If you asked me 3, 5 or 10 years ago whether I would ever dream of packing a bag and setting off travelling (I can’t technically say backpacking but essentially that), for 15 months I genuinely think I would have laughed in your face – it was never something I thought I wanted, or was capable of. But hell, when circumstances changed and I was given the opportunity I decided to just go for it…and it was the very best decision of my life, no doubt about it.
I think most young people (I know, I missed that boat) now spend an extended period of time travelling and honestly, yes it’s cliche, I can’t think of a better way to figure out more about yourself – not just for young people, for anyone, at any stage – but I must also say for me at least, it leads to many more questions, and worst…OPTIONS!
I don’t believe that you must up and go travelling in order to learn about yourself, but it was the right way for me – those that aren’t in the position to do so, I suspect it just takes more self discipline, awareness and drive, where there’s a will there’s a way after all.
I’ve only been back in the UK for two weeks, so I’m still trying to integrate and process all of the many, many things I have learnt about myself, and life..but I suspect I will be discovering things for years to come.
For now though, here are some of the “surface level” things I have learnt during my time away, in case they can help you at whatever place you’re at in life…
2) travelling light is always the best option. This technically is not something I put into practice, but I can confirm travelling with too much stuff is unnecessarily stressful and useless. I started out with an excess baggage charge with my first flight out to Aus of over £100, so i should have figured it would be an ongoing issue. I dread to think how much my luggage has cost throughout the trip but what I will say is DONT DO IT. It became clear to me that I could have survived on half the stuff, but initially it was such an alien experience I didn’t know where to start…I’d like to think next time I’ll be able to pack much lighter. Though of course, any packing tips much appreciated. For the record a suitcase is an absolute winner in Aus, I had no problems there (except the excessive weight, leading to a broken suitcase within weeks of arriving – all part of the fun, of course), but in Asia it was a real pain in the arse. Anyway, plain and simple – you can always buy essentials if you don’t have them, just take what you really need..you’ll probably wear the same clothes most of the time anyway and you’ll hate whatever you did pack regardless within 3 months. Reducing luggage gives you freedom, let’s you go places easier, with less hassle and it’s much cheaper.
3) I really had never realised how easy it was to travel low cost – I’d done many trips previously but had never considered a hostel or anything like that before. It opens your eyes to what’s possible, the ability to travel more often, to more places on a drastically lower budget and undoubtedly learn and experience more along the way. I suspect I’ve spent in 3 weeks what I could happily make do for 2 months, even longer in Asia! The hostel I stayed at in India was £3.30 a night..A NIGHT. And it was actually nice. I ate a full meal for £1. If you’re open to it, there are so many possibilities. Of course Aus is more expensive but there are still options!
4) Distances and travel times are overrated – I used to be put off going somewhere if the travel time was over an hour, having spent 10+ hours on a bus (in fact buses, plural)… as long as you are travelling consciously and making the most of the time – whether that’s catching up on sleep, enjoying the landscapes or learning something.
5) spending money on experience, not things is much more valuable. I used to prioritise buying things – handbags, shoes, make up, clothes. Whatever, just anything and everything – returning to boxes and boxes of “stuff” made me feel sick at how much I’d accumulated. I think part of it came from a place of unhappiness – filling the void in whatever way felt easiest, ie shopping, but regardless spending time living out of a suitcase, with very little (though I might add, more than I’d like) and surrounding myself with incredible experiences allowed me to realise how little I actually need or want, and how much more important it is to invest in experiences. Something I hope will stick with me for the rest of my life, and I don’t mean I will never shop again – i will just have a more balanced perspective knowing the equivalent value, not buying things for the sake of it or out of a place of unhappiness.
6) travelling solo is knowhere near as scary as I thought, and there are so many people doing the same. Before I left the U.K. people kept asking how I felt about it and the truth was I just didn’t think about it – so I was neither excited, nor scared, I didn’t want to because I didn’t want to put myself off going! Once I arrived in Aus though it soon became clear that there were so many others travelling solo, and for me, meant I could have the freedom I needed (I love spending time in my own company sometimes, and doing what I want to do, when I want to do it), but also the possibility to meet people along the way. It really was the best of both worlds.
7) it’s easier than I expected to keep active without a gym. I have always been an active person, but oftentimes I have also been a member of a gym. When you’re travelling it’s almost impossible to get to the gym regularly, because you’re constantly on the move, and for me at least making time for the gym was definitely not a priority. Instead I learnt how to keep active on my own time, integrating into the day – hiking to explore the area, early morning workouts in the fresh air, or the beach, ocean swims, beach walks, outdoor gyms, hiring a bike, snorkelling, beach yoga. paddle boarding, surfing, dancing on a night out, carrying your suitcase (especially when the wheels break, or when there’s no lift and the hostel room is on the 5th floor) the list is truly endless. But just know that even walking from place to place makes the world of difference – instead of getting an uber, tuk tuk or whatever – try to walk, it’s not that often that you’re time restrained when you’re travelling so why not make the most of it? And see a bit more of the country whilst you’re at it (though maybe not after dark, or in certain areas, of some countries – using common sense all part of it).
8) exploring is free, most of the time anyway. Something I hadn’t appreciated is how little you have to spend to explore an area, yes some things cost but so much is free. Again, it opens doors to low cost travelling and accessibility.