Looking back on Southeast Asia – 6(?) Months Later

Well, as Drake says late is better than never  – (I highly think I’ve made this joke before, but I’m about 400% over that fact)… so its high time I reflect on the madness that was last summer. Also its significantly 2:25 a.m., but that’s beside the point.

It’s been a long 6 months – thank you school (and Gazette.. *cough* hire me please *cough*). I consistently find myself talking about my trip – although, this could be because I like to talk a lot. Probably that. So, its high time I look back on this trip and realize the many things it has taught me. Thus, dear reader (all 7 of you), here are my top 5 things that I’ve learned from my trip. I could do 10 but I feel like bed is more important.

1. I’m comfortable being out of my comfort zone

Wow, Aaron, so original. Gold star for you. As cliché as this sounds, I’ve actually learned to thrive outside of my comfort zone. Granted, my comfort zone is pretty large – I still constantly find myself in situations outside of it. By forcing myself to take cooking classes (Superman has kryptonite – I have cooking), I’ve learned that its ok to step outside of your comfort zone and fail; there are people around you to help you (ew, I used a semi colon -does that make me a real writer now?).

2. Do things for you – not for the souvenirs

This seems like common sense but it’s so easily overlooked. While souvenirs look cool on your shelf – thats all they are. When you take the $10 you were gonna put on that keychain and put it into an experience you can only get there (Hello, Marina Bay Sands) you’re gonna have memories that last a lifetime (or, at least until you start forgetting things). I’m not saying don’t buy any souvenirs – by all means, get them, but think about it first – is that “I Heart La Paz” shirt really something you’re gonna wear after your trip? I guarantee you it won’t be – it’ll sit there along with that sweater you got from camp that one time and then told yourself you would never wear again.

3. Being tired is ok, in fact, its encouraged

Being tired is FINE. Its not the end of the world. In all honesty, lazy days are the best days for exploring your surroundings. When you’re too tired to hit the tourist trail, you get to explore the intimate surroundings you find yourself in. Maybe there’s a cool café you’ve been meaning to get to or a neat shop that you haven’t gone to because you’ve been too busy doing all the things on that Top 10 list you saw. So ditch it; there’s no rule that you have to see the Louvre every time you to go Paris – or even that you have to see it at all.

4. Ditch the Top 10 List

This one fits in with that last point. While Top 10 lists of things to see will help you get an idea of what to see in an area – they are not gospel. I’ll say it again – TripAdvisor’s Top 10 List of things to see in Timbuktu is NOT THE BIBLE. You don’t need to do everything it says. The biggest way to make your trip more satisfying is doing things that interest you. Don’t want to see an art museum? Don’t. It’s just that easy. You are Jesus in this situation – you are the master of your own destiny. Ok, Jesus may not have been the right vehicle for this literary device but you get my drift. (Hopefully. Otherwise I’m going to hell.)

5. Take Care of Yourself

This one is the biggest thing that gets thrown out the window when you travel. Its so easy to fall into the tunnel vision of trying to see all that you can in one day that we forget about what makes us happy. I mean, this could totally be your thing, and like you do you friend – but just be aware of burnout. Plan scheduled rest days – or redundancy days (for when things don’t work out or are closed because, surprised that happens!) to help you recharge your batteries. Trust me, it’s necessary.

SECRET #6 – Things won’t work out. Deal with it. 

Yes, in an ideal world everywhere has perfect weather and things never close. I hate to be the bubble burster (just kidding, I love it) but OMG! things will close or you will have crappy weather. Its just the way of the world. Yes, it sucks. Yes, it can be devastating when you don’t get to do something you’ve been wanting to do forever – but hey, thats why we travel. We can come back to these places and do these things again. So don’t let that one thing ruin your trip, it’ll suck in the moment – but I assure you cheap booze is probably within walking distance.

Wow – this is too much introspection for me. I don’t like it. Also fun fact, I found out what that mystery illness was. It’s a little thing called Chikungunya – it’s real, and apparently coming for us with the rage of Bernie Sanders at the political establishment.

Thanks for reading this – I don’t think you know how much it means to have people step into my inner monologue and connect with it. Especially when that monologue is full of crass jokes and stupid anecdotes.

Cheers to this great trip – and here’s to many (many!) more!

Thank You, Myanmar.

I’m not one for sappy posts, but indulge me a little please.

For those of you that don’t know, Myanmar (Burma) has just held it’s first internationally accepted election. While it wasn’t to the standards that we see here in Canada, this is a historic move for the country. What makes this election even more important is that the military-backed party lost to Aung San Suu Kyi’s popular NLD party. While she won’t be able to become president as Burmese law prevents people with children born to foreigners from becoming president (oddly specific) her party has promised to provide her with a position higher than the president. Right now – it’s looking like this is going to become a reality.

Here’s a little but of context to put this in perspective. Until 2011, the country was ruled by a military junta and for most of this time Suu Kyi was jailed. Then in 2011, after international pressure, the country held its first elections. These elections which were won by the military-backed USDP weren’t exactly free and fair and in fact, most Burmese didn’t vote. While visiting the country in the summer, I learned that Suu Kyi is revered by many people in the country – many even refer to her as  “Mother Suu”.

Here comes the amazing part. These elections were so popular with many among the country that lines formed hours before polling began, and people continued to line up for days (check out the BBC’s coverage of the election for some incredible images).

The Burmese people are some of the kindest and warmest people I have ever met – and seeing these results makes me so hopeful for the future of their country. They WANT change and it looks like they’ll get it.

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The images of people lining up around the block really struck a chord with me. Why don’t we see this in Canada? Why do we celebrate a 60% voter turn out? It still means that one out of every three people in this country didn’t vote. Not exactly something that we should be celebrating. Myanmar is one of the poorest nations on earth and yet 80% of the population still showed up out to vote.  So my fellow Canadians, get off your lazy asses and vote. Plain and simple.

These results have also caused me to do a little bit of reflection and soul searching. Currently, I’m sitting on top of a washing machine doing 6 weeks worth of laundry AT UNIVERSITY. Man, does that sentence sound privileged. Looking back on my time in the country, most people don’t have the chance to go to university let alone own enough clothes to not have to do laundry (by machine) for 6 weeks. It also puts my disdain towards my grades into perspective. Yes, they’re not the greatest. But, hey, I’m at university. Something that I know many burmese would love to have the chance to do. It’s also inspired me to work even harder, I have the chance to attend one of the best universities in the country – I may as well make the most of it.


Yet in the face of government oppression (the Rohingya people aren’t recognized as citizens and homosexuality is illegal, among other Human Rights Abuses), the Burmese are some of the happiest and kindest people I have ever met. They greet everyone they meet with a “mingalaba” (hello) and a giant smile. In fact, they pretty much have a smile on their faces all the time. We can honestly learn so much from these people and they’ve inspired me to make some changes to my daily life. From now on, I’m going to smile more (maybe this will cure my Resting Bitch Face), be kind to everyone I interact with and realize how truly blessed I am to live where I do.

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Jezuba, Myambar.

(I’ll go get off my soapbox now)