Australia? New Zealand? Australia. No wait... New Zealand. I’ve been going back and forth on these two places for nearly a month now. Not to mention everyone I tell this to is exhausted hearing about my travel indecisiveness (Aww! Poor me with too many travel options!). What they don’t know is that I am infinitely more tired than they are, and becoming unnecessarily stressed by not knowing which direction to go (this is a greater metaphor for my life, I know). This is splitting my mind in two and my decision-making skills are fragmenting all over Malaysia as I try to solve such a trivial dilemma. So then I thought, what if I don’t choose at all?
It starts like this. I ask myself, why, why have I been unable to choose where to go next? Well here’s a little backstory. I’ve been in Asia for officially 9 months now. My journey has been full of healing, exposure, excitement, struggle, heat, friendship, bonding, romance, wilderness, expansion, loneliness, experimentation, solitude, adventure, and of course, indecisiveness. But all of this has occurred within the boundaries of Southeast Asia, a region of the world that is diverse, stunning, and inexpensive to explore on a budget.
Now it’s time to leave. I'm ready for something completely new. I need to choose a place to spend the next chapter of this journey. And I’m geographically close to Australia and New Zealand, and both are places that I'd like to spend time in. The problem is that I can’t decide which one to live in for a while. Going to either of these countries means I need to pay for the working holiday visa (they are pricey countries that don’t allow me to live so comfortably on a day to day basis as I can now). Signing up for the visa means I’ll be more grounded than I’ve been, and I’ll have to adapt to a working culture again. So the decision on whether I want to go to Australia or New Zealand is rather heavy for me.
Australia has familiar faces, friends, and the country is vast and well travelled. New Zealand is far less familiar to me, smaller, lesser travelled, but it's been luring me in for a while now. Either country can provide endless permutations of experiences. Either one could satisfy or disappoint. Both locations are in fact rather similar, and so this decision really shouldn’t be so hard.
Yet it is. Somehow I find myself not wanting to make the decision. I’ve been in Malaysia for one month now mulling it over and I realize that I simply don’t want to make the decision. I’m burnt out from all the decision making that comes with solo travel. Every day I’m deciding what to do, where to go for the day, what to eat, who to socialize with, when to leave, when to check out, when to move on, when to stop and catch my own breath.
All this freedom is exciting and thrilling, but when so much freedom comes so quickly it’s jarring and little scary. Imagine a bird that lived a life in a cage and is abruptly set free. Of course it sounds beautiful, but the bird only knows what the cage is like. To be free and able to fly anywhere at all -- this is not as simple as you know (or maybe you do know this, and you’ve grown to enjoy the cage…).
Yet I wouldn’t choose any other path than this one of freedom. It just takes time to adjust to, that’s all. I don’t want anybody else negatively influencing me (as people tend to do, saying New Zealand is boring and lonely, or Australia is just full of drunk backpackers and predictability). I'm grateful for all those who gave me advice and tips, but often times it just contradicted the person I asked before them. It's been my own fault doing too much research and not enough decision making (coincidentally, one of my very first blog posts was about this dilemma). So if I’m unwilling to make up my own damn mind on where to go, and if I don't want to rely on the scattered collection of other people's thoughts (and biases), then what the hell do I do?
This morning I realized that there’s a viable third option. It’s one that I quite literally slept on last night. When I woke from my dorm bed and got up to shower, I saw it on the sheet. I realized I had fallen asleep on top of a coin that rolled out of my pocket. The idea soon came to me in the shower (that sacred space where plenty of deep thoughts are born), an idea that I had joked about with a friend earlier but never really considered- I could just flip a coin and be done with it. I can leave my entire future to the fate of the coin toss. Every future experience I have in life, every person I meet, every pain I suffer, every joy that rushes through me - will be based on the result of this very coin flip.
That's heavy stuff. But let's face it, this isn’t a matter of life and death. It's a matter of two delightful countries that I'm privileged to be able to work in. Either country will be both challenging and rewarding. I won’t live in the past and regret this decision; I will be dedicated to living in the present no matter how things go.
So I’m doing it. I’m taking option #3 right now. I’m sitting in a quiet reading room in my hostel in George Town, Malaysia. No one is around. The time is 10:45 am on June 2, 2016. The coin I have with me is in fact a South African 5 Rand coin that a friend of mine left behind on the bedside table after visiting.
The wildebeest on the coin will represent Australia. The reverse side, is a South African coat of arms which will represent New Zealand. No more stalling now. I’m taking three deep breaths, and flipping the coin to determine my entire future. Here goes...
The coin tells me Australia. I’m going to work in Australia. It's decided. I feel so relieved.
Either option would have satisfied, but just knowing now is the most satisfying of all. After a month of indecisiveness, of going back and forth and telling people in both countries I’d be there soon- my mind is finally decided by a simple coin flip. I’m applying this morning for the working holiday visa (of course if there’s any complications, then I have a very clear backup option).
What brings me to this place of being able to leave it all to the face of a coin? It's a kind reminder to myself of something I wrote when I started this journey- we are free. It took a sweet friend of mine reminding me of this yesterday. I’m always free to leave if I find myself in a place that is irresolvable or stressful beyond repair. Nobody can confine me to a place I don’t want to stay.
It’s decided then, just following my nine months of travel on the road. My next journey will begin in Australia. I'll be applying for the visa shortly and waiting to hear back. New Zealand will wait in the distance, and I’ll find myself there one day quite soon as well. My herald in all of this was a South African 5 Rand coin.
If you’re stressing over a decision but feel comfortable with all the options, take my advice here as someone who’s just flipped the coin- it feels so good to put it to rest already. Just choose, or flip a coin of your own. But don’t sleep on it for too long, or you might never realize that the answer was with you all along. ■
How long have you been waiting to decide?