Here is a sample of some of the things I have been asked in the last few weeks:
‘When are you going to get a real job?’
‘You want pussy ping pong show?’
‘So what’s your five year plan?’
I have some of the answers but not all of them. I have always known on some level, for example, that I don’t in fact want a pussy ping pong show. The others, however, are far more elusive. They are questions that I have pondered and to which I’ve come up with only one logical answer: quit all my jobs and go to Thailand to teach English and travel for 6 months. Simple! Well I say simple, it was actually a massive ball ache.
RECAP : I moved back to Leeds a year ago, to gain enough work experience to then apply for a masters to then get my dream job (social worker) to then find the perfect beard (whoops sorry that should say man) to then move into a perfect townhouse in Edinburgh to then have perfect babies to then live happily ever after. Simple, remember?
It of course doesn’t work like that, no matter how many rom coms and fabricated Facebook profiles might tell me differently. A few months into the plan, I started getting antsy. I started googling things like ‘getting paid to travel the world’, ‘teach English abroad’ and ‘prolonged adolescence’. I wasn’t ready yet, I wasn’t ready to settle down for the long haul career plan. I’d spent the previous 13 months teaching English and living out of a suitcase and generally being a carefree little fairy, living in a world where people don’t have 9 to 5s and mortgages, they have a passport and an overdraft. I had suddenly realised that the plan doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s, it can look like mine. A very expensive masters course followed by an extremely demanding career is something I’ll probably handle better when I’m genuinely ready for the challenge, not dreaming of far flung lands and no responsibility. Most importantly, I am 25 years old. I’m not 40, I shouldn’t have to set everything in concrete now; it would be much harder to swan off to Thailand when I’m 40 with kids, a dog and the school fete to worry about. Life’s short and the last 25 years have taught me one thing (just the one, mind); making a mistake because you tried is so so so much better than the bitter regret at never having tried at all. DECISION MADE.
Now to convince everyone else…..friends were all very supportive, basically everyone I know is having a mini existential crisis and now that we’re all turning 25, it’s only going to get worse. Work, however, was much harder than I ever thought. Saying goodbye to the vulnerable people I’ve been working with brought me to tears, I felt there was still so much left to do and, not to blow my own horn, I’m a pretty damn good support worker and I was up and leaving. Knowing it was to go back to teaching and not something that might have the same impact as support work made me a traitor. But there you go, it is what it is and life sucks. Finally, family. So I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone but explaining to your huge Indian family that you’re moving 10,000 miles away for only 6 months to teach something you didn’t study and is going to pay peanuts never goes down well. Even a few days before I left, Dad was like ‘…say whaaaat?’. But it’s not about them, so, with my doubts in tow, I packed my bags.
I’ve been in Bangkok for 3 days now and so far, it’s mad, loud, dirty, busy, fascinating and fun. I’ve eaten some delicious food (and something that was like chewing a dumpling made of bogies and misery), met the friendliest, smiliest people, seen stunning temples and even more stunning ladyboys. (And I thought my eyeliner game was on point!) I’m honestly so so excited to be here but there is of course some niggling anxiety in the back of my head; you’ve read my previous posts, what else do you expect? If you haven’t, you’re a loser and you’ve not lived. Anyway, logical Sophie (the one that stops me from talking to that gorgeous bearded man in the bar and drinking tequila, usually on the same night) is thinking something along the lines of ‘what if you run out of money?’, ‘what if no one likes you?’ and ‘you are not Leonardo Dicaprio in the Beach, go home before you make a tit of yourself’.
I assume these are all perfectly normal questions to ask yourself when embarking upon a travelling adventure. Southeast Asia is saturated with tourists and backpackers, from elderly German couples slyly wandering into a bar with the curtains drawn to the classic blonde guy with dreadlocks and a trust fund. And when everyone’s on the same bandwagon,I often catch myself wondering if I’m having the time of my life ‘correctly’?. Am I going to the right temples? Should I be going to a Full Moon Party? Should I be desperately ticking off the best places to have pad Thai as dictated to me by Lonely Planet? Are my choices completely tacky, touristy and passé? Travelling, thankfully, has become completely the norm now, the world has gone beyond being our oyster and is now just a click away and though this is incredible and exciting, is it just as meaningful? Is it worth putting my five-fucking-year plan on hold so I can ride a tuk-tuk and drink cocktails from an actual bucket like a thousand other people? (Kiddie buckets for the beach you understand, devil’s in the detail)
I don’t really know yet. It’s only been 3 days. I could wake up tomorrow and never want to see another spring roll again in my life but I’m just incredibly lucky that I get that choice. It wasn’t easy handing in my notice for a job that I genuinely loved and would have actually helped me to start my career with and it was a million times harder saying goodbye to the truly wonderful friends and family who put up with me but sometimes you have to silence logical Sophie. Sometimes you have to let yourself go, think about tomorrow when it happens and not now, not when you realistically have at least another 40 years of working life left. Not when the five year plan is a blank page, ready for you to make whatever mark you want. Not when there’s sticky mango rice to be had….speaking of which, BYE.
5 days later……
There’s just one last thing. When you’re in a rooftop bar, 32 floors up, in Bangkok, with some pretty cool people you’ve known maybe only 2 days, with the most incredible night skyline in front of you, cocktail in hand (think mashed up solero mixed with prosecco, jealous much?) and perfect music (old school hip hop and rnb) the one day at a time plan is most definitely the new five year plan.