In terms of the past 3 or 4 years, this one has been a bit of a game changer. I know it’s a cliche but I don’t think I returned from my 3 and a half months of travelling the same as when I left. The people who know me best have even commented on it. I feel like my attitude towards life has shifted for the better and I’ve discovered things I want to get out of life that I hadn’t even thought about before. I met with an old friend the other day who summed up the events of my previous blog perfectly with:
I hate it
I want to go home
I like it
I love it
I don’t want to go home
I want to go back
That was pretty much it – the cycle of my trip! and I haven’t been able to shake the last part. Since May all I’ve wanted to do is go back. Anyway, I’ll sum it up by month.
I mostly spent January buying the necessary travel items I would need for my trip, and freaking out majorly about my decision. I didn’t need to do much planning as everything had already been booked, but I did need to do a lot of organising in terms of packing up my room, sorting out all my travel documents and packing (and re-packing several times) my backpack. Towards the end of the month I was so terrified about going alone that I had little excitement left and I actually started to regret my decision. I had a small leaving do and said my goodbyes towards the end of January, slowly becoming more and more scared as reality kicked in. I also began my blog on travelpod.
I also annoyingly started dating a guy I liked that I had met at christmas (I have a habit of meeting people at the wrong time) and saw him a couple of times before I was due to leave, which if I’m being honest made leaving that little bit harder. We parted ways with the agreement to keep in touch while I was away and see what would happen when I returned.
My journey began on February 2nd at Birmingham Airport. To say it wasn’t an easy start would be an understatement. After an emotional goodbye to my mum at the departure gate and nervous phone calls to pretty much everyone on my phone book, I psyched myself up to get on the plane only to have it be cancelled due to the snow (as far as I know it was the only day of the year where flights were cancelled due to weather – typical!). After retreating back to my old house in Birmingham I boarded the rescheduled flight the next day and landed in Dubai 8 hours later. I was unexpectedly stranded in Dubai for a day with none of my luggage as my next available connecting flight wasn’t until 20 hours later. This meant that I missed the start of my Stray Asia tour and had to find my way to Sukhothai alone – possibly more exhausted than I’ve ever been in my whole life after 3 nights of very little sleep and awful jet lag.
After a rocky start I spent the first week of my trip literally feeling sick with longing to be home and not to be alone. It wasn’t easy but eventually I overcame it and really started to enjoy myself. February saw me travel from Bangkok through Northern Thailand and then from the North to the South of Laos. During this time I rode an elephant, went tubing in Vang Vieng and took part in a traditional Laos success ritual amongst other things. It was an intense three weeks where I covered a lot of ground, got up at the crack of dawn almost every day and barely had time to stop. It was worth it though! I ended the month back in Bangkok with Amy, a friend from home who would spend the next two weeks with me.
I would definitely rate the first two weeks of March as two of the best of my life. Although I had overcome my homesickness quite a lot by this stage, it was still amazing to have someone I had known all my life with me. We spent a few days partying in Bangkok before travelling down to Southern Thailand. Our first stop was Koh Phangan where we stayed in a private bungalow at Sarikantang resort which we could only describe as paradise.
We went to a half moon party, drank some more, and then headed down to Koh Phi Phi (where we drank even more, I had my bag stolen and I spent a night at a Thai hospital). After a very intense three weeks I was happy to travel slowly and spend some time relaxing, but boy was I due a detox by the time Amy went home! She boarded a flight back to the UK mid-March while I flew to the next stop on my trip – Australia.
My journey up the East Coast of Australia began in Sydney where homesickness reared it’s ugly head again. I missed Amy and weirdly found myself pining for Thailand just as I had pined for home when I had landed in Bangkok. After living like a Queen for 5 weeks in South East Asia I also almost had a heart attack after realising a small snack and a can of coke came to around £5. Despite this, I managed to make the most of my few days in Sydney and really discovered the benefits of being alone sometimes during a beautiful coastal walk from Coogee to Bondi beach. I made a group of friends on the Oz Experience bus and continued up the coast to Byron Bay, Surfer’s Paradise, Brisbane and Noosa.
During this time I reluctantly learnt how to surf, ate one cookie too many on a day trip to Nimbin and took someone to the hospital for the second time due to a broken foot. I ended the month doing a 4×4 tag along tour on Fraser Island – one of the highlights of my time in Australia. By this time I had really started to get into the flow of being a full time solo traveller, and that’s when I was reunited with Rachel (a girl I had originally met in Koh Phi Phi) who I would spend the next 6 weeks travelling with.
Our month began in Agnes Water with some noodles and some goon (the standard backpacker diet in Australia) and progressed to me spending a night with cowboys in Kroombit and then sailing around the Whitsunday Islands for 3 days. Whitehaven beach was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, and so despite the seasickness this was another highlight of my trip.
When back on dry land in Airlie Beach I also somehow managed to gain an injury during a game of giant jenga which embarrassingly lead to me fainting in the middle of a bar! We stayed at a nature reserve on Magnetic Island where by night we were convinced a serial killer was circling our hut and by day we were cuddling cute koalas. We then travelled on up to Cairns where I partied, had my fortune told, went on an extremely cold and wet rainforest tour and then spent a few miserable days in bed with tonsillitis.
On April 14th I left Australia, which by that point I was quite happy about, and excitedly moved on to New Zealand. The next three weeks were more of the best in my life so far. I flew into Auckland and started my tour of the country with Kiwi Experience. We instantly made a group of friends who would be with us for the duration of our trip. We explored the North Island together – kayaking around Cathedral Cove, Black Water Rafting in Waitomo Caves and eventually partaking in the scariest and one of the best events of my life so far – sky diving in Taupo. After a lazy 5 weeks in Australia I was loving being so active and experiencing the highs of extreme sports. We had formed a close group of friends and I loved our little Kiwi Experience community. It really was an amazing time and for the first time in my life, in Wellington, I considered that I could work and live in a country other than the UK.
At the beginning of May I was really starting to worry about returning home. I feared I would never experience life where I was so happy and having so much fun again, and all I wanted to do was stay in New Zealand which was a country I had really grown to love. Our (very expensive) glacier hike had been cancelled in Franz Josef due to the weather and so I decided to blow some of the money I’d saved on alcohol. I regretted this decision in the morning when we were faced with the option to do the hike there and then and I had a god awful hangover which prevented me from walking in a straight line, let alone climbing a mountain!
My last week in New Zealand was alcohol fuelled and emotional. I had never felt so devastated to leave a country as I did when I left Christchurch, and I actually cried on the bus leaving Queenstown. But before I did that I had a brilliant few days there (another of the most beautiful places I’ve seen) with the group where I topped what was then the most scary experience of my life – the sky dive – with a canyon swing (it’s basically a bungee jump). I’ve never been more terrified in my life but I’m glad I’ve ticked that one off the bucket list! I swam with dolphins in Kaikoura and then spent a sad day witnessing the effects of the earthquake in Christchurch, before vowing I would return to New Zealand one day and boarding a flight back to Australia.
The last leg of my trip was spent exploring Melbourne and it was there that I said a difficult goodbye to Rachel and my travels and boarded a plane back to the UK. Coming home was difficult and I missed travelling immensely, but before I knew it I was back at work (on May 14th – my 27th birthday – bad timing on my part!) and back into my old routine. I also started dating again – with the same guy I had left in February (who I had kept in touch with occasionally while I was gone) and felt surprisingly positive about the future – an attitude I had picked up on my travels.
I spent this month adapting back to daily life. Although I still craved travelling I had grown to accept that my life back in the UK was what I had to live with, and that it wasn’t all that bad. However, I couldn’t shake the desire that there was more of the world that I needed to see. I decorated my room with the scratch off map and several photos as a reminder of my trip.
My positive attitude continued but so did my obsession with travelling, and I found myself researching where I would go if I ever got the opportunity again (well aware that I was due some inheritance later in the year that might give me just that).
After a delayed reaction, I began to realise how mundane my life was without travel, and so I booked a trip to Copenhagen in an attempt to calm my desires for a while. It didn’t work. All I could think about was going back to full time-travelling, worrying that I would never be satisfied if I didn’t travel as much as possible while I was still young and responsibility free. After a visit to V Festival my sister convinced me it was the right thing to do (not easy for the person who would miss me the most). It was also early in this month that things ended with the guy I mentioned (which in retrospect was a good thing considering he had no desire to see the world) which was just further motivation and the push I needed for me to give another trip some serious thought.
My mind was just about made up. I knew I wanted to travel again, and that this time I didn’t want a return date. After growing increasingly frustrated at my strict itinerary on my last trip I knew I wanted the flexibility to go wherever for however long I desired. This was beginning of two months of weighing up the pros and cons of quitting my job to make room for this plan – by no means an easy decision.
Over the past few months I had developed an obsession with reading and researching travel blogs which lead me to create a more professional looking blog of my own. Scratchoffthemap was born. I was also granted my inheritance money – another trip was becoming more of a reality by the day. I had saved up for years for my first trip and I knew that without this opportunity I’d probably never get the chance to go again.
My mind was set and I decided that if I didn’t travel again I would always regret it. I visited Copenhagen and on the flight home my decision was cemented – I wanted to do as much of this as possible. The count down began to when I would tell everyone at work and it killed me to have to keep it secret from my colleagues, but I was still terrified to actually go through with it. I did however, manage to book a TEFL course for the first weekend of January which was the first step to me making my dream a reality.
It took until mid-December for me to get the guts to set the wheels in motion. After weeks of stressing over my decision, wondering if it was the right thing and backing out several times when I told myself I would talk to my boss – I finally managed it. As suspected, he and everyone else I work with were great and I made this announcement. I’ve had many moments of sadness and potential regret (a brilliant work christmas party spent with my colleagues was one of them) but I’ve stood my ground and booked my flight and now it’s official – I am leaving the UK on February 19th. I decided to fly to Bangkok and then just take it from there, making this non-plan.
All in all, 2012 has been one of my best and most exciting years to date. I know I have a lot more excitement and massive changes to come in the months ahead and I hope that I will come to be completely happy with my decision. Only time will tell but if I were to write a book of my life then 2013 would definitely be the next chapter!