We’ve been travelling now for a year. It was one year ago that we packed up our lives in England and got on a plane to the other side of the world. We’ve experienced our first Christmas abroad, our first birthdays away from our family and friends. We celebrated our first wedding anniversary 12 hours early.
Travelling does change you, that much is undeniable. But until you are travelling for yourself, you never know just what those changes will be. In this blog post, I (Kez) will be sharing a more personal side than you will have seen in our previous posts.
This is a blog post about reflection, gratitude, and growth.
This is a letter to my pre-travel self.
It’s been one year since you got on a plane to try something new in a country you’d never visited before. One year since those bittersweet goodbyes at Gatwick Airport, where you were nothing but excited until you had to say goodbye and walk away from your dad at departures. Strangely enough, I’m not sure whether that feels like a lifetime ago, or that it just happened last week. The discomforting feelings of sadness and loss mixed with uncertainty and anticipation feel just as real now as they did then.
The first thing that struck you about Australia was the vastness of the sky. Coming in to land in Perth in time for sunset, it felt as though the plane was perched on top of the entire globe. Cloaks of orange and pink stretched off into the distance for what honestly looked like an eternity. Everything was bigger: the ocean, the roads, the Milky Way. Those first few weeks were an endless journey of childlike fascination as you rediscovered the world. Everything was beautiful again, and so worthwhile.
It would be over-dramatic to say that you were running away from something. You weren’t. You brought everything you needed with you on your journey. There was nothing at home that was driving you to distant shores, on a clichéd voyage of self-discovery. In fact, you were still very much living in a blissful newlywed state, which I guess is a cliché in its own right. But we’ll let that one slide.
Life wasn’t quite starting afresh, but there was something stale about your life before which you could never quite pinpoint. You’d dreamed about travelling for almost a decade, but convinced yourself that it wasn’t the right time; you needed to get into university; had to secure a graduate job as soon as that mortarboard was out of the picture. You needed to tick all the boxes of what you thought it meant to be successful. But did you ever stop and wonder who defined your success for you? What standards were you holding yourself up against, and for what reward?
As a child, you were what some people would describe (mainly affectionately, sometimes not) as ‘precocious’. Whilst singing your praises academically, school reports would note that you were at times bossy, demanding, and manipulative towards those around you. Your desire to have everything in order and everyone prescribing to your carefully outlined rules and expectations followed you as you grew up. You were always in the top set for classes. At university, you were one of about 15 in your subject year group to graduate with first class honours. You landed your first ‘proper’ job a week after graduating, and bought a place of your own the week you turned 23. You were following your meticulously organised 1, 3, 5, and 10 year plans you kept in a notebook on your bookshelf.
But by the age of 21, you felt anything but successful, happy, and full of life. By the age of 22, you had been in therapy twice for an eating disorder. By 23, you had been prescribed a long term course of anti-anxiety medication. At 25, you started pulling your hair out when you got stressed; a nasty habit that you still can’t quite shake off. You were always convinced people were talking about you behind your back, and plotting to destroy the life you had built. This wasn’t how things were supposed to go. But you were so caught up in achieving that you didn’t care whether you were happy or satisfied or healthy. On paper, you were a star. Behind all that, you were terrified.
After coming dangerously close to landing in therapy for
Your favourite time of day was when you and Sam were both home for the evening, and you could escape into a nest of blankets on the sofa. There was no 5 year plan here. There was no measure of success. Your self-predicted lifepath, although technically still on track, disappeared.
As soon as the unrealistic measuring stick went too, life opened up and the world was new. It was like starting all over again, and being asked as a child what you wanted to do when you grew up. It no longer seemed out of the question to take an open-ended sabbatical to travel the world. And thankfully, Sam agreed.
So you left home for Australia.
Travel has allowed you to loosen your own tight grip on your life, whilst giving you the confidence and clarity to go after what you truly want. It’s forced you to redefine your understanding of things like fear, achievement, and gratitude. For example, fear isn’t caused by intimidating bosses who have lost their moral compass. Fear is caused by being onboard a boat which has run aground 300 meters from the shore in crocodile-infested waters. And knowing that the only way to get back to dry land is to get into the water and walk.
Achievement isn’t making it through another busy day surviving on
Gratitude isn’t the feeling you get when someone else suspiciously ‘decided to leave the company’ overnight, and you know you’re safe in your job for a little while longer. Gratitude is knowing that Sam was just as terrified as you were about getting into the water, but that he held your hand and talked you through each step, each
One year on, you have a stronger sense of what you want to put out into the world, and what you deserve and expect to get back in return. You feel like you matter, like you have something genuine to contribute to the lives of those you care about.
You have a newfound appreciation for sunsets. You’d say one of your favourite pastimes is camping, and when you go home you want to convert your very own campervan with Sam to take on new adventures. You miss English weather and seasons in a way you never thought possible. You ache for the familiarity of your seemingly mundane routine back home, and for the people who keep it from ever really being mundane. And you know that you will never think that home is boring or empty ever again.
All this time, you thought that the people in your life were there out of sheer coincidence, but now you know that they are there for a reason. They want to be there. And so do you.
Even though you aren’t ready to go home just yet, you are looking forward to your eventual return. This surprises you. One year ago today, going home meant giving up and returning to your life as it was before. Now you have plans that are exciting and motivating, and you can’t wait to get started. Life won’t be the same as before, but the elements you want to keep will still be there. Just as the elements you don’t want back, won’t be. You have a sense of control over your life which isn’t stifling, but is empowering instead.
No longer are you just someone else’s worker bee. You run the joint. You are the Queen Bee.
And you’ve fought hard for your crown.