On October 8th, three days before leaving Canada for South East Asia, I wrote in my journal: “I am leaving for South East Asia in three days. Above all else, I am determined to not put this trip within a “box.” I do not want to limit my experiences, nor do I want to categorize a multi-faceted excursion by one single experience–as good, as bad, or as ugly as it may be. This trip seems like a crystal prism to me: so many sides you can look through; so many ways to reflect the light, creating different results from the same source.”
I was reminded of this promise to myself at several points throughout the trip, as some moments were indeed “good”, others “bad,” and still others were quite “ugly.” There were times, such as in the hilltribes, were it was all I could do to not repeat the words over and over again: “I LOVE it here! I LOVE it, I LOVE it, I LOVE it here,” sleeping under the stars, bathing with fresh stream water, and eating off of the food provided by local land. And there were times (I won’t get into specifics for this one) where I, in all my dramatic aires, was determined that life could not possibly get any worse than it was at that exact moment….(and then it did. Ah, so great.)
Still, there were times where I had no idea what was happening, and it was perhaps during those moments that I experienced a glimpse of what pilgrimage was; entertaining questions like “where am I going? What is the journey’s end? How long will it take? How long will we stay for? ….Should I have brought toilet paper?” Questions of all varieties, importances, and significance filled my mind and yet I simultaneously knew they could not be immediately answered. ??And now I’m back in Canada. And it’s cold. And I can understand people when they speak, and they can understand me. And…excuse me??? There are toilets and toilet paper and the toilet flushes and I can actually flush the toilet paper??!?! And there are bathtubs and lots of Caucasians and there is good peanut butter!! And lentils!!!!!!!!! And pizza!!!!!!!!! Pizza that doesn’t give you food poisoning, even!!!!!! Ahem. Pardon me. *Composing myself.* What I mean to say is this: coming back to Canada had felt like re-entering a strange dream; the people and places and activities are all vaguely familiar and yet there is an eerie quality to near-everything.
Meanwhile everyone (yes, that’s right, everyone!!!) I reunite with has asked me “How was your trip?” as if I could answer them in the seven-odd seconds allocated in the West before it seems awkward to still be standing around not doing something productive. And I know I can’t really answer that question without taking at least an hour, and wouldn’t even be able to answer it fully if given a day, so I choose to give the most truthful of answers I can provide when given seven seconds to do so: It was life-changing (here, I pause for dramatic affect as well as to push the 7-second limit) and I can’t wait to go back.