Talking about travelling was a lot easier than booking a flight. Most of my Friday nights were spent enjoying a few beers and fantasising about all the places I could venture. By the third or fourth pint, it always seemed so simple. ‘Yes, that’s it! I’m booking a one way ticket to Fiji!’
When the morning came, my day would become dedicated to the relief of my hangover. Not working out the finer details of my ‘trip’. Plus, the doubt would kick in. Have I got enough money? What if I’m going to get that promotion at work? What if Aunt Julia’s bunions come back and she needs a lift home from the hospital?
But after a while, I managed to make the decision while sober. It was time to book a round-the-world ticket and turn my dreams into reality. And trust me, life could not have gotten any better.
Travelling for the first time
Beijing was my first stop, so I could tick off The Great Wall of China from my bucket list. It was the furthest I had been away from home and I could not have picked a better country to begin my life-changing adventure. Experiencing the cultural difference immediately made me feel more worldly.
The longer I was away, the more I realised that the things I worried about at home really didn’t matter. The stupid little things that used to keep me awake at night, like how I’d embarrassed myself at a party or if I’d ever be able to afford a mortgage, now made me laugh until my sides hurt.
The biggest worry I had was standing at the edge of a cliff in Thailand being egged on to jump twenty metres into the sea. Megan at home was afraid of heights. I was doing things completely out of my comfort zone, just because I could.
The experiences I gained (and I don’t just mean the good ones) molded me into a new, confident, wiser human being and I wondered why I hadn’t done this sooner.
New friends in Bangkok
After six months of back-packing and seven countries under my belt, I found myself back in Bangkok looking for a place to stay the night. I had one night left as a backpacker before flying home the next day, so I wanted to make the most of it.
I had met a friendly Thai lady called Narisa on a Thai island, Koh Tao, who had said to give her a call if I was in Bangkok. Within an hour of calling she pulled up outside Khao San Road in her swanky sports car.
I had been to Bangkok before, but had never seen it with a local. I’d never ventured far from Khao San road or explored without being on an organised tour.
We went to a cinema in the mall to watch a movie (with English subtitles thankfully) and Narissa treated me to some delightful cheese and barbecue flavoured popcorn. Not what I would have chosen, but it was a lot tastier than I expected!
She took me back to her house for dinner where I enjoyed an authentic Thai meal with her family. They were so accommodating, I felt like a celebrity. They insisted that I stay for the night and put me up in a guest bedroom.
The next day I packed my things, thanked them profusely for their hospitality, and left for the airport.
I believe that being on the road, vulnerable and with no contacts (apart from the ones I made there) taught me more about life than any university could. I became less cynical and more open. If I had met Narisa within the first couple of weeks of travelling, I would have assumed she was trying to rob me or had other sinister plans. But after meeting so many wonderful people on the road, I began to realise that despite the odd bad egg, people are actually quite wonderful.
I’ve not met one person who has been travelling and hasn’t stayed in contact with the people they met whilst backpacking. I met one of my closest friends on a beach in Koh Phi Phi.
My journey involved China, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and Australia.
I went home feeling like a new woman. I had achieved and experienced so much. I had so many stories to tell and I couldn’t wait to get home and show off!
Then life happened. It was time to get a new job and rent a new flat. My friends were still drinking at the same pubs and bars. I had to start thinking about council tax and gas prices. The car’s MOT had run out. All the feelings of liberation and freedom quickly dwindled away and I found myself smack-bang in the middle of the rat race again. No money, no spare time and (the worst) no sun.
I had become disappointed with life. And I realized it was all because of travelling.
I never felt like this before I went away. I was quite happy spending my Friday and Saturday evenings in the pub and watching the Hollyoaks omnibus on a Sunday. But now I missed my shorts and baggy trousers. I missed ice coffees and packets of Oreos on night buses. That, my friends, is what they call the travelling-blues. They’re real. And they suck.
I soldiered on for a year and felt myself reverting back to my old ways. I was slowly becoming less friendly and outgoing. Everything became a hassle and I had lost my positive glow.
So I decided it was time to leave again. I saved as much money as I could and booked myself a one-way ticket to New Zealand and applied for a holiday working visa.
On the road again
It was no easier this time round. The same doubts and questions popped into my over-active brain, but underneath it all I knew it was the right decision for me. I had a good job and a nice flat, but it just didn’t make me happy any more. There were too many places to see and too many people to meet.
The day came and I was waved off at Heathrow by my family. As soon as I was through security, I felt myself come back to life. My independent, outgoing personality had reawakened. A new adventure had begun and I could barely contain myself.
I’m back in the UK now. I met my husband in Thailand on my way back from New Zealand and we were married within three months. I am currently studying journalism and live just outside of London. My mum called me the other day and asked if we had any more plans for holidays this year. It’s a worry for her that we are going to pack up and leave again. I told her we don’t. But I can’t promise her we won’t.
You may find, as I did, that once you’ve taken that first step out into the world, life at home is not the main performance anymore. It’s just the intermission.