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Once a Northlander, Always a Northlander: Part 3

By Rachel Stainton, Mar 06, 2019

Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam. A memorial for the French paratroopers who died holding their ground
Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
The beaches of Nha Trang in southern Vietnam, the Russian tourist's destination
he Hagia Sophia, originally built by the Roman Empire in the 4th century, Istanbul
The victory square commemorating the victory of the Vietnamese over the colonial French, Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam
The view from a friends apartment in Yerevan. Mount Ararat looms in the distance, the fabled peak where Noah's ark settled when the flood receded
Traditional Lavash being made in the Armenian countryside
The villagers' view in Ush'Guli
The Western Wall and Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem
The wall that separates Israel from Palestine is covered in all sorts of art

Northland Project Manager, Mike Vinokurov shares the story of his year abroad.

Thankfully the opportunity back at Northland opened up, and I’m happy to be back!

What is something surprising that you’ve taken away from your trip?
My trip has taken away the fantasy of solo, freeform travel for me. I think a lot of people, myself included before this trip, want to be free to travel the world, and now, having done that, it's dispelled the magic of it all. You know? I know exactly what it looks like and exactly what’s to be gained from that. So, a lot of people have asked me, when am I going again? And my answer is, I’m not interested. I don’t want to do freeform, solo, floating around, unplanned travel anymore. In the future I think I’d like to spend a few weeks here or there, like maybe to Japan or the Ukraine. I’d love that. And I’m really glad that I did my trip because I feel like it has gotten me to places with myself that I don’t know how I would’ve gotten there otherwise, but its not exactly pure fun.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your travels?
I think I did a fair amount of emotional maturing on this trip. Its kind of hard to describe because its also very personal in a sense, but I had a sort of revelation about family and how important it is. I met a lot of people who were on their second or third year of consecutive travel, and I always thought that I would really go with the wanderlust idea and want to just keep traveling. After this trip, I’ve realized I don’t want to be traveling for two or three years. I appreciate the stability of being in one place. And I want to build from there. I want to develop something and build it from a stable place. It sounds exactly like what an employer would want to hear, so it sounds a little fake to say but it’s true. I realized I do want to play the game of working, building relationships with my coworkers and getting deeper into the industry. In that way, this trip matured me and made me realize my goal of stability and building my life in one place.

Is there anything you’ve learned that will help you in your career coming back to Northland?
I think it helped in a lot of small ways. I’ve always been very observant, and sensitive to people and how they react to things. So, I think this trip has sharpened that, knowing when to push or back off, and reading people and situations much more clearly. I think its also bolstered my self-confidence to know that I’m strong enough to know how to navigate the planet on my own, and to have gone through scary moments, broken my ankle, and have had all these experiences. For instance, knowing that I can land at Cairo airport and instead of being tricked into overpaying a taxi driver I can devise a strategy to get to my hotel without having to overspend to do it.

What strategy was that?
I looked around and thought who can I talk to? So, I saw some soldiers and I thought well soldiers aren’t invested in trying to make money off me, so I’ll ask them. They told me, “Oh yeah just take the blue bus and it’ll get you where you’re headed.” I ended up paying 13 cents to get into Cairo, instead of $20 to the gouging taxi driver. Knowing that you can problem solve when things are foreign and you’re under duress, physically tired, in a new time zone, carrying a giant backpack, being able to adapt to the new environment does a lot for your self-confidence.

What was your favorite country and why?
Probably Thailand. I spent the most time there. The same way that the US is imbued with Christianity, Thailand is like that with Buddhism. Everyone is chilled out. People who lose their temper are looked down upon, people are generous and giving for no reason. That spirit is everywhere in Thailand.

Least favorite country and why?
I’d like a redemptive trip to Egypt. I think under different circumstances, I would’ve had a different kind of trip. I’d like to go there with someone. Solo travel is great, but there were so many times I wished I had someone with me to share it with that I really trusted.

What is your next adventure?
Getting better at my job. Towards the end of my time at Northland last time, I’d become kind of checked out. There was something else on my mind and in my heart. Now I feel like the trip has refocused me on why I’m in a place like this, doing what I’m doing. So that’ll be my next adventure, to build here. I don’t want to be a forever floater; I want to settle down. So, these are the baby steps to get there.

Any closing thoughts?
I had my Northland jacket with me, and I like to say that I took it home. It was made in Vietnam, so, I took it home.