It’s 5am, the sun is rising beside me as I’m writing from the rooftop of an Indian fishing boat after an epic 4 day trip through the Arabian ocean to finally see the Dragon Blood Trees of Socotra, Yemen. As I stand on the cusp of finishing my life long goal of truly traveling through every country in the world, I’m tired, filthy but content and wide awake. I’m excited to land in Oman and fly back to my adopted home of Thailand today or tomorrow.
As I lay on my the blanket on the roof, sleeping is impossible, I’m excited. I’m proud of where I’ve found myself at 33, not literally on this boat, but where I am in life. I’m free and I’m happy. But 10 years ago last month (thanks for the reminder FaceBook!) I was flying one-way to Thailand with nothing but $25,000USD in student loans, a backpack, $1000 or so from my stint in medical research, and very little else.
I didn’t know what to expect either from my year ahead teaching English in China or Thailand, or for the rest of my 20s. I guess I figured I’d have a fun year and then re-join the ratrace, get a ‘real-job’, join the masses, plan my holidays 6 month in advance, go to the same bars each week, support my football team, slowly put on weight and be none-the-wiser. Everyone else is doing it. I’d be no different.
Things turned out differently, as they often do when we chase our passions, and 10 years it’s easy to look back and say it was easy. It hasn’t been easy of course, but I wish I could go back 10 years to reassure myself, and on that note, I want to give a little advice to any others in their twenties. Feeling unsure of themselves, unaware of what they want, feeling the social pressure to rush into a career, a mortgage, a relationship when they’re still young. You don’t have to. Here’s my advice to you in your twenties, just don’t show your parents.
“Create and enjoy your freedom, be young, stay up late, and get up early, smile at people you don’t know, compliment strangers, be social, say yes even when it may get a little awkward, get stupid hairstyles, wear too many bracelets, get a few tattoos that you’ll probably regret. Get drunk, buy a backpack, travel as much as you can, travel alone, travel with friends, travel with strangers, hook up with travelers, hook up with locals, experiment with everything, burn the candle at both ends, sleep when you’re dead, stay in hostels, don’t worry about a career just yet, there’s plenty of time for that…
Walk a lot, soak it up, appreciate sunrises and sunsets, hug people, learn a language, be open and be honest, be proud but stay humble, stand up for yourself, learn the right time to walk away and the right time to throw a punch (there is one), explore other cultures and appreciate the ones so different from yours, eat street food, get food poisoning, take night buses, night trains, couchsurf, dont sweat the small stuff, seriously.
Sleep in airports, get a tan, try to remember to work out, it’s more important than just vanity, I promise. Stretch often, try yoga, drink a lot of water, go vegan for a bit. Fall in love, have your heart broken, maybe break a few on the way too sadly, say goodbye, call your parents, tell them you love them and appreciate their sacrifices, make an effort with your friends, you’ll lose them otherwise. Be socially conscious, but don’t be self-righteous. Enjoy the ride for all it’s worth. Responsibilities will beckon one day, I promise you that, but not today, not yet.
And when they say ‘youth is wasted on the young’, just smile back at them and say, ‘I’m sorry if yours was, but my youth wasn’t wasted at all’.
That’s it guys and girls. My favourite saying, and my next tattoo, is “You’ll never be as young as you are tonight”, don’t forget it, life’s too short. I’ll see you on the road.