I felt an unrelenting, persistent call to make a dramatic life change. I wanted to leave everything familiar to me and go as far out of my comfort zone as possible. I wanted to travel to the other side of the world and take the journey of a lifetime. I wanted adventures, unfamiliarity, captivation and awe. I wanted to learn about the world around me, do work that was meaningful, and make a difference in the small ways I could. I wanted to be part of the anti-trafficking movement in Southeast Asia. I wanted to inspire people and be inspired. I wanted to motorbike through jungle mountain roads and visit the lost villages of the KMT, eat shark in southern Vietnam and visit the killing fields in Phnom Penh. I wanted to take a longtail boat on the mighty Mekong River and stand at the epicenter of the Golden Triangle, trek into remote hill tribe villages in Shan State and engage with cultures vastly different than my own. I wanted to take a train across northern India, dip my feet into the Ganges River and discuss samsara and nirvana with sadhus. I wanted to meander the streets of Kathmandu and breathe the fresh Himalayan air, chant with Tibetan Buddhists and skinny dip in the Bay of Bengal, zip line through the jungle and stand on top of Bangkok’s tallest building. I wanted to experience Yangon’s first-ever pride celebration and be a part of history in the making. I wanted to visit refugee camps, shelters for exploited children, burmese migrant schools and orphanages. I wanted to teach English to stateless youth, to photograph everything, eat everything, try something new every day. I wanted to celebrate Holi, Loy Krathong, Saraswati, Divali and Chinese New Year. I wanted to go so far away that I stopped being afraid of going even further.
And so I did. For three years across seven countries I did exactly those things and I relished in every delicious, rewarding moment. Through two passports, two international NGO jobs, countless visas and new friendships with people from all over the world, I explored Asia with fervor and enthusiasm. And among the many things I discovered about the world, the region, and my homeland, perhaps the most important thing I discovered was a new me – a me whose experience abroad lead to deep personal development and growth. A me who took great pleasure in small delights. A me who became addicted to pushing the boundaries of her comfort zone. A me who found that our similarities are so much louder than our differences. I took root in Asia with no real intention of coming back to the west. I exchanged materialism for experience, security for spontaneity, and routine for thrill.
And then the game changed. In mid-July in Bangkok City, the first home pregnancy test I’d ever taken in my life was positive. My Congolese boyfriend and I had conceived our first child. It was a shock, but not entirely unwelcomed. And I did what most mothers-to-be do. I weighed the pros and cons of being pregnant and birthing in Southeast Asia and decided for numerous reasons (heat, pollution, citizenship and safety) that returning to the west was the best choice for baby-to-be. I left the life I had grown accustom and addicted to to return to a life I intentionally left far behind. I returned to western civilzation and for the first time in a long time, I did something so foreign and uncomfortable to me – I stood still. I wavered between the joys of becoming a mother, the emotional journey of pregnancy, mentally preparing for a dramatic life change, and the sorrows of leaving behind the nomadic life, exchanging the exotic for the familiar and letting go of the international diversity I’d become so comfortable in. I wondered if I would have to relinguish visa stamps for onesies, border crossings for a breast pump, wild, helmet-less moto rides for four-door safety. I felt a great division between the life I had and the life that was coming. Where would they overlap? Would they overlap?
And then I had a revelation. Pregnancy and mothering are their own unique and special journey into foreign territory. The landscape might’ve changed but nothing is familiar in this unchartered land and I am still very much outside my comfort zone. I might not need a visa to enter, but I am still a stranger to this. Pregnancy, like travel, requires trust, surrender and a willingness to push yourself. And, just like travel, it brings rewards, joy, and challenge. I can’t help but believe I am embarking on a life-long journey that will change me fundamentally just as living overseas has. There are similarities. I have no idea what to expect. No two days are the same and despite what people tell you about their experiences, your experience is yours and yours alone. This pregnancy, this metamorphasizing body, this baby taking root, are constant reminders that the adventure is far from over. In many respects, it is just beginning. And there is something so remarkably delightful in this new beginning. Perhaps the most exhilarating of all is that I am no longer adventuring alone.