The wall of my hostel in Auckland is plastered with ads for tours in Southeast Asia. As I sit there planning my trip through New Zealand for the year, I find my eyes drawn to the image of children playing in a river in Laos. Sure, I never actually made it to Laos during my travels in Southeast Asia but just the reminder of Asia makes my heart hurt. Here I am, 3 days in a country I’ve dreamt of since I was a teenager and I keep thinking about how much I loved Asia.
I feel torn.
I should be focused on experiencing the country I’m in. This country that topped all my exchange choice lists that never worked out. This country that was the topic of many “just-for-fun” Google searches. New Zealand has so much to offer. And don’t get me wrong, when I’m out exploring during the day, I’m enjoying it to the fullest. I’m taking up every opportunity to see and experience everything there is in New Zealand. But when I get back to my hostel, I’m reminded of the connection I had with Asia.
It makes me question what I want. Do I really want to continue to experience the countries on my ever growing list that I started as a kid? Or do I turn my back on it and just follow what my heart clearly yearns for? Do I pass up the unique and potentially life changing experience that all these untravelled countries could give me for the balance of constant awe and connection I felt in countries I’ve already been to?
I think it has a lot to do with feeling like 5 months wasn’t enough time for me. I’m saying just 5 months in Southeast Asia wasn’t enough, let alone all the countries in East Asia I haven’t experienced that the idea of leaves me dazzled. Japan, Korea, Taiwan, all countries I can easily see myself in long-term despite never stepping on their soil. I realize that’s all a fantasy – who knows what it would actually turn out like. But the fact that it makes more sense in my head for me to be there than the majority of other countries in the world (including my home country) has to count for something.
But this also leaves me at my great fear of finding a place I feel so comfortable in and connected to, I won’t leave and give up all my travel aspirations. Would I be okay with that? Would I regret passing up all the experiences I’ve searched for all my life for spending time in that place my heart longs for? Is that a good way to spend my time? Should I go and have those experiences and then find a way back to where my heart was left? Will I regret not spending more time where I knew I was meant to be years before?
This constant battle between my head and heart continues…