Welcome to 2015. I’d like to kick the year off by sharing a story, a Lollipop moment of mine. A Lollipop moment is a moment where someone said something, or did something, that fundamentally made your life better. If this is the first you’re hearing of this, I would encourage you to watch the 6 minute TEDx video below.
It feels like a long time ago since my last trip to Southeast Asia, I guess a lot has happened in the year gone by. I remember strolling through the ruins of Angkor Wat; trekking the rice paddy ridden plains of Sapa, and sailing the beautiful vistas of Halong Bay, pondering what to do with my life. At the time I was thinking about smaller, more trivial things, like whether or not to sell my house or switch jobs. It wasn’t until an unlikely day in Malaysia that I started to think beyond the mundane.
Monkeys on the steps at Batu Caves, KL
On a one-day stopover in Kuala Lumpur on the tail end of my SE Asia trip I found myself at KL Sentral, waiting on the platform for the train to take me to Batu caves. It’s quite easy to spot other travellers in an Asian-dominated city, and as such I found myself chatting to a friendly American by the name of Jared. We boarded the train and quickly realised that we were headed to the same place, so I was introduced to the 5 other friends he had made in his dorm room that morning. So there we were: three Americans, a Chinese girl, an Irishman, an Aussie and a Kiwi; instant travel buddies, exchanging stories and ideas about life. We had a fun day touring the caves and lunching in Chinatown, floating around the plentiful KL malls, with equally plentiful Air Conditioning. We were all quite keen to see the Petronas towers at night, so we headed to KLCC via the underground mall complexes.
It was on one of the lower levels of a mall, waiting for the girls to finish their toilet stop that a life-changing conversation was struck. Astounded at the idea that these people were travelling for months and years on end, and confronted with the harsh reality that I was mere days away from being back in my comfortable office job in Wellington, I remarked at how jealous I was that I couldn’t do the same. Jared didn’t blink, and responded.
My job, my house, my cat, my life. Duh, Jared, come on. How can I leave all of that? At the time this genuinely was how I felt, for some reason I didn’t see my life as something fluid, that I could change and mould. Perhaps in a way I even saw it as giving up on all the things that I’d worked hard to achieve.
Jared continued, “You’re still young, and if you want them later, they will all be there when you’re done living your life.” It was as if someone had just lifted the shades off my eyes, and I could see everything clearly. Those things I’d worked so hard to acquire, the things in my life that I considered high value, they didn’t make me happy at all.
Petronas Towers, KL
There’s something about travelling that makes you more honest. Perhaps it’s the lack of familiar surroundings, or the extension of comfort zone, or being on a break from normal life, I’m not exactly sure. But I noticed it, a lot, and not just with myself. Everyone I met would tell me their entire life stories, and share their deepest hopes and dreams with me. I feel like I formed stronger relationships than I have back home with people I spent a day with, people I’m still in touch with and will continue to be into the future. I was more honest with myself and with others than I have been in the last 10 years of my life.
Those words, “Do they make you happy?” Continued to stick with me after I got home from my trip. A few weeks back into real life I decided that enough was enough. I made a pact with myself to finish doing up my house, and to sell it. To walk away from my wonderful job and to leave Wellington, at least for a while. The world was calling to me, and I had to respond. I set myself a goal of September, 2014. I achieved this on November 21, as I said my goodbyes and boarded a plane bound for LAX with nothing but a suitcase to my name. On Monday I’m heading to Thailand, and beyond the first couple of hostel nights I’ve booked – who knows. I wonder if I will ever be as free as I am in this period of my life. I have no responsibilities, and although I don’t have fleshed-out plan for the future, I feel very much in control of my life.
Jared has spent a lot of time travelling the world, and recently spent 2 months in India, one of which was spent training as a Yoga instructor before heading home to California. It wasn’t until two weeks after he got back to California that he was in a bad traffic accident, and unable to walk for 8 weeks. My brother Rick has a fitting saying for this type of thing, “If you’re born to be shot, you won’t drown.” It really makes me appreciate how short our lives can be, never fully in control of what happens next. So living for the now is something that I need to do, at least for a while. I told Jared how much what he said had impacted on my decision to leave New Zealand. Just like Drew Dudley, he had almost no recollection of the conversation, and encouraged me to document it for him. I hope to one day inspire somebody else to do something that makes them so happy.
Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, DC