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?
It's finally starting to sink in. As you're reading this I have just 10 days left at work... and that includes today! I can't believe how fast the time has gone since I handed in my notice, but it really has flashed by. It's certainly been helped along by me still having holiday left over, so even though I have just 10 days left, they are to be scattered over the next two-three weeks. Everyone in the office has been firmly on countdown for me over the last month, they almost seem more excited about it than I do... not sure if I should take offence at that! But it was going to a launch event at the local college on Monday that really made me realise this is actually happening. As I arrived, loads of people came over to wish me well and say good luck on my travels - it seemed so odd to me, because for the longest time this has just been something in my head. Just a passing daydream of something new and exciting, but now it is really becoming a reality.
So with 10 days left at work - what am I doing and what do I have left to do?
1. My countdown starts with those frantic emails out to every contact I have ever had, made, met or spoken to in my time here. I've been trying my best to make sure everyone is aware I am leaving and where they can send emails in the future.
2. Trying to find a replacement for me, and trying to find out what will happen to my entertainment section when I leave.
3. Making sure I get the opportunity to write any stories I have had lurking in the back of my notebook, and to plan in time to write any others I've had in the pipeline.
4. Interviews - I love meeting people and talking to them face-to-face, so I'm trying to make sure I get the chance to do as much of that as possible before I leave.
5. Training others in the office up on the technical side of our system and making sure they all know how to work the website when I leave, as up to this point I have been mainly in control of it.
I won't lie, it's pretty chaotic and I'm starting to worry I won't get time to do everything I want to do before I leave. But then I remind myself it doesn't actually matter if I don't - much as I would love to leave the team with the next four What's On sections ready and waiting:
That is not my responsibility and I can only do my best.
I've also been reminiscing about my most memorable moments at the newspaper - trust me, there's been quite a few! After three years of working here, and loving it, I'll be taking some very fond memories away with me.
I wanted to share some of them with you:
1. My week of work experience - realising I wanted to be a journalist and getting the front page after just five days at the paper.
2. Being asked to take on writing a weekly column for the paper and causing a bit of a stir - I loved the complimentary letters, but the complaints sure gave me a laugh!
3. Being challenged to write about all sorts of topics - from fuel prices to train services, from bomb scares to charity efforts. Plus all the random stories like the cow that escaped from a field, went on a rampage and ended up tearing through someone's living room.
4. Being trusted by all those families to write tributes to their loved ones, particularly those I already had a personal connection with.
5. Taking on control of the entertainment section of the paper and completely turning it around - even doubling it in size after showing how good it could be.
6. Taking on responsibility of managing the website and social media output for the newspaper - a huge role in a company that is all about "digital first" and one I performed very well.
7. Getting to interview the likes of Adam Ant, UB40, Deaf Havana, national production company founders, West End stars, soap stars and many more - for a town in Norfolk, I've done pretty well.
8. Reviewing huge events, festivals, gigs, theatre productions and much more - I have loved every event and will really miss getting to see this cultural side of the town.
9. Working with some amazing PR/Marketing whizzes who have become great friends as well - you guys have made my life a hell of a lot easier and I really enjoyed working with you.
10. Working with all my amazing friends in the office - we've been under a hell of a lot of pressure particularly during the last year, and time and time again we've pulled together and managed to get the paper out. Those outside the office have no idea what work goes on behind the scenes, and we would never have made it through without sticking together. That includes our "rivals" who quite frankly are under just as much pressure as we are.
I can't imagine what my last day will be like in the office. I imagine it will be pretty strange, as I have never actually left a job that I cared about before now. But I don't regret my decision for a second, and I know the whole office are really excited for me to start a new adventure. A huge thanks to the team for everything they've taught me over the years. I will be firmly making the most of these last 10 days in the office.
Have you left a great job behind to move on to other things? How were your final days of work - did you feel happy or sad to be leaving friends and that part of your career behind?