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Taking the road less traveled Spending a year in five continents to embrace my "inner turtle", to live simply, and to avoid being shark bait!


HONG KONG | Sunday, 27 January 2013 | Views [535]

It is true that good times fly by within the blink of an eye.  I cannot believe it has been a year since my gap year commenced; my beautiful spreadsheet of color-coded flight details, accommodations, and travel arrangements completed.  Thousands of photos taken (tagged in iPhoto but not yet fully organized), tens of thousands of miles flown, dozens of new friends made, and countless adventures experienced.  My tan has faded while my lightened hair has darkened again, but the mosquito bite scars remained, something I will gladly keep as a memento to a tremendous year! 

As a "cool down" to my gap year, I have been spending my last non-working days in Hong Kong.  While here, I am working on my résumé and seriously job searching.  I knew it would be difficult to incorporate the past decade of work experience, but it was way harder than I anticipated.  After spending hours, mostly scratching my head while updating an existing CV, I decided I needed help and should really start from scratch.  I spent my spare time at various libraries (HK Central LIbrary rocks!  Individual desk with outlets, wifi, and an unbeatable harbor view), researched numerous books, and even did several exercises in those "career change guide books" to learn how to "write my story".  One thing I am very grateful about: my old Adobe performance reviews and quarterly objectives forms were so helpful!  All those times I griped and moaned about completing them, they're now coming in handy!  Some experiences brought a smile to my face, others almost a few tears. One thing is for sure, I gained many gray hairs that are here to stay (but I am resisting on coloring my hair, even Anderson hasn't!)

Besides career-related work, I've had some downtime to reflect on 2012, and one reflection stands out.  It can be summed up nicely by a quote in The Alchemist, which I read while WWOOF'ing on my first farm in Canada; the mother of the family lent it to me, thought I could relate to it.  

And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.

-- The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The book isn't exactly my style, but I like the moral of the story, and I particularly like this quote.  It really speaks to me, summing up my gap year.  I planned the year in secrecy for a long time, never shared details with anyone (except for the nice gal at i-to-i who planned my volunteer trips for me) until it was set in stone around autumn of 2011.  Once I began sharing my plans, first with my close friends and families, then at work, I was offered help from many folks on things I hadn't even thought about.  Someone to look after my condo? No problem. To receive and read my mail? Sure thing.  Take care of my plants? Fine (but don't expect them to be alive).  Need a ride to the airport?  Sure, just say when.  I got countless goodies:  a backpack that has traveled the world with me, a headlamp that I haven't let out of my sight, a travel towel that I lost while hiking in the forest of Ecuador yet somehow was found by another volunteer in the same forest two weeks later, a clothesline that has come in handy way more than I expected, calling cards so I could make international calls cheaply, and so on.  I met Hong Kong'ers in (of all places) Mozambique, who gave me more goodies because "we take care of our own kind".  I met fellow volunteers who introduced me to WWOOF and I became a WWOOF'er myself.  I was staying with my Ecuadorian "mama" when I felt unwell the ONLY time in the entire year, who took care of me just like my mother would have.  No airline lost any of my luggages, and none of my flights were delayed or cancelled, just one scary moment in Johannesburg when they couldn't find my reservation to Maputo.  Even my cat One, the only being who would have prevented me from taking this adventure, passed away in 2011 so I could travel freely.  Yes, I can say with absolute certainty that the universe conspired to help me achieve my gap year, but only because I was committed to it; it was either "all in" or nothing.  Had I even a shadow of a doubt, or listened to that tiny voice in my head that sometimes says "no, you can't do that", none of this could have happened.  

So … forward I go!  Job search is number one priority, so friends, you may find me bugging you to see "if you know someone who works at XYZ".  I hope the universe will continue to conspire in helping me to achieve it!  I promise to do the same for you when the time comes.

There's a photo of me taken by a volunteer in Tofo, Mozambique, which puts a smile on my face every time I see it.  In the photo, I'm wearing a wetsuit, zipper still down, hanging around the beach, waiting for the boat launch to go on a dive.  It was early, not yet 8 AM,  and I vividly remember leaping around the water and trying ungracefully to dance like a ballerina.  D took the photo while I  jumped and raised my right leg in an angle in a failed attempt at an arabesque, but the expression on me was pure joy.  I was dancing ballet in a wetsuit on a beach, about to scuba dive with sharks and mantas, and this was considered "work"!  I hope for the same bliss in all of my future jobs, and I hope my friends and family can feel that bliss often, if not always, in whatever they do.  

Tags: alchemist, job search, performance review, quote, résumé



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