SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA, USA – Something I have noticed to be common in the blog world these days are bucket lists – a list of things you hope to do before you run out of time.
I have had something of a bucket list floating around in my head for many years now, and although I have enjoyed reading through the many lists I have come across online, I never thought to actually write one out for myself until now. As I constantly struggle with the questions “What should I do with my life?” and “Am I in the right place?”, I feel that it will be beneficial for me to have a concrete reminder of what these things are, why I want them, and what I need to do to make these dreams realities.
I met numerous people in Bali who gave me beautiful advice about life. In a moment of doubt (mine), one of them instructed me,
Write down the most important things to you, the things you want most to accomplish, the things you want most out of life. Then write down everything you need to do to accomplish them, and go from there.”
I went back to my guesthouse that evening and wrote out my list of ten things – only ten things at the time – and detailed everything I would need to do to make them happen. Many of the things on that original list remain desires of my heart, but in the near-three years that have passed since then, much of my life has changed.
And many of them I have accomplished since then.
This list is an on-going process, and a learning experience for me – I love seeing how my desires change, and how so many remain constant.
- Do archaeological work.
When I was ten years old, I decided I wanted to be an archaeologist. I remember sitting in my fifth grade history class, gazing at a picture of the sphinx and the pyramids, completely fascinated with history (it was my favorite thing to study and has remained so ever since). Upon learning what exactly an archaeologist does, I decided that was the kind of work I wanted to spend my life doing – I just didn’t realize, with all of my ten years of life experience, that this was much easier said than done. ‘Doing archaeology’ does not often equal an actual job, or one that will take care of you. One must, the majority of the time, find other work to do on top of excavation and study to actually afford living. This is proving to be a challenge, as I want to do nothing other than be immersed in ancient history.
I crossed this out because I have done archaeological fieldwork numerous times already, but I do hope to do more. The next dig I have my sights set on: Tiberias, in Israel.
- Complete my degree.
Honestly, any degree will do at this point. At age twenty, I found out that my schooling would no longer be funded and – not wanting to take out loans to finish school – I have been struggling to fund and finish my degree ever since. (My BA degree, that is. I do have an AA degree… but it’s not really worth much.)
- Perfect my Italian, and learn Chinese.
One of the things people ask me constantly after discovering that I lived in China is, “So you speak Chinese?” The answer, most unfortunately, is “no” – or rather, I only speak enough to get around. I can order food, instruct a taxi driver on where I need to go, make some small talk, and tell people that I am really terrible at speaking the language (this last one I can do exceptionally well). I became very interested in the language the longer I lived in the country, but never took classes or studied it on my own. I hope to do this someday. As for perfecting my Italian, well – that is an ongoing process. I am working on it.
- Live in India.
This is the first of many “live in”s you will find on my list. After adopting various countries and continents as my home these past five years, I have found that living – and moving – throughout different countries is one of the most fulfilling experiences I can have, and I have heard such great things about India. I want to spend time traveling throughout the country, and have been wanting to spend an extended period of time (three to six months) living in Varanasi, or an isolated monastery where I can focus on yoga and meditation. Or both.
- Return to Bali, and live there awhile.
My time on Bali changed me. I had been working two full time jobs in China, seven days a week and often twelve hours a day, and decided at the last minute to go on this trip during the Chinese New Year holiday. It was incredibly relaxing. I ate good food, explored the island, and wrote. I hadn’t been writing much (or at all) for years, but I filled up an entire notebook during my two weeks there. It was exactly the break I needed, and helped me to reconnect with the things I cared about in life. I met people who helped me in my moments of indecision, who shared their wisdom about life, who listened to me. I became close with one friend especially, and we talked about coming back and renting a house together on the island in the future. The locals told me it would be easy to move there, that everything was so cheap, that I must come back. This wish isn’t going anywhere. I love that island.
- Travel through Southeast Asia.
- Raise a child (or, numerous ones).
- Sell my photography.
- Revisit Guangzhou and Hong Kong.
- Live in Germany.
- Hike up Mount Kilimanjaro.
- Write something that I am really proud of.
- Live in China again.
It was only after living in Asia for years that I became interested with SEA and Southeast Asian cultures. I only visited Singapore and Indonesia while I was living in Asia, but always had a strong desire to visit Thailand (people say the absolute best things about it), have grown interested in Laos and Vietnam, and am absolutely dying to go to Cambodia. Paradise for cheap? I am so down.
I’ve always wanted to adopt children, having been convinced from a young age that marriage/the traditional route for starting a family was not for me (and that providing a good life for a child who is already born makes more sense in our overly-populated world than birthing another). I am still convinced that I want children, and remain less convinced that marriage is for me.
I like my photos. Other people seem to like my photos. I have a few images I would absolutely love to frame and hang, and many photos I would like to gather into a beautiful glossy book, and other people have expressed wanting these things as well. I think this would be really cool – I love the idea of beauty I’ve found finding other people.
I think it would be really interesting to go back to the Pearl River Delta in ten or twenty years and see how things have changed. I remember when I moved to Shenzhen a year after leaving Guangzhou, going back to visit the city was so surprising – there was an explosion of new buildings and new projects everywhere, and the city, although retaining the core that I was so familiar with, had changed and spread so much in only a single year. It would be crazy to see what this area looks like in a decade.
So, I have never even been to Germany. I have just heard such great things about the economy, education, cost of living, the food, the cities… the list goes on. I’ve met many Germans (and plenty of non-Germans as well) who have the nicest things to say about their country, and it did not take them long to convince me that it would be a lovely place to live. The free education and the good salaries for ESL teachers alongside the cost of living had me seriously considering a move there a couple of years ago. I’m still hoping to spend a number of years there in my future (although the wonderful beer and pretzels and bread found there wouldn’t much agree with my gluten-free self).
Gosh, I have been dying to go to Africa for so long. I have a dear friend who has spent a great deal of time in Africa and she really turned me on to south/central Africa in a way I can’t imagine I would have become on my own. After doing all sorts of research on the continent over the years and considering every way of visiting, from volunteering to going on safari to good old tourism, I decided that one of the things I would really like to do would be to hike up Kilimanjaro. Tanzania seems like a country that I would especially enjoy exploring – and the mountain is right there, and beautiful.
I have fallen out of the habit of writing these past five years, and it’s really a shame. Putting pen to paper is one of the most satisfying things I can think of, and I have noticed that I think better, am more mentally organized, and am a happier person when I write – there’s nothing but benefits. I also just really enjoy the process. I feel that my writing has suffered, as does any skill that goes into disuse, and I hope to work my way back up by writing constantly. I attempted NaNoWriMo for the first time last year, and although I fell short of the goal of the month (50,000 words) by only getting 20K words out, I felt pretty great about those twenty thousand words. I hope I can find the time and mental energy to continue with projects like that now and in the future.
And one day, I hope I can start writing things I feel really good about.
Most people who know me will either roll their eyes or voice confusion upon reading this, because I have never really had good things to say about China. Honestly, it was not all bad, and despite the many things that I disliked about the culture, that country became a second home to me… and actually feels more like home to me than any other place on earth at this point. It felt right. It’s strange. I don’t understand it. I would just like to feel comfortable in the world again, to feel calm and collected as I did there.
I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone who knows me (or anyone visiting this site, really – you did realize you’re reading through a collection of travel stories and photography, right?) that most of my dreams have to do with travel. We’ll see how things progress as the years go by.
I’m pretty excited to find out.