Today marks six months since I boarded that flight at Heathrow, feeling a bit tiddly from all the wine I had to drink just to calm my nerves and stop me getting emotional when looking at all the lovely messages you guys were sending me. Six months. I can't believe that's all it has been - it feels like a lifetime ago that I had my passport and ticket clasped in my hand as I made my way to the departure gate. So much has happened since then, I've seen and done so much, met so many amazing people, fallen madly in love with places, moments and incredible characters I've met along the way. Life will never be the same again. It's as simple as that, so much has happened that it is impossible for me to go back to the person I was and the life that I lived before and I'm so glad because I have built a whole new life out of my backpack. It might get annoying at times to live out of a bag and never have my own space, but I wouldn't give this up for anything. This is freedom and real happiness - even when times were tough. And boy, have they been tough. Travelling has nearly killed me on more than one occasion - there was a point when I wondered if Asia had it in for me, if my travelling luck was up - but I persevered and saw it through, and I'm stronger than ever because of it. And even though it might sound cheesy, I've never felt as alive as I have for the last six months.
There's something about being stranded in the middle of the Cambodian countryside after your minibus has been run off the road that is character building. I've always felt that it is only when things all go wrong that your true character shows and is tested, well mine has been forced out time and time again and I've dealt with and overcome all sorts now. I'm pretty proud of that because it has shown me just how capable I am and how much I can cope with. Knowing how much I have survived to reach this point, makes it all the more of a meaningful and incredible experience because I have really worked for it. Travelling hasn't just been handed to me on a plate, I worked five jobs to get here, I nearly didn't make it to my 25th birthday.. But as Elton would say, I'm still standing. A month ago, I turned 25, a big milestone and the first since I was at university - it really made me think about how much I have achieved since turning 21 and about how much my life has changed. To all those who think they need to have it figured out at 21, guess again. I'm 25 and I still don't know where my life is going, but the not knowing makes it pretty exciting.I wrote a post months ago about how travelling doesn't really change you as a person, it actually just brings out the person you were always supposed to be. Throwing off the shackles of society and "normal" life can really free you from fulfilling someone else's expectations and I still stand by that post. Six months later and I am more myself than ever before, I really am the happiest I've ever been and that shines out of me 24 hours a day. I remember a friend I made during my final days in Bangkok - he paid me the nicest compliment I have heard in a long time. He said, "you've got that glow, you know when you can just tell someone is having the time of their life?" He caught me totally by surprise with that one, but he was right, I see it in the faces of other travellers, the happiness that pours out of them like sunbeams and makes them beautiful in their own unique way. Getting away from life in the UK has been the best thing I could have done, I'm finally free to be completely myself without the stresses of work taking over my life. Now it's all about what makes me happy on a day-to-day basis - spending time with people who make me laugh until my tummy aches, doing things that make me shriek with excitement, and making memories that still bring a smile to my face months after.
It's not just that, the whole way I think has changed. Travelling has opened me up to a world where you can travel and work as a lifestyle, not just as a hobby. Meeting inspiring travellers has made me realise how easy it is to work abroad and to raise enough money to keep going and living this way. I've met some amazing individuals who have kept travelling by applying for work travel visas in different countries after each other, others have been teaching or au pairing around the world, and others have found themselves working their way from place to place filling in seasonal jobs, just chasing the sun. I never realised before quite how easy it would be to keep going. I think I may have mentioned it before but I have already extended my trip from January to May, and will now hopefully be visiting Fiji, Indonesia and LA as well as Australia and New Zealand. Every day my plans are developing and growing, and I'm so excited by how they are constantly changing - it's the prospect of the new adventures awaiting that I simply can't ignore. So bring on the next 12 months and all the amazing experiences that are just waiting around the corner.
Have you ever had a life changing trip? Where did you go, and how did it affect you? Do you know of other ways to keep travelling around the globe full time?
Yesterday marked an official milestone ahead of my travels. My resignation was finally officially passed over to the big bosses (I handed it in a month early to help give them time to replace me before Christmas) - so that means there's really no going back now. Not that there was even a chance of me cancelling. My leaving party is on the horizon, I'm planning in lots of visits to see people before I go and I'm making sure I fill my boots with all those yummy Christmas foods in case I'm not back by next Christmas. It's all starting to become a bit real now and I can't quite believe how little time I have left at work - by the time you read this I will have just four Mondays left on the job! Everyone in the office is really excited for me, they're all counting down for me as well. It's such an amazing feeling to know how hard I've worked and for how long, and to now finally see that light at the end of the tunnel - that tropical sunlight beaming down at me. I've got just one more round of jabs left and everything else is finally falling into place, my plans are made and I've even started organising my travel wardrobe. So I thought it was about time I gave you guys an update on my plans for travelling:
My trip kicks off on January 6 when I fly out to Bangkok. After a couple of days sightseeing, shopping and eating in the city, I will head to the beaches and islands off south Thailand. Of course I'll be taking in the standard backpacker route via Ko Pha-Ngan, Ko Samui, Krabi and Ko Phi-Phi. I'm looking forward to a lot of time spent snorkelling, swimming and pretending to be a mermaid. I'm meeting some friends when I arrive, so I'm sure there will be a lot of partying and fun to be had - the perfect way to start the new year if you ask me, and I'm looking forward to starting my trip with a bang. I'll be spending a month and a half covering this ground, then for a complete change of pace, and to get my visa renewed, I'll be heading to Vietnam for two weeks where I plan to travel as much of the country as possible - a LOT of food will be consumed here and I'm looking forward to visiting Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Halong Bay looks beautiful and I would love to go on one of the river tours.
When I head back to Thailand, I'm heading straight to Chiang Mai in the North, where the experience of a lifetime awaits me. I have booked to spend a week volunteering at an elephant sanctuary where I will be caring for, feeding and bathing elephants for the week. It is a dream come true to get to do this and I am beyond excited. I've not even set out yet and already I know this will be a highlight of the trip for me! My week there will be followed by another week or two in Chiang Mai, followed by a trip further north to Pai. I'm really looking forward to Pai - I know already from everything I have read and seen of the place that it is definitely somewhere I will be wanting to stay for a while. The next leg of my journey will be to visit Laos for a week or two spent relaxing, taking in the scenery, visiting temples and dolphin spotting. After Laos, I'll be heading to central Thailand, particularly the national parks and Sukhothai Historical Park. And then I might give myself some more time in Bangkok before heading to Cambodia for a few weeks for another huge highlight of my trip. I'm planning on staying at a yoga, meditation and health retreat for 10 days where I will be trying out a vegan diet, will be visiting the Cambodian temples, spending a bit of time just looking after myself and treating myself to a few massages. I'm really looking forward to this part of the trip and I'm pleased that there will be opportunities for me to explore the country further. I'll have to head back to Thailand to catch my flight to Oz for the next leg of my journey - at the moment I plan for this to be around May but that is open to change.
Australia is very unplanned at the moment, but I know I have a lot of friends to meet and catch up with - plus I have several people coming out to meet me for stages of my trip here so it's going to be a busy few months! I'm planning to travel around as much of the country as possible, and I'm hoping my friends will be quite scattered so I can use them as a guide for my travels. I'm really looking forward to checking out the surfing - my goal is to learn to stand up on a surfboard without help. I'm also looking forward to spending some time in the cities, particularly Melbourne, and of course the beaches - Bondi looks amazing! And I do have a little dream in the back of my mind of doing a bit of a Golden Coast road trip, but I'll definitely need some friends to keep me company. I haven't decided yet if I will need to work while I am in Oz - I will assess my funds along the way and will see if I want to pick up some more cash. I had planned for three months there, but I already know I'll be extending it to at least four months.
In New Zealand, I will again be visiting a few people, old family friends, but I'm also looking forward to having some time to myself to explore. I haven't got a plan yet, but I've definitely got a few things I really want to do - like visiting the glow-worm caves, whale and dolphin spotting, I would love to see the Southern Lights, I fancy a lot of outdoor activities, so more surfing, walking and climbing would be good. While I'm in NZ, I've also decided that I simply have to get a flight and go to Fiji, no matter how much it costs me. It just looks like paradise and I think I need a little taste of heaven. I have an idea in my head that if I can find a job in Oz or NZ to raise some more cash - I would love to raise enough to stay the full year and to fly back to Australia for new year to watch the fireworks at Sydney Harbour before catching my flights back to the UK via Dubai on January 6. Whew. Quite a trip huh?
I'm still researching places and working out my exact route, so if you have any suggestions or advice, please do leave a comment!
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