Do you ever look at your life and think,
“Well, this has been an interesting ride…”?
I do that sometimes.
Especially when I compare it to where my journey started, which was a tiny village school in Lithuania!
I’d always remember myself in my geography class, learning about different continents with so much curiosity and passion, but never NEVER thinking I would get to see even a fraction of it all.
The beaches of Brazil – oh wow! (very different from the always-cold Baltic Sea…) The skyscrapers of North America – just like in the movies! The Mekong – Southeast Asia, how beautiful!
“But Justina, fast-forward please!”
It’s 2021 and I’m crossing the Mekong on a bus from Thailand to Laos. I’m going to Vientiane to get a new visa for my teaching role in Thailand for which I’m getting a tiny stipend. But I’m seeing it, Southeast Asia!
Thailand is in fact where I started writing this blog, over ten years ago. It started as a travel blog first but later turned into something that I’ve been wanting to share with everyone and that wasn’t necessarily about the place at all.
Those years contain 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! And my desire to write about it.
But how did this even happen?
My story is one of a curious kid. A nerdy kid.
As I see it, my life got “launched” into something I’d never dared of experiencing when I got accepted to do my undergrad degree in the US. Honestly, it still seems like a dream: to study abroad. To live on campus.
“Just like in the movies.”
But why did it seem like a dream?
Being from a working-class family 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 happen. But I thought I had to try.
And I did it. Holy crap! Getting scholarships that were way more than both of my parents would make a year (hence, a dream).
Long story short, my curiosity and studiousness showed me that it is indeed possible to see a bit of the world without being from a certain background (or yes, that background being a post-Soviet village!).
After college, this thinking took me to Thailand and then to Hungary, for a Master’s programme on multiple scholarships (nerdiness pays off!).
Then followed internships, jobs, hustling projects, accidental jobs, more accidental jobs, and other projects. Lots of uncertainty, 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.
Sometimes, investigative selfism comes in a form of a monkey attack! Try to spot it:)
My village school
My parents’ house
My road to school
A view from my village towards the main road in the summer