Ten years ago, my father and I backpacked around mainland China. It was an experience I had idealized in my head but in actuality wasn't fully prepared for; I was exposed to so many different sights, sounds, flavours, experiences and ideologies that mid-way through, I became overwhelmed and quit. I wanted to go home. To appease me, my father instead booked an extended stay at a nice hotel in Chengdu and we remained stationary as "locals" for awhile. It worked but in the end this cost myself the opportunity for total immersion and understanding of difference. I've taken a new approach with subsequent excursions and now embrace being uncomfortable to a certain extent. The growth I've had in the last ten years is proof of that. For instance, I don't think my partner and I would have made it otherwise—he's a doctorate scientist from Kerala and I'm an artist from the Canadian prairies. It's not just a blending of cultures, but of mindsets. We make it work.
In the decade since that trip, there has been much change in my life. I moved to a new city and transitioned from entrepreneurship to a fulfilling career in education. Added to my family and cut ties to other branches of it. Made lifelong friends and kissed unforgettable loves goodbye. I learned to truly live for the moment but also take time to reflect on (and respect) the past lest it haunt me. And then there was the single most important thing to happen in my life: I lost my father, best friend and perennial travel partner.
In a way, this trip marks a bookend for the period. It is a return to a place that kicked my ass ten years ago. It is an acquiesce for it to kick my ass again, if needed. My father would appreciate this. May he be with me in spirit.
And may the next ten years provide as much adventure and evolution to my life. Let's go.