Travel, far and wide, with an open heart

For anyone that has ever known me, you know traveling is my thing. It is the thing that sets my soul on fire. Every time I travel I find out something new about myself. Something I needed to know or something that changes my perspective in an unbelievable way. I urge everyone, young and old, to travel. It is the closest we will every get to living in someone else’s shoes.

I feel I was born to travel, to explore.

From my earliest memory I was fascinated by the wider world. I would watch travel shows with my dad, read the atlas with my mum, and dedicate hours of my young life to memorizing as many sovereign states and capitals as I possibly could. I was fascinated by languages and cultures and how they can be so different yet so geographically close.

I was blessed to have an explorer for a father. Before the age of 12 I had visited South Africa, the USA, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Scotland and Italy. When school friends were off to Skegness for spring break, I was skiing in the Alps or the Rockies. While they were in Benidorm, we were on safari in KwaZulu-Natal. I was that student pulled out of school for vacations. As a teacher I can have my own opinions on that subject, but these trips as a young child taught me things that I could never ever learn in the classroom.

Nothing teaches gratitude like visiting townships in Africa. Seeing with your own eyes how little some have and how they complain not once. Nothing teaches inequality like seeing these townships backed up to 5* glamorous hotels, seeing the rich look through those less fortunate. Add into this being 10 years old and you will never look at the world to same way again.

I was so so fortunate for these experiences. My parents valued these experiences for us over other luxuries. I could not be more grateful.

Travelling was all I ever wanted to do. I was 14 when I seriously started planning and saving for my future adventures. At 14 I had decided that I was not going directly to university, that I wanted to go see the world, meet new people and see what I would learn. Every weekend job, birthday money and any other cash I could get my hands on went into my savings. I had to plan for adventure.

At 17, I went on a volunteer trip to Senegal, West Africa, for community work and French lessons. This organized trip was a great intro to my future travels. My school friends spent the summer drinking in the park, sneaking into clubs and being normal British teenagers. I lived with a Senegalese family, ate Senegalese food, learned local dances and managed to survive solely with my truly horrific French skills.

This trip concreted to me that I needed to see the world.

Two short years later I left for my “gap year”. I, naively, flew from London to Delhi, India. As a 19 year old, snow white, 110 pound girl, I landed in Delhi and thought “holy mother of fuck this is a horrible mistake”. I spent a solid 24 hours in my hotel room, surviving solely on left over plane crackers and Pepsi Max. Luckily, I had booked myself on a G Adventures tour and the following evening met my tour group and Indian guide Manu (who became a good friend). I felt safe and at ease. The following 6 weeks in India were more transformative than I ever could have imagined.

India is a world like know other. It is a complete assault of the senses. It is color and smell and people and sounds and movement, always and everywhere. There is no way to truly describe India.

However, once you’ve experienced India, culture shock becomes a thing of the past.

I continued to travel through South East Asia, Australia, Fiji and visiting the States to see friends I had met on the road. A short sojourn home for Christmas before I headed back to Malaysia to see more of SE Asia (my all time favourite region ever).

This year long trip changed me. I found pieces of myself I never knew I had. I was brave, confident and trusting. I was open minded. I was forced to knock on hotel rooms to find someone to eat dinner with. Forced to decide on life long friendships within days of meeting. I was forced to truly see situations without my cultural judgement and read people truly in the moment, believing that that Laotian guy that offered drunk me a lift home on his motorcycle honestly had my best interests at heart (which he did).

It taught me that people are really, just good.

That without a fine mixture of trust and intuition, I would not have made it. Or at least my journey would have been a lot less fun.

In summer 2014, I took my next extended trip though South America. Here I learned even more about myself. I was not in a good place. I mostly learned that my head was not safe, I was not making the right choices and was in no way making steps to be the best person I could be. Travelling in new countries with new people can also uncover the things we tried to hide.

It was winter 2015 that my mum was diagnosed with cancer. I quit my job, dropped out of school, and moved home to support her. Now that was a tough time. Yet, it was all the things I learned in South America that made it easier (for want of a better word). My escape during this time was my adventures. The USA, Croatia, Finland, Germany, France, Scotland, Ireland. Each place I visit I leave a piece of me and fill it with a piece of who I can become.

I have a need in the pit of my belly that burns solely for adventure. It never goes out. Right now it is calling me. It has been 4 years since I last flew to a strange country with a backpack on my back, an open itinerary and a fire in my soul.

Sometimes I question if it is my inner recklessness that draws me to these experiences? But whatever it is I hope it never dies.

As Mark Twain once said “travel is the enemy of prejudice”. Each time I return home with a mind more open than before and a heart that has exponentially grown. I have experienced the deepest connections in the shortest periods with those I have met on the road. Something about the psyche just binds you together.

My favourite quote of all is “there are no yesterdays on the road”. This soothes my soul. New people, new places. Reinvention can be every day and this does very good things to my anxiety.

From top left: Inca Trail- Peru, Reykjavik- Iceland, Rio de Janeiro- Brazil, Guatape-Colombia, Dubrovnik- Croatia, Split- Croatia, Nashville- TN USA, London- England, San Pedro de Atacama- Chile, Split- Croatia (again), Vientienne- Laos.

Featuring: school friends, family friends, friends of friends, friends from the road, and friends of friends from the road.

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