Tag Archives: Solo traveler

List making

Lists. I don’t mean top 10 lists of this or that.  I mean actual lists of things to do, things to pack, grocery lists, those kinds of lists.

 

I have lists made for everything. What I am bringing with me to South America. What I am leaving behind. What I need to buy. Where I am staying. What I am doing.  It’s become a bit of an obsession over the past couple of days!!

 

I even have excel spreadsheets set up for my lists.  List making is a serious thing for me!  This is where the addiction of notebooks has come in handy.  Of course, because I have so many notebooks, I also have duplicate lists in different notebooks.  When I can’t find the original list, I just make another one!!

 

As I am about to leave for South America, I have lists everywhere.  I also have piles of stuff with a note on top of them of what to do with them. This includes clothes and shoes.

 

Am I going crazy with my list making?  I would like to emphatically say NO but today I realized that I think I am.  I went for lunch, with a notebook in hand (one that already had lists in it!), and as I ate my lunch and updated my list – I thought what the heck am I doing??  I really just need to learn to go with the flow.  I really want to do that while traveling through Chile, but my mind is saying NO YOU NEED TO KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU ARE DOING EVERY DAY!  Ugh – my mind makes me crazy some days.

 

Maybe one day the obsessive list making will stop. In fact, I made myself stop this afternoon so I could blog about list making (hahaha!!).  (I would share pictures of the list making, but I am slightly embarrassed at the amount of them I have…)

 

In search of myself

When I first started traveling three years ago (which seems more like a lifetime ago!), I never really thought that I was in search of myself.  I just knew I needed a change in my life, that my job was making me feel stagnant, and that I was ready to discover more about the world.  I thought I was a well-grounded person then, who knew what she wanted and what she was going to do with the rest of her life.  What has happened in the past three years has definitely changed all of that thinking.

 

A friend asked me recently if I felt I had been “living a lie” before I started out on this new life.  If I had noticed a change in myself after a few short weeks of my new life.  I answered pretty quickly and said that while I didn’t think I had been living a lie, I think what I had been doing was living a life that everyone else was living.  A predictable, safe life.  Working 9-5, paying my bills, hanging out with friends.  Don’t get me wrong – I had a fun life in Calgary!  I worked at a great company, I had the best friends (and still have them!), and lived in a nice area in a nice house.  It was safe.  It was what everyone expected someone of my age to be doing.  And I really loved my life in Calgary.  So what made me want to leave such a great life?   I wanted to travel.  I wanted to live in another country. 

 

I never considered my life BP (before Prague) as an unhappy life.  Was it an unfulfilled life?  Yes, I believe that now.  My job, while it was a really good job, was just that.  A job.  Not a career.  Not something I could see myself doing for years (even though I had done it for almost 30 years).  I knew in my heart that there was something more that I wanted to do, and that I just needed to find out what it was.

 

One month after arriving in Prague, I graduated from my TEFL program, and was officially a TEFL certified teacher.  I knew right then that my life had changed.  I knew I would never go back to my old life.  I knew that Europe was where I was going to be for a while.  Prague was amazing.  I found my self-confidence grew while I was there.  I found out that I loved teaching – that teaching was not a job but a career.  My self-esteem improved.  I no longer felt awkward.  I no longer felt like I was in the shadows of someone else, trying to show that I was just as good as they were.  I no longer felt that I needed to be in a relationship to be truly happy. 

 

So, almost three years later, I can answer that question my friend asked me honestly.  No, I wasn’t living a lie.  I was living my BP life.  I was living the life I needed to then.  I am now living the life I dreamt of, and am happier than I have ever been!  I don’t regret a moment of my BP life, nor do I regret any moment I have had since leaving Canada.  I am happy.  I am content.  And I am strong.  That is the biggest thing I have learned about myself.  The strength I have inside.  And I am now ready for my SA life!!  (South American life haha).

​Staying healthy in China

Since being in China, I have had numerous colds, walking pneumonia and recently another chest cough. Between the dirty hands and nobody covering their mouth when coughing or sneezing, I am more surprised that I haven’t been sicker!

In the earlier winter, I made the smart choice of taking a multi-vitamin every morning.  I know that this helped me stay relatively healthy.


Then pneumonia hit me in April.   Thankfully the school has a very good doctor who got me on the right meds and I felt better after a week or so.
Last week, another chest cough started.  I think it was partially allergies and partially a cold. In any event, I headed to my friendly pharmacy in search of cough medicine.  And I have discovered a whole new world of medical treatment!


The pharmacist/nurse gave me Chuanbei qingfei tangjiang – a natural remedy for dry coughs and chest problems.  I have to say that, while it is sweeter than I expected, it has almost gotten rid of the cough!  I have a couple more doses but I am so impressed with it!!


Combined with me making ginger “tea” (get ginger root, peel and chop up pieces into water, boil for 20 minutes then let steep ~ and drink hot) and drinking hot water with honey before bed ~ I can’t believe how much better I feel!!   And the ginger tea has done wonders for my IBS issues too!!


I have turned over a new Chinese leaf ~ as much as I can, natural methods are the way I am going now.

​More adventures in food…

I will miss some things about China ~ the children, the teaching and the FOOD!!  Today I ventured over to a new restaurant that opened close to me. I presumed, correctly, that the owners were parents of one of the kids I taught and I was right! Two of my favourite Grade 1 students!  


It was a new style of restaurant for me.  You have a “buffet” where you can add whatever you want in a bowl. You then take it to the counter, they weigh it, cook it in hot water and serve it with a side of rice (good thing I love rice haha).


I made the choices of tofu, glass noodles, mushrooms, mystery meat (it looked like bacon), corn, crab meat and some greens (it was a mixture of unknown greens). It was delicious!!!  They added some peanuts to it after it was cooked.  All of this for the equivalent of $2 Canadian!

I have broken through the fear of the unknown food and I am really enjoying discovering new food!! Now if only I could get used to the loud eating..

A backpacker I have become!


After reading many many MANY blogs and reviews about traveling, and backpacks, and luggage, and looking at all the pros and cons, I have succumbed to living the life of a traveler, and have purchased a backpack.  A 55 litre backpack, with padded shoulder pads and a padded waistband, and so many other features it is mind boggling.  Some of the features I don’t even know what they are for!


I have fought off buying one. I thought that a suitcase would be more practical, I could carry more things, it has four wheels so its easy to push around.  But when it comes right down to it, I don’t need all the stuff I have.  I need clothes, my important papers, minimal footwear (boots and runners), and other small incidentals. The bigger the suitcase, the more you are going to bring. It’s all about minimalism.  


My life is so very different from 20 years ago, as I am sure most people’s lives are.  Back then, I had a house, a husband (haha) and so many things.  I was happy with all of that then, but as time went by, my mind shifted and I realized that things don’t make me happy ~ people and experiences make me happy.


I don’t need stuff. I need to travel. So a backpack is the way to go for me.  This does NOT mean I will backpack through countries (I still want to be comfortable!), but it does mean no baggage check in, and easier to get around the world with my possessions on my back rather than dragging along beside me.
So a backpacker I have become!!  A new era of Louise has begun!! 

​Grade 4 ~ Monday morning madness


There is only one Grade 4 class at the school. They were my first class to teach each week ~ Mondays at 8:55am.  The class never started on time, my time was always short with them, and that was disappointing for us.  Despite the time constraints, we always managed to have a fun class. 

There is so much potential for the brilliant minds that are in this class.  I could have actual conversations with some of the kids and they were able to understand me and communicate with me.


They were a class of chatters but I still was able to connect with them.  They were a tough class to teach some days. Tough in that they were the most distracted of all the classes. Their classroom was in a corner away from the others due to renovations in the school.  Their interaction was mostly with each other so it was understandable that they chatted.


They were engaging when I had an interesting game or activity to do, they liked asking me questions about Canada and they also liked giving me a hard time about my minimal Chinese. I did manage to surprise them on occasion with some new Chinese words though!  They were very intent on teaching me Chinese!


Some of my favourite lessons with them were Scattegories, Scrambled Sentences, and Charades.  The charades was a very rambunctious game that came at a price of a broken ruler (not on one of them ~ on a desk~ oops!!)


I enjoyed the time with them and I can sense that there are going to be a lot of very successful students in that class.

As with all the students I have met and taught at Livon, I will miss these kids very much!!  It has been such an amazing experience teaching all these kids.

​Grade 2 ~ oh the challenges!!


Grade 2 kids ~ these kids are so smart, they are gaining confidence with their English, and are very inquisitive.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked how old are you (answer is always older than you), are you okay, where do you live, what’s your phone number, and the list goes on.


They love games ~ Teacher Says is their favourite.  Its been challenging to keep them interested and motivated but I have succeeded.  


I definitely have favourite students ~ I would be lying if I said I didn’t. Leo, Tom, Hardy, Ang Lee, Lucy and Ella are the ones that I love seeing every day.  


Seven grade 2 classes, average of 40 students in a class ~ a lot of inquisitive children who are always excited to see me!  They love feeding me their snacks too (usually with their hands right into my mouth ~ no wonder I had so many colds!).  

The unabashed hugs, taking my hand and leading me into class, the excited faces when I stand at the front of class and say “Teacher says stand up!” ~ those are the moments I will miss the most.


These kids have made me a better teacher with their questions and their eyes lighting up when they realize they can understand what I am saying.  Their quick minds, short attention spans and endless fidgeting made it challenging, but I can say that I came, I saw, I conquered!!

From the delicious to the bizarre…

There are many unusual things to eat here in China, some more unusual than others (BBQ scorpion no thanks!).  The fun part of traveling is leaving your inhibitions aside and trying new things, if you are brave enough!!


Chicken gizzards ~ no.  BBQ scorpions ~ no. Unknown meat ~ well maybe.  Unknown seafood fried on a stick ~ yes and it was delicious!!  I know I ate chicken feet at one point unbeknownst to me. It was okay but doubtful that I will have it again willingly or knowingly!!

One of the more unusual fruit here is dragonfruit.  Its skin is bright pink, it has spikes all over it and doesn’t look like fruit at all!!

Inside it’s white with little black seeds (?).  It has a nice light fruity taste. It is not overly sweet, definitely not sour, and is quite refreshing.  It has a soft texture similar to a ripe pear.  I had tried it back in Calgary and thought it was tasty so I knew what it was like.  Of course, being in the country where it’s from, I had to try it!!  And it is more delicious here!!

Next thing to try ~ octopus in Chile!!

Fears of the unknown

I have many fears, as I am sure most people do. Some of my fears are common (war is on the top of that list) and some are not so common, I think.
I have overcome many fears since my traveling life has begun.  One was traveling alone ~ could I do it? Could I be happy being alone in a foreign place?   I have conquered that fear. Being alone in a foreign country is more liberating than fearful. Its an amazing feeling walking through European cities or Chinese cities and having a feeling of belonging, despite being stared at. Taking in all the sights to see, the smells, people watching. Experiencing a whole new way to live.  Adjusting as well as you can to the language.  I am happy to say that the fear of this unknown was a good one to overcome.


Last night I conquered a personal fear.  Eating out in public.  I have eaten in restaurants here in China ~ I don’t always like doing that but I have done it (the noisy eating I will never get used to!).  But there is one thing I have wanted to do and couldn’t work up the nerve to do, until last night.
BBQ is very popular here. There is a BBQ place near my place but I didn’t know what the food was. That’s another fear!  What am I eating?? I don’t usually ask, until last night.  I was walking by, on my way to get my usual chicken and rice dish when two of my students and their parents asked me to join them. So I did. I sat down, ate delicious food outside, with people watching, taking pictures and talking about me. (I know the Chinese word for foreign teacher ).

My usual chicken dish that I love!!
What did I eat?  Grilled tofu (I love tofu!!), a seafood skewer (no one could tell me what kind of seafood it was but it was good!), pork skins (yummy!), chicken (what part of the chicken is unknown but it was really good), chicken wings and a huge bottle of beer.  I overcame the fear of the unknown food and enjoyed a lovely evening with these very generous people.  And now I know I will definitely sit down again and enjoy the food there.
So when you’re traveling, take the plunge and try local food. Don’t be afraid. You may be pleasantly surprised!!  (I did say no to chicken gizzards though ~ I had to draw the line somewhere!)

Whatever you are, be a good one

An extraverted protagonist. Sounds interesting right??  I recently did a personality test and my results show that I am an extraverted protagonist. A diplomat People’s Master.  It all sounds very confusing. It was something a close friend thought I would find interesting. And I did!!

It showed me results that definitely resonated with me. All but one section definitely is my personality.  And it also showed me some ways to strengthen my weaknesses. Things I will definitely start to do!
So why am I writing about this here? Really, who cares about someone else’s results of a personality test?  

I am not writing about this to share my results.  No. I am writing about how personality traits can make us stronger or weaker as we grow older and explore our self-worth.  

When I was younger, I was very shy. I did well in school but kept to myself a lot. As I went through many struggles in my adult life, my self-esteem grew stronger, I became more assertive and my personality changed. I became the person I am today – in my eyes, I am a strong, self-assured woman who can do anything she wants and be a success at whatever comes my way.

Traveling has changed me.  Seeing different cultures and dealing with situations I never would have had to in Canada have made me humble. 

We take for granted so many things in life. So many of us want material things (and I am not saying anything against that – it’s just not for me), but living in northern China has made me aware of so many struggles these people have on a daily basis that are beyond their control.  Living in the conditions they do have made them stronger than any other culture I have seen so far.

While my complaints of China are many, the strength and perseverance of these people is truly admirable. 

So like the title says, whatever you are be a good one. If you are a neighbour, be a good one. A mother, a daughter, a teacher, whatever it is you are – strive to be a good one. The people here in Changchun have shown me that, despite the conditions they live in, they take it in stride and they are the best they can be. Their personalities shine through. I will take away from this chapter in my life the strength I have seen of the Chinese people. And I am now, and forever will be, a better person because of it.