Do we dream differently on the trail?


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According to the Dream Dictionary, travel plays a significant role in our dreams. Places we’ve been, places we’d love to go, and places we’ll never go. But what if we are already out there traveling?

Three weeks before leaving Sydney, my dreams took a sharp turn. Waking drenched in sweat, I would feel the passionate, mind-bending visions coiling around me.

Radioactive monkey-spiders. A talking dog, that also plays the harmonica. Jimmy Fallon trapped inside the body of a mongoose.

After 2 years living abroad, I was preparing to quit my job, pack up my life, say goodbye to a continent of friends, and take off on a grand Trans-Siberian journey. Outwardly, I was tranquil, collected, primed. Inside, my soul was screaming out like a canary snatched from a windowsill and sling-shot into Narnia.

Traveling brings thrill, passion, adventure, romance, and inspiration into our lives – but it also brings risk and uncertainty. Fortunately, we have dreams that allow us to process the complex emotions and disabling fears that we’re unable or unwilling to contend with in our waking lives.

For me, interpreting my dreams in those precarious weeks before and during my travels enabled me to process the colossal changes and uncertainty. I found that ‘angry monkey spiders’ turned out to mean-I don’t like packing. But should stop avoiding it.

Then mongoose Jimmy Fallon actually had a lot of useful information on how to make friends in Russia.

Some scientists believe that dreaming is the same state of mind that schizophrenics experience. It’s an environment where all our wildest passions can explode to extremes we would never conceive of in reality; and it feels great.

By this logic, our “nightly madness” clears the cobwebs of doubt that inhibit us from expressing ourselves fully and listening to our souls guidance. Tally ho!

 

Friendly strangers are…not strange!


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My friends often make fun of me because I have a habit of making friends in very strange places.

I’ll go to the bathroom for 5 minutes and come out arm and arm with a girl I never saw before in my life. Usually that’s because I’ve embarrassed myself somehow, and we both shared a laugh at my expense. It’s an interesting way to go through life. When I travel, it seems that  both the likelihood of fail and the likelihood of spontaneous friendship increase exponentially. I should make a bar graph.

There were a few points during my Trans-Siberian journey when I found trouble, and suddenly, a friend was there. My night train from Saint Petersburg to Moscow turned out to be one of these occasions.

It’s a good thing that I don’t speak Russian – I would have probably been very offended to hear the sneers of disgruntled passengers who put up with me staggering from one wrong seat to the next. And the next. It was pitch dark, I was the last to board, and all of the seat numbers, (and my ticket) were in Russian. OH fail.

trainIt wasn’t the volume or their tone that made me uncomfortable….maybe it was the laughter. Yeah, that was it. And the way they pierced me with their pitiless gazes, as though I was naked on the first day of primary school.

Sliding into the correct seat at last, I shmooshed my awkward tote under the table, smoothed my fluffed up curls, and let my heart beat settle into it’s natural rhythm. At least I had the seat across from me to myself.

But then, just as the train whistle blew, a wiry old man stumbled up the isle and slid into the seat I had been planning for a leg-rest.

It was a tiny one-person booth. He and I sat opposite, with a metal table between us. I was just settling into the awkward language-barrier silence, when he piped up; “Hi! How are you? My name is Zuzuka and I’d love to practice my English.” We chatted for a good while and I settled into a velvety relaxation.

When the conversation ended, I pulled out a sweater and settled in to sleep face-first on the table, like a catcatface. He called out to me, pointing to the bunk above us, and I said “That’s ok, you can have it!” After all, I had paid for a ‘seat’ only, not a bed. It was fair.

He started to make his bed and I clocked out again, only to wake to him saying “Hey! Let me help you!” I did not understand what he meant, so I told him that I was all set.

False!! At this point, he pulls my sweater-pillow away and says “Get up you poop!” So I did. Life-changing was the moment when I watched him macgyver this very fixed looking table upside-down, and then lower it snuggly into the space between the seats. Bed number two. My eyebrows actually launched off my face in surprise.

I went to lay down, when he said “No no no. Wrong again.”

This time, he made me move over while he whisked bedding out of thin air and made my entire bed for me. This is the point it dawned on me that I was about to make a poor old man scuttle up to a top bunk, while I sleep like a fat lazy beagle in my pre-made bed. I begged to switch, but he would not hear of it. The dear.

Snug as pie, I settled in to sleep. My last memory before drifting off to the narcotizing sway of the train car was of Zuzuka peering over the edge of his bunk and whispering “Goodnight Jessica!!!” with a massive grin, waving like a kindergartener fresh off the school bus.

I will never forget the super fun trajectory of fail that led me to such a good person. It seems that kindred spirits can be found anywhere.

Career VS Travel: Do you really have to choose?


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Travel while you’re young”, they always tell you growing up.

“See it all now, because before you know it, you’ll be tied down with a career, family and responsibilities. It will never be the same.”For billions of people, this is exactly how it works. And how it has always worked.

Do an exchange program, cross a few hot-ticket destinations off the bucket list, then settle into a stable, nuclear lifestyle. Maybe honeymoon abroad and spring for a few vacations when you can find time. And pet care. And house-sitters.

But for most of us, growing up means settling down, and staying put.

Raised under such pretenses, I was determined to seize every opportunity for adventure. Each journey was veiled in a choking sense of culmination. “This may be the one chance you’ll have to do this”, I told myself every day.

The problem is, I got addicted.

Chasing the strange and sensational across the globe, I find that with every new excursion it gets harder and harder to accept that it may be my last. Nonetheless, as an ambitious, career-minded woman in my late twenties, it’s time to face facts.

What is more important, career or travel? Experience, history, and social paradigms tell me that I must choose.

As it turns out, I am not alone. Exploring Asia, I met a number of like-minded expats who are struggling with the very same issue and feel societal pressure to lock life down. Many of them, like myself, have been attempting to prolong the settling ‘grace period’ allotted to people in their twenties; either by studying, working abroad, or teaching English.

But what happens after you have exhausted these channels? I’ve been pleased to learn that career evolution has evolved.

In a globalized world economy, there are now boundless opportunities available for people to incorporate travel within their existing role, work independently, or work remotely.

Likewise, it is now universally common for individuals to change roles, companies, and industries a number of times throughout their career development.

Just because settling down and staying put is what we are socially groomed to appreciate as ‘the right way’ to do things doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with letting wanderlust intermediate the quest for career success.


Moscow skyline at dawn

Theres something surreal about slinking through the cobbled streets of a major metropolis at dawn. It’s like you’re standing at the edge of the world, frozen in time. Abandoned newspaper stands shudder in the icy breeze like a couple of matchbooks taped together. Delicate traces of last night’s mistakes still cling to curbsides and alleyways. I watch the golden fingers of morning creep their way through an icy metropolis. It’s fresh, tangerine perfection.

Moscow at dawn: It’s better than coffee

Saying goodbye.


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The first thing we are taught in this world is how to say hello, but nobody ever teaches us how to say goodbye.

I am not talking about waving to your kindergarten teacher as you cross the hallway to the first grade classroom. Or the way you feel when your older brother goes off to college for the first time. I am referring to the soul shuddering farewells that shift the polarity of your known identity. The kind of partings that make you question all the decisions you’ve ever made in life.

Crouching beside my fourteen-year-old dog, her milky eyes teemed with liquid trust. Steeling me with her caramel gaze, she took no notice of the suitcase by the door. I cradled her silver muzzle between sweaty palms, trying to strike a balance between denial and an overwhelming appreciation for all that she is.

This is the kind of goodbye I’ve encountered from the moment I left for Australia, two and a half years ago.

Travel-hungry expats understand this kind of raw reality better than anyone, as by the nature of travel we find ourselves meeting and parting, perhaps forever, from a multitude of exceptional people. But what do you do when these periphery encounters become a significant part of your life?

After several years living and working abroad, I find that there is no such thing as goodbye. You can’t produce an equation or cook up a recipe to soothe an ethereal sense of loss. If you could, I feel that would be doing a great disservice to all you have known and experienced.

While time, space, and the waking world may separate us from the people and things that we have known and loved in the past, they are never truly dislodged from us once embedded.

Goodbye is a graveyard that I spend life speeding by, only glancing at from the heated seats of my volvo station wagon. But every now and then I have to pull the car over, stop the engine, and take a saunter through the old parts of myself.

Greeting others is one of the most beautiful tokens of social expression and the true goodbye is an eternity of hello’s to the past.