Wow, I can't believe 2015 is finally at an end. It's been a hell of a year and I still can't quite believe I didn't dream some of it. It's safe to say, this has been the best year of my life yet and I am happier than I've ever been before - if you knew how I was feeling at the end of last year you'd realise what an incredible change a year has had on my life. I ended 2014 with my life totally up in the air, I'd just quit a good, steady job, I'd put all my money into a plane ticket to the other side of the world, and I'd just broken off a nine year relationship. Pretty dramatic eh? So although I was beyond excited about my plans for travelling across Asia, Australia and New Zealand, I was also questioning whether I had made the right decision, whether I could really do this. Whether I could do this all by myself. I had a bit of a wobble in the airport over a glass of wine when I read all the amazing messages of support from friends and family, but then I realised it didn't even matter if it all went tits up - I had the best people at home to pick up the pieces. Knowing that gave me all the strength I needed to realise it would all be fine and I was going to have an incredible adventure. So that was exactly what I did. In just five days it will be a year since I boarded that plane and set out on the trip of a lifetime, which should have been ending in just a few days but instead is still going strong with no real end in sight.
In the last 12 months I've been through so much - I've met the most incredible people and seen the most beautiful things, I've stayed up all night to watch the sunrise in the most amazing places, I've faced my own mortality and I've realised so much about myself and what I want out of life. It sounds cheesy, but getting away from life as I knew it has really taught me a lot about the way I want to live my life and it definitely doesn't fit into any boxes society has carved out for me. The last 12 months has been about breaking all the rules, setting new ones and living the dream. Looking back, all the pain leading up to my decision to travel was more than worth it now because it led me to this part of my life and I wouldn't trade this for the world. I've never felt freer and being trapped at home while I raised the cash to come and do this was totally worth it because I have appreciated every second since then all the more. I feel so incredibly proud of myself for doing this all alone - it's the first time I've done anything truly independent of friends, family and a boyfriend so that is a huge achievement and it has been the biggest boost to my confidence. I know now that if I can survive a year of travelling solo and not only smash it, but have the most incredible time, then I can do anything!
I've done so many amazing things in the last year; from racing round Bangkok in tuk tuks to trekking through jungle to waterfalls, I've volunteered with elephants and gone hill tribe trekking in Northern Thailand, I've partied insanely hard down on the Thai islands and eaten copious amounts of curry and pad Thai. I've swam through caves and kayaked out on a lake in the centre of a 180 million year old rainforest at sunrise, I've hiked up to a temple to watch the sun rise over Phuket, I've bartered at markets and lived my days in tie-dye, I've clung to my friend as we raced around on motorbikes and persuaded friends not to ride elephants. I've spent two days on a slow boat to Laos singing annoying songs, I've swam through waterfalls pretending to be a mermaid, I've gone bowling in weird places in Laos and been tubing with a load of nut cases as we drank our way down the river bars and created chaos. I've fallen in love with Vietnam from the history to the food, I've been on cycling tours, visited waterfalls, worked out on the beach, explored markets, had clothes made for me, abseiled down waterfalls and jumped off cliffs.I've seen the beauty in rural Cambodia and the genuine kindness of the locals, I've been healed by yoga, meditation and the beautiful people around me, I've been pampered and massaged by experts, I've learnt all about a history I never knew happened and I've watched the sun rise over Angkor Wat. I've celebrated my 25th birthday surrounded by friends old and new in a brand new country, I've realised what Australia has to offer, I've seen cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Darwin and I've travelled for two months with another person. I've seen what the East Coast has to offer; I've 4WD around Fraser Island, I've swam with sea turtles on Whitsundays and been white water rafting, I've kayaked with dolphins, surfed in Byron Bay and been whale spotting, I've cuddled a koala and fed a kangaroo. I've found the best travelling family a girl could ever ask for and spent three months partying and raving my heart out with the best friends you could find. I've experienced the outback in Darwin and seen the Northern Territory. I've travelled solo across the country to live in the bush and work alone for three months.
Don't get me wrong, it hasn't all be amazing - there have been rough bits too. But as one of my best friends always says, "you take the rough with the smooth". There have been times I've been scared and felt horribly alone, when it's all gone wrong and I didn't know what to do. I've been robbed by taxi drivers and had to punch my way out of an argument, I've had to look after more than one friend after they were attacked in the most unlikely places, I've had to look after another friend when all of her money was stolen out of her bank account by someone we thought we could trust, and I've faced my own mortality three times. It's not all smiles and sunlight when you travel and in particular those three serious crashes left me pretty shaken up. Until that point I think I always thought in the back of my mind that everything would be okay and that I was invincible but suddenly I realised that it could all come to an end quicker than you can say bye. But all of these experiences have taught me quite how important it is to live every second like it's your last. I always have done anyway, but now it seems even more important than ever. I've realised that even when you're thousands of miles away from your friends and family that there are people, good friends you meet along the way, who will come drop everything and come running to save you. And most importantly, I've learnt how to save myself and not rely on anyone else to do it for me.
2015 has been a year of growth, a year of triumph and success. I've never been prouder of myself for all I've achieved, and I've never been more excited about what the future holds. I've already changed my plans countless times and instead of heading home in a few days like I was supposed to, I'm staying in Australia to keep living the dream. I've already made travel plans for the following 18 months and I can't wait to start living them. Instead of being the end of an incredible year and the beginning of reality kicking in, I've made this my reality and it feels like just the beginning of another incredible adventure. It might be egocentric but I don't really care, this last year has shown me how amazing, strong and brave I am and it seems only right that someone who possesses these qualities would want to take on the world - so I shall. Thank you all for being with me every step of the way and I hope you'll be sticking around for the long haul as we've got a long way left to go!