On a hot, sticky, April day in 2018, I found myself hungover, in a dorm room, at a hostel in Bangkok’s Chinatown. Around 1pm I was still curled up on a bottom bunk bed (a way of life I feel so removed from at the moment). A new guest walked in and started chatting with me. I was good to talk so long as I didn’t have to get out of my bed.
The conversation was brief but engaging.
I looked back in my journal (I journal constantly) to see if I wrote anything down about our encounter… All I found was “Traveling more would solve a lot of the world’s problems… conclusion made during a convo with a French speaking Canadian dude at the hostel in Chinatown.” I guess we talked about how powerful traveling is? I obviously don’t remember the details…
However, I never forgot that he told me he’d spent a month in Guatemala, studying Spanish. Having just started my long-term travels, in Asia, the thought of studying Spanish felt like a lifetime away- but still something I knew I eventually wanted to do.
Before I left to indefinitely travel, I made a list of things to focus on, to center myself, if I ever lost my way on the road. The list was short:
- Teaching English
- Learning Spanish
The original list actually had another bullet point relating to business/ entrepreneurship but I quickly learned that focusing on business caused me to lose myself, so I threw that one out. I originally created this list because I feared I would get caught up in the backpacker party life. Based on the fact that this story starts out with me hungover, you’d think that I did, but I didn’t. I partied a little bit when I first arrived in Asia, but by that point I had already grown out of most of it (I just didn’t know it yet).
However, I did experience anxiety while traveling through Asia, especially early on. In those moments I turned to yoga and writing. (I actually attribute most of my major lifestyle changes over the last few years to both yoga and writing.)
Spanish wasn’t initially a feasible option, considering I was in Asia. But it was on the list because I’d always wanted to learn another language and language learning seemed like a centering (and productive) process.
When I was kid, I wanted to learn to speak Dutch. I had a Dutch friend and loved listening to her family speak. But everyone, including my Dutch friend and her family, told me it wasn’t practical for me to learn Dutch, that I’d never use it. So I let my dreams of speaking Dutch go. As I got older, I didn’t think I was capable of learning another language at all, any language. But, when my life shifted to full time travel, I figured I should at least try to learn a second language.
I chose Spanish for the exact reasons Dutch wasn’t practical. Spanish is widely spoken around the world, useful to know while living in the United States, and opens up the doors to learning about, and connecting with, a lot of different countries and cultures.
So, the Canadian guy and I exchanged social media contacts and he told me to reach out to him if I ever had questions about Spanish or Guatemala.
Later that day a group of French guys checked into our room and the rest of the conversations had that evening were in French. All the guys checked out the next day and I never saw the Canadian guy again.
Not the Same Person
Since that day in Bangkok, nearly two years ago, I have traveled to Singapore, Vietnam, back to Thailand several times, India and Indonesia. I have slept in dozens of dorm rooms and met hundreds of people. I went back to Chicago for nearly a year to take care of my nephew, I became vegan and quit drinking.
Through all of these life changing experiences, I have been given countless recommendations for countless things, over half of which I couldn’t recall now if you paid me.
Yet, for some reason, when the focus of my travels turned to studying Spanish, I remembered that brief, hungover, conversation with the Canadian dude in Bangkok.
I reached out to him on Facebook. Just like he said he would, he helped me every step of the way!
That my friends is how a hangover in Bangkok led to studying Spanish in Antigua.