Now this is a story all about how my life got spin-turned upside down so umm take a couple minutes and sit right there, I’ll tell you how I moved to China from Montreal, by air (did you catch that?). Seeing the world was always on my to-do list. I didn’t know how, when or even why for the most part. But there was always a certain je ne sais quoi, an energy, or voice if you will, gently pulling me away from what I knew to be home. It was easy to ignore at first, but as time went on, the pull became stronger. The voice became louder. I couldn’t ignore it forever.
I grew up in Montreal, Quebec (Canada); a city overflowing with culture from all corners of the world. Different languages, ethnicities, foods, religions, you name it and Montreal can probably give you a taste of it (I love my city). For a long time, I quenched my thirst to see the world in my own backyard. Constantly trying out new restaurants, striking up conversations with complete strangers and learning about different beliefs among other things.
But there it was again, that familiar pull, guiding me, almost playfully, like a young child gripping onto a parent’s forefinger pointing towards a familiar playground as they drive by. “Maybe later” I thought, “after my degree,” “I need to save more money,” I’d think to myself. I was trying to convince my inner traveler that my need for adventure and all things foreign was somehow selfish or irresponsible. It was almost ingrained in me, as I’m sure it is many of you, “go to school, get a good job, buy a house, get married, have kids, retire.” The problem with the societally “correct” formula for Western life is this, it leaves little to no space for living, for experience — for adventure.
Don’t get me wrong. School, careers, marriage, family and the like are all very important institutions. But don’t believe the hype, they can be approached in a lot of different ways. Frankly, they aren’t for everyone. And that’s okay.
In university, every Christmas or “study” break, a bunch of my friends and teammates would fly out of town, some to Europe, others to the Caribbean to perfect their tans. I was always happy for them and anxious to hear their stories and see their pictures on Facebook. Sure I’d have loved to take a few trips myself, but hey, university students are supposed to be broke, and I couldn’t afford to travel. So I lived vicariously through their experiences.
Fast-forward a couple of years past my degree and there I was, by all accounts, a well-adjusted young man; money in the bank, a cushy insurance broker job with good benefits, my own place and a fancy car. But why did I so often find myself going through the motions? And there it was again, the pull. Except, it wasn’t so gentle anymore. The force felt almost gravitational in nature. I couldn’t stand the thought of my 20-minute morning commute, another 9-5 day. The weekends, holidays and vacation days became my sanctuary.
At this point, I had seen a few places. I went back to Trinidad, where I was born. I took a few 1 or two-week vacations to the typical resort destinations, Mexico, Cuba. I was looking forward to my next vacation, while still on vacation. Every day I went to work was like holding my breath for 8 hours straight. Every time I stepped foot on a plane to a new destination, I could breathe again.
Fortunately, I have some very cool friends working for commercial airlines. Having expressed my wanderlust to them, they would take me along with them to some of the places they’d fly to for work. A weekend trip to France, I was there. A week in Rome, count me in. My need to see the world had manifested itself in every way possible. I knew I had to go.
I did a TESOL course through Oxford Seminars shortly after my degree that sometimes sent me postings for foreign English teacher positions all over the world. Postings I never took seriously. Until one day, on a whim, I responded to one of the emails. One thing led to another and before I knew it, my lease was broken, car sold and I was sitting in an airport terminal with my passport and a one-way ticket, destination China.
I’ve been in China ever since, it’s been a stretching but beautiful experience so far and I’ve definitely grown as a person. Awesome people, delicious food and an altogether amazing culture are what the country has introduced me to. The irony in the whole concept of letting go is that it’s really about getting a grip. A grip on your hopes and dreams. I decided to pursue my dreams of travel and you can too.