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Hello there! Allow me to introduce myself: My name is Rebekah, I am extremely new to this platform, I am 18 years old, and instead of pursuing post-secondary education or a career, I packed up my life and got as far away from home as I could imagine—South East Asia. Like many young travelers, the area fascinated me with its beauty and culture, but I also had an easy inside to one of the most popular countries on the list of backpacker destinations: Thailand. I lived in Thailand last year for a whole month through an exchange program where I lived with a host family in the bustling city of Bangkok. It was an out-of-this-world experience, so when I decided to return, I made sure to make my second family's home a home base. By that I mean, I travel to different countries, but I always go back to Bangkok for about a week in between traveling to assure that I have enough money, clothes, and purely just to rest up for the next adventure! It's amazing to have not only the opportunity to travel, but also a home base to control my belongings and sanity at!
Now, to be completely frank, I am living my absolute dream currently. Traveling the world, meeting new people, and always being on the go, but many people don't agree—and of course they have their fair arguments, but I also have mine. When I first meet people and I get talking to them, most people don't assume or even ask my age. But nevertheless, it always seems to have to come up at some point in the conversation. Whether it's being asked what university I attended or what full-time job I left behind in Canada, I have to break the news to the person usually 10 to 15 years older than I am that they are basically talking to an infant. When I expose my age, people usually react by saying either that I am mature, brave, or that I am absolutely crazy for traveling by myself at this young age. I completely understand the rationality behind these opinions, but that doesn't mean that I appreciate them. Mature, sure I'll take it. Brave, not so much. Being told that meeting new people and exploring foreign countries is "brave" just gives this horrible, looming presence of misfortune and danger over the word "travel." Although I understand how dangerous traveling can be for anybody, I also believe that this mentality of thinking that a young girl traveling by herself is brave is what stops so many other young people from fulfilling their dream of traveling because they've had this idea that the world is too frightening to explore drilled into their brains. Ah, and the phrase I hear most often "you are crazy!" People think that I am absolutely mental for wanting to explore new possibilities, but I won't let anything hold me back: Not my age, my looks, or even the lack of a travel companion. Now, I'm usually a pretty sensitive person and take most words to heart, but these reactions have not stirred me.
There's a reason that I chose to leave everything familiar to me behind. I left my home, my family, my friends, two jobs, my mentally disabled cat, and much more behind—and trust me that was hard. It's not an easy decision to pack up and leave, and if you would've told me two years ago that after high school I decided to fulfill my dreams of traveling the world, and hope to not look back for the next couple of years, I would've told you that you got the wrong person. Riddled with anxiety, depression, and uneasiness to even leave my house for a sleepover, I was never the person to bet on leaving the nest ASAP. But, here I am. Being passionate and having a dream about something can really change you as a person. It usually changes you enough to move you into the direction that'll lead to your success in the path of making this dream become a reality. This passion to fulfill this dream changed me enough to be able to stabilize my metal health in order to leave the comfort of my home, town, country, and continent. It changed me to work my butt off with two jobs for nine months of the last year, and it changed me to realize just how much I needed to chase this dream. I know that my plans could completely fall apart at any moment, but I'm willing to take this risk in order to even see a glimpse of what living this dream would be like. Traveling to any destination, staying in homesteads and talking to locals about their daily life, volunteering with animals and people in need, and learning more than any university degree could teach me.
I chose this path because even if I only walk it for a short period of time, that's long enough for me to be reassured that this is and will always be what I am most passionate about—and I couldn't give that up out of fear of an education I may lose or whether I'll have someone to take my Instagram pictures. So, next time you're talking to a young person thinking of packing up and leaving home to travel, don't use the words "brave" or "crazy," start with "passionate" or "extraordinary."