I’ve been home for the better part of two months now, and I’m still just as lost as I’ve ever been.
Wasn’t the whole travelling the world bit supposed to somehow soothe my impatient soul? Where’s the fulfilment? Where’s my laudatory you’re-an-amazing-human-being pat on the back? Nah, instead the world has decided to throw my way a whirlwind of dead-end job leads, and a plethora of scars from mammoth-sized mosquito bites. Thanks, Malaysia. To this day I’m still itching the damn things!
Everyone talks about how they find themselves while travelling, particularly to developing nations where the lives of the majority are significantly different. And to a certain extent, there is truth to that statement. Travelling to far off lands provides context. There’s also a lot of great food, people, and culture to be experienced, but mostly, if sought out, travellers gain an understanding of something different, something out of the realm of “normal.” A bit of insight into a world beyond their perspective.
That perspective is gold, my friends. But it does not authorize any sort of superiority complex from a developed versus non-developed standpoint, nor does it mean that travellers suddenly have all the answers to life’s difficult questions, either.
In fact, from my own personal experience, I’m more fucked up than ever before. I’ve gained all these interesting, sometimes conflicting, perspectives, and I’m supposed to go home and what? Contemplate the dangerous environmental degradation plaguing Malaysia while sipping my latte safely in Vancouver?
It’s a double-edged sword. I feel my blood boiling every time I hear a niche bike-riding yuppie complaining about watering restrictions for his precious lawn—sorry yuppies, but a brown lawn is the least of our worries right now—how do I possibly take what I’ve learned and fulfill my moral obligation to help save the world and stuff?
On the other hand, if I throw away even the smallest morsel of left-over food, or complain about my boring day of reading too many books and going to yoga, an almost immediate and unforgiving wave of remorse and guilt washes over me.
“Fuck, Cassandra. Get your shit together. You’re beyond privileged. Now is not a time to whine, be proactive!”
These are literal conversations I have with myself on a daily basis. That and whether or not my body can handle a seventh cup of coffee. Shakes be damned, I say!
Particularly in my current state of unemployment, I find myself even more overwhelmed with what I have coined “well-cultured, entitled, antsy ninny” syndrome (WEAN). You know the type: the traveller, or WEANer, who returns to the motherland expecting to be overwhelmed with job offers that will in turn sustain the traveller’s already fabulous latte-sipping lifestyle. How could I not be given my dream job immediately? I’ve seen Lao, for god’s sake!
What I’ve come to realize is that no one gives a crap what I’ve seen.
“You’ve dined on Cambodian delicacies with locals from Siem Reap?” says a pompous 20-year-old interviewer with a bit too much sass for my taste. “Great, but how is that experience going to help you analyze company data and save us some money?”
Employers, for the most part, don’t care about the beautiful temples I’ve graced my presence with, they care about how my skills and my education will fit into their bottom dollar. And I’m not sour about that reality—okay, maybe a little—because that’s the reality of our global society. Understanding the world from an economic standpoint is crucial to succeeding in virtually all respects, but is it and should it be the primary and most fundamental virtue? Is the proverbial big picture clouded by our innate selfish greed to sip $6 dollar lattes in peace? I’m not sure if we’ve become more ignorant as a people or just down right apathetic, but either way, it’s time to shape up.
Employers should care about how a more widened and diverse global perspective will enhance their company, and in effect, their bottom line. However, it’s also our responsibility—myself and all my fellow WEANs out there—to show potential employees and the world how and why our new found perspectives are important.
I won’t get my dream job because I rocked the house of a Malaysian karaoke joint one drunken evening, although I might add, I was positively fabulous. But maybe, and that’s a big maybe, I’ll find a fulfilling job once I figure out how to take what I’ve learned abroad and apply it to the real world. I’m still trying to figure out the formula. It’s a process, get off my back!
Either way, the real issue our generation of WEANs should be tackling right now is our lack of innovation and sustainability—how are we going to take all of the little bits of information we’ve learned throughout travelling and create effective and progressive solutions to the world’s most pressing problems?
So, if you’re like me and have had the unique and wonderful experience of travelling to different countries around the world, then you are a very lucky individual. Dare I say…privileged?
Whether or not you would prefer to remain ignorant of that truth, acknowledging that you have taken part in an adventure, that most people here in Canada and around the world will never experience, is simply imperative. Moving forward as a society requires the understanding of diverse perspectives. In that regard, it becomes the responsibility of globetrotters everywhere to take what they have learned and share it with their communities in a constructive capacity.
At the end of the day, from Germany to Malaysia, we’re all going to be facing some hefty problems in the near future. Pressing environmental issues such as deforestation, smog, and wildfires will require sustainable solutions and demand collective action. For this reason, and many more, it’s easy to see why us WEANs don’t deserve a gold star for getting on an airplane and partying in Thailand. But maybe one day, with our infinite knowledge and our unadulterated desire to actually learn something about the places we visit, we’ll be able to make a real difference in society.
There must be something more to travel than collecting stamps in a passport. Otherwise, ten years down the road, I’ll still be sipping those same $6 lattes somewhere in Vancouver, all the while still bitching about the wild-fire induced humidity and haze that’s seriously cramping my style. Figure it out.