Not Always a Walk in the Park

Unfortunately, I was brought up speaking only one language. While you can find an array of English speakers around the world, there are still billions of people who don’t speak English at all. Chances are if you find yourself in another country where English isn’t the primary language, you will have to find some way to communicate. I’ve had my fair share of dealing with language barriers.

The more I travel, the more I learn about how important communication is and how that can connect you to people and culture. The world is becoming more globalized. There is more of a market then just in our own country. Smartling is a translation software program that helps companies bridge language barriers. It does the work of translating content. Technology is a certainly a useful tool to help you overcome language barriers, so don’t be afraid so speak.

It was my second to last day in China. I had been traveling for over two weeks with a family and sometimes on my own. For a majority of the trip, I was with someone who spoke Chinese. I was more confident about traveling and communicating in Chinese, although I had not had much practice. I was on the search for a place called Zhujiajiao. Wanting to save a bit of money, I decided not to take the tour bus from my hostel and instead go on my own. I had read a bit online about where the bus station was, so I took the train to closest to the bus stop. I walked around People’s Park looking for a sign that could possibly indicate where I wanted to go. Dictionary in hand, I proceeded to ask people where the bus stop was for Zhujiajiao. Even if I could get my point across, I could hardly understand the response I was given.

I then happened to ask a young woman where I could find the bus stop. She immediately began trying to help me. She pointed to a place in the city with a similar name. I had to tell her that it wasn’t in the city. I showed her the pinyin hoping she might read Zhujiajiao and recognize it. She had never heard of the place before. However, she continued asking people and eventually we were walking in the right direction. I followed along blindly, wishing I could read and understand a bit more Chinese. She had very limited English, probably about as much Chinese as I knew. Using her iPhone as a translator in combination with both of our limited vocabulary in each other’s languages we were able to communicate. (This was much faster than me looking up words in my dictionary.) She told me it was her day off and that she could come with me if I wanted.

We eventually found the bus stop. It was really nice that she could repeatedly ask questions for me as it would have taken me twice as long to find the place. And then we were off. She immediately pulled out her wallet and paid for both of our tickets. The bus ride was about an hour-long. We exchanged names, ages (she happened to be the same age as me, 19), and what we were doing. I listened to some of her music. She showed me some games and let me play them. I gave her my email address and told her she could visit me in the US anytime.

We spent a few hours in Zhujiajiao, which is called “China’s Venice” because you can tour the city via boats. This was my second time in a water town. It was a very different experience. I tried a few new snacks which I would never have known about. We took a boat tour, which she helped bargain for and she snapped a couple of pictures of us together. She helped me to buy souvenirs for my friends and family back home.


I made sure to have my money out and pay for the bus ride back into town. We then got back to the train station. I was heading back to meet up with the family I was traveling with and she was meeting up with her friends to go shopping. Somewhere out there in the world are a couple of pictures of this girl and me. I regret not taking a single picture of her. I can’t even remember her name.


A Year Around the World

In May of 2013 I began my gap-year. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do. I just knew that I didn’t want to get stuck in school. I knew I wasn’t at the right school. I had little direction about what I wanted to study or do with the rest of my life. I certainly wasn’t going to stay at school and get in to debt. I did know one thing, that what I really wanted to do was travel–to see the world. And that’s exactly what I did.

As I have already blogged extensively about my travels, I think a timeline is appropriate to layout my year off.

  • May 2013-October 2013       worked full-time as a bank teller
  • October 2013-January 2014       Costa Rica adventures
  • January 2014-March 2014    worked as receptionist
  • April 2014   China trip
  • May 2014-August 2014  a mix of work and play

Well put this way it doesn’t look like I did very much in my gap-year. But that’s far from the truth. I experienced more new things in the last year than I have in all of high school. I worked, I saved money, and I traveled. I was a farmer. I walked on The Great Wall. I lived in two completely new cultures. I learned a new language. I turned a year older. I lived. I learned about myself, about what I want and don’t want. I found contentment instead of uneasiness about the future.

It wasn’t just about work. Work was a means to make money so that I could travel and now it has been a means to pay for an education. I have decided to pursue a degree in Digital Media Arts and Design. And if I don’t like it, I won’t continue it. Then I’ll just live in other countries for a while, become fluent in a couple of languages and see where that takes me.

That’s all a bit over my head right now though. I’m actually excited to start school Monday. I have already paid tuition in full and bought my books.

I will be taking:

Intro to Digital Media Arts and Design
Intro to Digital Editing
Art: Two Dimensional Design
Beginning Spanish
Digital Photography

Be prepared to see some art and photography from my classes this fall.

And so my gap-year did end with starting school again, but this time with more purpose, experience, exploration and questioning. And although it was a gap from traditional schooling, it was a gap filled with far more than I could have imagined for myself.It only took me 90 blog posts to get here.

The End of Summer

I think I must’ve blinked a few too many times. It’s August already. But really that’s just a month of the year. It’s marked how much time has passed since my last big adventure.

So before I start my new one, I thought I’d share a bit of news of what’s happened since I got back from China.

I came back from China at the end of April, looking to settle into a job for a while. Apparently, God had a few other plans for me.

I had a few job interviews with a couple of corporations and didn’t end up getting either job. You can read about that whole fiasco here (it wasn’t really a fiasco, but it certainly hurt my ego).

I already had been turning rooms at Silver River Adobe Inn. The owner was training me to make breakfast and take care of all the Bed and Breakfast tasks for when she and her husband left for trips. I also continued to drive a lady around, who happens to be named Daisy. So jokingly, but mostly seriously I am “Driving Miss Daisy.”

I still needed a job that was a bit more consistent, and I ended up getting a job as a server/busser/cashier at a small Spanish restaurant downtown. Still that totaled only about nine hours a week.

May was light on work, but I still managed to fill everyday with something to do. Then I tapped into the house sitting/pet sitting market. Since June I’ve watched six or seven houses throughout the summer. I also have managed the B&B all on my own.

In July one more job opportunity presented itself. I was asked to start teaching Taekwondo and as I had already been going, it was basically a no-brainer to get paid to go to Taekwondo.

And if you’ve lost count, collectively that’s five jobs. And yes there isn’t much of a consistent schedule, but I made enough for a semester of college as well as other expenses and some fun. Some days four jobs all collided all in one day–like today.

Now that I think about it, all five collided today.

1. I house sat.
2. I turned rooms at the B&B.
3. I worked at the restaurant.
4. I taught Taekwondo.
5. I drove Daisy.

So what’s going to happen now that I start school Monday? I’ll pretty much keep all of those jobs. I just won’t have the same availability I did this summer, which means I won’t get as many hours, but I’ll have homework to focus on.

This summer has taught me a lot. I now have even more work experience, but at a price of some days being incredibly busy and thus exhausting. If one really wants to make and save money, a full-time job is probably a better bet of a consistent paycheck. However, it has been a fun and fulfilling summer. I’ve hardly even had time to think “there’s nothing to do in this town.”




Return to Engineer Peak

Last weekend I went to Engineer Peak again. This time with three different friends. I was disappointed in the fact that the flowers weren’t as vibrant, but the hike was still fun. We packed a lunch and ate after hiking to the summit. Last time I didn’t get to climb to the top because my friend had a dog with him.

Engineer Peak is almost a 13er. I felt quite accomplished getting to the top, as it does require a bit of rock climbing.

And because I made it to the top…I have a few more pictures to share.

Engineer Peak Engineer Peak

If you look closely, you might be able to see me and my friend climbing down.

If you look closely, you might be able to see me and my friend climbing down.

At the summit Made it to the top Engineer Peak Engineer Peak