

Exactly one year ago today, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Leading Up To It

I made the executive decision for myself that I would take advantage of my summer off and no longer be the person who sits behind their phone or computer and admires the people who are out taking full advantage of all the world has to offer. It was intimidating, sure. But more than anything, it was exciting.

I knew a couple people who had gone on this exact trip recently, so I wasn’t just going in blind. I made my deposit and immediately got an info-packed and encouraging e-mail from FNEZ. I slowly made my payments, scoured the itinerary when I got it and searched up all Southeast Asia related things as often as I could. I was trying to keep it hush hush, because honestly for so long I thought going to Thailand was the ‘cliche’ thing to do– that was the jealousy talking. It was also about so much more to me than just drinking and sun tanning. Then I finished school and had about a month and a half, maybe two, to earn all the money I possibly could for my overseas travelling.

I worked tirelessly at two jobs, day and night until my feet hurt so much I couldn’t sleep. I would do it all over again.

Before I knew it, it was a couple days before leaving and my wonderful family and friends threw me the most amazing surprise party. Wow. It’s real.

The night before my trip, I threw a couple changes of clothes in my back pack, some treats, sunscreen and bug spray and somehow managed to fall asleep.

Wow. I’m doing this.

Mom and dad dropped me off at the airport (yes, they’re cute and yes I’m small) and there was no turning back now!

The Experience

I didn’t really know what to expect… Besides knowing the itinerary, and seeing people’s pictures from previous trips. I was greeted by the warmest smiles and biggest hugs. That’s when I knew I was in for a life-changing experience. These people, my leaders, are giving the next forty days of their lives to a group of strangers. Yeah they’re getting paid, yeah they get to travel too, but it’s not like they have complete freedom.

FNEZ staff are so much more than leaders. They’re brothers and sisters, spirit guides, free souls, friends, inspirations… I could really go on. I don’t know where you found these humans, FNEZ, but congratulations on rounding up some of the most amazing human beings.

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Credit: FNEZ, Asia Staff

And don’t even get me started on the rest of the 11 members in our intimate little group that have forever changed my life.

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I wish we would’ve gotten a picture on the first day… And then a picture on the very last day.

I’ve found travel friends, best friends, confidants, partners in crime and many other cliche words in people from around the world. Traveling is this crazy phenomenon that’s addicting, inspiring, exhausting, encouraging and so many other things balled up into one. We may have not all been on the same journey, but we were more than into helping each other find exactly what we were looking for. From laughing endlessly with my roomie and lifetime soul sister, Katie. To laying our souls on our sleeves in a river with Selena, Julia and Liz. To confiding in the brotherly love of Patrice. To being eachothers relief in sometimes dramatic times with Caroll-Ann. To admiring every movement and goal of Emily Day. To believing in myself and feeling the positive vibes with an impeccable soul like Emily Zaporozan. To being over-tired, laughing and heart to hearts with Gwen. To experiencing new things and watching someone grow with Alexis. To learning so much from Eric Brown. You guys all have a little piece of my soul, and don’t worry, I don’t want it back.

The Experience extended so much further than the group, though. It was everywhere. Through meeting the locals, meeting other travelers, doing something for the first time, trying new food for the first time, traveling on a train for 14 hours, going through border security at 3 different countries, partying with people you don’t know and will never see again. I wish I could list everything, but that would take away from it a little bit. You have to experience it for yourself, it’s indescribable. And not in a gross “it was so amazing omg” way, in a everyone’s experiences were entirely different and there’s no way of knowing if what I’m explaining is even the tip of the ice-berg for me or anyone else.

Coming Home

Was by far the hardest part.

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There were a couple times near the end that I thought, okay I’m ready to go home. But then the last few days came and I was trying to figure out any possible alternative to stay. Flying home was a culture shock, I kept thinking I’d turn around and see the rest of my group. Finally landing in Canada was a whirlwind. I was only an hour away from seeing my family and being back “home”.

I wasn’t home. I left my heart, my mind and my soul out there somewhere. I get emotional, in good and bad ways, when I look through the pictures or see pictures of other people’s adventures. I want so bad to be back there. Not necessarily on the same adventure, but I want to find more of whatever I found when I traveled. Freedom? Love? An open mind? Friendship? Bliss?

All of the above.

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Til next time, my great adventure, until next time. Xo

 

 

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