It's my birthday tomorrow. I've celebrated a lot of birthdays with friends lately and while some have been ecstatic start the year ahead, others have approached their milestone with trepidation and dread of getting older. It's different for everyone and so many can't stand the thought of getting older, of creeping closer and closer to the big 3-0. I've never understood this, I love celebrating my birthday and being with all my friends and family, I love celebrating all I have achieved in the previous years and getting excited for all that is yet to come. This one feels like a particularly special birthday because not only does it mark two-and-a-half years travelling solo but after being ill for my birthday last year it feels like it should be a double celebration!
These past three years have quite seriously been the best years of my life - you know when you're 18-21 and everyone says make the most of every second because these are your best years? Well I couldn't disagree more. Yes, 18-21 was a lot of fun and I will never forget those years, but if you ask me, my years just get better with age. My priorities are different, I'm capable and know exactly what I want out of life. I have disposable income and complete financial independence, I have goals, I have a business I have created out of nothing. Much as those years were special in their own way, I was only just starting to become the person I am now, but if you ask me, it was the events that happened in my mid-twenties that really turned me into the woman I am today.So many people fear getting older but if you ask me, we just get better, wiser, more creative, interesting and vibrant as individuals as we grow and change. Sometimes when travelling I go through phases where I'll be spending a lot of time with younger first-time travellers and I will feel the difference in our ages. But instead of feeling like the old gal who should have settled down by now, instead I feel like celebrating because I have so much more freedom than these travellers. I have finished my studies, I've set up an online business that will support my travels around the world, I have no-one to tell me what to do and I am in control of my own life. I am a traveller who has seen over 30 countries in my life and I have no plans to stop just yet - while this life may not be forever, it is for now and I'm a very lucky girl to have taken it on in the way I have.
So while I will be spending this weekend celebrating with the amazing friends I have made at my hostel in Perth, thousands of miles away from home where I spent my last birthday, my heart will be with all the amazing people whose support has helped get me to this point of my life. I couldn't have done it without any of you. But in true Absolutely Lucy style, I'll be drunk as a skunk at a bush rave somewhere this weekend before setting off on my outback adventure up the West Coast next week. A pretty perfect way to celebrate if you ask me - I may be getting on a bit but I'll always be a party girl at heart so it seems only right to enjoy the day before setting out on the trip of a lifetime.
I wasn't very excited for my birthday. Now if you know me well, you'd know that's pretty odd for me, I'm the sort of girl who likes to celebrate her birthday by going big with all the people I love, I'm the sort of girl who likes to stretch out her birthday for weeks and even months. So for me to not be excited for my birthday, that was a bit strange. My birthday fell a week after I was due to arrive back in the UK after 18 months of travelling the globe - a year ago I was celebrating in Melbourne with good friends and without knowing, in the place I would come to love the most in Australia. I had a birthday/leaving party in Melbourne the weekend before I flew which was amazing - everyone dressed up in shit shirts and celebrated with me in my flat in Melbourne - two incredible friends I met in Asia even flew over from Adelaide especially for the party. I couldn't have been more touched by the amazing turnout and the effort people went to, it really showed me what incredible friends I have found since travelling, and especially in Melbourne. So returning home and leaving that all behind has been hard, I'm not great with goodbyes and it kind of put a damper on my excitement for celebrating.For the first time in my life, I woke up feeling completely unexcited about my birthday. Not a feeling I'm used to, but I think the fact that it was supposed to be a day of celebration really highlighted that some people who really mean the most to me were on the other side of the globe and wouldn't be here to share the day with me. It's one of the hard parts of coming home from travelling, suddenly you feel a world away from the people who have been your entire world for the last few months. But I'm not a girl to sit around feeling sorry for myself, so instead I got up and made a delicious batch of fluffy pancakes. Then the messages started rolling in, and the phone calls and the texts... It was overwhelming to see how many amazing people both here in the UK and scattered cross the world, in Asia, Australia, Europe and even South America took the time to message me and wish me a happy birthday. People I hadn't spoken to in almost a year were messaging to find out how my travels were going, or to see how I was celebrating the day. Again, the effort people went to really touched my heart and made me realise how lucky I am to have made such incredible friends with such amazing humans since I've been travelling.Not just since I've been travelling, but far beyond that, the people I've known since I was a little girl, the people I've grown up with and the people I've studied alongside.It turned my day around, hearing from so many wonderful people on this day and made me realise how lucky I am to have made so many amazing connections in my life. How lucky I am to be so loved. So many float through life and miss out on so many opportunities for friendship and love, I feel so grateful that I have found so many throughout my life and to constantly be surrounded by so much love. I'm so astonished by some of the longest standing and greatest friendships I've found - many of them were ones I expected to fizzle out as our paths separated and headed in different directions. So many of these friendships have been the most unexpected and perhaps that's what makes them so precious to me, the fact that they could have so easily been missed along the way. I'm the kind of girl who falls hard for people, whether it's relationships or friendships - if I feel that spark with someone I'll very quickly make them a huge part of my life. It's meant that I've been hurt in the past by people who took advantage of that, but it doesn't mean I'll ever give it up. If you ask me, the only way you ever discover those real friendships - the ones you'd do anything for - and the relationships that really touch your soul, is to fall hard and hope they catch you.So now, as I sit here on the evening of my birthday with a belly full of Greek barbecue and prosecco, with the long weekend stretching ahead of me, I'm reenergised and ready to celebrate. A weekend filled with some of the most precious souls in my life and celebrating everything we have accomplished. My past 18 months of solo travel and everything I have experienced along the way, for my friends it's new studies, apartments, houses, relationships and even engagements. After so long apart, its more important than ever to take a long hard look at how far we have come. I know so many people are funny about getting older, about getting closer to 30. Well I'm officially 26, closer to 30 than I've ever been and yet instead of feeling like it's something to dread, I want to celebrate every single moment, every thrilling moment of the years that have led me to this point. The passion, the bravery, the fearlessness and the jokes that have kept me laughing and happy to my very core. Even the moments that made me lose my breath, the moments that scared me beyond belief, the moments I thought I wouldn't come back from, every single one brought me to this point of my life. And if that isn't worth celebrating, I don't know what is. So with that, let's raise a glass - to everything I've survived so far and to all you angels who have pushed me to keep on going. I can't thank you enough.
For some people, birthdays are a horrible reminder of what they don't want to think about - all those trips they didn't take, the things they didn't achieve and how little time they have to make their dreams a reality. Personally I just can't understand these people, I don't understand how anyone wouldn't be excited to celebrate their birthday and all the wonderful things they have accomplished since the last one. I can't help but love birthdays - a chance to celebrate your awesomeness with the people you love - it sounds pretty amazing to me. So I've always been the sort of person who likes to organise a big do with lots of friends and family - I usually end up having about three separate celebrations with different people just because I see it as a good excuse to spend time with my favourites. Yeah it sounds a bit like I'm spoilt, and lucky me I am, spoilt to have so many amazing friends and family that I want to spend time with eating cake every May. So it was a bit of a strange feeling to be approaching my 25th birthday, a pretty big milestone if you ask me, knowing that not only would I be moving to a different continent but I would be having to make all new friends and find something special to celebrate with.My birthday marked a week after my move from Asia to Australia and I was excited to see how I would spend the big day. After spending a hectic week exploring the city, making some amazing friends in my hostel and partying in what felt like every bar in the city, one of my friends was planning to head to Melbourne where she was expecting to live and work for her last month in the country. Another friend booked us flights and before we knew it we were jetting off for a few days in Melbourne for my birthday! This gave me a great chance to visit a friend I met back in Thailand and to explore the city I'm already beyond excited to return to next January to live and work. I love Sydney, but I really love Melbourne and this trip gave me a great taste of what my life will be like there. While there we walked around the city centre listening to the amazingly talented buskers, we explored Brunswick St, went out near Fitzroy St and even squeezed in a visit to St Kilda beach. We did pretty well to see so much in just a day and a half and after we were done in the city, we headed out into the countryside to visit another friend and stay with him for a house party full of really talented musicians who spent the night playing for us.I think this was probably the least planned and organised birthday I have ever had which probably fits really well with my new life and shows how much I've changed over the last six months. It's really interesting to look back on my birthday last year - even though I had an amazing time partying at a festival with an old friend - generally I was much unhappier then. My life was full of stress and worry as I tried to figure out what my next move should be and I couldn't keep up with the demands I was placing on myself. The moment when I decided what I wanted to do, that I wanted to leave and travel, was the single most freeing moment in my life and it completely changed how I felt about the situation. It was suddenly so much more manageable and I felt like I could deal with it all, one step at a time. Now I can't imagine ever going back to a life like that, travelling has opened me up to so many new opportunities and has changed the way I think about the future. A year ago my future was confused and uncertain, now it is wide open and pretty bloody exciting. If that's not a reason to celebrate then I don't know what is! So here's to the last 25 years - each more epic than the last - and to being the happiest I have ever been. Bring on the next quarter of a century!
Birthdays - love them or hate them? Do you have a big celebration like me or prefer something a bit more low key? Have you been to Melbourne - what's your favourite place there?
You were supposed to be reading a completely different post today from My time in Vietnam, but just a few hours ago I sat in the lobby of my hostel thinking about how amazingly everything had just fallen into place and how I was about to embark on a whole new adventure. It seemed only right to mark this moment with a special post on how far I've come and how much further I have left to go! Many of you wonderful people have been following, supporting and cheering me on since January when I set out on the trip of a lifetime, planning to spend a year travelling around Asia, Australia and New Zealand, and I'm so happy you've come along for the ride. Others have joined us along the way, either after we met somewhere in Asia or you just stumbled across my blog and happened to like it - but all have been so welcome. Today marks the end of my Asia adventure and I'm finding it really hard to believe my time on this amazing continent has come to a temporary end - I say temporary because quite frankly I can't bare the thought that I wouldn't be here again in the future! It's been an amazing five months and I don't think I've ever been as happy as I have while travelling Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. Even when times were tough and I was robbed or nearly died in horrible crashes - it was still an amazing experience that has helped shape me as a person and has taught me something. I've come to realise I'm more capable than I ever thought I was and for that I can only be grateful.
I sit here with such mixed feelings - on the one hand I'm so sad to leave behind all the amazing people, places and memories I have collected along the way, but on the other hand, the last few weeks have really helped me realise that I have itchy feet and am eager for a new adventure. I never thought this feeling would hit, but I'm ready to close the book on this chapter of my life and start afresh in Australia from tomorrow morning - I'm ready for all the amazing places I'm going to go, the people I'm going to meet and the experiences we'll share along the way. Those of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook will know I've had a rough couple of weeks in Cambodia and I think that really helped me to look at Asia more objectively and to see the things I won't miss. I'm talking squat toilets, cockroaches, sleazy tuk tuk drivers, petty thieves, bed bugs and some really rather questionable food in some places. Of course there is so much I will miss - things like watching the sun rise over a deserted temple, the moment when you get lost and discover the real kindness of the locals, the amazing richness and spice of the food, the entertainment of trying - and failing - to speak the local language, the colours, flavours and smells of the countries, and so much more. So today is a strange day, a day of mourning in many respects mixed with feverish excitement over what is yet to come. I fly tonight and will wake up in the land down under for a fresh start.Again, those of you who follow me on social media may have gathered I was a bit stressed out over the last few weeks after my working travel visa took a while to arrive. Two weeks in fact despite it being supposed to take just five days - it definitely made me nervous and I was bombarding the Australian embassy in Bangkok and the Australian Immigration Department with email after email to find out what the hold up was. Well I never found out what the hold up was, but thankfully when I woke up this morning it had arrived! Thank god, but talk about cutting it fine with just 12 hours until my flight! So to be honest, in my head I kind of hadn't accepted I was flying to Australia today, I was certain I'd have to move my flight, and now it's really happening I just can't believe it. I'm so excited to be surrounded by western culture again, although I think it will be a bit of a culture shock, and I have to be honest and say I can't wait to get working and settle somewhere for a while after a hectic two months blasting through also, Vietnam and Cambodia. At the moment my plans seem to be sticking around in Sydney for a few weeks then heading up to the north and working my way down the east coast with friends but who knows what will happen when I get there! I'm just going to see where the wind takes me and love every second - that's certainly been working for me over the last five months.
One thing I'm pretty excited about is that it is my 25th birthday in just a week - now I know some people get a bit funny about hitting their quarter of a century, but I'm so ready to celebrate. It's a huge milestone in my life and one that marks the end of what easily started out as the hardest and worst year of my life, but which has definitely finished as the best. In the space of 12 months my whole life has changed and it has only done so because I have taken control of my future. I took the initiative to cut out the loose ends, the idiots who were holding me back, and now I'm out travelling the world and living the dream. It's the best decision I ever made and I'm so proud of myself for being one of those people who made it happen instead of just talking about it. If that's not something to celebrate then I don't know what is! I've never felt more ready or more excited to take on the next five years with as much gusto as I have taken on the last 12 months - bring it on and here's to making them even more amazing! You guys can help with that by sticking by my side at every stage of the journey - and if you've been loving my posts then why not cast a quick vote for me in the travel section of the Simply Hike Blogger Awards? There's just one week left to vote and it only takes a second!
Any advice on what to see and do in Sydney? Have you been enjoying reading about my journey - what posts have you loved? How did you feel when you hit the big 2-5?