I had always heard that I would have a better time in my 30s than my 20s. I was skeptical; how could older be better? It’s fitting that a decade after my first adventure, I’ve started evaluating my past choices and wondering what my 20-something year old self would think of me now:
Love Prior to leaving for Mexico I agreed to marry my [then] boyfriend. He didn’t want me to go, and I agreed more as a way to not hurt his feelings than because I really wanted to marry him. I knew as soon as he tried to talk me out of going that he was not the one for me. I wanted [want] to be with someone who will support my decisions not try to change them. I wanted [want] to be with someone who has his own dreams but is not afraid to support mine as well. Prior to leaving for South America, I did everything possible to salvage my most significant relationship since, but it didn’t work either. BUT HE NEVER TRIED TO STOP ME FROM GOING. I wanted him to go with me, and thought about him constantly. Sometimes I wonder if it would have worked out had I not gone to South America.
Children I have always claimed to not want to have children of my own. Ten years ago, I was convinced that I never would have considered having children. Now I still don’t think it will happen, but I do occasionally have thoughts about some nebulous future children. Also these day I have little people in my life that love their “Auntie Chelle”.
Passion I have always had a passion for photography. My first camera was a 110 model that I received in 2nd grade. My early trips to England and Mexico sparked my passion for traveling. I have recently [rediscovered] a passion for medicine. I hope to be able to combine the three [travel, photography, and medicine] of them at some point in the future.
Ambition I moved to Mexico to study Mayan art and architecture. I had dreams of returning to the US to start graduate school in International Business and making it big. Ten years later my younger self would be hard pressed to recognize me now. Not only did I eschew the business world for the medical one, I also went back to school to get a degree in Microbiology, and now I’m working towards becoming a nurse practitioner. My younger self avoided science like the plague; my older one is attracted to it like nothing else.
Fear I had no fear when I was younger… jumped right into things. I’m not sure if I was brave or just naive. Now I imagine all the ways I could injure myself… or someone could injure me. In Mexico, I jumped 40 feet into a cenote. I went swimming with sharks. I stared down a bull [OK, he was a baby bull, but he still could have hurt me]. I’m trying to regain some of that, letting go of my fears and embracing the unknown. Traveling to places I didn’t plan. Sometimes it worked out and sometimes it didn’t. I’m not exactly sure why I didn’t have a guidebook as the Internet existed but certainly didn’t have the proliferation of information that it does now about travel. I just jumped on buses and found accommodation when I arrived. I didn’t have anxiety about how to get there, or where I would stay.
It wasn’t all great. I remember once going to one hotel on the Mexican/Guatemalan and the guy at reception told me I didn’t want a room even though I insisted on looking at one. That’s because I didn’t notice the locks– everywhere. It should have been a clue that it wasn’t the safest place around, but it was late, I was tired, and the border was closed. I got in the ‘room’, dropped my stuff, and headed for the showers. The bathroom had a toilet seat barely hanging on and a pipe stuck out of the wall. I could pee and shower at the same time. After the shower, I heard my first gunshot. I locked the door, set an alarm, and prayed for a few hours sleep. As soon as the lights went out, the bugs came out. Gunshots I could deal with–cucaraches as big as my shoes I could not. I packed up determined to get the hell out of there–even if it was 1 am. The hotel compound was locked up. I banged on the metal doors until someone came to let me out. He said it wasn’t safe. I said I didn’t care. He let me out, and I walked the five kilometers in the border town where the Zapatistas were active. Not the smartest things I have ever done. I wouldn’t conceived of doing it now, but at 20 I had no fear.
But those are the badges of traveling and I earned many of them. I loved meeting other people and hung out with the few younger people who lived in Campeche. There wasn’t many Americans so I had to hang out with the locals. I didn’t know the value of that now, but being forced to speak Spanish, watch the novelas, eat the ‘traditional’ food, and assimilate into daily Mexican life was a godsend. In Peru, I lived with a host family while working at the clinic. Their kindness was overwhelming and they had a dog and a cat which was a godsend when I was homesick for Lily and Lucy . They took care of me when I had malaria. I don’t know if I would have died or not, but by having someone around, I did get the treatment I needed.
The changes in me have been gradual but profound; I’m not the same person but much better and much of it due to traveling. I don’t know who I’d be if I hadn’t experienced life this way.