Saturday, February 18, 2012

Take the Edge Off the Post-Grad Slump.

Tips to get past the lack of direction after graduation

It seems few students have any idea of the depression that can hit after graduation. Travel, career, where to live… While the opportunities are endless, it’s hardly an easy choice to make. Despite admitting to myself that I had no idea what I wanted to do in my last year of university, I never realized how depressing a prospect this could be. 

Not everyone hits this wall right after graduation. For me personally, I was fresh off a trip of backpacking Europe.

I worked all summer and lived in parents home to pay for the trip, but after a few weeks back in my city, sodden and gloomy winter in Vancouver, I floundered. I was floating aimlessly, without any clue of what to do next. For other friends of mine, the crash hit after exams, or following a fruitless job search. After stumbling through a couple post-grad years, I’ve learned a few things that I would have loved to know back in that rain soaked November. Whatever your situation, here are a few tips to avoid (or at least mitigate) the post grad slump.

Go easy on yourself.

Having spent the last four years working hard on my BA and paying my way through it, lounging around at home was hardly my definition of productivity, and as a result I was quite disappointed in my lack of direction. 

I now realize that varying degrees of disappointment seem largely universal. If you’re discouraged that you’re working in a job you hate, a 9 to 5 that isn’t at all related to your degree, or are even unemployed, know that this is a phase that will pass. You managed to earn yourself a degree, despite those possibly daunting first few weeks on campus. You can do this too, it’s just a new learning curve.

    What’s more, this could very well be the first large “real life” decision you’ve ever made. Diploma, post-secondary, major… All these choices are expected for many of us and are relatively easy to follow. Knowing what you want out of your life isn’t always straight forward right away.

    Identify your (short-term) goals.

What are you hoping to get out of this hazy, uncertain, but refreshingly free time in your life? Do you yearn to travel? Launch your career? Learn a new passion, new language? Discover a new neighborhood, city or country to live in? Identifying your goals for the next ten months, or even ten weeks, can be a lot less daunting than the next ten years. We tend to underestimate what we can do little by little and overestimate what we can do in the long run.

If you’re still in school, in the middle of midterm season, pay attention to what you find your mind drifting to in those late-night library sessions. Those daydreams (or early morning hour reveries) often clue you in to what you truly want.  

Seek stability.

Such a great deal of change and unknown can be depressing in itself. Look for something to anchor your days around, even if it’s just steaming cappuccinos or volunteering at your local animal shelter. While I loathed to do it, finally resorting to a coffee shop job framed my first few aimless months and gave me less time to ponder (ie less time to fret myself into a frenzy) what I planned to do with my life.  As much as I hate to admit my mother was on to something, routine in your life can give you focus and help you find some direction.

     Search out an internship.

Arts degrees (among other faculties) won’t leave you living in a box or passing your days flipping burgers at you-know-where if you don’t want to (those commerce jingles are still ringing in my ears…) but they’re often insufficient on their own. We’ve all heard it, but unless you’re trained in something specific, an internship can grant you a wealth of new knowledge and skills a degree alone simply cannot provide. Such an opportunity could help you network within a company or desired field, earn you experience, or simply give you something to work toward. Living in an environment of growth is a great contributor to happiness.  Try visiting these sites for tips on landing yourself an internship, or check out my post Tips to Land an Internship

How to Get an Internship

Canadian Careers: Internships 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Tips to land an internship

What I learned in my experience in an environmentalist non-profit organization.
After spending a few dismal months stuck aimless back in my childhood bedroom in grey, drizzly Vancouver, I was lucky enough to land myself an internship on the other side of the country. The learning curve was incredibly steep, but the experience and confidence I gained was well worth the long hours!

While working there, I met a number of students hoping to find a way into the field. When they discovered how few years apart we were (I was 22) a number of them asked my advice. While I’m hardly an expert, my time there certainly opened my eyes to a few facts, notably how interns are often brought on. Here are a few lessons I learned in my short but jam packed full time in Montreal.

Expect it to take a while.

First off, it’s worth noting that any job search, especially after graduating, be it for an internship or job, is often a long and tedious process. Despite the fact that I had a fairly wide range, albeit base level, of skills (I’ve worked in a number of places, from brewing coffee, to guiding tours, to teaching English, and the list goes on) it took me a long time before managing to score such a position. At least a month, to be honest. Another example is a good friend of mine, J. An extremely driven and hard working individual, she managed to get herself a great job with a prestigious firm in the Prairies. However, that was only after spending an entire month (an entire month!) of working 9 to 5 on her job search. 


I can’t stress this one enough. Volunteering with the organization you’re hoping to intern with is an enormous advantage. It gives you a much better idea of what to expect of the organization and how it works. I expect (as I pretty much came fresh) that this would make things significantly easier for the first few weeks as you already know how it was run. And of course, even more importantly, you have connections within the organization. When something opens up, they could already have you in mind. While I was interning there and needed more help (there is always more work to be done and not enough people to do it, in this non-profit at least), which happened a great deal, we often gave volunteers who had worked well with us in the past more responsibility. And this leads me to my next point:

Be aware of timing. 

Like so many things in life, timing is everything. Non-profits, at least the one I worked at in any case, have a ton of work but not enough people to get it all done. They may hope for extra hand, but it’s challenging to find the time to find someone new and train them. So when a little window of time opens up, it’s often brief: they’ll take what’s easiest. So if you happen to answer the phone right away, or as I said before, are already in their minds because you previously volunteered, that will help you a great deal in getting more responsibility.

Why non-profit?

If a high profile firm internship is what you’re after, by all means, go for it. I simply have experience in the non-profit sector, so that’s the main reason I focus on this particular experience. I will say, however, that there are certain advantages to searching for an internship in this field. Like I said before, they are often overworked and starving for the extra help. If you’re willing to do it for free, they can overlook a lack of experience. 

Furthermore, a number of programs exist to help their cause, including funding for student and graduate internship. Mine, for example, was funded through the YMCA, YMCA Post Secondary Youth Eco Internships

Straight up offer.

From what many people have told me, a great deal of internships aren’t listed, but some organizations take on interns when offered. For example, the person who took over my position when I left didn’t directly apply to an ad like I did, but simply submitted his resume out of the blue. A few months later they brought him on, because once again, his resume impressed them and they already had him in mind; there was no need to search. As a plus, in doing so, you can choose what organization interests you in particular, and there is less competition.


As interns are inexperienced, that being the point of an internship, the organization is taking a risk by taking you on. So don’t let them down, work to show you’re worth the time they're investing in you. One of the biggest pet peeves of my supervisor were interns that couldn’t hold their weight, who had to be “spoon fed” every step of the way. Now of course it’s a learning environment and you’re hardly expected to know everything, but do your best to be proactive. As they would say over there, they don’t want any “bébé la la”. 

Earn your reputation.

One of the toughest parts of my internship was the fact that I was younger and less experienced than everyone else; I was just the intern and therefore not always taken seriously (and sometimes ignored). If you show that you can take responsibility, are accountable, and will "go that extra mile", you’ll earn respect. Don’t be put off if you feel too young. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Travel tips: Europe Inspired and Asia Acquired

Tips for the beginner backpacker

I didn't grow up traveling, but always dreamed of doing so during and after my time at university. I've added a few notches in my belt: time spent in easy going Australia, historical Europe, and exotic Asia. I'm by no means an expert, but here are some lessons I've learned along the way.

A Seasoned Traveler

My boyfriend awaiting our long overdue boat to Gili Air, Indonesia
One realization I would have loved to know a few years ago is that becoming a good traveler isn't some innate natural quality or ability, it's an acquired skill: a constant flux and an ongoing learning process with each new place visited. I assumed I wasn't the best traveler... not the most adventurous, and, as my boyfriend can attest to, hardly the greatest sense of direction. However, many skills are acquired along the way: patience for long train rides, understanding when encountering new cultures, having any idea of where to start in a new city... Traveling takes practice.

There Goes the Fear...

Feeling nervous before a big trip, or any one trip fir that matter, is normal. Fear of the unknown, simple as that. What if the flight doesn't work out..? What if I don't get through immigration..? What I miss my train...? All these problems are generally over thought before leaving, and are all solvable, worst case scenario.

To quell your worries, know that:
A) Once you leave, much of your anxiety will be left at home with the rest if your other non essentials. 
B) Although this could be your first time traveling to this particular country, odds are it's not their first time dealing with tourists like you. Far from it! Thousands have most likely come before you. Though applying for a visa or passing through immigration may seem daunting, the officials are used to it.
C) Research calms the mind. Look into the country before you leave, at least to have an idea of what to expect and to calm your nerves. What is the exchange rate? How does one say thank you, please? Where are the best hostels?, Wikitravel and travel blogs are great ways to start.
D) Do a checklist. Passport? Photocopy of it? Music? Sunscreen? VISA? I didn't realize until very close to my flight (days, admittedly) I would need an entry visa for China. Oops! One crazed and stressed week later, I thankfully boarded my plane with my visa safely secured in my passport. Make sure to check entry requirements before you head out!

Travel Styles

Cooking ingredients
My Balinese cooking teacher making curry
What type of traveler are you? There are many different types of activities that could make (or break) your interest in seeing the world when you go on your first trip. Do days filled with adventurous trekking, unusual culture, or relaxed days by the beach excite you the most? Keep an open mind when deciding what type you prefer. It may sound obvious, but adding new elements other than museums and beaches can add a great new dimension. In South East Asia I tried my hand at Thai Massage and Balinese cooking. Loved it!

That being said however, what works for one person might not work for you. I recently realized I don't like deserted tropical islands. Somehow the days I spent on islands in Australia, Greece and Indonesia disinterested me. Bizarre, I know. I would much rather spend my days wandering through meandering streets in a foreign town than snorkeling through coral reefs. Look for what pleases you, not what's "meant" to interest you. 

Knowing what style of travel suits you best plays a vital role in how much you will enjoy your time away. Just because you went once and didn't like it, doesn't mean you dislike traveling altogether. Maybe you need a different partner. Or museums aren't your thing. Think of things you enjoy at home. A new country's version of that activity (think translating snowboarding to surfing) could be your best shot.

Stay in Hostels

The view from a lovely hostel in Paris
A few of my friends once admitted to me that they aren't interested in backpacking because they're less than thrilled with the idea of staying in a hostel. Though I may have taken a while to get used to the idea (the word princess still lingers in my memory from a few years back...) it's well worth it. You have the opportunity to meet many more globetrotters, which is part of the joy of seeing the world in itself. They may also have great suggestions of where to go next, what to see, what to eat... 

Furthermore, not all hostels are the same. I've stayed in some less than perfect ones, but other "designer" ones too. Check out and you'll see there is a huge variety, ranging from the oh-gosh-please-don't-make-me-touch-that-bathroom-floor to the-wow-how-I-even-find-a-place-this-lovely? Read the reviews from previous guests online. It helps!

My Last Little Tip for this Post: Scents

Although I know I am slightly more scent sensitive than most (choosing a new body wash and spending an embarrassing amount of time in the drug store smelling each one brings me an unreasonable amount of joy), scents can be a great addition to tour trip. Scent is the strongest sense tied to memory, after all. Bring a favorite scent that reminds you of home when you're homesick: lotion, shampoo, perfume... I find it to be a great pick me up. And, buy a new one that you use only on your time abroad! That way, a few months later, the smell will remind you of your glorious weeks spend away from home. Such a small purchase could bring you back in a way far stronger than any selections of photos could.

Happy travels!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Open Heart, Open Mind

Meditation and acro yoga

One of my main goals while traveling is to stretch my boundaries, expand my comfort zone. Though it hasn't always been easy (check out this post) and I have at times missed my familiar coffees and toast at home, it has been worth it. My time at the Sanctuary provided many such opportunities.

Meditation has always been something that has interested me. Be it on a spiritual level or not, the benefits I've read of behind meditation intrigue me. (Well that and Eat Pray Love... I can’t deny how much I reminisce if that book being here in Bali!) I've managed a few moments of meditative awareness on my own and through yoga, but never very seriously. So when I saw the blackboard at the Sanctuary in Haad Tien decorated with swirls and flowers boasting a six pm free meditation class, I decided this would be my shot.

From what other guests have told me, there are active and non active classes. Some are spent chanting, others sitting silently... I honestly had no idea what to expect.

I walk in, resume a savasana pose with a few others, and wait expectantly for the teacher to arrive. After a few words of welcome, he softly clarifies that we will be, along with music, spending fifteen minutes shaking, fifteen dancing, fifteen standing or sitting, and fifteen sitting or lying down.

Pardon? You want me to shake around for fifteen minutes? Just jiggle around however the energy takes me? Oh my… However as much as this may have been a surprise to me, the rest of my class is unfazed; they simply close their eyes as the calming rhythmic beats of music fill the room.  

Try as I might to let go of my inhibitions and let my body bounce around freely, I can’t help but sneak a peak at the others around me. Seeing those swaying, bouncing, jittering around me, I can’t help but want to giggle. I suppress the desire and settle for a smile instead. Tell me, why did I decide to put myself in a room full of hippies jiggling about?

Somehow that ridiculous moment frees me of my thoughts and criticism. I forget what my boyfriend, my mum, my friends would think and when the instructor chimes in that the dance portion is beginning, I let the music flow through me; however my body wants to move.

Somehow, miraculously, the dancing works for me! I hardly feel my thoughts interrupting my movements, and am actually able to calm my mind for longer than a couple minutes.  I leave feeling refreshed, centered, and much more optimistic about new ways to meditate.

I keep this newfound elation as I step into my acro yoga workshop the next day. It is literally ‘acrobatic yoga’ and involves partnering into various balancing postures. Through this has always intrigued me, I’ve never tried it; I’m not entirely comfortable upside down (especially when held by someone else) nor with someone even lifting me altogether (memories of being on of the dancers “too large to partner with” still plagues me…). Thankfully my state of mind as a result of yesterday’s meditation has quelled some of these insecurities.

Our instructor enlightens us that the two most important elements of acro yoga are  

trust and surrender. Trust your partner will carry your weight, and surrender your full body weight to them. 

Without having the time to pause and examine my apprehension over these new postures, my teacher hoists me upside down, and I’m literally dangling in front of the class. 

Breathe… breathe… breathe… 

Happily, after a few hours, our instructor has us hanging off each others feet on our hips, contorting in various bizarre postures. Very rewarding!

I read once that according to Buddhist thought, “when the student is ready, the teacher appears”. In the afternoon, I am chatting with an English girl about our travels and she tells me that when she steps into each country, she repeats the following mantra:

“Open heart, open mind”.

She’s so right. The challenges and misgivings I had in these classes represent new cultures for me: if you can let go of expectations, come in with an open mind, you can embrace what a country has to offer. Some aspects of these classes may have seemed strange and outlandish, but it has helped me to open my eyes and shed away the stereotypes.

Easier said than done, but I’m trying.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The compass

How did I ever end up here?

My trip to Europe in many ways was significantly easier than Asia, at least in terms of my expectations. We always stayed along a very well known path, saw very well known cities, and spoke very well known (for us at least) languages. I had grown up seeing pictures of white stucco walls of Greece, and romantic street light lit movies in Paris… I could easily point to each city on a map. Every new city I experienced a feeling of “I can’t believe I’m actually here! A place that I’ve seen so many times but am actually experiencing for real…” A bit like seeing a movie star.

My time in Asia, however, has been considerably more unexpected... More like meeting some strange individual that you’ve heard bits and pieces about, but need to spend time with to really to get to know.

One feeling I find myself repeatedly experiencing is wondering how I even got myself in certain situations. I know how I physically made it, but it’s as if my consciousness needs time to catch up with me… as if there is such a high level of new stimuli which I have no frame of reference for that I need to pause, take it all in and realize that this is truly happening to me. Getting to “The Sanctuary” in Koh Phangan was definitely one of those situations.

To begin with, I’ve realized that every time I leave for a new location on my own I become quite apprehensive. A few people have, amiably, told me that I must be brave to manage such a trip by myself (well at least bits of it on and off), but I can't ignore the fear of the unknown before I strike out on my own. After spending almost a week with some friends in Koh Samui and Haad Rin, I did my best to let this anxiety slide off my shoulders and I headed towards the pier for The Sanctuary.

The Sanctuary, a yoga retreat on the same island as Haad Rin (better known for its infamous full moon parties), is quite remote, and most easily accessible by boat. Unfortunately, however, the waters were too choppy and I was informed I need to take an off road taxi. What they neglected to tell me, when I asked a few hours prior, is that these “taxis” have set times.

Once I made it to the pier, the taxi drivers told me one truck had just left, and I would need to wait until more other travelers show up. Pardon? I just need to wait some unspecified amount of time until a few more yogis heading in the same direction simply “show up”? The closest estimation they gave me is "maybe in two hours", at 7:30pm, when the last boat from Koh Samui comes in. At this point I was already exhausted after trying to sleep in (what I considered) quite filthy, raucous and humid bungalows on the beach in Haad Rin and was feeling entirely disgusting… Combine that with my fear of the unfamiliar and my western expectations of travel times (quite a high demand on a tropical island I am aware) and I nearly gave up on the whole idea. Luckily they decided my business alone was worthy of a trip over, and shortly I climbed into one of the pick-up truck “shuttles” that would take me to Haad Tien.

With my backpack bouncing along in the back, we pushed our way through a trail in the Thai jungle. Now this was an adventure, at least by my standards! The craziness of the bumps and hills, and the fact that I was going to the middle of nowhere on a little island, in a pick-up truck, with some random Thai driver, alone, somehow brought a smile to my face. Every second airborne (yes, that kind of ride) brightened my mood. How did I even get here? Where am I? How am I actually managing this?

Forty five minutes later, I ended up at the Sanctuary. 
The reception area


I kicked off my flip flops at the reception (the inside, if you can qualify it as such as it’s open air, requires bare feet, which I love) and landed myself a dorm for 200 baht a night,roughly $6.50 cad. 

My dorm room
and the view

The main area is built almost entirely of bamboo and being on the beach, you can feel the breeze as you sip on coconut water in a hammock (love fulfilling those stereotypes) or eat some of their (naturally) vegetarian food. Though the food and classes are expensive by Thai standards, it’s still reasonable enough for a backpacker. Their array of choices from a little Japanese style futon on the ground in the dorms to upscale air conditioned bungalows cater to variety of people.

And is it ever a variety of people! My first impression of the place was like a Thai version of the Naam crossed with Wreck Beach. I suppose I expected a bunch of health conscious granola types, which they are, but I didn’t quite realize the level of eccentricity I would find here. Everyone here seem to own only sarongs, tie-dye, fisherman pants and feathers… Many clearly enjoy psychedelics, and greet one another with hands in prayer saying “Namaste”.  Of all the places I choose for my week alone in Thailand, I end up here. Clearly I have more of my father’s bend toward unconventionality in me than I realize!

Most notable of the individuals I’ve met have been a very spiritual Norwegian yoga instructor, S, and a Torontonian named River. Usually I don’t include names in my blog, but when you change your name to something like that... Well I couldn't help but to use it to illustrate the kind of people I’m meeting here. My first night the two of them had such surreal conversation that my fatigue seemed to melt away.

Needless to say, River was quite adamant that I try something to “connect with the universe” and that I could later use that experience as a reference point, or something along those lines… Not really a choice for me personally, but interesting to hear his point of view! S, who, having put sunscreen on my back two days in a row, declared my skin felt better today. Had I practiced yoga? My energy was different. Yogis I tell you.

I met another Canadian, J, here, who had just spent the last three years teaching English in Korea. Definitely a bit more Commercial Drive than Kits (loving my Vancouver references in this post), but she had danced her whole life too, so we got along well. After chatting for a while, she was very sweet and gave me her compass as she was heading home in the next few days. What a useful tool! I never thought of it. If ever I’m lost in a city (always), in a taxi that may or may not be heading in the right direction (likely), or in the middle of some random island, I can always have a little bit of direction. I feel much more prepared to deal with those “how did I ever end up here and where the am I??” moments.

Check out the Sanctuary's website :

Monday, December 12, 2011

My trek to China.

I've made it to China. Xingyi, Guizhou, China to be exact, in the far south of the country. If Japan was a whole other culture, China feels like a whole other planet.

As my friends would say "ce n'était pas évident arriver ici!" it was a trek! I left Sasebo at 8am, walked with my lovely backpack for 20 mins, hoped a bus, rushed hoping ever so much to make my shuttle to the airport on time. An hour later, I'm at the Nagasaki airport. Despite a great amount of confusion (I've learned to always allow time for the language barrier), I finally make it aboard the plane.

Then I arrive in Shanghai.

Words cannot express my utter disbelief at the place. The sheer vastness, chaos and blank was mind boggling, to say the least. I somehow realized I needed to change airports (yes airports, not terminals) so I nervously mounted a shuttle they pointed and shouted would be the one to get me to Honqien.

This ride astounded me. We maneuvered over and under, around and through winding highways... Five lanes one way. Cars stopping in the middle of two lanes. Honks everywhere. People pilling on motorcycles without helmets, pushing their way through the traffic. Highways one on top of the other. Signs showing the level of upcoming traffic with green, orange or red lanes. I wasn't quite sure if the haze I was seeing was cloud or pure pollution.

A stunned hour later, I somehow make it to to another side of the city. There is no way I'll do any sight seeing at this point, as it's already 4:30pm and my flight leaves at 6. Even flying above the city was mind blowing. The lights, the skyscrapers crowd the scene for miles and miles...

Finally, I arrive in Kunming at 9:30pm (10:30 Japan time) and follow the crowd correctly to reach me to the baggage claim. Looking with anticipation through a sea of black hair (surely it will be easy to spot the only white guy in the place?) I see my friend D, his eyes light up and holds a sign with my nickname on it.

I have arrived!

Only not exactly. My flight goes to Kunming, but I've still got to make it to Xingyi. Let travel in China begin...

My friends are so brave to move here.

Monday, December 05, 2011

An uneasy conscience.

A couple of days ago, my friend D and I watched Before Sunrise (which I highly recommend, by the way, especially for those with a love of traveling) and the main character, Jesse, mentions that these great ideas always seem to come to him when he's on a train. I can absolutely relate. The time I spend on long journeys, trains especially, tend to lull me into a state of thought and reflection.

This was the case last week, on yet another flight: this time from Nagasaki to Shanghai.

Travel and global warming

Taking off in a plane always triggers the same thought... As the plane takes on speed, lifts up and the city rushes by me, I can't help feeling guilty, that this is the worst possible thing I could do for the environment. All those months of doing my best to take reusable water bottles to yoga, travel mugs to work, tote bags to the grocery store all disappear in one fell swoop when I make the decision to step on a plane. Ironic in a way really, because my desire to travel stems from wanting to see the world and appreciate its diversity, but in doing so, I'm the one ruining it, and am entirely conscious of my actions and of their consequences. Carbon offsets thankfully do take the edge off the guilt, at least in part, but the guilt still lingers.

English as the "universal" language.

My native English presents a dichotomy for me when I travel: on one hand, I feel so fortunate to have grown up speaking English, as it so happens to be the language most widely spoken and understood. If you don't speak the country's language, English is usually your next best bet. While in Europe last year, I was struck by the number of people and places that spoke English. Although I feel that it's useful to have a language so widely understood, at least the basics, and I agree it is beneficial to have a common language, a common ground to stand on, I can't help thinking it's sad in a way... That the widespread use of it and desire to learn it could come at the expense of other cultures and diversity. As my friend A mentioned to me, "who am I to come to a country and teach them English, to think that my language is worth learning over another?"

In Japan for example, so many of the signs, from train stops to coffee shops, had English names, or written under the Japanese at the very least. And on the idea of coffee shops, Starbucks was everywhere. In the train stations, in the department stores, in the shopping districts... Why should a company from an English speaking nation exist all over the world?
My adorable friend J sipping on Starbucks in Kyoto

That being said... I am not always as adventurous a traveler as I would like to be and the combination of caffeine, wifi and North American culture has often been my saving grace! 

How lucky I am to be born Canadian.

My younger brother, somehow much braver than I, has already been to Thailand and Malaysia, by himself, at the age of nineteen. I could never have done this. He told me that while getting to South East Asia was outrageously expensive, once you arrive the cost of living is incredibly cheap. Though I'm not in Thailand yet, Xingyi, China fits that description perfectly. Though this is clearly to my advantage, it makes you realize how unfair life truly is. I read that the economy Guizhou, the province Xingyi is located in, is comparable to the poorest of Central American countries.

Overlooking a typical porch in Xingyi
Working on temple in Xingyi

If I have a hard time saving money to make it to China, what hope does a Chinese girl of my age from Guizhou have of saving enough money not only to get to Canada, but of affording the necessities upon arrival? I just so happened to be born in a country with a good economy. That in itself is incredibly lucky.

All this is not to say that I feel nothing but guilt about my lot in life and about my trip. I just think it's good to pause and truly appreciate how fortunate I've been.

Also, on a side note, now that I'm traveling, I'm thankfully much more interested in planning each next step of my trip. My disinterest in it was starting to worry me for a bit... Like the saying "the more you learn, the less you know", the more I travel, the more I realize how small I am in the great scheme of things and how much there truly is to see. As much as I'm visiting four countries in two months, I'm only seeing such a small small part of each. I understand how people can spend a lifetime traveling.