They say that you find yourself on your travels. It’s true.
The first time I experienced this was when I traveled alone to Greece, several years ago. I went with a group of Australians and New Zealanders through an organization called Contiki. During those travels I learned a lot about myself. But, as with everything, you never stop learning.
I’ve been in the United States, New Orleans to be exact, for two months now and I’m learning more about myself every day. The people here are really nice, the other international students are great fun to hang out with and there’s several nice vegan places throughout the city (Breads On Oak is still my favorite). Being here is definitely one of the best things I’ve done in my life, so far, and I will always remember the great times I have here.
But while I’m here I have a lot of time on my own. When I’m not taking classes or going out with the internationals I am usually in my room, around campus, at the gym or at Whole Foods (oh, the life of a vegan tourist in the US). I am living in a dorm room and the experience is totally new to me. For example, I’d never experienced suite-mates that play super loud music in the middle of the night.
Since I’ve had some time to think I’ve come to several realizations. First, I’m not like everyone else my age. And that’s okay. For example, after I confronted my suite-mates about their music (asking them nicely five times didn’t do anything) we got into a small argument. I won’t go into every detail, but here’s the relevant part: the argument resulted in the girl saying “you’re only here for a few months right? You should go out, party, drink, have some fun.” While this would be a totally normal thing for a lot of 21-year-olds, for me this statement carried a lot of weight. Going out partying and drinking do not equal fun for me. Rather, they are two complete opposites. So the point of this entire story? I prefer doing things during the day and sleeping at night. I will not change myself to comply with what other people want me to be. I will not define myself or fit myself into a little square box. We are all more than one thing. I am more than a vegan. I am more than a relentless reader of books. I am more than a cooking enthusiast. I am more than a starting writer. To anyone out there: no one, except yourself, has the right to define you or reduce you to a few terms.
Another thing I realized is more food-related. You see, ever since I got here I liked to try new vegan foods. King Cake at Breads on Oak, vegan hot dogs from Dat Dog and carrot cake, brownies and chocolate chip cookies from Whole Foods. While all very delicious, these foods did not make me feel my best. So what did I decide to do? I decided to get healthy again. I am back to my HCLF/WSLF lifestyle. I’m not as low fat as some may like. I still enjoy my avocados and nuts, but definitely rice/veggie/fruit-based. And this makes me feel great! I am also getting into the habit of exercising (almost) every day again. (Right now the gym is closed for a week for Mardi Gras, which really annoys me, but next week I’m going for it again!!). When I’m healthy I feel happy, and I will keep living like that.
Through realizing what kind of person I am (the kind that prefers real conversation, good food, healthy lifestyle etc.) I also realized some of my goals. I want to travel more. I love discovering new places (even though city-centers aren’t really my thing). I want to visit Australia (and try all the delicious vegan food), Thailand or Bali (and enjoy the calm places in nature), Hawaii (and just see this place that should be like utopia) and more.
Even though I still don’t really know what I’m going to do with my life after university I feel like I’m getting closer. You see, I’ve only got one more year of university (sort of, I only have to write my bachelor’s research paper, but I have to do it next year) and I have no future plans. While I know a bunch of ways I don’t want to end up I do not know what I do want to do. I love writing, but is that a viable career choice? I love cooking, but opening up a vegan restaurant may be too hard? All I know is that I want to do something that’s mentally stimulating and in line with my personality.
All in all, I don’t know what I’m going to do. But I do love that by being here, by enjoying this beautiful experience, I am getting closer to learning what I want in life. Hopefully I’ll find a vegan friend to go with me on those trips. Someone who has similar ideals and aspirations. Hopefully I’ll come to some realization as to what I should do in the future, soon. But for now, I am just happy being content with myself. And that is enough.