For most people, myself included, happiness is an ever-evolving target with an immeasurable limit to reach it.
- Find comfort within yourself. You are the only person that is guaranteed to be with you your entire life. Whatever you need to forgive yourself for, do it now.
- Create boundaries. Whether it be for yourself or others they will come in handy.
- Ask questions. Especially to yourself. Idling breeds contempt.
- Travel. Either to a new grocery store across town or halfway across the world. Getting out of your comfort zone will add years to your life.
- Write. It can be on a blog, in a journal, or in a planner but being able to physically see your thoughts adds a new dimension to your self-reflection.
- Read. Anything and everything you can get your hands on. As if every book is the last book.
- Go outside. The sun heals.
- Do a puzzle. It may not sound fun but they teach an important lesson in energy expenditure. You are not an energizer bunny. Not everything is worth your energy.
- Stop apologizing.
- Hug an animal. They just get it.
From February 15th until the 22nd respectively, all of China is celebrating the Lunar New Year. Like most of the country during this time, I took the holiday as an opportunity to travel. To ring in the new year I spent three days in Suichang county in Zhejiang Province. This was about a six hour bus ride from Shanghai.
Suichang was such a nice contrast to Shanghai. Full of greenery, clear skies, and no pollution. It was the perfect environment for all of the hiking I did.
On the first day, I visited the scenic tea terraces. These tea terraces can be seen all over the county, but the specific tourist spot I visited offered the most amazing views.On day two, I made my way up a much more relaxed trail that ended at a beautiful Buddhist Temple. It was so exciting to finally get out of the hustle and bustle of Shanghai for a few days. Living at a much more relaxed pace was definitely needed.
China also never fails to impress me with its immense history and culture that can still be seen today. It successfully breaks through the crevices of everyday life and gives the country and unique modern culture all its own.
I find that this is a common trend among many Asian countries. They have found the right recipe to preserve their past within their present.
Visiting Suichang county has reminded me of the extreme diversity that exists within China. Every province is known for different things. Each with their own distinct cuisine style and local dialect.
China is a country that is so quickly evolving, I’m not sure I will ever fully know one version of the country. I can already see small differences to my own neighborhood every few months.
I am forever in awe of China and all of its changes.
South East Asia, a place where Malaysian, Indonesian, Indian, and Chinese cultures are married together and have borne something so exquisite and unique, you must experience it for yourself in order to truly understand it at its full capacity. But no amount of time will ever truly be enough for an outsider to breathe it all in.
Kuala Lumpur was the first stop on my trip. As soon as I got off my flight I was starving, for food and adventure. After a train from the airport I found myself in Little India for breakfast. Happiness found me in the form of a plain dosa, a paper thin pancake like dish that is dipped in several different chutneys, served on banana leaf. Accompanied by Teh Tarik tea, this was my perfect start to the day. My favorite thing about Little India other than the onslaught of vibrant colors and smiling people, was the hustle and bustle of it all that so closely resembled the packed streets of India.
The next stop was the Batu Caves, a Hindu temple inside of a mountain. A climb of what seemed like a million steps brought me into the cave. While the cave itself was magnificent I was disappointed by the amount of litter I found on the ground. It was supposed to be a respected holy place and I found myself becoming upset by the amount of disrespect it was shown.
My fondest memory of Kuala Lumpur is, late on my last night there I was out walking with no destination in mind. I found myself walking in a neighborhood sitting in the shadow of the Petronas Towers, ominous and looming in the night sky. As I walked I thought about the lives of the people who filled those houses. Who were they? Where did they come from? Are they happy? As I kept walking I found a family owned restaurant to have a late meal at. There was something about the fold out table and plastic stool, being wrapped up in the humid air that made me realize that this was how I wanted to live my life. I wanted to keep moving to the next city, walking down streets I don’t know the name of with no destination in mind. It was then I realized that my happiest moments were when I was in a new place, faced with utter confusion and having to force myself to give up control. I am happiest when I am strolling down unfamiliar streets, my eyes feasting on the sights around me, my heart being filled by wonder, and my soul becoming lighter because I am experiencing new, fantastic things. I have successfully gotten away from the norm, the monotony of everyday, even just for a moment.
I once wrote how the travel bug was a malignant virus, one that can never be cured, and the more you feed it the worse it gets. Travel will always be my constant, my home, my safe place. The kind of euphoria that is felt when walking through history of a foreign place is unlike any other. I find comfort in the unknown, diving in head first, embracing any and all experiences. The good, the bad, the ugly. The more you see the more you grow as a person. I wish everyone understood that traveling is so much more than your five-star vacation. Creating memories well within my comfort zone is not for me. I have always wanted more for myself. While some have argued that it’s selfish, I see nothing selfish in doing things that make you happy. I have vowed to myself time and time again that I would see the world. Not just through the lens of comfy hotel rooms and Michelin star restaurants, but also the parts others don’t want to acknowledge. Which are arguably the most important ones.
Kuala Lumpur is a city with a little bit of everything. It’s the kind of city that has an image that will evolve based on the traveler. Everyone has a different experience, everyone remembers a very different KL.
The first four months in China came and went to quickly I forgot to take a moment and cherish them. So this next semester I have made a promise to myself, to make much more of my time here.
I’ve always been one to prefer the company of myself over the company of others. Moving to a new country has not changed this. I am always able to breathe a little easier and think a little clearer. I also find that I’m able to appreciate the moment I’m living in much better as well. I’m not distracted by talking or someone vying for my attention. This way I am able to zone out as much as I want and let my thoughts wander and roam wherever they may please.
For the first time since I’ve moved to China, I miss Texas. I keep listening to my favorite country songs and day dreaming about my favorite back roads and the feeling of warm sun on my skin. I miss the dust the gets kicked up behind cars on dirt roads, and I miss the smell of hay in a barn. Most of all I miss looking out my window and seeing green grass for miles, and the hills in the distance dotted by cows and horses.
Now my view consists of homogenous apartment buildings and so many skyscrapers I can no longer keep count. Don’t misunderstand me, I love China and its culture. Most of all I yearn for that feeling of confusion, of being new somewhere, and not really knowing how things work and having to figure it out. It’s exciting, it gives me a thrill like I’ve never experienced before. Living abroad is an adventure I never want to end. I can see myself chasing this feeling for the rest of my life. Never settling for ordinary and constantly surprising myself with what I am able to accomplish next.
The more I write, the more I realize it’s something I want to do more seriously. Writing has always been a constant outlet for me whether it makes it onto the blog or not. This space is about the adventure that is my life. And I am so excited to experience it.
“I don’t know where I’m going from here but I promise it won’t be boring” –David Bowie
It’s just a flesh wound
A Mantra, meant to make my pain more
Just a flesh wound.
A Prayer, to make every sight of you
salvation rather than damnation.
Just a flesh wound.
A Lie, I tell myself as the chasm
between us becomes a canyon.
Just a flesh wound.
It’s not a flesh wound.
This one is fatal.
Your heart has been gauged
from your chest, the light
suffocated from your eyes and yet
you still smile and say
those fatal words
If there is one thing in this life that I regret, it’s that there are far too many things I would go back to warn my younger self against.
A letter to a younger me:
Sweet sweet Alex, do everything you can to preserve this happiness you have. You are so good and so pure, and the universe is going to do everything in its power to take that away from you. I don’t know yet if all the obstacles you will have to struggle over will be rewarded one day. But I do know in their own sick and twisted way they will make you stronger.
The first heartbreak you will ever feel will be at 10 years old. Mommy and Daddy will sit you and Maya down on New Years day and tell you that they don’t love each other anymore. You will grieve and mourn like any child would. You’ll be upset and angry but it will get better, things will get easier.
The next obstacle you will have to face is when Mommy comes and talks to you after a date with her boyfriend and tells you that he has proposed. She will ask you if you’re okay with them being married, and you will respond “No.” You will then have to watch the light fall from her eyes as tears well up and her chin trembles as she says “its alright baby.” And she’ll pull you close and kiss your head as tears of your own eyes run down your face.
The hardest obstacle will come for you at the young age of 14. It will heed no warning and leave mass destruction in its path. A few weeks before school starts when you are supposed to attend the first dance team meeting with your mom, you will find her, blue in the face and slumped over in her office chair. Within the next hour doctors will come into the small, packed waiting room and tell you that she didn’t make it. Everyone will cry except you. You won’t cry until the next day when your soon-to-be step sister finds you and hugs you. You won’t grieve like everyone else this time. In fact you won’t even begin to grieve until about four years later. You will be to busy building a suit of armor surrounded by tall brick walls and a moat, that you will forget to grieve. One thing you will have is good friends. Friends that care and want to listen. Don’t forget them.
Unfortunately the loss of Mommy will affect you for longer than you will want. She will be in the back of your mind always. Her loss will make getting out of bed most days the hardest thing in the world. But because you are so damn strong you are going to do it. You are going to prove so many people wrong and make others so incredibly proud of you. But in all of this you will lose yourself for a while. You will find refuge in people who will end up hurting you making this pain only her poignant and last a little longer. But soon you will find your path again and you will be so relieved when you do.
The next and most recent obstacle will come in college. In the first few months of your freshman year you will get your first boyfriend. He will be the second guy ever to break your heart. He will say all of the right things in the beginning. He will make you feel safe and cared for. But then you’ll be blindsided two months later when he breaks up with you. After this you will be angry because you had so many gut feelings during the relationship that he wasn’t in it as much as you were. Later on after the break up when you two are talking you will receive full insight into the kind of person he truly is. He will tell you to your face that you weren’t good enough for him. He will tell you his true intentions behind the relationship and you will hate yourself for being so blind with infatuation and ignoring all of those gut feelings. But you will not falter, because you are not weak. Some boy telling you that you aren’t pretty or interesting enough won’t make you view yourself as less of a person.
Alex, I’m writing you this letter because these experiences will make you want to become an unfeeling and calloused person. Don’t let them. People expect that from someone who has felt so much pain. Continue to prove them wrong. With all of your might continue to be pure and good and make other people happy, but don’t forget yourself a long the way. You are so much like Mommy. You leave such a lasting impression on every person’s life that you touch. You are a light in world of darkness, so do not let it go out. Don’t be consumed by the pain. Don’t let those trying to pull you down swallow you.
I love you. You are worth it.
For the first time in my life I experienced a true melting pot of a city. The blend of so many rich cultures has touched my soul.
One of the most prominent ways Singapore balances being a center for innovation while still preserving culture, is through food. You cannot visit this city and be afraid to eat. This place is a foodies’ paradise. From local Chili Crab, to traditional English High Tea, Singapore has it all. You will never be bored and you will never eat the same thing twice. Unless of course you want to.
But what touched me the most was how open people were to sharing in others traditions. There were Chinese eating in Indian restaurants, and Indians eating in Malay restaurants. A sight I don’t see too often back in the states. I feel like at home people tend to stay within their ethnic bubbles where they are comfortable. But in Singapore these walls were broken down and it truly was a sight that warmed my heart. It made my already huge love for this place grow ten fold.
Aside from what felt like constant eating I did get to experience some of the more tourist attractions. My favorite place I visited was the Garden’s By the Bay. This was easily the most beautiful, and fascinating garden attraction I have ever been to. What makes it even more impressive is that the park itself is completely self-sustained. The park consists of two huge Greenhouse like domes that house two different gardens, and a super tree grove that is connected by cat walks you can go up on. I was in awe the entire duration of my time there.
I would be lying if I said I did hours of research weeks before my trip and mapped out all of the spots I wanted to eat at. When in reality I actually watched the Singapore episode of a show called The Layover, hosted by the amazing Anthony Bourdain, to get ideas. Because Tony wouldn’t steer me wrong, right? I’m delighted to tell you every spot he visited on the show that I got to visit as well was absolutely amazing. My personal favorite was the famous Samy’s Curry, home to fabulous Southern Indian cuisine, and their famous fish head curry.
This trip has only made me even more excited for whats to come. More traveling, more exploring, more growing. And now, I feel more motivated than ever to really start working hard to ensure a bright future ahead of me. Here’s to feeling happy and motivated.
See you soon,
I do believe I have mastered the art of reinventing myself. Lord knows I’ve reinvented this blog too many times to count. But now as my high school career is coming to close and a wonderful adventure in the fall awaits me, I can’t help but feel that I am on the right track to finding out who I will be for the rest of my life. And once again this blog has changed to mirror that journey. But I think this change will be around for good.
Welcome to The Pursuit of Alex. The adventure of a young adult/ college student learning about herself and the world around her. The first thing on the agenda is college. Since I will be attending University in China (I’ll explain later, maybe) that seemed like the appropriate place to start. Quite the adventure right? But before August rolls around we have the ENTIRE summer ahead of us. So my first stop will be to Singapore. Don’t worry I’ll be sure to overload you with tons of fun pictures from that trip. And so the adventure begins.
See you soon,
When asked the question “If you had all the money in the world what would you do with it?” I’m sure a large percentage of us, after paying off debt, would choose to travel.
Oh, the places you can go with a passport and plane ticket. Avid travelers are my favorite kind of people. Whether it be the weekly commuters to a country far far away, or the adventurers who yearn to see every inch of this earth while they have the chance. My point is people who travel have an insight to offer that you can’t get from your average Joes. Experiencing other cultures and walking amongst other people can only help you grow as a person.
Now if you’re anything like me, you’ve been lucky enough to see a lot of the world by a pretty young age. But you realize that this means you were unable to appreciate a lot of these destinations because of the young age you visited them at. Oh darn, I guess that means we have to go back and see them. As I’ve gotten older and can actually recall the trips I’ve been on and the experiences I’ve had, my already healthy dose of the travel bug has grown exponentially. A large portion of my day now is planning fake trips to distant countries that I will one day see. I will blame this on my father. His job requires him to travel to many different countries and meet very interesting people. Then he gets to come home and tell me all about it. This does two things; it makes me insanely jealous, and motivates me to be able to travel as much as I can. I was even crazy enough to choose my college major based on the probability that it would allow me to get a job that would require a lot of traveling.
It shouldn’t be a shock that doing something you love can make you a happier healthier person. So when I read several articles explaining why traveling can be good for your health, I was jumping for joy.
I’m perfectly fine if my primary office ends up be 45,000 ft up in the air. To me, that would be such wonderful way to spend my work week
*Summer 2016 is a summer filled with travel for me, thats why I felt the need to write a vague but upbeat blog post about it. Hopefully I can get some good posts out of next summer. Thanks for sticking around.