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?
An extra post for you guys today because we're celebrating! Huge news for those who haven't seen on Facebook, Twitter or heard me shouting with excitement from the rooftops in Vietnam. On Friday night, AbsolutelyLucy.com won the highly commended award in the travel blogging section. My blog was shortlisted among ten or so, chosen out of around 30,000 thanks to your votes and support, and now has been named one of the best out of this incredible collection of writers. To say I'm bowled over is an understatement. I'm completely overwhelmed by it because it had never actually entered my head for a second that I stood a chance against these other amazing blogs. I love my blog, you guys love it, but I didn't realise that was enough to make these highly experienced judges feel the same way. It has been such a boost to know that you guys are enjoying my posts and pictures, that you love reading about my experiences as much as I love writing about them, so to know that industry professionals have enjoyed them also is amazing. I'm so proud to say that less than six months after I started travel blogging my blog is considered a success and worthy of note.
It is only a year and a half since I started out on this little venture, as a lifestyle blogger, which at the time was more of a hobby than anything else. Now it has become a huge part of my life and I love it, every second of it. From capturing every moment - the food I eat, the things I see and do, the people I meet - I love thinking about how you will experience the world through my senses. To writing, expressing how I felt about a place and what I loved and my new passions that have formed along the way. And more than any of it, I love the interaction, when you guys say a post has touched you or meant something to you, when others say they are living vicariously through me and when I then inspire others to travel solo or to explore the places I have been. It is amazing, all of it, and I'm so grateful to those who inspired me to start blogging and to those who have encouraged me along the way. I've come a long way since I was Friday's Girl, writing a weekly column in the local newspaper about my time at university - drunken nights out and all - but I hope you are enjoying my work more than ever before!
Sadly I didn't get to celebrate last night as I spent 17 hours on a sleeper bus eating mountains of fruit with my friend Paul, but I'm sure we'll make up for it with a few beers at our next destination! If you're cracking open a bottle of wine tonight, have a glass for me!
As usual, if there is ever anything you would like me to write about, any requests, anything you would like my opinion on, or you would like advice on travelling Asia or travelling solo - I'm always at the end of an email. You can contact me through the contact panel to the right of this post or through my Facebook and Twitter pages.