Sunset over Sea, Taganga, Colombia

This Week’s Wandering Soul: Steven Bell, 21, Vancouver

Steven was one of an increasing number of brave uni students I’ve met off and travelling the world between classes, not only with a backpack stuffed full of clothes, but a head stuffed full of questions.  In Colombia, we chatted over a much-too-sweet packet iced tea and reminisced about our most recent day under the sea.  We were in Tagana, near Santa Marta taking dive courses – and scary moments were being had all day.  For us, learning how to take out our regulators while under water was like a mini metaphor for our evening conversations, contemplating the world as a place where all natural resources were finally squandered and clean air supplies lost.  This deep thinker was all too at home in Colombia, a country which stole his heart like it has so many others.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Steven there in another 20 years, contributing in hisown way to make it a better country.

Sunset over Sea, Taganga, Colombia
What we got to go to bed to each night at Taganga.

How has being Canadian left its mark on you?

I’d say in that I’m generous and humble.  Also I think I have set values, freedom and a high sense of liberalism that Canadians usually show.

What would your 13-year-old self think about you if they met you?

13…that’s a good question.  I’ve never thought!  To be honest, I’m sure he’d expect me to be exactly like this.  I travelled when I was young so I wouldn’t be surprised that I’m in Colombia.  I expected to go to university and it wouldn’t surprise him that I completed quickly, as I’m a driven person.  So yeah, my 13-year-old self wouldn’t be surprised – I don’t know if that’s good or bad!

If you could meet your 13-year-old self, what would you say to him?

I’d say a few things, as I have a few…well not regrets but pieces of advice:  Pay attention in French class.  Don’t take life too seriously.  Don’t stress at school or about what others think of you.  And invest in Apple or Microsoft!  Make some money!  (laughs)

How do you make decisions?

I think first, I’m not one to go out on a limb.  Everything is planned.  Someone might ask, “Why are you in a Colombian town that I’ve never heard of?” and I could give 15 reasons why.  I do my homework and I have other options too.  For this trip, I asked myself, “Why are you leaving?  What are you looking for?  How will it set you up for the future?  How will doing this now affect your future?”  I’m quite analytical!

Do you think you’re on the right path?  How do you know?

Right now I’m – how do I feel?  Not surprised by where I ended up…I’m happy with a lot of what I’ve achieved, the positions I’ve put myself in.  But I still feel that I’m lacking – like I’m not fully happy yet.  I’m trying to look for that and I feel like I’m doing my best.  Many times, I’m not fully content, as I’m a perfectionist.

How do you feel when you think about your future?

I hope I’ll be happy.  I see myself surrounded by people, either friends, children a wife.  I feel I’ll be living a more passive life – still travelling – but content with a “normal, happy life.”

Other times, I see myself dedicated to something – work or travel – to change something in the world, feeling a passion for something.  I’ve a got a positive feeling – if not, I think you’re in trouble.

What fascinates you about Canada?

How uniform and big it is.  When you fly, you fly for five hours and you’re still in Canada and you look out the window and there’s nothing.  When you live in a city you sometimes see nature around you, but you’re in such a bubble.

About humanity?

I’m still amazed that despite seeing that the majority of people are quite positive and well-intentioned, that society still has so many problems.

About yourself?

I’m surprised at how reserved and adventurous I am at times.  I’m surprised that especially in the past I was so shy and cautious yet I can travel to the other end of the world by myself.  It’s a weird characteristic!

What scares you about Canada?

It scares me how closed off it’s becoming and how involved with technology and how people don’t interact with their neighbours even as much as I remember.  We’re losing a lot of social values which worries me in the long term.  That’s a developing country-specific problem:  lacking communication.

For example:  for me to call someone and have a conversation on the phone with someone of my own age – it just doesn’t happen.  It’s becoming obselete in a way.  Texts and Facebook are used instead.  People can learn about each other on their own time through the internet.

About humanity?

The same thing; growing inequality, the fact that people are becoming more distant in every way.  More connected but more distant.

About yourself?

I’m frightened that perhaps by being a perfectionist, I can’t be happy…and if that’s the case, that I won’t change the fact that I’m a perfectionist and so I won’t be happy.


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