Recently, I went on a small day trip from my quaint town to another quaint town on my new home island of Ireland. I packed up my life and moved here about a month ago, and I have had nothing but amazing, uplifting experiences, and reassurances that I made the right decision. Moving to a completely new country has been something that I've aspired to do for years, but to say that I ever expected this to happen would be false, and this would be for a number of reasons. First reason being I never thought I could ever move away from home; I feared that I would get homesick too quickly, and always thought I would want to stay within the comforts of my hometown. Clearly, as I got older I found a shocking presence of independence and wanderlust within myself, just enough to push me to leave the nest, and fulfill what I've always dreamed of doing. Fast forward to the present, while I'm living my dream in Ireland, I decided to travel around a little when I get the chance, and with the bus system being so quick and easy, it really makes day trips ideal. I was on my way to the lovely village of Kinsale, full of colourful buildings, winding roads and sailboats. I hopped on the bus, threw on some John Mayer (obviously), and sat back and began to enjoy the luscious green scenery around me. Although I was in my element, something quickly started weighing down on me. On the buses in Ireland, there are seatbelts on every seat, although no one wears them. I sat there, John Mayer singing sweet nothings in my ear, and decided that it would be dumb to keep my seatbelt off, what if something was to happen? I have too much ahead of me to risk it, because I was too lazy to move my arm in two swift motions.
Bali, Indonesia; full of beaches, palm trees, smoothie bowls, surfing and good times. A dream destination for many, especially me. When I realized how accessible Bali was going to be to me whilst in Thailand this fall, I decided to book a ticket from BKK to DPS and explore the island. I wasn't nervous, of course. I had travelled both Vietnam and Thailand by myself, and knew that Bali was going to be a walk in the park. The only thing I was nervous about was that it was going to be absolutely packed with tourists, which let's just say isn't my favourite. As per usual, I was right. Tourists everywhere! (Mainly Aussies) But to be quite honest, it wasn't horrible. The tourists were usually friendly, understanding, and not intimidating. I talked to many people that said they felt bad for vacationing in Bali because they felt as though they were using the Indonesians and bragging about their wealth to them. When you are in Indonesia, it does feel like the locals are catering to your every need. The whole island is a part of this massive tourism industry and I'm sure not one local is not affected by it somehow. In my opinion, I think that it's great; Bali is somewhat of a poverty-stricken island, with many people living in either concrete or bamboo shacks if outside of a city centre. When you are in Bali, you do get hit with this wave of realization that you are vacationing in what you see as heaven, but what locals may see as hell. That is why there are a lot of escorts in Bali; the women want to meet white men with money that can get them off of the island. Now, other than escorting, most people feed into the tourism industry by owning souvenir shops, restaurants, hotels, or transport services. It's great that they have a way of making ends meet and that they are allowing more tourists to visit Bali, but the effect of the poverty-stricken island follows them and the tourists no matter what.
The title of this article may seem intriguing, may seem taboo, may even seem fake, and I hate all of those assumptions. The title "traveling with anorexia" should be just as out of the ordinary as "traveling with only one pair of shoes"—still somewhat intriguing, but not so much that you would take time out of your day to learn how the author travels with only one pair of shoes. And yet, it feels wrong for me to talk about this. Even in this broad and simple context, I feel like I am pushing a boundary; not one of my own, but that of someone else. I love talking about my mental illnesses and bringing awareness to them, but I'm always scared of offending someone else with my willingness to express myself through my stories of struggle. It's another article all in itself talking about how it feels "forbidden" to talk about a mental illness where it should be as simple as talking about shoes, but we'll get to that eventually.
From a young age, I had various pictures of what post-secondary life would look like for me, and it usually included the surreal expectations of not taking a gap year and only going to University. When I look back at the way my mind worked back then (we're thinking like 10-year-old Bekah), I was quite a princess. I turned my nose up at the thought of taking a year off because I saw it as being lazy, and I was convinced that I'd never want to go back to school if I postponed it. Also, I believed that if you went to college, you were less intelligent than people who went to university, and obviously I could never be viewed as less intelligent than anybody, so I just had to attend university. These perspectives were inspired by what my classmates and teachers said, and I felt pressured to conform to do what everyone else approved of. Clearly, my self-expectations shifted at some point during my adolescence and I decided that taking time off between high school and post-secondary was actually ideal for me, as I was still unsure of what I wanted to pursue. I also realized that although university could be attainable for me, I don't think that it would be ideal as I like more hands-on learning, and I know that my marks would be better in college. Why am I telling you this boring life story? Because since I was able to change this outlook on post-secondary and take the filter off of my eyes that classmates and teachers put on me, I am now currently doing something that I am extremely passionate about and loving every minute of it.
So far on my ten week adventure through South-East Asia, I have been on two backpacking trips, and plan to go on one more before catching a flight back to Canada. Now, don't get me wrong, I adore backpacking. I think that it is an amazing journey through self reflection in the sense of becoming more at peace with your thoughts, desires, and whether you really need all of the junk that you left at home. Backpacking is a way to minimize items that you travel with and discover what you really see as valuable and useful in your life. That being said, I still stand by my title. The idea of backpacking I love—the people who participate in it, I'm not the biggest fan of. Of course, I have met backpackers that I love and call my friends now, but I've also met some that I feel uncomfortable around and actually have completely ended a conversation on a few just out of pure frustration and despise.
The first time I travelled by myself (other than to my grandparents an hour away from home) I was 16, naive and ready to take on the world head-on. Of course I decided to choose the beautiful country of Thailand to travel to by myself, but I didn't take into account how much of a culture shock I was getting myself into. Of course I knew the food was going to be different, and the language was going to be foreign, but I never estimated how differently I would be treated in Thailand compared to my home country of Canada. Luckily, my travels were a part of a Rotary Youth exchange program so I had a local family that I lived with and my host-mom would travel with me absolutely everywhere. But, despite having a great inside to the world of Thai people, I was still hit with an extreme force of what I had gotten myself into. Constantly being stared at, men and women coming up to me and saying that I was "S̄wy" (meaning "beautiful" in Thai), swimming in the ocean and being swarmed with groups of people asking for a photo with me, and many other incidents that left me shaken and worried for what was to come next. Although all of these strange occurrences happened to me, I was surprised, but still felt a sense of security knowing that I had someone to travel with, and thought that it was great that I had these stories to bring back to Canada.