If, like me, you prefer to be in control of what happens in your life there are two main methods I would use to ensure I was always in control. The first method was, do nothing. If you don’t do anything different then you always know what is going to happen next. You will get up, go to work, go to the pub, sleep, see the same friends, laugh at the same jokes and memories. You can plan your life around TV schedules and opening hours. It is safe comfortable and actually very, very enjoyable. I am not knocking it; it worked for me for a long time.
The second method was do things alone, that way you can decide when to go, where to go and when to leave.
By moving abroad and becoming an expat, it becomes more difficult to stick to either method. These days I am using the second method more frequently but I am also trying to feel less control about what happens next. I am trying to relinquish some control because what I am learning is by sometimes letting others lead you, you can discover many new and wonderful adventures.
To recap; I spent around 10 years living a relatively pleasant existence in Brighton, working, having fun, spending time with lovely friends and generally getting by. But I was sticking to method one. I didn’t really DO anything. I was in control of what happened because it followed a pattern. Three years ago I took control of the boredom that was starting to set in and applied for a job in Brazil. Three years later here I am, sitting in a coffee shop in Pai, Northern Thailand thinking about how I finally managed to open myself up to new experiences.
I started to travel when I moved to Brazil, I was a little nervous so my first trip was a three week organized tour. Life was easy I was in a small group (luckily all fantastic people who became good friends) and we were led from one place to another across Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. I didn’t have to worry about booking bus tickets or accommodation. Johan, the leader, Spanish-speaking South African, took care of everything. However, I did have to give up control, I had to give up knowing the detail of what would happen next. I am sure I drove Johan crazy, as I always wanted to know, so this bus is at what time? And it takes how long? And we arrive when? Questions, questions, questions…
I have grown to love travel but often I travel with others, with more experience (or confidence) than me, and although I am happy to let them take the lead this can be a struggle for the control freak inside me.
During the last three weeks I have been travelling again, with new friends in places they know very well. They are able to take me to locations I would never have found on my own or in The Lonely Planet. In order to fully enjoy these adventures I had to once again relinquish control but also to trust. I see now that being in control is really an issue of trust. I don’t think I trusted people when I lived in the UK. I was still learning to trust in Brazil, but Japan, sweet strange Japan, has helped me learn to trust. It’s so safe, organized and efficient. I trust that the train will arrive on time, the taxi driver will take me to my destination, the parcel will arrive on time.
So now, when I get on a minibus in Thailand and it stops, and I’m not sure why because I don’t understand the whole itinerary, now, I am not as worried. I’m not thinking someone is trying to rob me, attack me, mislead me or rip me off. They are just picking up some extra passengers.
In Chiang Mai I left some friends around 9.30pm and walked back to my hotel, a short walk 10 minutes maximum, along busy streets. Next day my friend asked, “Were you ok getting back?” I was little nervous, I answered truthfully but I knew it would be ok, “It’s so safe”. She said, having been a Chiang Mai resident in that area for a few years. And I remembered friends in England walking back late at night telling me the same thing, but I didn’t believe them, I didn’t think it was safe then. But I trust more now, in what? The goodness of people? Trust that the world is not so dark, it shines a little brighter or I am not so afraid of not knowing everything that will happen next or preventing ignorance by never moving.
So I learn that travel requires a certain naivety. This town, full of youthful backpackers zooming around on cheap rented motorcycles with little thought of consequences. I have seen at least two people with bandaged injuries, one holding ice to her head. But they are joyful, and still having fun. I don’t advocate dangerous driving but I do have a little to learn or remember from these happy go lucky souls.
As I bounce along in these vehicles, on a road to who knows where, at the end of the journeys I have found; balloon rides, incredible scenery, delicious food and even baby elephants! I am so proud that I am learning to trust, because trusting people has given me some of the richest gifts of my life.