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?