I've been on a bit of a whirlwind travel schedule this last month (at least for me). I prefer to settle into the places I visit and soak them in. This past month, however, has been a bit of a burner as I move quickly to get a broad (rather than deep) taste of SE Asia before heading on to South America. In the past thirty days I've travelled through Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Luang Prabang, Siem Reap, Saigon and Hue. I've recovered from a two month long bout of bronchitis, had food poisoning twice, visited the emergency room once and medical clinics a few times. I made it part of the way through a 10 day silent meditation retreat - one that you promise and swear and promise again that you won't leave early. I did, I had to make a hard choice based on my health. I have missed home and my people more in the last month than I have the entire eight months that I've been on the road.
But here's the thing about the last month - it has been deeply rewarding in a way that might be hard to explain - full of big lessons and important reminders. Reminders about the importance of connection, letting go of expectations and achievement and being in the moment. Most importantly, I became an Aunt to Henry. I haven't gotten to meet him yet but he has already changed the landscape of my heart - it just feels bigger somehow. I dream about holding him sometimes and on those mornings I wake up smiling. I have been reminded these last few days that it's ok and sometimes necessary to rely on the kindness of strangers. Tu, one of the innkeepers at my guesthouse, has made me soup for lunch the last two days using the families personal kitchen. When I paid my bill this morning I noticed that they hadn't charged me for this kindness. It is humbling and so very good to be cared for by someone you have just met.
I've been reminded that life rarely, if ever, turns out the way you have envisioned, planned or want it to - and it doesn't matter how hard you want it. Instead, it unfolds as it should - beautifully - offering up each lesson like a gift - even the lessons we may not want to learn. I've had to work through the lesson (again) that broken commitments don't always signal failure - they signal a willingness to work softly and openly with what has arisen in the current moment - regardless of what you committed to three days, three months or three years ago. I'm not saying it's not important to honor and work through challenges that arise surrounding the promises we make to ourselves and others. But to do so blindly - from a place of "have to" and "should" instead of gracefully taking in the whole current picture doesn't serve anyone's best interest. Most importantly with this one - I can always, always start again.
In missing home these last several weeks I have had to remember patience and the importance of being able soothe myself during hard times. That's not to say there haven't been a few teary calls home. My parents are rock stars - hands down - the most supportive, graceful and encouraging you could ever want or need. But it's been the moments where I've remembered to be kind to myself, to slow down, breathe deeply and just laugh at myself that have taught me the most. Like the other day when I stood up on a chair to latch the window, hit my head on the wall mounted TV and then watched, in horror, as it crashed onto the marble floor. It has simply been - just one of those months.
I've heard it said that when you travel solo the highs are really high and the lows are really low. Yep - I concur. This month has held it all. I have seen some of the most beautiful scenery of my entire trip these last few weeks. I've made strong connections with new friends. I have grown - which (as I keep saying) is the whole reason I'm here. And everytime I hit a rough moment and opened my laptop to change my a ticket home, because I have - several times in fact - I have closed it again - taken a deep breath, opened the door and taken a step into the moment. This journey is not over yet and I'm embracing it. Even the rough patches - maybe those especially...