Another milestone down, 500 days abroad where I’ve travelled to 22 countries and 52 cities. What I have I gained?
Whilst this is not the first time I’ve left Australia, it has been the first for many other things: flying/ travelling solo, Contiki tours, living abroad, language barriers with locals, teaching abroad, being single and travelling, getting completely lost with & without internet access, breaking bones whilst travelling, dealing with chronic disease, backpacking, living off under £50 a day (sometimes down to £15/day) and navigating many challenging obstacles that come with travelling and living abroad.
Travelling is never 100% what makes it onto the gram, but it is by far the most rewarding experience. Here’s some of my favourite moments and lessons I’ve learnt so far:
You can make friends almost anywhere
As someone who enjoys their downtime and overthinks most social situations, travelling, mostly solo for the first year at least, showed me how easy it was to make friends with people whether travelling or in social situations. Confidence and asking questions are key!
Good things happen to those who are ready and deserving
Whether love, career steps or otherwise; so many great things that I was looking for previously have found me. I’d be lying if I said it was luck. I worked hard, worked on myself and have dealt with many setbacks (and continue to). But since I stepped on that plane I was determined to live my best life and have generally achieved that. Work hard, love yourself and do some good. Who knows what could happen?
Don’t plan too far ahead
I love a good long-term plan. But when circumstances change (breakups, new jobs, health issues or negative situations), so should your goals. September 2015, just before I decided to start saving for a move overseas, I had a completely different goal on where I wanted to be by this time. Now, I realise how low I had set the bar. I am worth so much more than what I had accepted. Don’t just agree with what you’re given, fight for what you deserve. Every time a new challenge comes, push through it because you are worth the rewards.
Complete contentment does exist
Whilst there has been many moments of excitement, wonder, laughter and adventure, I can remember distinct memories of complete contentment from the past 500 days, where everything was right where it should have been; where I was exhilarated, free and happy. Some of those times:
- Seeing the Northern Lights at the top of a mountain in complete silence with five other people.
- Standing on Hungerford and Golden Jubilee bridges overlooking my favourite view of London, listening to a busker play Elton John songs.
- Sitting on a ledge alone overlooking the Mediterranean Sea at Cinque Terre with my pesto pasta.
- Valentine’s Day in Paris at night.
I don’t expect, or want, to feel that all of the time, but this is one of my major lessons from working hard for what I wanted. I, and you, deserve to be happy. Go after what you want and see what happens.
You can be literally living your dreams and still get FOMO
It can come as quite a shock when life back home doesn’t stay as it was when you left it. Suddenly it goes from missed birthdays to weddings to even friends not being around when I will come back. Whilst I know my friends and family support me, I made the selfish decision to travel the world and this is one of the prices I continue to pay for it. Just remember that those who matter will understand that weeks or months of nothing doesn’t mean that they mean any less to you.
Never take for granted your national foods again
I’ve always liked Twisties. But since not being able to access them for less than 3x the reasonable Australian price, I LOVE cheese Twisties. I could be the most passionate Twisties spokesperson if only someone would listen. Don’t take Twisties for granted, ever. Also if anyone ever says Tim Tams taste like ‘Penguins,’ hit them.
Travellers (including you) can become selfish
Being a solo traveller requires a great deal of self-sufficiency in a variety of situations. However, when you get so used to that you forget about how important other people’s thoughts and experiences can be, and how hard it is to remember how to show decent respect. I’ve been caught out on this a few times, not out of spite, but due to the fact that I had to be selfish in order to live the life I had wanted. Just remember when you return to whatever normalcy you have; your travel stories and personal growth should not be 100% of the conversation.
Money is always an issue
I saved for a solid year before moving abroad and quickly saw that money deplete after my first six weeks of intense travelling followed by setting up in London. Before almost every trip, regardless of how much saving I’ve done and how budget the trip is, I’ve had some sort of money meltdown or intense budgeting. So when I get told “you’ve really been everywhere” or “I can’t believe you can afford to travel that much!” I feel like squirming. Unless you’re getting paid by the bucketload (hint: teachers do not) or on sponsored trips, most people have to compromise, and I’m no exception to this. The big ‘Europe trip’ that I started with is not the sort of travelling I tend to do now. Mainly because it’s not a sustainable way to travel financially. Don’t let Instagram fool you, in between those calming pictures by the coastline I’m usually walking instead of catching transport, eating from cheap convenience stores or bakeries instead of restaurants and sleeping in large hostel dorms instead of hotel rooms.
If I want to see more countries and cities, I have to skip the big lunches or dinners out or choose which of the expensive activities I really want to do.