Taking time off from school is one of the best decisions I’ve made. As I’ve told many of my friends: the person you are at eighteen is not who you'll be five or ten years later. It's important to seek out adventure and learning opportunities.
I took two years off in between high school and post-secondary. During these two years I worked and upgraded my marks to open more doors for myself. Although these years were fun and filled with growing experiences, I still felt a need to go somewhere during my second year of university.
Through the first semester of my second year I was daydreaming constantly and googling photos of beaches instead of studying. I seriously needed to travel.
I had the travel itch
During Christmas break I finally decided to scratch my travel itch and booked a spontaneous trip to Southeast Asia. For my first trip alone this decision was stupid to say the least. Of course, I ended up having the best time of my life.
The trip was filled with amazing adventures: getting certified in scuba diving, climbing mountains, and staying at a circus school.
I also learned some difficult life lessons. While I was in Vietnam their biggest holiday, Tet, or Chinese New Year, occurred. Due to my non-existent planning I had no idea. Being in Vietnam for Tet was amazing, the celebrations were spectacular! People were in costumes, active on the streets, and there were parades.
Outweighing the positives was one negative: many people visit their families over the holidays, and the increased demand for hostel rooms makes it difficult to find a place to sleep. This led to one of the more challenging nights of my trip.
I broke into a restaurant in Vietnam
In a small beach town on the east coast of Vietnam, my friends and I waited for a night bus. There must have been some confusion because the only bus that stopped didn’t have us on their list. We were stuck on the side of the road until about 2:30 a.m. when two locals walked by and told us the road wasn’t safe.
We needed a place to sleep, found an abandoned restaurant (or so we thought), and jimmied a window open to slip through.
We slept until about 5 a.m. when we heard people in the office. Instead of risking a confrontation we high-tailed it out of there and sat on the beach until the bus office opened. Despite the lady at the bus office being one of the least cooperative individuals I’ve had to deal with in my short life, I managed to get us another ticket out of there!
A motorcycle accident and questionable medical care
The second hiccup of the trip occurred near the end. I was in a motorcycle accident. The driver served as a human shield as we scraped across the pavement. Because of the driver’s unintentional heroics my injuries were minor: a fractured shin and road rash down the right side of my body. I wasn't wearing any protective clothing other than a helmet (thankfully I had a good one).
Immediately after the accident I traveled to Laos, one of the poorest countries in the world. After checking out the local hospital I chose instead to tend to my injuries myself, sterilizing my wounds with rubbing alcohol and bandaging them up.
You can read all about why I made this questionable decision in my blog post: "Why I Always have a Travel Budget." The last few weeks of my trip were painful, but I didn’t let my injuries affect my plans.
Challenging yourself is an opportunity for growth
You might think my experiences in Southeast Asia were negative, but they pushed my character more than anything else I’ve faced. I learned that I am determined, strong, independent, and capable of almost anything I set my mind to.
My trip definitely wasn’t smooth but it was exactly what I needed to give me confidence in the decisions I make in life, including those concerning school and future occupations.
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