Everyone has their own reasons for traveling; things they want to take away from the unique experience, specific missions for their travels, personal goals they don’t tell anyone else. Usually it’s a mix between all three, as is my case. Before I start going into my own mission and goals and such, first, a little background…
I always knew I was going to work with animals when I grew up, ever since I was eight years old. Of course, at the time I expected to be a race horse jockey. That dream was very quickly dashed, and I hopped from one dream career to the next–race horse trainer, farrier, farm hand, Jeff Corwin, snake breeder, zookeeper, and finally zoologist. I still have plans to breed snakes and become a zookeeper/zoologist (and a little part of me still wants to be Jeff Corwin), though they’re all on hold for the moment, simply because once I start down those paths, it will be hard to abandon them all for traveling the world a bit. So, now or never!
No, this doesn’t mean that I won’t get the chance to travel again after I start doing what I want–quite the opposite. By working for a zoo and getting a Ph.D in a specific field of zoology, I hope to become a researcher, exploring the depths of the hidden world with the ultimate hope of discovering a new species. So if everything goes right, world travel is definitely in my future regardless if I suddenly decided to cancel my infant travel plans. I just can’t stand to wait that long. The farthest away from home I’ve ever been is Vermont for my aunt’s wedding, and suppressing my wanderlust for so long after that was something close to painful. I had plans to visit Ireland for my 21st birthday, simply because. They were hopelessly mutilated when I was halfway to my savings goal and soon after I had already bought my passport, but I never gave up the notion of travel, especially to Ireland (that place enchants me, and I don’t know why!). In a way, it seems surreal to me that everything I’m planning for is potentially within my grasp, and I’m terrified I’ll ruin it somehow.
Now, aside from all my hopes and dreams, dreads and fears, there is a reason behind my wont for travel apart from a vague, intense need and the fulfillment of my career goals. It’s hard to get out of international travel without bettering yourself in some way, and that’s something I truly look forward to. I certainly hope to quell this terrible shyness and social awkwardness that I possess and have always carried along, at least to a manageable level. I want to thrust myself into chaotic (though not dangerous) situations, just to watch myself get out of them. I’ve always been a planner, but I want this trip to be as wonton as a fresh-faced ten year old boy on Ritalin. I knew what I wanted to do, which college I wanted to go to, and what it would take to get there long before anyone else in my class even knew if they wanted to go to college or not, but I’m forcing myself to put my education on hold so I could grab an experience to last me through the whole hair-pulling ulcer-inducing mess that is college.
Now that that’s been aerated, my one very simple, very tangible and followable mission for this trip is, in short, all that is reptilian. Specifically–every single country I visit, I promise myself to find whatever native species of reptiles (snakes specifically, though snakes aren’t present at all in Ireland 😦 ) inhabit the land, record everything I can glean from them in my notebook, and post my findings before doing any actual research on the animals. I can’t help what I already know about many reptiles as I’ve been self-studying them for years, but this is my chance to go on a field expedition of my own funding, my own devising, and I don’t want to ruin it by reading up on the latest scientific news via Wikipedia. Sure, I’ll check my observations and hypothesis after I make them and post them, but I won’t alter them to fit the truth (I know… it’s a bit dorky that this is the embodiment of fun for me. I’m a scientist at heart, after all). Essentially, I want a Darwinian experience. This is the source of almost all of my anticipation and excitement, even more than the self-betterment and the fantastic cultural experiences and the meeting of new, fascinating people. My goodness, I can’t wait for the reptile-rich wilderness that is SE Asia. Animals–they are my life.