The End, the Beginning, and How Plans Fall Apart.
Photo by Jess Fitz-Hugh (@jess_fitzhugh)
Written by Elliott Pak
“If you’re reading this, you are lucky. The whole Universe had to conspire together for you to read this.”
-random sign in Penang, Malaysia I walked by when I was in a shit mood
It’s finally come to that time – finally set an end date for my trip. Finally bought a flight home. For those who didn’t know, I bought a one-way ticket out here, not really thinking about it. It didn’t have anything to do with me staying here longer than I thought I would – it was purely financially and geographically where I thought I would be. But of course, nothing went even a little bit according to plan. Man, looking at my initial itinerary is straight fucking comedy. The dates I set – the tiny amount of time I thought I could allot to each place – and the complete lack of knowledge of anywhere I was going – straight laughable. The whole “itinerary” falls apart about two weeks into my trip, the second I left Australia.
Shit happened. I saw places that required way more time to be explored. I got horribly sick. I got into bad accidents. I ran into complications with transport. I planned out my visas awfully. But most of all, I kept running into the most amazing people. In every city, I met the weirdest, coolest, craziest fucking people who were the complete same as me or the complete opposite, and I loved every fucking second of it. So to every single friend I’ve made on this trip – no matter if I spent two hours or two months with you, I just wanted to say, with total sincerity :
You completely fucked up my itinerary.
thank you so much.
As I finally plan the end of my trip – I got quite a bit to reflect on. I haven’t written a post in quite a while – its been over a month. I keep trying to put into words these in these new articles or blog posts, or pictures or GoPro videos, whatever – and keep coming to one of two conclusions. Either I am a complete shit photographer/writer/videographer, or it is absolutely impossible to sum up the things I’ve seen and experienced on this trip.
There is a 99% chance that it is option A, but for the sake of this article, let’s say it’s option B. The things that I’ve experienced on this trip, really made me grow so much. How the fuck am I supposed to wrap all that and a hundred other things into an article, or picture, or video? Cant. But I’ll try.
Ditching the “Classic Over-Thinker”
I really have no idea how many people have been reading this blog. Cause they’re long as fuck. I personally would probably try my hardest to get through them, give up, click ‘like’ on facebook, say good job, and dip out. So I have zero blame for anyone else that’s been doing that. But to those who have been reading, thank you so much again. I’m going to beat it over the head again – I really hope that something got through about climbing out of your comfort zone. Cause if there is one thing I learned about myself on this trip – it’s that when I’m comfortable, I’m not growing. I don’t think anyone my age really has an excuse to be comfortable. What the fuck do you need to be comfortable for? There is a really scary, amazing world out there, and its so much bigger than your comfort zone, it’s insane. Real life is out there.
To be honest – all the decisions I made at the beginning of this year were extremely impulsive. It was a new year’s resolution for me to not think so much. I know every person on earth thinks that they are the “classic over-thinker” – well yeah I’m one of those people too. Thinking hasn’t really been on my side up to this point. So, to follow up with this resolution, I quit both my jobs and bought a plane ticket all within a week. And I’m not going to give you the whole “omg wanderlust, travel addict” bullshit. (honestly that shit is annoying af, when people brag about loving traveling – yeah no shit sherlock EVERYONE loves traveling). All those impulsive triggers I pulled, although traveling is great, don’t get me wrong, had a lot more to do with me just trying to jump out of my comfort zone, trying to shake life up, cause God knows it was turning into way too much of a routine. A routine that wasn’t making me happy. I couldn’t think of new ideas when I was in that routine. I couldn’t picture what I wanted to do when I was in that routine. This trip was all about fucking up the routine. And I definitely fucked it up. And my mind was opened x100000. Seeing the world, although amazing, wasn’t even the top priority. Changing the lens was.
If there is something in your life you’ve been considering, something you’ve wanted to do for so long, but you’ve just kept making excuses, jump off the cliff. My point is it doesn’t have to be traveling, or quitting your job, or whatever the fuck – it could literally be anything. Going to that weird janky Chinese restaurant for lunch instead of your normal ass sandwich. Go take that course you’ve been wanting to learn about. Volunteer. Raise your hand in class. Talk to people you don’t know. Do something scary. Idk. Shake up your routine. It’s so much scarier before you do it, but the only feeling you have after the fact is “why didn’t I do that earlier.” And if it doesn’t go well, you are that much more experienced – that much more qualified to speak on the subject, because guess what, you went through the mistake of whatever it was, and lived to tell the tale to others that haven’t experienced it yet.
[reminded of a funny ass tweet I saw the other day – “I would literally rather get punched in the face than tell the class a fun fact about myself”]
Routine = Comfort
Comfort = No Growth
But yeah, I’ve beaten that over the head already, I’ll get back to the story.
Everything Fell Apart, Perfectly
My original itinerary. So laughable. As I reflect on this trip – this trip that was supposed to be less than two months but ended up being almost five months long – a huge pattern that I kept seeing, is that plans fall apart. Super easily. Most of my plans have fallen apart. On this trip, in life, wherever. Plans change. Like I said earlier: shit happened. I saw places that required way more time to be explored. I got horribly sick. I got into bad accidents. I ran into complications with transport. I planned out my visas awfully. I needed extra naps. Nothing went to plan on this trip. And honestly it turned out a lot better when I just let it go with the flow instead of trying to be in control 100% of the time.
Right now, I’m seeing a lot of friends graduating from school. And I think about the whole “plan” I told everyone when I was graduating. Think back to yours. I’ll tell you mine was TOTAL BULLSHIT. I would straight smack two-years-ago-me if I could see him right now – I can see him, acting all cool, saying his badass plan about going to LA and working in festivals or music or whatever the fuck. What a joke. I had no idea what I was doing. Just making some half-assed plan to flex for the world and make people go “OH COOL that sounds cool.”
[*Siderant* – what is this bullshit that we keep asking these kids what they’re going to do after graduation like they’re supposed to know what they want to do with their life all the sudden? Like taking that last final somehow opened them up to the metaphorical “light” and now they know the path? And these adults grill the fuck out of them if they don’t know? Dude these kids just finished going to some sheltered-ass SCHOOLS all their life. God forbid they take a year off to find out a little more about themselves outside of this safe-space and find their place in the real world instead of jumping into some job ‘related to their major’ and getting stuck forever in a career they actually had no idea about, except for what their “professors” (many of whom never even worked in the field) had told them about it? Better yet, lets ask these HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATING 17 YEAR OLDS what they think they’re going to do with the rest of their life, let’s interview them, and make sure they prepare the best bullshit possible about what they’ve always “dreamed” of doing for the rest of their life, so they can bank it all on some loans they’ll be paying off til they’re losing hair, and hope to god they chose a school that will fit their needs. Like seriously college admissions people? You can tell how successful a teenage kid is going to be? Gimme a break. I didn’t know what the fuck I wanted when I graduated high school except I wanted to get high and play music with my friends and talk to girls. I didn’t know what the fuck I wanted when I graduated college except that I was “supposed” to get a job in a “cool” city in a field that was “similar” to my major. Fuck that. If any graduate is reading this, if you don’t know what you’re doing – you’re far from alone. You don’t have to know exactly what you’re going to do, cause most people have to experience a LOT more shit before they know what they want. It’s not going to feel ok, but its ok. I’m two years out of graduation, just went on the most eye-opening trip of my life, and am still dumb deaf blind about what’s next. You’re not alone. I know it sounds like I’m shitting on going to school but I’m not – I’m shitting on the idea of adults rushing kids through this process and not giving them a second to go experience the world on their own before they commit years to something they don’t even know about. – *End Siderant*]
Do you guys ever think about all of the dream jobs you had growing up as a kid? Shit, by now, I was suppose to be an NBA player, a car mechanic, a rock star, a chef, a gastropub owner, a festival manager, yada yada. That’s a whole lotta broken plans. And I feel like we excuse those plans, because we were “kids.” but now that we’re “adults,” our plans aren’t supposed to fall apart so easy. Fuck that. Adults are just older kids. With less imagination. And more responsibilities. The plans are still going to fall apart. No matter how old you are, you’re still going to look back at your plans, and be like, “nice one, moron.”
If there is one life-applicable thing I learned from working in the festival industry is that planning the event is about 10% of the work. Putting out the fires from unforeseen problems is the other 90%.
Plans fall apart. Life throws you real fucked up curveballs that are going to smack you in the face, and they’re going to be different for every single person – no matter how close you and all your friends are, your family, whatever – you’re going to get some fucked up problems that are just yours – no matter how much you try to share it with other people – and you can either mope, and cry to the world about how it is, or you can pick yourself up and deal with them. I don’t know about you but I believe everything happens for a reason. Your plan was supposed to be ruined. Roll with it.
Which leads me to my last point.
Life’s unfair af.
There’s one fucked up thing I think that society teaches all us kids when we’re growing up – the concept of fairness. We all start at the same time, cause its fair. Same amount of people on the team, cause it’s fair. I mean I guess those are those are kind of necessary when learning about following the law or whatever. But my point is, I think it’s way more important we learn the concept of unfairness. This weird fucking world we live in, is literally, the least fair place I can imagine. The most unfair. Every single part of life is unfair. Fairness is a concept right up there with Santa and the Easter Bunny.
Some people were born into wealthy families. Some people never had any family to begin with.
Some people hit the genetic lottery (Tom Brady, God? Beyonce? Tom Brady literally gets to wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and be like, I’m Tom Brady. Sweet.)
…some of us did not.
Some real scumbag will win the lottery while people who really deserve a break will scrape by on minimum wage.
Today I woke up on an island, had breakfast, and went for a jog on the beach. Today someone woke up somewhere in pain, wishing they just had some drinkable water.
None of that really sounds like we all started at the same point of the race.
A lot of stuff in our life that we were born with, whether good or bad – we didn’t really do much to deserve it. That’s as unfair as it gets. Used to be half the time I would find myself cursing the universe because of problems I had that I felt no one else had. And the other half I spent wondering what I did in a previous life that gave me some of the greatest blessings anyone could ever receive. Tbh both of those are a waste of time. Unfairness isn’t something we need to be mad or sad about. It’s just life. You play the hand you’re dealt. If you were blessed with something good, thank whatever God you follow, appreciate every second of it, and spend your time taking every advantage of it possible. And then realize that the problems you have might be fucked, but there’s no use in sitting and whining about it. Everyone has problems. If it’s in your power to fix it, fix it. If you can’t, deal with it. Move on.
And then help other people with whatever problems they have.
Because a lot of us sometimes might not have the power to fix the problems that were given to us, but we might have the key to fix someone else’s problem.
If you’re having a tough time not thinking about whatever problem you have, helping other people with their problems is not only a great way to take your mind off your own problems, but it will definitely put yours into perspective. Yeah, you can help other people to help yourself. You can multi-task. You can be generous for selfish reasons.
The most beautiful thing that will ever exist on this planet is people of different levels of wherever the fuck they were born, or whatever they were blessed with, whatever problems they have, coming together to help each other. I believe shit has a way of working itself out – the universe fixes it – but sometimes it takes forever. Good people speed it up though. Good people fix the shit that the universe is being too slow about. So help speed it up. Be a person that helps accelerate what the universe has planned.
You’ve probably all heard about the tragic attack at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. It’s really fucked and depressing hearing these stories over and over, but there are some good stories to concentrate on. Go look up the story of the homeless man in Manchester who rushed to save injured children during the attack. “Just because I am homeless, it doesn’t mean that I haven’t got a heart and I’m not human still.” Beautiful story out of a tragic event.
I had a philosophy teacher once ask, is this an evil world where sometimes good things happen, or is it a good world where sometimes evil things happen. I used to choose the latter, which is the more positive of the two options I think. But now being a little older, I realize, like most things, it’s not that simple. I think it’s an unfair world where good people and shitty people randomly exist. But just like every Disney movie taught me growing up, the good side always prevails. It’s just more complicated because this movie never ends.
Everything’s going to be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.
God damn. This one got off the rails quick. Realizing this trip is coming to an end is putting me in a weird way. So I guess, here are the some of the main themes that ran throughout my trip:
- All growth comes from outside of your comfort zone. Jump and the universe will catch you.
- Plans get fucked up. Not saying don’t plan. Just saying when your plan does get fucked up, put out the fires and roll with the punches.
- The world has a way of working itself out. Life is unfair as fuck, but good people exist, good things exist, and when it all cooperates together – it’s the most beautiful thing imaginable.
This trip is finally ending. I think about the person I was at the beginning of this trip, and I think – “you naïve fuck. Just wait for what you’re getting into.” I was in such a different mindset at the beginning of this trip. More things happened to me in these past four months than the past few years, and I am ridiculously appreciative of it. I’ve had so many firsts on this trip, so many weird experiences, done tons of crazy shit I’d never thought I’d ever do, learned so many lessons – but most importantly met the most amazing people along the way.
Tying it back to the beginning – the thing I actually wanted to “sincerely” say to all the people I met on this trip :
Traveling is cool. The sights were nice, seeing different cultures was awesome. But although the places were amazing, it literally would not have meant shit without you. I wouldn’t have learned one god damn thing without all of the people I met on this trip. Seven world wonders my ass. It’s the people who make traveling special. There’s something that I can’t really explain that’ll force someone to drop everything in their life and take off on a journey to the other side of the world by themselves – and that thing will definitely make you feel alone.
Who would’ve thought it would lead me to feel less alone than I’ve ever been, on the other side of the world with complete strangers.
So thank you. I hope I run into you all down the line.
And to everyone else who’s reading, thanks for reading. Hope someone got something out of one of these posts. Hope you do something out of your comfort zone soon, see how it is. If it happens to be travel, and you’d like some of my dumbass-all-plans-fall-apart advice, I’d love to give it to you.
I know I just made it sound like I’m done writing in this blog but I’m not.
See you soon California.
Since the last post…which was over two months ago…a lot of stuff has gone down, I’ll make it quick though. I traveled up north from the south of Vietnam (Saigon – Dalat – Nha Trang – Hoi An – Hue – Hai Van Pass – Hanoi – Ha Long Bay). As a country Vietnam probably had the most beautiful and diverse cities and nature sceneries. Some of the best food too, imo. Lots of very memorable events – took a cruise through Ha Long Bay, one of the “new” seven wonders of the world (well how fucking many are there then?) with one of the funnest crews I’ve met on this trip. Motorbiked solo through one of the most beautiful mountains I had ever seen as well (Hai Van Pass). Took a cooking class and learned how to make a delicious Vietnamese food, and probably forgot how to do all of it (Hoi An). Lot of memorable bad shit too I guess. I was in a bicycle accident in Hoi An, totally tore up my leg. And a week later I was in a motorbike accident and thought I broke both my wrists. That one’s a great story for next time actually. Fun stuff.
Anyway, once I reached the north of Vietnam, I had no idea what I was doing next, birthday was coming up too. Some girls told me about Songkran (Thai New Year), that’s basically a huge 3 day water fight festival that happened to fall on my birthday, and that Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand was the spot to go for it. Fuck it, bought the next flight over. Ended up staying in Chiang Mai for over three weeks, fell in love with it. It’s actually like over a month since this time and I’m actually heading back there again before heading home. Checked out Pai, a nice little hippy mountain village nearby as well. Moved down south to Bangkok for a over a week, then to some of the western islands as well (Ko Phi Phi, Ko Lanta, Phuket). It went quick but I spent over a month and a half in Thailand.
Once again, came to a spot where I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing next, so basically closed my eyes and picked a spot on the map – next stop Malaysia. Got a flight over to Kuala Lumpur, not knowing much of what to expect. Real cool city, with a very diverse population. A huge clash of cultures between Malay, Chinese, and Indian populations. And not only that but religion – it’s a Muslim country, but has full religious freedom, so you’ll see Christian Churches, Muslim Mosques, Hindu Temples, Buddhist Temples, everything. Super interesting. I believe this was the first Muslim country I had also been to as well. Really cool to see how such a clash of different cultures can live together in harmony. Usually I feel when you see such diversity, you would see some populations kind of marginalized, but it really didn’t feel like that at all here. Anyway, after that, I took a bus north to the island of Penang, where Georgetown is located. Holy shit. I fell in love with this place – amazing preserved colonial buildings everywhere, the coolest street art on every single corner, but most importantly – the BEST food I’ve had on this trip. That clash of cultures I mentioned earlier definitely seeps into the influence on food, and it is fucking amazing – the street food, the hawker stands, the restaurants, everything. There were multiple meals here where I just ate and sat there contemplating my existence after. Not going to lie I wasn’t crazy about Indian food before this trip but god damn I’m a believer now. Go watch Anthony Bourdain’s episodes on Penang or Georgetown or whatever. If you don’t believe me, believe him. Anyway, some people have been asking me what my best food cities were on this trip, so in my humble little opinion:
- Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
- Hoi An, Vietnam
- Bangkok, Thailand
Anyway, two months since my last post, that leaves me here. I’m just about done with my trip. All that’s left for me now is tying up some loose ends in Thailand, then starting the long journey home. I promised I would never post a boring-travel-blog-style-step-by-step of my trip, but there you go. Thanks for following if you have been.
Stoked to see ya California.