I often find myself inspired to write when I am sitting at a table on a hostel balcony, notebook in front of me, seeing daily life pass by in the places I travel to. Agra in India, Kathmandu in Nepal, Lijiang in China, and now Chiang Mai, Thailand. The ponderings are a little bit more serious this time though.
For 2012, the plan was to backpack through Vietnam, China, and Malaysia, and then head down to Singapore, where my March flight booking says I fly home to Manila finally bringing to an end this six-month trip around Asia. But clearly, I am neither in Vietnam, China, Malaysia, nor in Singapore. What am I doing in Thailand then?
Truth is, I was terrified that the all-too familiar feeling of depression I experienced in Saigon as I was heading home last Christmas might come back with a vengeance. I knew that I was to set off again after the holidays but a part of me feared that I might not be able to. Thankfully, I was able to get back on the road. I realized, however, that this time, after three more months of travel and a severely hemorrhaged bank account, I knew I would need to come home.
So my self-preservation instincts kicked in. I booked a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Chiang Mai, a place I knew I would be able to see myself living in, thus, get a job in, too. It's my kind of city. It's a city but it's laid back. It's touristy but you're not pressured to do touristy things. And it has a big international community I associate myself with. It helps that cost of living is very low. Fortunately for me, the folks at Roomorama helped me get settled in, partly sponsoring my stay in an apartment in the city. And I have been in the process of job seeking ever since I arrived.
Today, though, I was feeling something different. I think seeing recent posts by travel blogging legends Nomadic Matt, Flip Nomad, and Legal Nomads, all of which dealt with coming home and homesickness, forced me to confront what has been brewing inside for a while now:
I feel okay that this six-month journey is coming to a close. If I am to go back home tomorrow, I am confident that I'll be fine with it. I would in fact be exhilarated to start over and begin a new life.
I know. I'm surprised, too! Maybe it's because after six months of travel, four of which I did all by myself, I have become more independent, secure, and confident now. Back home, like most born-and-bred Manileños my age, I lived in my parents' house. I like to think it has to do third-world pragmatism. I graduated from college and began working as a professional, but at the end of the day, I did not need to worry much about food, rent, and all other things living independently entails.
However, I think I have gotten to a point where traveling alone, living alone, being all things independent, have become easy and, at times, comfortable. All my basic necessities like food, clothing, and shelter, I can provide for myself. And I no longer feel left out when I see groups of travelers (and there are many of them in Asia) walking around having a great time together. Don’'t get me wrong. I love meeting new people and thanks to the very active Couchsurfing community in Chiang Mai, I have met a lot of great ones here.
But again, I'm fine by myself. So at the back of my head, I know that if I go home, I am confident that I will be able to forge a new life for myself and not go back to my old ways, which, let's face it, might not even be there anymore. And damn it, that idea excites me.
One of my job applications here in Chiang Mai seems to be going well. I would not say that it's in the bag but I think at this point, it looks favorable on my part. The question is, do I even want to push through with my plan of living and working in Chiang Mai? It's not that I don't want the job. I do. It's a pretty sweet gig. But I remember that part of the reason I pursued it was because I did not want to go home yet and securing that job meant that I get to stay on the road longer.
However, with feelings finally confronted, I realize now I'll be fine with the idea of returning home. So what now?
Update April 23, 2012: The Chiang Mai-based job worked out, yes. They are hiring me. It took them a few weeks to inform me, however, long enough that through connections I had made in Chiang Mai, I ended up landing another part-time job, one that is location-independent. I am back in Manila, arrived here just yesterday. I am starting work for the two companies and I have made arrangements with the Chiang Mai-based company to allow me to work remotely for a couple of weeks. To be fair, they did inform me that they were hiring me a day before my flight back to Manila. I am, however, returning to Chiang Mai very soon. What that means for this blog and this whole travel lifestyle? I'll tell you soon on another post.
How do you usually deal with post-travel feelings? To getting back to "real" life after a life-changing travel experience?