Probably one of my favorite parts about living in China and one of the reasons why I stayed this year and what could potentially be a major factor in me staying longer (aiiiyyiyi)....dun dun dun...
SPRING FESTIVAL PLANNING! I live for this.
Because of the gloriousness that is my job, I get 6 weeks (paid) holiday from January 1st to February 21st. Ya, its rough out here. :) haha. Though I make absolutely dirt change as a salary, I have scrapped together enough yuans to start setting my sights on traveling. It's time to plan!
It is an incredible feeling to be able to go anywhere you want. The world suddenly becomes very small and I realize that anywhere I want to go is only a plane ride away. It's true fact. The day before Thanksgiving I found myself in a familiar place: staring at the world map on Google Maps and trying to decide where I want/can afford/feel like jaunting off to for the long holiday. I literally looked up flights to Australia, New Zealand, Bali, and Singapore, before deciding on a path that I want to take for this trip. I feel responsibility to myself and my family to use this time wisely, to not take for granted this gift of time that I have to travel and learn about our amazingly complex world.
I have been getting an itch to get out of Asia. I need...civilization. I also have been feeling the desire for a long, solo journey. I recently came upon this book: Flying Solo: 50 places for solo woman travelers and have been inspired to try my hand at a distance journey alone. I want to go on a long trip that has a clearly defined starting and ending point and to maneuver myself through the obstacles along the way (language, housing, eating, surviving, etc). I think a solo journey would be perfect for this pivotal point in my life - a chance to reflect, pray, and be alone in my thoughts as I try to decide what it is I really want to live for and how I should continue moving forward through this thing called life. There's a lot of decisions I have to make in the near future about where to live and what to do as a job. I think that dedicating myself to a sojourn would be an incredible life-affirming and radical experience.
I also am worn out of just jaunting around the globe, showing up in places for a few days, eating, drinking, dancing, taking photos, and then moving on to the next big thrill. It is almost as if living here and traveling so much has made me not appreciate the awesomeness of some of the things I have seen. I remember the first time I saw the Great Wall of China, I was riding a bus with my fellow Global Project'ers in 2007 and as we rounded the corner the wall came into view: I stopped my feet on the bus floor and about burst out of my chest with excitement. I need to have that feeling again while witnessing the wonders of our world.
I also have the desire to just find a place and plant myself. I desire to grow roots in a new place and travel with a conscience...really making a tangible difference wherever I am and not just traveling for pleasure and adrenaline and sightseeing.
So, these are the two extremes of travel I am wrestling with now...do I go on a soul-searching journey and risk loneliness and failure, or do I volunteer my time in one place and risk boredom and monotony?
I have researched my two best options based on budget and what I want out of my life and they are:
Solo Journey: The Trans-Mongolian Railway from Moscow to Beijing. I would fly from Shanghai to Moscow (have to get a Russian and Mongolian visa - kind of tricky as an American with a Chinese address) and then train from Moscow to Beijing, passing through Mongolia. This journey would take a little over 2 weeks and would cost about $1100. It would be constant movement (literally, even though there are periods of 2 days on a train, sitting). It has high potential for travel-related stress as I would be having to feed myself and make sure I have the right tickets and I don't speak/read Russian or Mongolian. But, I love travel stress, it's actually comfortable for me. I love the rush of surviving, but not sure where the next meal or bed is going to be. (cue: Ta.iwan '09).
or the other option:
Volunteering in one place: A friend of mine cued me into an organization called Volunthai, which is an organization that places volunteers to live with host families in a poor, rural, non-tourist part of North Eastern Thailand. These volunteers act as English teachers at large public schools. You can stay for any length of time, the cost is $275 up to one month, including food and trips. So with a cheap plane ticket from Chi.na, the over all cost would be about $650 for one month. Volunteers spend 4 hours a day teaching and have the weekends free to explore or have extracurricular activities with the Thai people/family/students, etc. It seems to be a cultural immersion experience and would be difficult because I am so immersed in Chi.nese culture that the idea of starting over in another asian culture is a little daunting. I would live with a Thai family, eat all my meals with them, and basically just chill out with this family. It could get emotionally exhausting. But teaching the students would be incredible. the website is here: www.volunthai.com.
So, friends, what should I do?!?! Help me decide! Do I travel across the continent solo, or plant myself in Thailand as a teacher? I am burdened by possibility. It's a big deal for me to decide because I want to be a good steward of my time, money, and energy. I never want to lose sight that there is a higher purpose for everything - especially travel.
What kind of stories should I create to share with my grandkids? (will I have grandkids if I keep this up...? that's for another blog post...haha)
Where should I go from January - February 2010?!
Cast your votes now...