Can you imagine waking up right next to a beach every single day? Being in a new place every week, or sometimes more often? Constantly moving onto new and unexplored places, making progress on your bucket list you’ve been dreaming about. The idea of travelling the world is an idea most people long for. And I am lucky enough to say I am someone who got to fulfill that wanderlust dream, at the age of only 18.
I honestly don’t even know where to begin. Now one year older, 365 days have passed and I’m sat here in my last hostel of the trip, tears in my eyes, trying to put into words this exhilarating, terrifying, emotional, fabulous year. The prospect of having to pack up my suitcase one last time and leave this beautiful country behind, is looming.
One year ago I took the plunge and booked a one way ticket to Australia in search of something more. I felt the urge to see the world, to see what was out there. I was seeking culture.
I had no idea what I was doing, I didn’t have a plan. It had been a rocky few months with being on top of the world starting my university life, then having my life plan fall to pieces. The only thing I could think of doing was taking some time away to find out what I really wanted to achieve in life; to take some risks, and have a bit of adventure. And I can certainly tell you, I have done just that.
In one year I have managed to cram in two jobs, 30 destinations, and 2 countries. I’ve been selfish, yes. Fleeing everything and everyone back home so suddenly, so I could have a bit of fun. I needed a bit of adventure in life, as I realised I was not content with staying put.
Once I had travelled the East Coast and Melbourne with my friend from home, I couldn’t believe I ever had a slight dislike towards this country. I hadn’t seen any of it’s surreal landscapes, I hadn’t seen it’s beauty. I suddenly knew I wasn’t ready to go home in 6 months, there was so much left I still wanted to experience. So many thrills left to be had.
We were cruising along the beach in a 4WD on Fraser Island. Summer anthems were blasting through the speakers, the windows down and the breeze rippling through our hair. Looking out the window I could see nothing but sand and ocean for miles upon miles. I just had the best 3 days exploring the island, and that was the moment. The exact moment I realised this was now my second home. And that one year here would certainly not be enough.
So I travelled to Malaysia to see another friend, had the most amazing week experiencing another culture, followed by the most stressful return back to Australia. And then I was moving to a farm in the middle of nowhere, hoping to get my 2nd year visa verification. Quite possibly the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but definitely the most rewarding. So with the long and exhausting 88 days FINALLY completed, I was left with the last few months of my visa, knowing it wouldn’t be the end.
Moving onto the next place when you get so attached to the people and their surroundings, is impossibly hard. It sucks not knowing when or if you’re next going to see the people you’ve become to close to ever again. It sucks having to go through the whole same process time and time again, constantly making new friends over and over. Never being fully settled, spending only a couple of days in one place then packing up your bags again.
But that’s the beauty of it all. You are never fully settled. You are constantly exploring a new town with new people, who become part of your travelling family.
It’s the best thing I’ve ever done and its a feeling of freedom I can’t fully describe. You can do what you want when you want. You are on nobody’s time apart from your own. You don’t have to argue with anyone about what you want to do that day if you have differences of opinion. There is nobody you have to ask permission.
But when you’re only staying over at a place for one or two days it’s hard to make friends. Sometimes you arrive late at night so don’t have a chance to meet your roomies for the next day. So there you are, left to occupy yourself. The solo traveller that you committed to being. After all you can’t get upset, this is what you signed up for.
But it is okay to get upset. I mean, I have cried rivers of tears on my travels. I’ve probably been the most emotional I’ve ever been this year. Whether it be missing home, being sick and not being in the comforts of your own home, or just wanting to talk to someone about what you’re feeling. Yes there will always be people back home to listen to you and your problems, but nothing’s quite like a conversation in person. Even if you don’t talk about your problems, having a chat with a real life person… nothing will ever beat that. And there’s nothing quite like a hug from your Mum, which I have 365 to catch up on.
But if you are planning a solo travelling expedition, then I congratulate you because it will be the best time of your life. But don’t expect to not feel low at some point. You will miss home. You will feel lonely every now and then. And you will meet people and get attached to them, then have to say goodbye. And it will break your heart a little…or a lot.
You will have to trust strangers. Trust the people in your hostel, you have no choice. (But that doesn’t mean to say don’t lock your luggage). You just have to trust that everything will work out too.
However, once you’re back out there seeing the sights, you begin to cheer up and realise how damned lucky you are. You are seeing more places in a year than some people see in a lifetime. And when you remember that, you’re back to having the time of your life. Low points don’t last forever, they are just the same feelings as back home only now everything is escalated by however many miles of ocean.
I’ve never been more glad that I booked this. As cheesy and cliche as it sounds, I genuinely feel like a whole new person. I’ve travelled across the world by myself. Travelled to a different country, from an already new country. I’ve had to find a job by myself and generally just keep myself going. My confidence has sky rocketed and I do have travelling solo to thank for that. And I’m so content and comfortable now, I feel I can call Australia my 2nd home.
You will learn who your real friends are on your trip. The ones back home who you spent the whole of high school with? Try and guess how many of them you will still speak to after a year. I can tell you now you will only need one hand. At the time it sucks, yes, but it’s a blessing in disguise.
And you will meet the most incredible people on your travels. Like-minded people who share the same interest as you: wanderlust. I could never imagine that I’d now have friends from so many different places around the world. It’s freakin’ awesome.
Doing a big trip across the world alone makes you stand up for yourself. Again, you don’t have a choice. Quickly, you’ll learn to voice your opinions and if you don’t? People will walk all over you. After all, we’re just “dumb backpackers.” We don’t have “real jobs.”
I am more like an adult now, without actually being an adult. An adult would have all their affairs in order and their life semi-organised. Me? I’m living out a battered 3 wheeled suitcase, hopping on busses from place to place trying to get by with the money in my account. But it takes organisational skills and maturity to travel alone. It’s a big step in life to take, no matter how old you are. You can have worked in a full time job your whole life, and still taking that big trip is on another incomparable scale. It takes courage, and guts. And you have to know this is definitely what you want to do. That you can handle it.
All in all, I recommend a solo expedition to anyone and everyone. I feel it’s something everyone has to experience, even if it’s just for a few weeks. Having to rely on yourself, and only yourself, is a weird but fabulous feeling. And in another part of the world? An even bigger feeling.
There will be bumps in the road, but you’ll get there just the same (only with a good few stories to tell).
Be a story teller. Be the person people say “I wish I did that” to. Be awesome.
We need to see things, we need to have experiences of our own. Build our knowledge and wisdom, so we can pass it on. It’s all about becoming the best you can be. And sometimes that takes leaving everything behind and setting out on the road less travelled to find what and who you are. To become stronger, and a really decent human being.
It’s not always sunshine and beaches, but with views like that… how can you be sad?