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Goodbye New Jersey. Hello World! A record of my journey as I give up my job, my possessions, and life as I know it to go off and see the world!

Where In the World is Lauren? A Reflection 3 Months In

CHINA | Wednesday, 6 October 2010 | Views [1190]

I have been traveling for three months now.  As I reflect where I have been I am riding a 24 and a half hour train from Shanghai to Guilin.  How does one pass all this time?  Well, I have used part of it to realize I have slept in 41 different beds since July 1st.  And the count grows.  Perhaps next I will count how many times I have worn the same pair of jeans.  I never even heard of Guilin until I came to China and decided to come on a whim as per a recommendation from a fellow traveler.  I’ve been told it’s in the countryside and that is a part of China that I am really eager to see.  The train is nearly empty as most of the passengers got off at a stop early this morning.  I still have about 5 hours to go but I don’t mind.  I am enjoying the quiet and the views of the fields, the decaying buildings, the far off mountains, the rivers, the industrial towns and the green grass.  Sometimes we pass a solo Chinese person, sitting on the tracks or at a riverbank that is just looking off into the distance.  I wonder - what are they thinking?  What do they daydream about?  How is my life different from theirs?

I have been gone three months.  Month one was the “party month” in Ireland and Scotland.  I look back and laugh about how fresh and naïve I was.  Month two was a “transition” month.  It still felt like a holiday but I started to spend more time on my own.  I was in Europe, which was still easy and fun.  I met many backpackers interested only in partying and staying out late and it was easy to get swept up with it.  Month three has been an education.  This was the month I visited the “scary” places - Russia, Mongolia, and China.  I laugh now when I think of how nervous I was of Russia and China.  I have learned the important lesson this month not to fear these places that don’t seem easy. 

I was extremely frustrated at times during month three - as you would know if you read some of my other posts.  Things became harder.  The language barrier was more intense.  The food became more….interesting shall we say?  I started to feel more like an outsider.  But month three has really opened my eyes to how different the world can be.  I spent the first 27 years of my life in a bubble.  I have learned about these countries in school but to actually experience it….well it took my breath away.  I will never forget when I first go to Ulaan Baatar and walked through the first slums I had ever seen.  I can’t express the emotions I felt when I saw the small, dilapidated buildings and realized that there was where people lived.  Now I have become obsessed to see more of these places and sought out the crowded “hutong” alleyways in Beijing.  I am really now fascinated to know what these people’s day to day lives are like. 

I’ve now spent 10 nights on a train.  Being on the train for so long faces you to think and makes you face your dinner problems and turmoil that perhaps you’ve been repressing as I have.  I must admit that I had a hard time dealing with all of this free time in the beginning.  I am understanding now just how “not ok” I was at home.  I lived my life, got through work, saw my family and friends, attempted at being happy, but inside I was a wreck in denial.  Would you believe that I have met people in my travels who have expressed they could sense a certain deep pain inside of me?  Thanks to my train time I have acknowledged that I have this issue.  I am not okay at all.  Bad things have happened to me and I am still not over it as much as I wish I was.  But maybe now that I know it I can finally heal.  Being single and on my own has taken away all the distractions that were keeping me from getting better at home. 

Month three Lauren is not the same girl as she was in Ireland.  She looks different, she’s more laid back, and quieter.  She’s not as eager to please.  She still worries a lot about her future, and unfortunately I fear that’s a habit that will never be broken.  She’s become more skilled with reading maps and navigating public transport.  She’s eaten food she never thought she would try (like duck brains!)  I would like to think that she is a lot braver. 

In the beginning I was so desperate to blend in and not seem like a tourist.  I was afraid of making myself vulnerable.  Now I embrace the fact that I’m an outsider.  If anything, I find that people are nicer and more willing to help if I am confused or lost.  I’m more interested now in the people as opposed to just the sights.  I like to see how they interact with each other.  I wish I could speak with them and hear their thoughts on life to compare them with my own. 

The most important change I have encountered is that I am really not excited about Australia anymore.  As I write this I am 14 days away from entering the land down under.  For 3 years I wanted nothing more than to go there, but I don’t feel ready now.  Australia feels like the end of the road for me.  It’s when I am supposed to settle for a bit, get a job, hopefully visit old friends and make new ones.  But in my heart…it just doesn’t feel time yet.  I’m sure once I rock on up there and do my outback tour my perspective will change but until then I fear the future.

I have great respect for long term travelers - especially the ones that are gone for 6 months or longer.  I’m starting to understand all that is involved.  It’s not the easiest life if you are doing it on your own.  I just hope that my friends and family will accept the “new me” when I do get back. 

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