My Travels – Vietnam Part 1

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Vietnamese women chilling at park near the Ho Chi Minh post office

So, the fourth country I found myself in 2015 was Vietnam.  Now, getting into Vietnam was quite interesting.  Apparently, as a Canadian, you need to get a Vietnamese visa before entering Vietnam.  Luckily, on my second day in Cambodia, some fellow travellers gave me the heads-up and I was able to apply for a last minute visa with a travel agency when I was in Siem Reap, Cambodia.  It cost $60 and I got my passport back with a Vietnamese visa within 24 hours – not bad.

Now, from Siem Reap, there are different options to get to Vietnam, usually to fly in or take a bus.  Since I decided to travel without an itinerary  this time around and go with the flow, I didn’t book anything in advance.  So last minute, here I was trying to catch a flight into Hanoi, Vietnam via one of the cheap airliners – but of course, they were all booked the day I had to travel, leaving me no other option but to travel overland to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam by coach.  For a VIP ticket (meaning you get onto a sleeper  bus with your own comfortable bed), it cost $24.   While it was a sleeper bus, it wasn’t the bus I was sold.  I arrive to the coach station at 12 am only to find out that I’ve been jipped by the travel agent.  So, apparently, I’m supposed to share this 5-foot-nothing bed that’s 1 meter wide with this American guy from Miami (Nick) who I just met who’s like 6’3 for the next 8 hours.  We’d literally be spooning – that’s how much space there was and there was no partition like the other one I was on. Thankfully though, I had a chit chat with the bus driver and was able to secure my own sleeper bed/unit on the bus, much to Nick’s  appreciation too cause he got his own space too now. We ended up chatting the entire time and became travel buddies for the journey.  But yeah, we need our own space!

Once we made it to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, they got us on another bus to continue our journey to cross into Vietnam.  Of course, this one wasn’t a sleeper bus, but by now, all I wanted was just to get to Ho Chi Minh (Saigon).   I had an aisle seat next to Nick, which was cool, but then all of a sudden the bus stops yet again and they pick up this old man and put one of those plastic outdoor chairs in the aisle and had him sit next to me. Dude stank for one, and was watching porn on his phone the whole time. Who does that??? Nine hours of torture ensued – the things you come across in life. lol On a more positive note, in one of the many pit stops, while I was sitting with the few foreigners (Canadian, Brits and Americans), a lady came and gave me a bowl of tom yam soup. It ended up being from a Muslim family who was also on the bus with us.  Some great Muslim hospitality there!

To make a long story short, what was supposed to be a 14 hour bus journey in a VIP sleeper bus ended up being a 19 hour journey on a normal bus which had no wifi, kept on stopping and picking up people from everywhere and didn’t even drop us off at the bus station like it was supposed to (which was near the guesthouse I booked), so we had to walk 3 miles to get to my guest house.

I was so relieved to get to the guest house, but now, my day was pretty much done since I lost 6 hours from the traveling delays.  First things first, I booked my flight from Saigon to Hanoi for the following night.  Then, I went out to go get something to eat (pho, of course) and explore the city a bit, before returning to the guest house, taking a shower, and crashing on my bed for the night.

When I awoke in the morning, I had to remember where I was.  Once I caught my bearings, I got dressed, and headed downstairs for breakfast.  Fortunately, I met this amazing Vietnamese girl while having breakfast who was visiting from Hanoi for her first time. I mentioned that I wanted to go on a vespa tour and explore the city, and she wanted to do the same, so we linked up.  She offered to rent the vespa, but when she tried, they wouldn’t rent it out to a Vietnamese citizen (ridiculous) so I had to deposit my passport.

The great thing about going with my new found friend for the day – Vu Thi – was that I didn’t have to make any plans or read any pamphlets to find out what to do.  More importantly, I didn’t have to de trying to ride one in the traffic there. I just sat on the back of the vespa and let her become my tour guide to Saigon.  We hung out together the entire day, until it was time for me to catch my flight of course, and explored the city together. Renting that vespa and going with Vu Chi was the best decision ever – got to see and do so much in my brief visit!  It also made up for my previous day which was consumed by traveling, misinformation and getting ripped off. 😛

 

In Saigon, Vu Chi and I went to the Ho Chi Minh Museum, the old presidential Palace, checked out Saigon Central Post Office (a post office built in typical French colonial style) in downtown Ho Chi Minh City, near Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica, the city’s cathedral, where we sat down to enjoy a cup of Vietnamese coffee.  We later went and rode around downtown, visited the Ben Tenh Market (old central market) and the famous street which I can’t remember the name of for higher end designer shopping, and ended off our day eating dinner at a recommended restaurant (sorry, can’t remember the name.

Got to say, for a city that wasn’t on my original itinerary, I had an incredible time in Saigon!

Farewell Saigon, and Hello Hanoi!

So, I caught the last flight out of Saigon to Hanoi, reaching Hanoi just before 1 am.  There weren’t any buses running now (of course), which was a bummer because it would only cost me 25 cents to get to the Old Quarters .  Instead, we had to line up for non existent taxis.  Since I was travelling on my own and was trying to think of safety as well as save a few bucks, I started to ask people in the line if they’d be willing to share a taxi with me.  The first person I asked was traveling with three of her friends, so the taxi would be full.  The couple in front of me heard and offered to share with me, which was great.

Once we reached the hotel they were staying at in the Old Quarter, I got off as well, since I hadn’t booked a place for the night.  So here I was at 2am roaming the empty night streets alone, looking for last minute accommodations. Everywhere was closed.  But thankfully, most of the hotels and hostels kept their doors unlocked but the receptionists were sound asleep.  Finally found one after an hour and for a steal. 

To be continued… sometime… hopefully in the near future.

 

My Travels – Singapore, Malaysia and Cambodia

So in 2015 alone, my tush has been in 10 different countries. Funny thing is, every year, I think I’m only going to be in one or maybe two. Life just keeps on surprising me indeed! There’s no point in planning in my case, I just need to go with the flow.

In this post, I’ll post about the first three countries I was in this year, and continue in other posts.  Part 2 I’ll post on Monday, December 7, and Part 3 on Tuesday, December 8.

1. Singapore:

10818283_10155088315455646_2329088070445085057_o.jpgSo, 2015 began for me at the border between Malaysia and Singapore, where my friends and I rang in the New Year as we were crossing over into Singapore, admiring the firework display from the bus. It was my second time in Singapore, so this time, I tried to do things I didn’t do the last time.

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Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

The first time I was here in 2010, my friend and I went to Sentosa Island, Universal Studios, the botanical garden – a must see by the way, and then the rest of the time, we hung out eating and shopping. We had high tea at Raffles Hotel, had dinner mostly at Clarke Quay, and window shopped at Orchard Road.

 

Sounds very not Asian, right? That’s because Singapore, while it’s in Asia, is one of the financial capitals of Asia so it has a booming economy, which is evident in the country. It’s actually considered an English speaking country – a fact I learned when I was there. Most people think Singapore is only a city of skyscrapers, but there’s more to Singapore than that. If you get out of the financial district area, you’ll start seeing more ‘authentic Asia’ so to speak (or what we foreigners would presume to be “Asian”.

My trip, this time around, was more of a cultural trip, which was great. We walked through Chinatown with it’s old Singaporean architecture houses, Little India with it’s aroma of exotic spices and burning incents, and checked out Haji Lane where the Central Mosque (I always like visiting the Central Mosque everywhere I travel) is… and then once we did that, we spent the rest of our days there shopping and stuffing our faces. Of course, we hung out at Marina Bay and had a bite at Clarke Quay and Riverside.

2. Malaysia:

Ahh, Malaysia. So I lived and worked in Malaysia until mid March, when my contract ended. And while I was working there, I had the opportunity to visit 9 of the 13 states there. Malaysia is such a lovely country indeed. From the white sandy beaches, the jungles, the waterfalls, the animals, the people, the cultures, the food, and the colours – you can’t possibly get enough. I was happy to call it home the 9 months I lived there.

 

One of the most memorable experiences I had in Malaysia was when I was in Borneo, Sabah to be more exact, and my friend and I went on this sunset river cruise. We began our afternoon with high tea, followed by seeing proboscis monkeys in the jungle, and then dinner… and ended off the evening being mesmerized by millions of fireflies lighting up the night sky. Time just stood still. They were everywhere, and from time to time, we’d even catch them with our hands. I could stay there for hours on end.

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A cheeky macaque

And the monkeys in Malaysia, they’re everywhere – literally. Macaques, baboons, you name it. You’ll be jungle trekking and whoomp there it is. If you’re not careful, they’ll attack you. My friend Gloria and I were nearly jumped at Telaga Tujuh Waterfall in Langkawi by a pack of macaques. As cute as they are, when they want something, watch out! The Crips and the Bloods have noting on them.

 

What is there to do in Malaysia? Plenty. If you love adventure, nature, learning about different cultures, water activities – then this place is definitely for you. I urge you though, if you aren’t already, try to get PADI certified so that you can go scuba diving there. Worse case scenario, it’s also a snorkeling heaven!

Well, there’s much I can say about Malaysia, but I’ll stop it here and reserve that for a post on it’s own.

3. Cambodia:

Now this was an interesting trip. For the first time ever, I decided to just buy a plane ticket and just go without making any prior plans. The only thing I did was book a place to stay for the first night. Another first is how light I traveled. For the first time, I traveled with my bag only weighing 5 KG. And this trip would last for a little over 2 weeks. And a third first – I’d be staying in hostels. My friends always make fun of me and call me the three star or more traveller as I would only stay in a hotel with a minimum of three stars when I travelled (Except if it’s like an ecolodge or cabin, etc). But living in Malaysia, I’ve learned to let my standards down a bit and realized that hostels aren’t that bad after all. In fact, some where even better than the hotels I’ve stayed at!!!

Alright, now back to Cambodia. So yes, one of the things I’ve learned was that there was Genocide in Cambodia in the 70s. I never heard about it until I landed in Phnom Penh and was looking at what there was to do in the city. My goodness, it was truly a heart wrenching experience when my newly found hostel friends and I went to the prison where many Cambodians were being tortured, and then later to the killing fields where many of them lost their lives to the brutal Khmer Rouge Party. Phnom Penh was a somber visit. Outside of that, they have a lovely riverside where we walked and stopped by a couple of places along the way, visiting the Buddhist Temple and the Royal Palace – admiring their architecture, and the Central Market.

 

After two days of being in Phnom Penh, I caught the night bus and made my way to Siem Reap to go visit the ruins of Angkor. A piece of advice to those planning to go there: If you want to only go for a day (they have 1 and 3 day passes), the best way to do it is to go just before sunset (around 5 pm) when the temples are about to close to buy a ticket for the following day. They let you enter to watch the sunset. So this way, you get both the sunrise view and sunset view of Angkor Wat. ☺

So of course, I spent two days visiting the Temples of Angkor with the same friends I met in Phnom Penh as well as another one we picked up at the hostel in Siem Reap. Walking around the different temples, you just can’t help but admire the craftsmanship. It’s truly remarkable how they were able to build that in the 12th century. The temples are quite impressive as are the carvings.

I also visited the Muslim village there in Siem Reap. While the majority of Cambodians are Buddhist, there are about 250 Muslim families living in Siem Reap, most in that area. It was nice to be able to find Halal food and be greeted with the familiar, “Assalaamu `alaikum”.

What else is there to do? They have amazing markets there that you cannot miss, including the night market. Great food, and perfect for buying all those touristy stuff you’re friends and family will love.  And, they’re cheap!

 

To stay, or not to stay – that is the question

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When I’m living and working abroad,  I miss all things home.   The people,  the food, the scenes,  the 4 seasons including winter – anything  and everything Toronto.  I’d ask my friends and family to share pictures of autumn and winter for me while I was away.   And rain,  boy did I miss it when I worked in the desert.

After leaving back in 2004 to go work abroad,  I never came back home, even for a visit,  until winter 2009. 

I remember my excitement in the first snow fall,  much like that of a child.  I went out,  played in the snow, made snowmen with my little cousin, had snow ball fights – I was making up for five years of missed winters.   I would go skating at the outdoor rinks at least once a week and even offered to shovel the driveway.  Naturally,  everyone thought I was crazy and they couldn’t wait till it was spring again. 

I guess I would’ve thought the same had I not escaped winters for so long.   The reality is,  you truly appreciate the things/people you have once you’re either away from it,  or it’s been taken from you.

But this winter, after escaping the last winter in Malaysia,  I’m kinda beginning to understand the frustrations of winter again.   And it hasn’t even started snowing yet!  

With the days being so short and nights long,  it doesn’t really leave you much to do.   And,  with how cold it’s been, I can barely convince myself to get out of bed every morning.  

Each morning,  I wake up with the choice to get up and start early to make the most of the daylight,  or stay nice and warm and cozy under my covers in the comfort of my bed.  The latter always wins. 😂  I just take out my laptop and I’m good.

While I appreciate winter, I just want to appreciate it in the comfort of my home,  snuggled up, drinking hot beverages,  eating comfort food and staying away from that white cold comforter I see through the window.  Hibernation mode.

Well, looks like I’m over my romanticization of winter.  It doesn’t help either that Facebook keeps reminding me where I was on this particular day years back.   It’s usually white sandy beach pictures,  with palm trees. Kapas Island Malaysia  2014.  Kite Surfers beach,  Dubai 2012, Hikaduwa beach, Sri Lanka 2011, and it keeps going.

I don’t know if it’s the universe trying to conspire with me to go work abroad again,  which I decided I wouldn’t do anymore.   I’m really trying to settle down now, find a life partner and start this new chapter of my life. But all these job postings of warmer places are quite tempting right now.  And winter is definitely not putting up much of a fight for me to stay, especially with the thought of my waistline getting bigger in the process of my hibernation. Boy are my feet getting itchy.

I’m starting to convince myself that I could just travel during the winter,  and then come back by spring and start to resettle myself here again. There’s not much to do in the winter here anyways.

Aaaahh…. expat people problems!

Footprints Towards a Global Perspective

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Forty countries, eh?  I guess you can say I get around.  Although I’ve been to many countries, there’s still much more of the world to see – after all, I’ve only been to 18.52% of the world.  If I want to claim to be a global citizen, then surely, I must earn that badge, right?  Which is why I live this life as a traveller.

While I travel for adventure and pleasure, I also travel for personal growth and development. The interesting thing about traveling is, the more you travel, the more you realize you don’t know.  Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you go somewhere new to be re-baptized into this glorious world of ours, full of beauty, diversity, and wonders.

With each step I take, I shed any trace of pride, prejudice, fear and independence.  For when we travel, we are forced to share spaces, depend on strangers, and open ourselves to the unfamiliar. Only two things remain private to us: our sleep and our dreams – much like when we come forth from our mothers’ wombs, allowing us to be vulnerable again.

By allowing myself to be vulnerable, I create a platform to reshape my perspectives in life and the world around me, and to connect and reconnect with others.

So as I tread the world, I’ll continue to shed; and in its place,  I’ll continue to fill it with love, compassion and understanding.  And what a better way to contribute to this global world of ours with a global perspective?

 

My Experience at the Allenby Border Crossing into Palestine/Israel

waiting area.. Rahma and Danielle in the picture

Allenby Border Crossing waiting area

So for my writing task today, I had to pick a day to write about (all 24 hours 😉 ).  Didn’t really know which one to pick.  I guess there are many days that I can focus on, but then I decided to pick a day that I’d never want to repeat.

In all of my travels, the most interesting experience that I’ve had with customs was four years ago. Never had I ever experienced such interrogations and counter interrogations in my life. But hey, it is these life experiences that give us great anecdotes at parties.

So, my day began quite early Thursday morning, April 14, 2011. I had to be ready by 7:00am to catch my ride with my friend Rahma and her nephew, Ali, to head to the airport.

Once we reached Dubai International Airport, we met up with our friend Danielle, and we all checked in. We weren’t sure what to expect from this trip, but we were just as equally excited as we were apprehensive. It was going to be our first time going to Palestine (to the rest of the world, known as Israel).

The easiest way to get into Palestine would be to catch a flight into Tel Aviv. But due to the political situation in the Middle East, there aren’t any direct flights from Dubai. Moreover, the UAE restricts entry into its country if you have visited Israel. So, the best way for us to get in would be to catch a flight to Amman, take a taxi from the airport there to take us to the Allenby border crossing between Amman, Jordan and Palestine/Israel. And once the Israeli border officials clear us to be able to enter, then we’ d have to request for the entry stamp not to be placed in our passports but on a piece of paper, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to get back into Dubai, and thus jeopardized our jobs there.

The Allenby Border Crossing isn’t the best place to enter, as many people are turned away on a daily basis or held at the border for hours on end. As a Westerner, your best bet is to get in from Tel Aviv. Well, on the plus side, at least we get to see what Palestinians and other Arab countries have to go through to get into Palestine.

On the flight, we discussed our travel itinerary. We were heading there to go see Masjid Al-Aqsa (one of the three holiest mosques in Islam), Masjid Al-Quds, Jerusalem and the Old Souq (market), Bethlehem and the Church of Nativity, Ramallah, Hebron, and see first hand how the refugee camps were. We were also going to attend TedX Ramallah, first of it’s kind there with Alice Walker – the author of The Color Purple – as one of the key note speakers. We decided not to mention to the border officials that we were going to TedX Ramallah as well as the refugee camps, but just to say that we were going sightseeing, to visit Masjid Al-Aqsa (one of the three holiest mosques for Muslims), and the cities we were going to visit. We had already booked the hotels we were staying in, and done all our due diligence, so we figured, it shouldn’t be bad at the border. Should be pretty much straightforward.

We arrived at Queen Alia International Airport just after 11am. Once we paid for our Jordanian visas and picked up our checked-in bags, we headed out of the airport and got a taxi from the taxi stand. Luckily, we didn’t have to negotiate since it was a fixed fee and off we went to the Allenby Border Crossing.

The drive to the border took about 45 minutes through the Jordanian desert. It was quite harsh yet a beautiful landscape.

When the driver dropped us off at the Jordanian side of the Bridge, we entered this building to go through Jordanian customs. We found it quite interesting that we didn’t have to get an exit visa, as apparently, the Jordanian side does not officially recognize Allenby as a border crossing. It was good for us though, since we wouldn’t have to pay for another visa upon our return. Once we all went through Jordanian customs, which was a quick and easy process, they had us board a bus to cross the bridge on to the “Israeli” side of the border.

Now this is where all the delays tend to take place, especially if you are a Palestinian, an Arab, a Westerner who has visited the Middle East, or a human rights activist of any sorts. Upon arriving at the building, there were about three different lines beginning at the doors and extending all the way to the side of the building. The best way to describe the lines was Black Friday, except people were lugging their bags with them and surrounded by fully armed IDF (Israeli Defense Force) soldiers.

They say it can take a minimum of 35 – 45 minutes. Looking at the lines, we figured it may take an hour, give or take. After all, they usually give a hard time to Arabs, and none of us were Arabs, by passport nor ethnicity. We figured they wouldn’t make much of a fuss with two Canadian and two American tourists.

So my friends and I joined one of the lines and waited. As we were queuing, Israeli border authorities with their AK-47 were walking through the lines examining everyone. As they approached our line, they pulled Ali aside and asked him for his passport, which he gave them. Then, they pulled my friend Danielle out of the line demanding to see her passport as well. The soldiers then told them to walk to the front of the building, with their passports in hand. My friend Rahma and I are now looking at each other with an expression of both amusement and concern, wondering what was gong on. As she’s being walked to the front of the building, Danielle looks back at us with a puzzled look on her face.

I shrugged my shoulders and told her we’d meet her inside. At that point, another IDF soldier asked us if we were with them, and when we replied in the affirmative, they ordered us to step out of the line as well, took our passports from us, and told us to go join our friends.

We were ushered inside the building and told to go through the security check. We weren’t told why we were asked to leave the line, but we figured, hey, we no longer have to wait in those long lines, so it’s all good. Or so we thought. We put our bags on the belt and walked through the metal detector. All was good. As we were picking up our bags, they told us to put them back down and to give them any cellphones/mobile phones that we were carrying which we complied to.

The IDF soldiers separated us and put us in different holding areas where we were individually interrogated by officers who looked no older than 22. They asked us the usual questions, who we were, were we lived, what we did, etc. and a whole bunch of mundane, repetitive and irrelevant questions like if I thought my friend Danielle converted to Islam because of her husband, or why out of all the countries in the world that I could travel to, I wanted to come here, etc. So for the first question, I informed them that Dani became Muslim before she met her husband, then got married years after, then got divorced, and now, even after the divorce a year later, she’s still Muslim.  So hopefully, that answered their question.  But then again, tourism didn’t satisfy the officer’s queries about the purpose of my visit. With my fully-stamped passport in his hand (and by then, I had at lest 15 different countries stamped on my passport), I advised him to check my passport and see all the other countries I’ve visited, 8 within the last year alone; he finally conceded.

I was asked to leave the holding room, and was given my passport phone and bag and told to go sit in the waiting area. One by one, my friends joined me. Two hours passed, and we’re still sitting in the waiting area. By this time, we’ve seen loads of people come and go. There were others also in the same predicament we were in. To pass time, we munched on the snacks that we brought, thankfully paying heed to the suggestion of one lady who told us to have some snacks and refreshments just in case they held us, as they didn’t have any place to buy any refreshments there.

One by one, people were being called up. The fortunate ones were given a paper clearing them, ending this useless wait. They called my friend Rahma, and just when we thought it was all over, they took her back into the holding room to be further interrogated. She was gone for a good 30 minutes. When she came back, we asked her what they were asking her, and she said, “The same questions as before. What’s your grandfather’s name? Are you a Muslim? How do you and your friends know each other? Etc.”

Honestly, all we could do was laugh at the sheer stupidity of the situation. Clearly, we were being held for no reason at all. We weren’t posing any threat. They’ve already called the hotels we said we were staying at and verified everything, so why keep us here still?  It was already 5 pm now, and we figured we wouldn’t be able to get much sightseeing done on our first day anymore, which was quite upsetting considering we only had 5 days including our travel days.  But then it got me thinking. We were just coming here to visit. What about all those who live here and have family here who have to go through this every single time?  Like the mother and daughter who were sitting across from us, Palestinians, who were going through this just to get back home. I definitely started to count my blessings and started to make light of the whole situation.  I would hate to have to go through this every time I was going home.

Another half hour passed and then Danielle was called in again to be further interrogated. She took longer than Rahma. Ali and I figured we’d be called in next so we braced ourselves. Danielle finally came back, and it seemed that her interrogation was focused on her conversion, as a Canadian, why she would want to become a Muslim, who inspired her, and why she wore the hijab.

Time continued to pass. At one point, the alarms went off and the whole place went on high alert. Apparently there was a bomb threat so they shut the whole place down. We were told to stay put and just watched as they closed everything off and went running – walked actually – around the facility. When it was cleared, they opened it back up and were back in business. Personally, I think it was more of a drill than a real threat, as we would’ve been asked to leave the building if it was. It helped pass time though.

Ali and I were wondering which one of us they’d call first. They called Rahma and Danielle in again (separately of course) for further interrogations, while Ali and I sat there counting the tiles. I started to clap every time someone received that piece of paper, and then it became a thing we all did in the waiting room. The IDF soldiers weren’t too pleased with it, but hey, with not knowing how long we’d be there and whether we’d even get in anymore, we had to have something to look forward to and make the time passing a little more enjoyable.

It seems like the whole purpose of these interrogations was to kill time really, demoralize and intimidate us in the hopes of us not wanting to return to Palestine. If it was something serious, I’m sorry, but you’d have older and more experienced officials interrogating us, not 18 – 22 year old kids who have yet to experience life.

Nine tedious hours and three rounds of cross-examinations later, we were finally permitted to enter Palestine.  We were the last ones to be let through, and by then, it was 11pm. We nearly missed the last bus into the city, and had to run for it.

When the bus dropped us off, we hired a taxi to take us to our hotel, and crashed in our rooms. What an end to a long and tiring day.  But thankfully, I will never have to go through this again, unlike the many Palestinians who do.

Dear eighteen year old me,

Eighteen, eh? Wow – you’ve got the whole world ahead of you! You are definitely up for quite an interesting journey. There are many things that I can share with you, to help avoid major hiccups and heartaches in the future; but to be honest, I don’t think I’d like to change anything in our life, as I like it just the way it is – the good, the bad and ugly too. Besides, there’ll be too many butterflies if I do. (You’ll understand this at some point in time later in the future when you end up watching this TV show.)

However, if I could share one thing, it would probably be this:

Don’t be in a rush to go into university. Take a gap year or two even. Travel the world alone, abroad somewhere. Pick a place where the language is foreign to you, and the culture is different. Volunteer; get a job halfway across the globe, do whatever – just keep moving and exploring and learning about the world first hand.

You may think you’re pretty big right now, but honey, you’re only 18. How could you possibly know what you want to be in life or what career path you’d like to take if you haven’t been exposed to life yet? You need to know yourself better and see the world out there first.

The world out there is quite big and there’s much to learn. No textbook will ever teach you in the same way.

So what are you waiting for? Book that ticket now. University can wait.

Lovingly Yours,

The Hibster

Advantages and Disadvantages of being a TCK

So, being raised in Canada and other countries, I’m definitely a TCK. As with everything in life, there are advantages and challenges with being a TCK*.

Advantages:

1. You’re a global citizen.
You have friends from all over the globe.  You can even start your own united nations if you wanted to.

2. You have no problem making new friends.
There’s a party, sure, I’d love to go with you.  You can’t make it anymore, no worries, just tell me the address and I’ll go on my own.  

3. You embrace change and know how to let things go.
We’re moving again?  Okay, when are we moving? I want to invite my friends over one last time before we leave.  Just tell me when to start packing.

4. You have a better understand of people.
Yeah, they’re celebrating Diwali.  It’s quite an interesting celebration. I love the colours!

5. You’re more openminded.
Well, you probably know people from all walks of life. So, nothing really surprises you. And you learn to focus on the similarities rather than the differences.

6. You know how to be vulnerable, which is great in relationships.
Moving around a lot and having to make friends quickly makes you quite vulnerable in ways you couldn’t have even imagined.  And then you realize, it’s because of your vulnerability that you were able to connect with people so easily and quickly.  And as science has shown it some recent articles, being able to be vulnerable within the first hour of meeting someone creates an immediate bond.

7. You live your life to the fullest, living in the moment.
Your inner child always comes out, and whether you’re traveling or at home, you make the most of your life.

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Disadvantages: 

1. Your parents want you to attribute yourself more towards their culture as you get older.
Nope, not happening.  Kinda too late for that. 

2. Your parents want you to go back ‘home’.
 Really?  Now how’s that home?

3. They want you to marry someone from their culture?
If they’re like me, okay.  Otherwise, na ah!

4. You have to constantly explain away the weird stuff your parents do, to your friends.
Yeah, umm… that’s not a skirt my dad’s wearing… and my mom does have fashion sense, it’s just how people dress back ‘home’.

5. You don’t really know which culture you belong to.
You seem to have a foot in each culture.

6. While you’re comfortable with your parents’ culture and are proud of it and align yourself with it, once you get off the plane when visiting your parents ‘home’, you quickly realize that those people are not like you.
Did I say I was from there?  Yeah, I’m definitely not.  When are we going back home???

7. Visiting relatives and keeping in touch involves hopping on planes and a gazillion  phone cards over the years.
And, when speaking to them on the phone, you have to pretend you know exactly who they are and be polite all at the same time, while struggling to maintain a conversation in their native tongue.

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* A TCK is defined as an individual who has spent a significant part of their childhood years outside of their parents’ culture.