Day 20: Difficult time in my life

Oh my god, there’s been a lot.

I guess what pops into mind right away (and what I’m sure most people can relate to) is that transition phase into high school.  That tumultuous time when you’re no longer a kid but a teenager; when climbing trees isn’t cool anymore and boys start to become aliens from another planet instead of your long time playmates.

For me there was the added layer of moving away from my quiet island home to a more sophisticated, modern place like Guam.  Although separated by merely 800 miles of ocean, the two islands couldn’t have been more different.  In Palau, we had mostly unpaved roads and probably about a hundred cars total. Guam had tall buildings, malls, four lane roads and McDonalds–very very foreign concepts in Palau.

It was a time of enormous change.

It was difficult because it was the first time I had ever left my family.  It was terrifying that I was moving in with complete strangers who were to be my guardians. They were an American couple, both lawyers, and their four children.  The fear was short-lived as they immediately became family to me and I love them dearly to this day.  But it was still a huge adjustment and I missed my family in Palau terribly.

And then there was high school.  It was difficult because everyone in school was cool.

I was a small island girl who, before arriving in Guam, had never been to a mall or had a Big Mac or ever painted my nails. Sure I saw all those things on TV back home but I couldn’t really relate to my peers at first.

It was difficult because I found myself trying to balance being the smart, studious girl (I was on a scholarship and my family had high hopes I’d be the first on the tree to go to college) and fitting into my new hormone-and-drama infused world.  I went to a reputable college-prep school where everyone came from a prestigious, well-to-do family—except for me. Luckily I was never bullied for it. In fact, it was never really an issue with my peers. It was more of my own insecurities and internal battles that made high school so difficult on an emotional level.

Eventually the difficult times dissipated and I gained the confidence I needed to find out who I was and what I wanted to be.  By my junior year I was class president and a social butterfly hosting sleep overs and throwing late night house parties (it helped that my family had a sweet swimming pool).  My rebellious side came out my senior year. There were lots of sneaking out and partying and defying authority.  For some miraculous reason, I still graduated with good enough grades to earn a full scholarship at a college in Boston.

In hindsight, that difficult time was crucial in shaping me into the person I am today. If I hadn’t taken the leap (at such a young age too) to leave my comfort zone, I don’t think I’d have the conviction to have traveled and lived in all the places I have. I’m so thankful for my family (both blood and by choice) and friends who have always supported me in my choices. And I’m thankful for the difficult times that have shown me what and who I am.

 

 

 

 

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Day 19: What I collect

When I had more of a permanent home and traveling meant vacation as opposed to lifestyle, I collected all sorts of knick knacks and souvenirs. Shot glasses. Key chains. Post cards. Spoons. Ticket stubs. T-shirts. Stuffed animals.

They took a lot of space, that’s for sure. And I bet if I had kept all the receipts I’d realize I spent an obscene amount of money on them.

But they’re all gone now. There was no way I was going to take all (or any) of them with me on my nomadic journey. They’d only way me down and ultimately, I realized, it’s more important for me to collect memories than things anyway.

So now I collect recipes from each place I spend time in. Homestays are great for that, by the way. What better way to remember a place than by its food and flavors? As something of a foodie myself, tastes serve as delicious souvenirs.

Memories I collect in my heart and mind. It’s not corny, it’s practical and priceless. Pictures and Facebook also help preserve those moments. And now, thanks to WordPress and the wonderful invention that is the web, I’m hoping that chronicling my adventures (and mishaps) will preserve the many memories I collect on this journey.

 

Day 18: Meaning behind my blog name

Anne Adrift is my third attempt at keeping a blog. I guess the third time really is a charm.

My first blog was called From Wet Suits to Law Suits, which was supposed to chronicle my life paralegal (and eventually law) school when I left my dive shop job in Palau. Supposed to is the operative phrase. I got in two or three posts until the busyness and craziness of life 1) in the legal realm and 2) in the U.S. overtook my life.

My second one was Journey in Wanderlust. Yeah, I know.  I started it right after I decided to quit my then life for a more nomadic one and just before I left the U.S.  I was reading a lot of travel blogs at that time and the word wanderlust was stuck in my head.  Anyway, I wanted to do it right so I got it hosted and spent hours creating it. I maintained it for about six months in Costa Rica. Then one day I had issues with the credit card that was linked to the hosting site’s monthly billing and I haven’t been able to log in since.

That’s when I decided to go back to the absolutely free route and started Anne Adrift on WordPress. Plain and simple it’s a blog about me and my life as I travel from place to place in search of experiences. You could say I’m a drifter, with no permanent home searching for parts unknown.

Day 17: My proud moment

Until about three years ago, I was something of an over achiever. These days I say the word with some disdain because, from personal experience, it’s not as good as it sounds. I worked very hard, took on many responsibilities, and pushed myself to the limits. I believed being an over achiever was better than being an underachiever.  It isn’t.

Of course, I’m proud of the many accolades and credentials I’ve earned and don’t regret any of the time I’ve given up for others.  But I’m prouder of the fact that I’ve been able to step away from a life of distorted expectations and high standards, racing against the clock, and people pleasing.

It took the death of a four and a half year relationship, becoming dependent on my sister I was so broke, and the depression that ensued to yank me out of that existence. I finally asked myself why I was doing the things I did and for whom I was doing them for. The answers took a while to come and when they did it took some time to process. It’s never easy to admit to yourself that everything you’ve worked so obscenely hard for and sacrificed so much for isn’t making you happy. Truly, not-just-fleetingly, really happy.

My proud moment is an amalgamation of small realizations, hours of agonizing contemplation, and scattered inspiration that led to one big life decision: to leave the direction my life was going (the blueprint I’d drawn up even as a young child) and go on a less structured, not-so-conventional path.  So I quit my job, sold my stuff, bought a ticket to Costa Rica and became a certified English teacher.

Sometimes, in very rare occasions, I’ll get a glimpse of the life I could’ve had if I had stuck to the plan. In my friends and family and even complete strangers I get to know traveling. There are aspects of it that I really miss, sure. Like having a steady home and salary; getting a pedicure and wearing stilettos. But that’s not me anymore.

It’s nice not worrying bout deadlines or competing for a promotion or the last pair of heels at Belk on Black Friday or some other ridiculous consumerist holiday. I like that working full time means 22 hours a week even though it means I make only enough to feed myself by shopping at the local farmers market. Pura vida! And I love that in six months I could be living in Peru or Colombia or in the same place, and it’s OK!

I know the old control freak, overachiever part of me will always be there and in some situations I’m happy I’m that way. But I am pleased and extremely proud that to be living what brings me joy and a sense of freedom.

 

 

 

Day 16: The top of my bucket list

As someone who wants to see, taste, feel, meet and experience all the wonders this remarkable planet embodies, I have several bucket lists and each one as endlessly long as the other.  So I’m going to share just the top 5 of my top 8 categories.

My Travel Bucket List

1. Norway. I’m not a big fan of frigid climates but to see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) I would absolutely brave the cold.

2. Peru. What an enchanted country! Machu Picchu, the Nazca Lines, Ausangate (Rainbow Mountain)—they’re all in Peru.

3. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. The bar was set pretty high when I took my first SCUBA dive in the inimitable waters of Palau. But I’ve heard wonders about the wildlife and natural beauty of the Galapagos and would love to experience them first hand.

4. Bolivia. I’m all about natural phenomena that take my breath away. The salt flats of Salar de Uyuni do just that. Just looking at the photos leave me breathless. I can’t even begin to imagine seeing it in person.  I must go in person. uyuni

5. Italy. This is on everyone’s travel bucket list and for good reason. The food, the culture, the arts, the history and architecture, the beauty. What’s not inviting about Italy?

I’m a little sad I’ve limited myself to only five, but then this would go on forever so on to the next category.

My Events Bucket List

1. Attend The Superbowl (preferably with the Patriots playing).

2. Imbibe in Munich during Oktoberfest.

3. Party in Rio for Carnival.

4. Experience Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

5. Watch the Summer Olympic Games in person.

My Foodie Bucket List

1. Flaming Hot Cheetos Bagel. Yes it’s a thing! And my penchant for hot and spicy foods can’t wait to try it!

2. Aperitivo in Milan, Italy. It’s like happy hour but even better! And apparently Milan does it the best.

3. Street food in Bangkok, Thailand. Numerous friends have told me about the gastronomically amazing food in the streets of Bangkok and my taste buds are excited.

4. Pho in Vietnam. I. LOVE. PHO! I’ve had some really excellent ones but am yet to try the authentic version in Vietnam itself.

5. Cuy in Ecuador/Peru. So I’m a little squeamish about eating guinea pig but it’s a traditional part of the Ecuadorian and Peruvian diet and apparently quite tasty. A true foodie isn’t afraid to try new things and I’m not going to shy away from a little adventure!

Extreme Experience Bucket List

1. Go sky diving. Jumping off a “perfectly good airplane” scares the sh*t out of me and that’s exactly why I’m going to do it someday.

2. Sail across a large body of water. One of the ironic things about me is that as an island girl (born and raised on islands completely surrounded by water and swimming before walking), I get sea sick! Actually it is has nothing to do with where I come from; doctors say it’s an ear imbalance. It’s really annoying because I love sailing but it makes me physically sick. Someday I’m going to just suck it up and sail across a large body of water.

3. Set foot on a glacier. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t like the cold and you won’t find anything about visiting the Arctic or Antarctic on any of my bucket lists. BUT… I do want to touch or set foot on a glacier. They’re so beautiful and formidable and an just plain awesome.

4. Swim/dive with whale sharks. I’ve dived with some of the most majestic and beautiful sharks–bull, white tip, black tip, silver tip, nurse, leopard, silk, hammerhead. Never with the whale shark and it’d be a dream come true to swim with them in their natural environment.

5. Visit an active volcano. Lava flowing and all.

My Educational Bucket List

1. Relearn the 300+ Japanese kanji characters I’ve forgotten. I studied Japanese for over 5 years. Unfortunately years without use or practice have erased a lot of what I learned. I can still speak a little and write most of the Hiragana and Katakana characters, but I honestly only know one kanji character right now (and only because it’s tattooed on my back!)

2. Learn to speak Spanish better. It’s been a real struggle but I’m working on it.

3. Get yoga teacher certified. This one is especially close to my heart because yoga has helped me in so many ways and continues to help me grow as a being on this planet. I’d really like to get it in Bali—the place that inspired me to get into yoga in the first place.

4. Sewing. How cool would it be to be able to sew my own clothes? And not just that, design and sew bags, curtains, etc.

5.  Self-defense/Martial Arts. I think this is not only a practical skill to have as a solo female traveler but a good discipline on the physical and mental levels.

6. Take a baking course. I love baking and am pretty good at it, if I may say so myself. 🙂 But I don’t have any real training in it and would love to learn all the technical things and trade tips and tricks. (Oops, I cheated on this one and listed six!)

Good Karma Bucket List

1. Volunteer with a cause to promote girl empowerment and education and women’s rights.

2. Donate anonymously to someone in need.

3.  Adopt a pet (again).

4. Pay for a stranger’s meal.

5. Plant (more) trees.

Life Goals Bucket List

  1. Write my memoir. It’ll be a long one, but I think I’ll enjoy it.
  2. Get published. Even if it’s just an article. Ideally, though, it’d be a book.
  3. Start my own business. I don’t mind paying my dues now and learning from all the people I work for and with. But someday it’d be nice to be my own boss.
  4. Be an awesome aunt to my future nieces and nephews. Although I’ve decided not to be a mom, I know I’d make one heck of an aunt. 🙂
  5. Pay forward. The kindness and generosity people in my life have shown me.

Mind & Body Bucket List

  1. Go on a silent retreat. 
  2. Do the Whole 30 / body reset/ detox. As in do it completely for 30 days!
  3. Get the tattoos I’ve been wanting. 
  4. Be able to meditate for more than fifteen minutes. 
  5. Go to a Wanderlust Yoga Festival.

 

Day 15: An average day

7:30 a.m. It’s a Tuesday so I’m up early. I begrudgingly force myself out of bed and make some coffee. Because I’m not a morning person, it takes me about an hour to get showered, dressed, and ready. Luckily I’ve done my lesson plan the night before; otherwise I’d have gotten up half an hour earlier to go to work earlier.

9:00 – 12:00 p.m. I teach a Book 2 English class which is the equivalent of advanced beginner. They’re actually about to graduate into Book 3 which is intermediate. I have a small class of 5 students and they’re all great! I’ve watched them improve and learn so much in the last five months and take pride in my role in helping them grow.

12:15 p.m. I go back to my apartment (literally across the street from the school) and have lunch. I chat a little with my roommate before I head to the mercado for some fresh fruits and veggies. I also stop at the supermarket for toilet paper and other household products.

2:00 p.m. I head back to work to grade papers, update the student database, and lesson plan for my evening class and tomorrow’s class. I do all this in the teachers lounge where I intermittently chat with other teachers as they come in and out.

3:45 p.m. I go to the pulperia (corner mom-and-pop store) for some snacks—a granola bar and chocolate milk. Then I continue to work and chat.

4:30 p.m. I go home and check my email, message my sisters, and read my favorite blogs. Then I take a 30 minute nap.

5:45 p.m.  I cross the street back to work and set up my classroom.

6:00 – 9:00 p.m. I teach an Intro class I just started a week ago. They’re super beginners and it’s been challenging but fun teaching them. They’re all adults so there aren’t any discipline problems and they learn very quickly. I’m used to teaching upper level English (intermediate to advanced) so this level is a bit daunting for me but I’m actually enjoying teaching it.

9:10 p.m. My roommate (also a teacher) and I head home. We heat up our dinner in the microwave and we chat about stuff. Our entire building is inhabited only by teachers and it’s not uncommon for us to pop into each others’ apartments for a chat over some drinks.

10:30 p.m. I chat with my childhood friend on the other side of the world and send a quick email to my mom. I also update my blog and do a little Facebook/Instagram stalking.

11:30 p.m. I get ready for bed and watch one episode of Orange is the New Black on Netflix.

12:30 p.m. It’s unusual that I’d actually be asleep by this time. I’m probably watching another episode of ONB or The Tudors or Black Mirror. Or if I can’t sleep I’ll read one of my unfinished books on Kindle.

This is basically my day on Tuesdays and Thursdays. However on Mondays and Wednesdays I don’t teach until 6 in the evening so I have more time to practice yoga, meet a friend for lunch or coffee, or even go to dance class. I also try to study some Spanish when I have time.

On Fridays I usually sleep in ’til eleven (sometimes noon), especially if I’ve been out the night before. Most teachers where I work don’t actually work on Fridays so there’s always a party or some get together on Thursday nights. I do work on Fridays but thankfully not ’til 2:30 p.m. so it’s not so bad.

I teach 6 hours on Saturdays—three hours in the morning and another 3 in the afternoon. As you can imagine, it’s pretty exhausting but at I get at least one Saturday off every month which provides a bit of a reprieve.

Because Sunday is my only day off, I vary how I spend it based on how I feel at the end of the week. On harder weeks, I’ve been known to sleep all day and shamelessly veg out. But I also like to destress by going to the beach or going for a hike on one of the nearby bosques (forests) and surrounding mountains.

So this is “average” for me these days. I’ve decided to stay in Costa Rica until December so this will be the norm ’til then–with a few trips thrown here and there.

Day 14: If I won the lottery…

A classic hypothetical and, coincidentally, the grammar point I’m teaching one of my classes this week. Yay for the second conditional.

Assuming lottery here means the jackpot, there’s certainly a lot of interesting things I could do with millions of dollars. First off, I’d pay off old debts. Let me rephrase. I’d do something nice for the people who have been there for me financially when I needed it the most but have never asked for anything in return. Perhaps they don’t see it as a debt but I would still like to repay their kindness.

Secondly, I’d buy my mom that house I’d always wanted to get her. And what the heck, I’d throw in a nice car and a chauffeur too since she can’t (and won’t) drive.

I’d give 10% of it to a non profit charity that’s close to my heart and another 10% to Sea Shepherd. I’d buy Palau a couple state-of-the-art boats and helicopters to better patrol the waters and keep the damned poachers out.

The rest I’d used to travel to every place on my bucket list and take my friends and family who want to come along too. To avoid the hassles with airlines, I’d probably get my own private jet and throw in a yacht for good measure.

Maybe I’d open that bakery I’ve always dreamed of or my own language school. I’d set up an educational scholarship fund for underprivileged girls all over the world but specifically in the Pacific Islands.

And lastly, I’d arrange for my body to be cremated and placed in one of those burial pods so that a tree could grow out of my ashes. I hear those things are expensive but it’d be an awesome way to go.