‘You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need.’
As I returned to Asia and then spent time in Cambodia I had vaguely started thinking about when and how I would conclude this blog. Would my last article be about a conversation with my last taxi driver as they deposited me on my doorstep? Or perhaps it would be of me interviewing the pilot on my flight home? Whatever it would be, I kind of knew I would recognise it whenever it arrived.
Sadly, it was neither of those two options, but instead from a hospital in Hong Kong where my trip came to something of an abrupt end.
During my two scheduled weeks in Hong Kong a feeling in my stomach and chest refused to go away, and after developing a really bad cough and having increasingly less energy I was sent for an X-ray and blood tests by the GP. Unfortunately, I had picked up a bad chest infection – almost certainly from my time in Cambodia, which had caused fluid to build up, filling a lot of my left lung.
Thankfully, all worked out fine. My travel insurance company organised an excellent hospital for me in Hong Kong and a couple of weeks later I flew back to the UK having got rid of the infection and removing the liquid via a chest drain.
Departing early for the UK meant I missed out on my trip to Malaysia and some really exciting things I had been looking forward to (supporting some teachers there, working with local communities who live in houses built on stilts above water, attending a good friend’s wedding in Kuala Lumpur), but, notably, this disappointment quickly faded. Perhaps in part as this came towards the end of my trip and so I realised I’d been able to do most of what I wanted to as part of this project, but mostly I feel because of a more fundamental ambition. That of making sure my health was ok and that I recovered properly.
And that shift really struck me when I was suddenly so sick. Yes I wanted to do this project; yes, it was something I had dedicated a lot of time into, but, having achieved most of what I sought out to do, there remained more fundamental needs, that when threatened, really altered my priorities.
A number of people had asked me what my own advice to young people would be, given I had been asking that question of others, or what conclusions had my project produced. I’ll attempt to consider and detail some of these in a following series of articles but getting sick and having to cancel the end of my trip only reinforced two key things to me that have often been said by the people I have met. Firstly, (and for a whole host of reasons) your ambitions and priorities might change (and that’s ok). And, secondly, know what’s important to you.
In essence, it’s the difference between want and need. As ever, it’s a sentiment expressed many times before, by a whole host of people, many far cooler than I.