A Travellerspoint blog


sunny 95 °F

It's 5 AM and I've been awake for hours thanks to good old jet lag. I tried laying down and resting more, but it's not in the stars today. It's also the only time of day that it's not mind-numbingly hot here, so I'm taking advantage of the ability to think to try and write some thoughts I've been having.

You go through a lot of emotions when you get prepared to leave a a place. By the time I left, I honestly didn't even want to go. My life is good. I had a job, lived in a beautiful city, had the ability to meet my own needs and feel safe, and have great family, friends, and a great guy in my life. Regardless, I knew that I applied for this opportunity for a reason, and I'm trying to believe that in the end it will all be worth it. But right now, in this hot ass city with trash everywhere, it's hard to see it.

When I was moving out of my apartment, this cute little snail appeared on moving day.

If you knew my life, you know why I found this to be an amazing omen! A cute little snail appeared to wish me well, I must be making the right choices! I left to do some errands and get the uhaul, and upon my return went to go move the little snail off the path down to my apartment so we could start moving things. And... my happy little snail was now a squished little puddle of yellow goo. Noooooooooooo

Was this a bad sign? Was I making the wrong decision instead? Would I get my spirit crushed like that poor little snail?

Later that day I found a penny, heads up, on the floor of my apartment. Another omen? I wasn't sure, but I pocketed it just in case.

The next few days were busy but good, and I got some one-on-one time with important people in my life. The day before I left I was wondering about this whole giant crazy trip, and saw this...

WHAT IS? The squished snail, or the happy snail? The penny? This literal sign? I was so confused, and I still am.

On the ride to the airport it was raining -- was this Seattle saying a nice Seattle goodbye, or foreshadowing my future? I was feeling a little crazy at this point, but aren't omens supposed to be obvious?

I figured maybe I would run into a fellow traveler on either one of my two flights to Phnom Penh, a nice person who would want to chat and we would become friends and travel around together. Instead I sat between two manspreaders on the 12.5 hour flight to Taiwan, barely sleeping and craving human attention. In the Taiwan airport no one said a word to me, so I wandered aimlessly until it was time to board. I was still hopeful that I might sit next to someone nice who would suggest that I share a taxi with them, etc.

And the seat next to me was empty for the entire flight.

Was this a sign that I should calm down and enjoy some peace and open space, or was this the universe saying "yeah, you really need to feel your isolation right now because you let that snail get smushed"? No one sitting in front of or behind me spoke any English. So I read a book and tried not to worry.

I've only been here for a hot second, so I can't comment yet on these omens for my own situation, but I can't help but wonder if there's a point in looking for omens, or if things are just things.

My goal for today is to see another human who speaks English. And not get lost. Let's see if I find any more omens.

Posted by NinjaLlama 15:11 Archived in Cambodia Tagged deep_thoughts Comments (1)

Ways a travel fellowship is kinda like dying

A lesson in hyperbole

I swear I'm not a total negative nelly, but the last few weeks of prepping for this trip have been very interesting and I can't stop thinking about how similar they are in some ways to preparing yourself for the big slumber. For example:

  • People feel the unnecessary need to count things for you.

I'm aware how many days remain until my departure. Really don't need your help here. If I had cancer and people started counting how many treatments I had left I would put bedbugs in their car.

  • You start considering the foods you really want to eat before you can't any more.

The travel nurse casually told me "no salads," and someone gave me the sage advice to "just don't eat any fruits or vegetables." Um... thanks guys? Not sure it's really that serious or that any of that is remotely realistic, but imma eat these big gorgeous blueberries right now just in case. This also apparently includes copious amounts of cereal.

  • You put together a will and an advanced directive.

And you also realize you don't really have any assets. I did enjoy giving explicit details about my funeral, however. "Don't you dare use my death as an excuse to stop living your life, bitches"

  • You expect people to come to you.

I don't have time to drive across town to see you. Come to me or feel the regret. I will probably judge you forever.

  • No one wants to watch your plants when you're gone.

Seriously, the pace with which people run from plant foster parent duties is shameful. Literally all you have to do is water them on occasion. Lazy bastards. People who took my plant babies now have a special place in my heart for all time.

  • You take medical appointments very seriously.

An annual exam has never felt more crucial to my well being. You also start to appreciate having health insurance...

  • You start to evaluate the relationships that really matter.

Which relationships cause you anxiety to think about missing out on? Who would you hate to never see again? Who bothered to message or call you before your departure? (Perhaps one of the most important lessons of either process)

Posted by NinjaLlama 17:21 Archived in USA Tagged deep_thoughts Comments (0)

Fear and the anxious traveller


Just wanted to share some thoughts on fear, anxiety, shyness and solo travel that have accumulated over the last year.


First, let me just be frank about the fact that I'm always terrified of everything, and then let me follow that up by telling you that I've conquered twice as many fears as your normal never-scared person, and that actually makes me a badass. I've always been a bit quiet and tentative in certain settings, though in other circumstances I can actually be quite the opposite, it just only ever happens when I'm on my own and I can be whoever I want or when I've had 1/3rd a glass of wine. Regardless, it's been a central issue in my life, and the focus of a lot of my energy trying to change things in a healthy way. You don't just magically wake up one day not being scared of something, and making someone feel guilty about their anxiety or shyness (which, by the way, are different things) in the moment only makes it worse, not better.

I know I'm rambling a little, but bear with me because I might get to the point eventually.

To clarify, when I say I'm terrified of everything (or used to be), I don't mean like... bungee jumping and murderers. I mean... being the first person to walk into a new, unknown space. Learning a skill in front of someone else. Asking a stupid store employee for help when I'm with someone who thinks I will never ask a store employee for help (I can do this just fine when on my own). Calling strangers on the phone. Speaking in front of 500 people. Figuring out public transit in a big new city. MOVING to a new city by myself where I don't know anyone. Dealing with unwanted or unexpected attention. Dancing in public. [side note like Zach Morris on Saved By the Bell where everyone freezes -- I've done all of these things now. Me from 15 years ago would have been squirming to even write the list]

Anyway, I'm basically trying to tell you that scenarios you may have never ever given a second thought to can be crippling for some people. I know I don't fall at the extreme end of the spectrum, but I'm far enough down that line that it stands out.

So, that brings me to fear and this trip, this 8 month, international, 10-ish country, SOLO travel. Like...what. the. crap. Jen. Why am I even DOING this? Well, you jerk face, I'm doing it because I have to. I have to prove to myself that I can. Because I've done all the other things on that list from earlier and many more, and right now, this one feels like the biggest thing I could do. Because I need to do it and have the highs and the lows and come home and say holy bananas I cannot believe I did that thing. And my inner 12 year old will be like "WHAT IS GOING ON WE DID WHAT?!" and I can go back to still being terrified of calling strangers on the phone but I will know that I can do anything.

Okay, so I know I'm doing this, and I know it will be hard, and I know it will be rewarding. So I've spent the last year trying to mentally prepare myself for all of this, because I'm nothing if not a planner-aheader. The trouble is, A) I tend to overshare because I think we're all humans and we should share our human experience or what's the point and B) No one else seems to think this will be hard or scary. Normally my conversations go something like this:

Person: "Cool, what a neat experience you will have!"
Me: "Yeah, it's a really humbling opportunity. Of course I'm terrified, but I'm also really excited!"
Person: *blank stare*
Person: "But cool, you'll have so much fun!"
Me: "Yeah, I think I will learn a lot about other cultures and people. Plus I'm travelling alone so I will learn a lot about myself during the hard and scary parts."
Person: *blank stare*
Person: "When do you leave again?"

Ugh. Who are these people who are never scared of anything and who never vocalize their fears or insecurities ever? Do you not feel them? Do you think it makes you weak to share your emotions? Why are you letting me sit out here in the emotional rain like an idiot while you watch me from the warm indoors, judging me while sipping your hot cocoa instead of opening the god damn door??

Which brings me to one of my points on fear: how much of our fears are about what other people think.


Particularly my fears, which all seem to be about other stupid people. For years I've had one big guiding theme or objective for each year, and for many years I conquered that objective by the time the next calendar went in the trash (which sometimes was more like March than January, but that says more about my household skills than my fear-conquering skills). However, the last two years have had the same objective, and I keep whiffing the freaking ball: STOP CARING WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK.

I'm coming to realize how intertwined these two things are, fear and this obsessive concern with others' opinions. I listened to an interesting podcast the other day about fear, and among many things they had a psychologist on who gave this equation (which you know after the fact I realize I totally wrote down because it was an equation and the scientist in me can't NOT write down equations after 6 years of school):

Fear = thinking + time

Now, personally I would write it more like this: Fear= thinking x time, because I think the thinking compounds over time rather than adding up, but I realize I'm getting a little deep in the weeds. The point is, fear stems from your thoughts, and the longer you can sit with those thoughts, the more the fear can grow. It's one of those things I've heard is unique to humans - we can imagine scenarios and how they might play out, in order to prepare ourselves for their occurrence, or to decide which choice to make about something. The problem starts when our thinking muscles get on steroids and create scenarios that don't even lie within the realm of the laws of physics.

And this is where our imagination comes in. Long praised by my teachers in school for writing the most interesting and creative stories, my little Jen imagination grew and grew and grew. I've always had vivid, crazy dreams, some of them awesome and amazing and some of them so terrifying I remember them to this day. Is it possible that those of us who are overactive in our imaginings of the outcomes of daily interactions (no matter how mundane, like mailing a package at the post office) are more prone to suffer the worst of these unsubstantiated fears? Because, I tell you what, the most boring, non-creative people I know (sorry, I still love you) never seem to be scared of anything.

I'm not saying this is the answer, but for right now, it's my theory.

I'm not sure yet what this means for this trip or my life or the universe in general, but it gives me a new starting point. Maybe it's not about ceasing to care what other people think, but rather slowing down my imagination about those particular scenarios. There are plenty of other things I can daydream about, after all.

Posted by NinjaLlama 19:19 Archived in USA Tagged deep_thoughts Comments (0)

I know you'll ask anyway

The part where I tell you what those words mean


I spent several days trying to think of a clever title for this blog, only to discover you can totally change it whenever you want. Much like the concept of this trip, actually. You can plan and plan and plan and think something has permanence, only to discover it's actually quite malleable to grow with you as you shed this skin for another. Much like many things...

Okay, this got too deep too fast. Let me define these two words for you, both of which I love and the combination of the two seem to capture my feelings and emotions right now, several weeks before this journey even begins. Further interpretation is up to you.

"Saudade, a Portuguese and Galician term that is a common fixture in the literature and music of Brazil, Portugal, Cape Verde and beyond. The concept has many definitions, including a melancholy nostalgia for something that perhaps has not even happened. It often carries an assurance that things thing you feel nostalgic for will never happen again. My favorite definition of saudade is by Portuguese writer Manuel de Melo: 'a pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy.'" - entire NPR article about this word


So there you have it. My blogs from here on forward will be tagged either as "deep thoughts" (much like Jack Handy) or "adventure time". So if you just want to see the cute pictures and me being awkward, that second tag is the one for you. Kthxbye.

Posted by NinjaLlama 17:00 Archived in USA Tagged start_here Comments (1)

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