Never regret change

There are a number of reasons why I wanted to make this post. Looking back at previous posts I was surprised by my overall anxiety. I’ve spent most of my life concerning myself with the need to make changes to my life, to feel like I’m always progressing and not regressing. It’s destructive, because progression shouldn’t be forced, it needs to be a natural result of your experience. I had a mini crisis regarding my current life choices a few months back, while I was on a dig in Spain profusely vomiting from heat exhaustion, lying on my bed wondering if I had made a huge mistake. We all have those moments, where we meditate on our live choices. We look back and wonder if that was the right thing to do, was splitting up with him or her what I really wanted? Was quitting that job financially short-sighted? But after thinking it through for a long time, I can honestly say we should never regret making choices that change our lives for the better. Especially conscious choices to improve our lives.

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Looking at Aztec codices

When I was living in Japan as a journalist and later in London, I was depressed because when you get to the bare bones of it; creativity and writing are not mutually exclusive. I had known for awhile that I wanted to venture back to university and take a degree in archaeology. But at 26 I was reluctant, societal expectations for a woman my age is not to go back into education. Most women cave under this enormous pressure; they feel like they have to comply by this timeline that they don’t necessarily want to follow.  The importance of doing what you want regardless of others is a sentiment I’ve held onto dearly throughout life. Unfortunately it has and always will make me somewhat of a social pariah.

I’m in my second year of my time at University College London and although I’ve had moments of overwhelming anxiety mostly monetary I’ve not faltered. You are always going to be letting down someone in your life, just don’t make it yourself; everyone owes it to themselves to live a fulfilling life, whether that’s family or a career, or just a life of pure adventure. Making changes to ensure that you are happy even if they don’t follow certain societal expectations is critical to being true to yourself.  These changes haven’t been easy, there have been negative reactions, there have been assumptions about my reluctance to join mainstream society. You must block out those voices, never regret positive change. 

Becoming an archaeologist – My Journey

Outside the British Museum in Dec. 2013

Outside the British Museum in Dec. 2013

At 26, some people, probably not most, have decided what they want to want to do with their lives or where their path is leading them. Unfortunately for someone as indecisive as myself, I’ve nearly really had that resolve.

I dabbled with a number of careers, I studied Creative Writing in Bath, and later moved onto Japanese Culture and History, while I lived in Tokyo. But, I never felt fulfilled with any career I chose. My journalism has played a key role in my life, since the beginning,  despite my grades being unsatisfactory in English and higher.  The industry is vast, so despite having a BAHons, you need experience in the area you wish to write in. That’s the challenge, to balance your  passion with the drudgery of actually making a living, and most will find their day-time job completely clashes with their real writing.

My desire to become an archaeologist, didn’t develop until late last year. I had always been interested in Ancient Mexico and Ancient Peru, since I was a child. I had written my second year piece about an Incan warrior captured by the Spanish conquistadors. I received a first, mainly due to detailed environment I had created partly thanks to my knowledge of Peruvian archaeology.  Before then, when I was only a teen  I had been obsessed with the idea of the “Temple of the Sun” in Cusco, and the Juanita mummy found in the Andes, a sacrifice to the sun. This obsession later developed into a general interest in all Native cultures of Latin America.

After a four-year stint in Japan that took me all around Asia, exploring the ancient temples and mountains of the Far East, I knew that I had to focus my energy on Central/South America.  It pains me to confess that I knew more East Asian history than my own European and South American heritage.  When I returned to the UK, I frequented the British Museum to expand my knowledge and familiarity with Mexican and South American history.

After hours of troweling through boring filings I knew I had to take the plunge so I began looking into Archaeology courses in September 2013, knowing little about the individual institutions,  only driven by my desire to travel and history. I applied for archaeology master programs at UCL, University of Bristol and Kings College London.  Whilst doing my research, I came to realise how much UCL was the place where I wanted to study. Not only because of the prestige, but mostly due to its variety of topics covered, as well as the quality teaching staff available.  The open evening welcomed people of all ages, which put my nerves at rest, being the oldest in the class had been a concern of mine from the start.

Now, its time to give up  the career that I have been chasing for more than 5 years, not because I got bored, but because I found something that intrigues me even more. Hopefully in the future I can work at National Geographic and fuse my love of writing and archaeology, but to make that a reality –I just have to dream big.

I want to break free

February, 2011, Seoul, Korea

February 2011, Seoul, Korea

Mind of a traveller

I was 23 in Japan, living a life free of responsibility, every young 20 something dream. Yet there I was, residing in a cramped one-bedroom flat, wishing that I made different choices.

A mild state of depression slowly crept over me, causing me to reevaluate my current situation.  The tsunami hitting northern Japan,  causing a radiation leak at the Fukushima plant. The situation made me feel entirely helpless,  for a while I pondered about how my life had led me here, in this tiny bedsit, watching the walls alone. Wishing the time away; hoping something –anything that would come along and put me on the right path towards contentment.

The anxiety didn’t let up when my brother visited me that year, if anything I saw his freedom to explore the world and I envied it. During most March 2011, we were trapped in my flat too scared by all the fear-mongering of the British media about radiation poisoning to venture outside. A feeling of being imprisoned slowly took over, as trains were cancelled, flights delayed and food scarce.

Some might say that I was ungrateful, and looking back at it, maybe I was. But even after the threat of radiation had died down, I woke up everyday almost in tears. I went to a job I had no passion for only to increase my bank balance and secure my visa.

Flights out of the country became too expensive, the low job prospects back at home, promises made to friends I had to keep;  the chains were tight and every time I resisted it only toughened its grasp.

As an expatriate, friends come and go, and there is never a ‘forever’, only for those who have set up shop here with families and I had no temptation to follow, if anything there attitudes towards Japan only made me want to leave even more.

Two years later still miserable I knew I had overstayed my welcome.  Rather than book a ticket straight out of Japan, I opted to visit Fukuoka, costing me no more than a few hundred pounds.  After a brief romantic encounter with an Australian; I was in the air –literally (and figuratively).

Travelling is a life-changing event that affects people’s way of thinking, but you also find yourself appreciating home-comforts. Once I landed at Heathrow, I inhaled the multiculturalism of London and my first week passed in a blur of museums, long walks, and “good ol’ English pubs”. This was home.

The long job applications started and I was working within the first three weeks of being back home.  The job I had trained for and tried vainly to find in Tokyo. An ideal situation to most but it happened again; the stability had started to cause an unease. I was in a situation where I had total control, which ironically made me scared.

I was becoming an “everyday robot” and I ceased the opportunity to fly off again, this time to New York.

But it wasn’t enough, I was travelling to modern cities, while I had always thrived on the historical sites, nature reserves and mountains a country had to offer.  There was no stopping me from climbing mountains, visiting temples –seeing the world.

A few weeks ago, at my computer I scrolled through volunteer opportunities online. With the savings I had accumulated I booked my first expedition to Peru to help on an archaeological dig at Vilcabamba.  It did the trick, and settled my self-induced anxiety.  Jealousy still gets the best of me when I see tourists wandering through London, exploring the hidden  alley ways, or discovering that quaint little pub behind the promenade of shops in Holborn. But, I know its only a matter of time before I’m on the road (again.)

 

The last of the Incas

This year, sees an adventure begin. My trip to Peru in April, will be one of the biggest events of my life, I see nothing but the land of the setting sun in front of me.  It’s been a childhood dream of mine to visit Machu Pichu, my interest in the Incan empire was sparked when I was only a child, watching the Mysterious Cities of Gold, pretending to be Zia, the Incan princess. Something about the ancient lands of Peru causes a chill down my spine, the good kind, the kind, which kicks you off your seat into action, into an adventure.

I read the Lost City of the Incas by Hiram Bingham last year, it was filled with stories of discovery, the main one being how he found the last city of the indigenous people of Peru, which had always fascinated me. I had no hopes of becoming an archaeologist or historian when I was a child, I had only wished to visit the land of the setting sun so I could trace the same steps of the Incas with my very own footprints.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

Last year, after coming back from a four-year adventure in Japan, I felt at odds with the world. It might come across off as little strange, but I left not out of the need for home comforts, but for adventure. Japan had given me all the necessities I would have needed to go voyaging off in some distant land,  money, accessible routes from sea and land, but it lacked the all important key to adventure; opportunity. You see I didn’t want to just visit Peru, I wanted to explore Peru.

That’s when I realised I wanted to be more than a travel writer, visiting restaurants and hotels and giving them a rating out of ten seemed a little mundane, if not repetitive. I wanted to get into every nick and cranny in Machu Picchu and find or notice something that someone hadn’t before.

I started attended seminars at UCL about South American Archaeology, and my interest started to shape into a life ambition. I began applying for internships on archaeological digs in Peru and by some source of divine power I was offered one late last year with a renowned archaeologist in the field of Ancient Peru, finally starting my adventure.

Here I include my 5 favourite civilisations to come out of Peru, and some I hope to delve into more once I become more acquainted with the region.

Top 5 Peruvian Ancient

  1. The Chachapoyas, also called the Warriors of the Clouds, was a culture of Andean people living in the cloud forests of the Amazonas Region of present-day Peru.
  2. The Inca Empire  was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America.
  3. The Nazca culture was the archaeological culture that flourished from 100 BCE to 800 CE beside the dry southern coast of Peru in the river valleys of the Rio Grande de Nazca drainage and the Ica Valley.
  4. The Wari  were a Middle Horizon civilization that flourished in the south-central Andes and coastal area of modern-day Peru, from about AD 500 to 1000.
  5. The Chavín were a civilization that developed in the northern Andean highlands of Peru from 900 BC to 200 BC.