I’m at a tiny village school in Lithuania.
I’m listening to my geography teacher: we’re learning about the Mekong, and I think to myself how amazing it would be to see it one day. Southeast Asia – oh my!
I’m not thinking “Maybe I’ll get to see it one day?” – that just seems too much. My thought is much more conservative.
Years later, I’m on a bus crossing a bridge. I can see the Mekong. I’m crossing from Thailand into Laos. Thailand is in fact where I have started writing this blog, ten years ago.
Those ten years now contain some truly beautiful and proper ridiculous stories. Failures, seeming successes, actual successes, heartbreaks, lots of not knowing, lots of going with (a weird but exciting) flow, attempts to change that flow, making amazing friends on the way, confusion, and laughter.
So, in other words, life!
There has been a lot of effort to collect my courage and share my stories. “Who do I think am I to have a right to do that after all?” unworthiness would whisper. Or shout, sometimes.
These stories started as travel stories (ah, the young me) but later turned into broader observations on life. I think it’s because I’ve shifted my focus from ME to how those stories are always, inevitably, stories on our shared humanity. There’s nothing unique about them, in the most beautiful sense possible.
But how did this even happen?
My story, like any other, is one of a curious kid. A nerdy kid. As I see it, my life got “launched” into something I’ve never dared of experiencing when I, not realising how insane and uncertain that was, applied to study in the U.S. To follow something that seemed and, honestly, still seems like a dream: to study abroad. To live on campus.
“Just like in the movies.”
Why did it seem like a dream? Being from a working-class family and being from a village where I would dread my summers because summers meant various kinds of farm work, it was difficult to imagine this could indeed happened. But I thought I had to try.
And I did it. Holy crap!
Long story short, being an excellent student launched me into a life where I’ve realised that it is in fact possible to go to places, with very little money (like…very little). And with a project in mind.
After college, this thinking took me to Thailand, where I volunteered for almost a year on a $100 monthly scholarship (how many of those cheap massages I was getting when I was living there? Not many at all. But that’s also not why I went there.)
Then, I got myself into a Master’s programme on multiple scholarships. Then internships, jobs, hustling projects, accidental jobs, more accidental jobs, and other projects followed. Lots of uncertainty, definitely no savings, nothing too valuable to put in my suitcase, and no good camera to document my life in a way I would have liked to (this blog would look much different then).
But what I am so proud of are the amazing people, eye-opening moments, empathy and kindness, and a number of incredible lessons I’ve collected. They make that uncertainty, those failures, those uncomfortable bus rides, and those heartbreaks so much worth it
I wish I could say it to the younger me, the shy kid sitting in her geography class.
I’d tell her that life will be very exciting. And beautiful. And tough sometimes. But as long as you follow your curiosity, as long as you go on that journey, it will be a journey indeed. All you need is a little bit of that investigative selfism.