We are 54 days into the 108 day journey of volunteering and exploration in South East Asia. I believe that is halfway, if my math skill serves me correctly. So we have been out of the United States a little under 2 months, although it feels like 2 years already. I think I attribute that to the fact that each day is an experience now. An experience in learning, in fear, and in humility. Those kind of days for me seem to last longer than the days I spent in my loop back home. Those days, when I would press repeat day after day, seemed to fly by.
I thought it might be a good time to share some observations and experiences. In no particular order...
Even people of a certain age can get to “conversational” in a new language. It has taken a lot of work and memorizing but I am pretty close in Bahasa Indonesia. Naturally all the locals that meet me only want to practice their English. But even recognizing a few words makes a world of difference in a foreign country.
Volunteering so far in Indonesia seems to start organized and then wind up quite quickly "Ad Hoc" or “FRAGO” in the army. This requires a degree of flexibility and patience I am not accustomed to. For instance, In Sumatra I signed up to do island conservation and wound up teaching Microsoft word to local women and buiilding BMX bike tracks for kids. I am usually the guy with the folder for the vacation, like Clark Griswold, who has planned every stop down to the minute. Now I have no plans except to find the next place to volunteer and be on a flight 11/11 from Chiang Mai, Thailand home to LAX. This has tested my ability to “let go" and forced me into acceptance that I control almost nothing in my life.
We humans are adaptable. Spicy Foods, Language, sounds, sights all become "normal" quickly. I could spin it positively or negatively but suffice to say, things that were totally new to me just a few weeks ago, feel quite run of the mill now.
Connections have been the best part of the journey, especially with the younger folk. They are passionate about making things better and aren’t engaged in vitriol on Twitter. It is a nice change. I have a whole new bunch of friends that reside all over the globe.
The philosophy I espouse has been apparent nearly every moment of this trip. The laws of my universe do not apply here. This has led to a dramatic reassessment of my biases and prejudices. Not a day goes by without learning something I didn't know and changing my thoughts on something I thought I did know.
This life pivot is doable. A lot of folks have told me they would like to do something like we are doing, but they can't. That might be true. I thought it was for me. But now I know it can be done and am grateful I made that choice.