By Ella Hodgson-Pageau
As you may know from my previous articles, last year I went on a trip around the world to Rwanda, France, Thailand and lots of other countries. It was fun, crazy, learnable (that probably isn’t a word) and sometimes a little scary. Even though at first I wasn’t sure about leaving my friends for so long, going to school in a country where I didn’t even speak the language, and going on 20-hour-long flights, it was all totally worth it! I made some really close friends, learned a lot, saw some pretty incredible stuff and all in all had what shaped up to be an awesome experience.
It seems like everyone asks me what my favourite country was, and so that’s probably what whoever’s reading this is wondering. To be honest though, I have no idea what to tell you! I sort of feel like, having a favourite country is a bit overrated. I mean all of the places I’ve visited have little bits about them that I loved. I couldn’t tell you what was better, eating yummy chocolate croissants in France, hanging out with my new friends in Rwanda or riding on the back of a motorbike in Asia.
The fact that I’m also one of the most indecisive people you’ll ever meet doesn’t really help me find an answer, either. There were also countries that taught me a lot, and I think I’ll remember for a while going to Rwanda and learning how a country with a kind of scary reputation can have tons of kind, generous people, or going to Myanmar and learning about their awesome culture and traditions. Oh, decisions, decisions!
The one thing that I will probably remember most about my trip is not a specific time or place, but the people. The Vietnamese woman who made us pho, a Vietnamese soup like thing, on the insane streets of Hanoi; a Laotian girl who took me tubing down the rapids of the Mekong River with her and her friends; my French friend with whom I went horse back riding in the mountains after school. And of course my Rwandan friends I chatted and giggled with then bawled with when I had to leave. The people I met were kind of like the best and worst part of my trip. The best part was meeting and spending time with them, and the worst part was when it came time to leave them.
There were also a few bad moments; I’m not saying there were too many, but maybe being dragged on a tour of some obscure museum, taking an overnight bus in Thailand, or being squished and accidentally spat on in an African market weren’t exactly good moments.
Being the only one in my class who has no idea what the teacher is saying can be a little tricky too. But don’t get me wrong; I have no regrets about my trip. I just really think you should know that my 10-month trip was not non-stop good times.
Another thing that was a little surprising was how quickly I was back in the Glebe, living the life of any regular middle schooler. One month I was travelling to exotic destinations, the next I was daydreaming in math class. Now that I’m back, in some ways it’s like I never left. I still go to sport practices every week, I still drag my feet all the way to school every morning and I even still have a similar group of friends from before. In some ways it’s kind of like our trip never happened, but in many ways it still comes up in my thoughts every day. From wondering what my friends in Africa are doing right at that moment to thinking about how much waste North America is processing, I think my trip definitely changed me and the way I look at things.
I would definitely recommend to anyone going on a trip like this. Something I hadn’t realized before going away was how important it is to travel. Whether it’s a road trip to the US or a visit to a remote African village, it’s so important to see new things and meet new people. Even if I did miss a bit of school, I think the non-curriculum things that I learned were super important. This was an amazing year and if I could, I would do it again in a second!
Ella Hodgson-Pageau is a Grade 7 student at Glashan Public School. She recently returned from a 10-month trip with her family to France, Thailand, Rwanda and elsewhere of which she also wrote in previous editions of the Glebe Report.