This may be a question that has popped into your head a few times over the more recent years. It feels like everybody is quitting their jobs, throwing a backpack on and embarking on a long international adventure.
You could be one of the people who made that decision and are currently exploring somewhere that you’d only ever imagined, or you could be scrolling through your news feed (which now looks like a Lonely Planet brochure) wondering what the heck all the fuss is about! Either way, I’ll enlighten you the best that I can, I was and am both of those people, which I know sounds odd, but the Travel Cycle is something that never really ends when you jump on it.
So rewind about 7 years, my friend calls me up and says “Hey, I’m heading back out to Thailand to visit the family I stayed with when I volunteered in the school over there. I want to travel around a bit while I’m there too, would be great if you came with me.” I said something about there being no way I could afford to go to Thailand and quickly ended the call. Yes, I had travelled a lot by this point; as a dancer I’d been fortunate enough to work abroad in theme parks, holiday resorts and cruise ships around the world. But aside from work, my travelling had only really consisted of westernised places or alcohol-induced trips to Zante and Mallorca! Thailand was just out of the question! Right? The problem was, that I am such a “yes” person, that I couldn’t shake this idea of actually going!! Really, what was stopping me?!
It wasn’t long before I imagined myself donning an oversized backpack and drinking snake blood like Leonardo Di Caprio in The Beach. I returned my friends call and we booked flights. That trip completely changed my life! We did Thailand on the teeniest budget ever. We caught overnight buses, slept in cockroach-invested huts, caught the worst case of Thai-Tummy known to mankind, got stranded in the middle of nowhere with empty bank accounts…….but WOW was it an incredible trip!!
There’s something about travelling that’s very different to going on holiday or doing a season abroad. It forces you out of any form of comfort zone and somehow changes you. If I come across someone who’s travelled, we tend to share a knowing look with each other, (I may be imagining this) but it’s almost like we acknowledge that each of us has been through some kind of deep inner journey and fast-tracked the development of our open mind. Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to explore South America, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and in each of these places that are sprinkled across the planet, it has become apparent that almost everyone I’ve come across is looking for the same thing – I know this is as cheesy as anything, but I believe they were looking for themselves. (If you ignore the cheese for just a second) what I’m trying to say is that they want the freedom, space and opportunity to get to know themselves on a deeper level than may be possible with all the distractions that we have in our day-to-day lives at home. Travelling is one of the few things that allows you to do that so intensely.
We have been brought up in a generation where travelling is part of the norm, it’s accessible to everyone, it’s affordable if you look in the right places, you can book an entire years trip before you’ve even had a chance to think about it. The go-to therapy for breakups, redundancies, and the “what am I doing with my life?” phase. Forget Prince Charming and knights in shining armour; in modern day fairytales all Cinderella needs is a plane ticket!!
I can’t speak for everybody, only myself and many of the people I met whilst travelling, but it really has shaped my life for the better. And I know that my future will be completely different now than it would have been if I hadn’t travelled. For me, it was more important to travel to as many places as I could on a budget than to go to one luxury place, so I learned to understand the term “roughing it” – and although at times it was difficult, hot, sweaty and uncompromising; I started to learn how to be patient and create fun and laughter in the most dire of conditions. Believe me, if you don’t, you’d go stir crazy! So my creativity and tolerance definitely improved!! Gratitude began to show an appearance in my life, which was like hitting a gold mine!! I had always secretly been a glass-half-empty kind of person, which is awful to admit (no one wants to be that girl) but wow, living in the middle of nowhere where everything is trying to kill you helps you to understand gratitude on a different level.
The main problem I face now, is how do I stop?! I don’t believe the travel bug ever dies, so really the only option I have is to feed it. Where to next????