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The Urge to Work

Epiphany: It only took 4.5 months of travel to get to this point, but suddenly… I’m looking forward to working again! GASP!

“I was wondering if it was all starting to get old,” my friend wrote to me, “all that wandering.”

Across the oceans right now, former students are pulling all-nighters to finish term papers and raise those GPAs up before Winter Break.

Across the Earth, former co-workers are bubbling in Term, Behavior, and Effort Grades for each of their one hundred and twenty four students.

And me? Well, I am on a Southern Thai island, looking out at the cloudy ocean, thinking of you all, and writing this. Hello!

“Have you been working while you’ve been traveling these months in Asia?” an old friend who recently got in touch emailed.

The answer is complicated. On the surface, I suppose I’m just another indolent backpacker. But in reality, I have been chugging away at a multi-part mini-career.

Every single day for 4.5 months that I have been physically able after doing my exploring, I have sat down with my computer to write stories that I hope will be enjoyable and perhaps even helpful to those who read them. This gives me great joy!

I have also been online networking like a crazy woman to get my site out there and begin to set up educational exchanges like the thrilling Ghana-Boston student penpal trade.

Finally, I’ve also spent at least an hour each day talking with former students online, checking in, chatting, and counseling them through hard times in school.

But that’s really not enough now, is it?

A new vision for Utopia is emerging in my little noggin: a combination of teaching, writing, and traveling. Might this actually be possible and sustainable for my future? The upcoming three months teaching in a youth center in Ghana while trying to write articles for them and myself will be the moment of truth! And I can’t wait.

Last night in my hotel there was a jarring overabundance of British and South African twenty year old tourists jumping off the roof into the pool, so I spent some time instead playing with the crazy cute kids of the Thai hotel staff.

Then my biological clock and teacher nostalgia kicked in simultaneously and caused me to nearly pass out, so I headed to the dark beach for a long night walk.

Yes, it’s safe, don’t worry.

Every ten feet in Ko Lanta, there’s another softly glowing pack of lights for another beach restaurant. As you gaze down the curve of the shore, you see luminous green, orange, red, yellow, blue! The waves sigh in the background, and tiny translucent crabs scuttle to avoid your big bare feet.

I took a table in a lonely restaurant with a swirl on the table to match my cool shirt from Laos, and ordered noodles. The ocean was completely black except for ten diamonds of fishing boat lights at the very edge of the horizon.

“THEY have jobs,” I murmured, visualizing the men hauling the nets of light-lured fish into the boat so many miles from shore.

At exactly the same time, I felt deeply happy, and desperately lonely.

At exactly the same time, I felt like a massive waste of space, and like a young woman triumphantly finding her place in the world.

But above all, I felt profoundly grateful for the chance to be on this journey and to feel and experience all these things.

Right now behind me, a British boy is loudly Skyping to his mother: “This traveling thing is fantastic, but I’m quite keen to get on with my life now, you know?”

In just a few weeks I will be back in a classroom. Hooray!

In the meantime, I’ll gaze at this pearl-colored sea and breathe in deep.

But first, let me just nag one more former student to do his homework…

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