I toyed with the idea of sharing this post because it’s more of a diary entry than a blog post. It’s not an account of my time in a town or city, it’s not a review of the best places to visit somewhere, it’s just me. Wholly and purely me talking to me. But here it is.
What no one tells you about travelling is how tough it is. I think it comes only from taking a trip by yourself though, this real journey of discovery. For someone who lives for a timetable, plans weeks ahead and writes daily “to do” lists, letting all of that go and living day-to-day was not only a bizarre concept but one that I seriously struggled with. Struggle number 1! You meet people who aren’t phased at all by such prospects. But for me, not having a next day plan put me in an uncomfortable position quite often. Over seven months I learnt to let go of that. To forget the stresses of my previous or future days and live for exactly what I was doing that day, perhaps booking a bus a day or two before. But that was the extent of most of my planning.
The second thing that nobody tells you is that travelling alone is lonely. I mean it makes sense since the two words literally share the same meaning. But it’s always jazzed up to be an adventure of a lifetime, a constantly happy existence, an opportunity you must grab with both hands. Yes, you really must grab it with both hands but there were many times it wasn’t a constantly happy time for me. The consistent meeting of new people is fantastic for introducing you to new cultures and inspiring new values, but the same conversation is dull and monotonous. It goes a little something like this:
“Hey, I’m Gabby”
“Hey, I’m *insert name*. Where are you from?”
“I’m English, you? Where have you been travelling so far?”
And so forth…
So now that I’ve shared the real lows of travelling, let me share just why I’m returning home so, so happy, fulfilled, full of life and dreams.
It’s because I had some things to let go of during this trip. A few things that had eaten me up for a while or stressed me out too much. You know, the usual! I thought they’d go instantly because I’d be consumed with having too much fun with all my new friends. Whilst I was having all the fun, there were times I was completely engulfed with the same demons that had haunted me back at home. But honestly, sitting here on my plane home now, I can so happily say that my worries are a thing of the past. My hurt, hate, love, stress, fear, pain, grief; all something I left a little of in different parts of the world. With each new person I spoke to, new culture I experienced, new challenge that I completed, I grew again. I got me back. I didn’t “find” myself, I just rediscovered what makes me me.
But my favourite thing of all was how intense your friendships with some amazing people, from all walks of life and parts of the world, are. You may know these people for no more than two days and yet in that time you might have seen one of the seven wonders of the world, broken down in tears, had a crazy night of drinking, been frightened, planned a new journey together, etc. Anyone worth spending more than a few days with was instantly a best friend for life and it meant that each time letting go and moving to a new place was so hard! I really, massively have to thank my girls who joined me at various parts of my journey. I don’t know why I always ended up with a girl travel buddy but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. And perhaps another reason why I could forget the pains I brought from home, because I could just gossip, be vulnerable and talk out every little feeling with them all. Masses and masses of love.
So what I take most from my trip, besides my worldwide bank of friends, mammoth photo albums, unrivalled memories and a very negative bank account balance, is my happiness returned and my drive and confidence renewed. My sense of adventure has really only just been ignited. I felt that it was right to share the highs and lows of a long and solo trip but I wouldn’t have done it any other way. I needed this trip and it confirmed to me that 1) the world is fascinating, unfathomable and pure; and 2) that I most definitely chose the right subject to study when I applied to read geography! Of course, I always bring it back to geography!! And now I know that it’s okay to be okay.