Tuesday, June 9, 2015
I'm curled up in my bed and there is a slow burn of a rainstorm outside, one of the three markers that tick off the seasons and years here: hot, rainy, cool. I had somehow forgotten that the rainy season started in June until the rains started again this year, and I was flooded (bad pun not intended) with memories of waiting out storms at Bor Pen Nyang with friends, or saying screw it, I'm sleeping on your couch, or, worst option, braving the roads turned rivers on my little motorbike and praying my red flag of a rain poncho kept me visible and safe. Most of those people are gone now, and with this beginning of rainy season I am getting ready to become a person who will be gone now, too.
I have no concrete plans for next year. I have resisted talking about it because, to my Type-A, hyper planner self, the regularity and certainty of a contract secured in March that runs from August until the next June has been a dream. I can look quite far out in the future- a year, a year and a half- and know what job I will have and where I will be living. But now? Here's my "plan":
I'm leaving Laos in a handful of days, a small scattering, a quantity that feels so fragile when I look at them and think of all the tasks and errands and chores and duties I have to heap on them. I have a similarly scant scattering of time to fill with some kind of vacation time, a short break, before I head off to Russia for a month. My wonderful friend referred me to a job as a governess with a family, and so I am going to be Mary Poppins of the Black Sea for the exact maximum amount of time my Russian visa gives me. When that is finished, I hop over to Switzerland to couchsurf with a friend for an undetermined amount of time. At some point I will head to Italy in late September to meet up with another friend, and I hope to find my way to Montenegro to see a good friend with whom I taught in Albania. In between? After? During, if things go south?
Dear reader, that's it. No more plans after that. I have tentative ideas and feelers and maybe can I reaching out across Europe for reunions and couchsurfing and hanging out, but other than Russia followed by Switzerland not a ticket has been booked, an itinerary made, a schedule to follow, a back-up plan- nothing. I mean nothing.
And I'm certainly not doing this because I'm independently wealthy, or have been making bank here in Laos. I assure you neither of those things are true. I am doing this with an amount of money that would buy you a pretty nice used car in Texas. I am doing this because if there is one thing that Laos has taught me, it's that I can handle uncertainties, so I am choosing to mark the parameters of my uncertainties and give myself something I have wanted for a long time- true, unfettered travel. I could easily have convinced myself not to do this this summer, but I had these plans last year and (SO VERY WISELY, BEST DECISION I COULD HAVE MADE) put them on hold, gritted my teeth, and clawed my way through my last year of grad school. But it's time now. I am up for the challenge. I am tired of being jealous of the people I meet in hostels who are traveling on a shoestring and just throwing everything up for grabs and going for it. I've saved as much as I can, I'm selling as much as I can be bothered to sell, and I am giving away the rest.
When I leave Vientiane, I'll be willfully putting myself in a precarious situation for the sheer curiosity of seeing how I will handle it. I'm using myself as my own test subject to push on pieces of me and see how I react. I want to know how I do this, how I make it work, how I deal with it when I fail (no if, when, there will be failures). I want to do it now, when I can, before it's too late, or before I'm too afraid. Look, I know it's not some crazy adventure like scaling Everest, or going on some dangerous back country wilderness trek, or doing any number of far more traditionally adrenaline packed things. But for me, and my personal fears, doing this is hard. And it's scary. For someone who has worked since the age of fourteen, and takes a lot of pride (sometimes excessively so) in taking care of myself and being responsible and organized and with it and sensible, this is like a foreign land of experience, another universe of options. But I have to do it because when things are hard and scary I usually find myself on the other side of them, looking at myself in amazement at what I accomplished, and feeling so much relief that I tried it and didn't just turn away.
Or maybe I'll end up flat broke in Europe. That's a possibility, too, and I'm okay with it. There are worse things in this life, I know from experience.
The rain has been coming down for about an hour now. I'm imagining all my friends here in Vientiane safe in their houses, sleeping to the sounds of this storm. I am curled up in this familiar place, for now, in my bed, in this apartment that has seen my best and worst over the last two years. I am loathe to leave the stability, love, and enjoyment of my social network, my wonderful job, my peaceful home, my bed, the rain on the palm trees outside my window, the list goes on. But I am going to leave all of that anyway, for no other reason than simple curiosity. I just want to see what will happen.