// September 2015 //
”The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.” C JoyBell C
Time changes everything in life, and we know it is something that once gone can never be recaptured. Spending an extended amount of time on the road gives you different perspectives on just about everything you could imagine.
21 months into my time away and with my flight booked home in 10 days I’ve reflected on what has changed since I left London. Situations with friends and family have proved time and time again that so much alters as the days go by. Here’s 16 changes plus 14 tips that fellow travellers will relate to;
- Leaving Home
The day you leave for the first time becomes your greatest excitement, greatest fear, greatest mix of emotions and you count the weeks down long in advance. Everything points towards that flight you cannot wait to board. Your last days before you fly blur into one.
Looking back on your time before leaving you realise you were kind of wishing your life away – maybe you should have appreciated the snatched time with your family and friends that little bit more as you didn’t know when you would see them again. Easy to say in hindsight … at the time your whole being was caught up in leaving.
At first you want to meet as many people as you can, you have time for everyone and want to know their ”traveller life story”. ”Where have you been?”, ”Where are you going next?” are questions you engage in a lot.
You were warned that you would tire of meeting new ‘friends’ all the time but you didn’t think that would happen – you’re a ”people person”, more so now after the travelling yo have done. As time goes on it becomes more of a need than a want to discuss the same topics with everyone you meet. You keep doing it though, knowing full well that the next person you encounter could be one of the best people you chance across on your entire trip.
Each day brings a new sense of ”Wow!” in the early stages of your trip, you see beauty in everything. It’s just so different to anything you’ve known before and you appreciate everywhere you go.
The more places you visit, the more things which once amazed you become ”The norm”. The sparkle dims down a little but you still love what you’re doing, you just become more accustomed to experiencing wonders of our world.
Tip: If you begin to feel a bit stagnant with where you are, remember what you loved about it when you first arrived. Focus on the fact that once you’ve left you may never return – appreciate every day.
In the beginning ”Work” became a foreign word, it was something you left behind, something you used to do, something your family and friends kept soldiering on through at home. The only ‘work’ you are interested in applying yourself to is your day-to-day experiences. Volunteering for something you are really interested in supporting or pushing shifts at an island bar in exchange for accommodation is about as far you’ll go.
During your travels you are given endless opportunities that you would never be able to do at home. Even if similar roles existed back there they just wouldn’t compare on many levels and you wouldn’t consider them. Would you live in a motel in the middle of nowhere to save money? Would you work weekends in a minimum wage job just to keep yourself afloat? Doubtful.
When you begin to take on ”real” jobs, like you possibly would do back home (office based / construction / unsociable hospitality hours) it starts to hit you that you really are ”working abroad”. But you still want to feel free and unless you land a job you really enjoy your mind constantly drifts to places you’ve been or where you hope to go next.
Initially it doesn’t bother you too much because this is the first time you’ve had money coming into your bank account for a long time. But as weeks tick by in many cases you resent your job and find you should have perhaps chosen more wisely as to what you signed up for for 3 to 6 months. The money keeps you going but at the same time you feel restricted – it can be hard to fit into ”real life” away from home.
Tip: Choose your roles carefully. If you’re not certain it’s right for you but you want to give it a go make sure you have a short contract / casual basis agreement where you can leave if you’re not happy without upsetting anyone … You may want a reference one day.
5. Your Perspective On Money
”What is money?” A phrase me and my friends used oh so often during the first 6 months of my trip. With savings in the bank money wasn’t an issue. It’s all rainbows and unicorns until your money starts to dwindle.
As funds wear down, and they do at an alarming rate (yes, even in Asia!) you need to consider changing your habits. But the problem is things are just so cheap you find you do them twice or you book one ”must do” and can’t resist what Jim from the Reggae Bar told you was ”the best experience ever” too. You eventually realise that money doesn’t (contrary to popular belief) grow on trees. You need to start thinking twice before spending.
Tip: Get a credit card. Not one for whacking everything on and becoming a massive debt on your back but one for emergencies only. Used wisely they can come in very handy and save you in your hour of need. Family might rescue you once or twice but you can’t expect them to bail you out all the time.
6. The Moment Vs The Memories
You get lost in everything you do, every day feels like fantasy. If something ”bad” happens you don’t care because you are living it. You haven’t got time for much else apart from your plans with the people you are with. As long as you’re all laughing every day that’s all that matters.
Looking back 6 months down the line – you have few photos, a handful of videos and a couple of flight ticket stubs shoved in your backpack somewhere. After losing my phone in the first week of my trip I didn’t buy another one for 5 months. I did all my time in South East Asia pretty much without a camera. I had my iPad but that was never going to be handy to take out all the time. Now as a I write and look back on experiences gone by I wish I had recorded more of my trip.
Tip: Take a cheap camera with you when possible. Back up everything regularly incase you lose it. Be that person – capture the moments to treasure forever.
Your family love you, there’s never been a question of that. When you first leave they worry like mad and expect you to keep in touch as often as possible. Things settle over time once they realise you’re managing to get through each day in one piece.
As time goes on you miss out on more and more back home. Be prepared for the ”What has being away got that home hasn’t?” and ”When are you coming back?” questions. This is surely natural – even though you may be away for a long time, no one wants you to stay gone forever.
Tip: Do your best to keep in regular contact, don’t miss birthdays or special occasions and always let your loved ones know that wherever you are in the world you are there for them if you need you.
Single or in a couple, relationships go through all sorts on the road. Many leave single and return home with a new-found love. Many leave as a couple and return single, it’s all swings and roundabouts. Everyone has a different path and travel tests you in just about every way possible when it comes to ”love”.
Tip: If you’re single on the road, try your best not to rely on anyone to do anything for you in real terms. Everyone wants to have a good time and if you’re not on the same page then brace yourself! If you leave home in a couple, know that you may not return as one. Harsh but true. In reality no one ever knows how things will pan out so just run with whatever makes you feel good at the time.
Leaving home and having no set time to wake up, to go to work, to attend uni, to catch the bus or drive to wherever you normally would on a given day is an amazing feeling at first. You’re footloose and fancy free. Living your life by a date and time quickly becomes a thing of the past. Through my months in South East Asia the amount of people who didn’t know the day or time (unless they had an onward journey to catch) was rather amazing – you just wake up and live.
You do start to miss the things you used to fit into your ”normal” life back home. My void was running. I used to run all the time in London, usually through the crowds in the city before work. But there was no way I would be doing that in the heat of my travels, plus there is no room for a workout kit in a backpack, right?. As soon as I knew I was stopping somewhere for a while I picked it up again, in Australia and most recently in New Zealand.
Tip: If you have something you love, especially if it’s a habit that’s good for you mentally or physically (or both!) then try to stick to it whenever possible. Don’t forget the person you were before you left home.
10. People Going Home Before You
Waving goodbye to your new friends as they head home after their time away feels weird at first. You honestly ”Don’t know how they’re doing it”, ”I couldn’t do it”. Home feels like a foreign place that you have little time for. You have SO MUCH to look forward to with X countries up your sleeve left to visit. It just feels odd to focus too much on home.
One day it will hit you and you’ll be ready off your own back to book your flight home. Whether it is for a visit or for good, it will happen and all of a sudden you become the ”Can’t believe you’re going home” victim. Your mates can’t believe you’re off. People ask ”is something wrong?” and beg you to stay. But you know the time is right and you happily follow your tracks back to where you came from.
Tip: Don’t book your flights until you are ready, and feel certain. I booked a flight home for November 2014 … I booked it in advance then by the time it came around and I had to pay the rest of the flight off I wasn’t ready and cancelled. Not only did I disappoint my family and friends that I had promised I was going back to visit, I lost my $500 deposit. Not good for anyone!
11. Your Thoughts On The Future
You never used to think about anything at the start, it was all about leaving what you knew behind and taking each day as it came depending on where you were and who you were spending your time with.
After a while you start to question everything – do you want to be in this place for this long? Do you need to save up and move on to elsewhere? Do you want to be at home or away?
Tip: When you do start to think about what you want to do ”next”, whether that be taking sponsorship to build your life abroad, travelling onwards through various countries working as you go or going home ”for a bit” to see if you want to settle again, make sure you do what you want to do. Don’t let anyone sway your judgement or influence your decision. It’s your life at the end of the day!
This may be obvious but it’s almost something you don’t think about until you’re on your way home – your skin, features and weight are very likely to change while you’re on the road. Depending on how well you look after yourself versus how much you love to party you are going to look different from when you left home on your return. It’s normal though, no one can stop ageing – just always make the most of yourself. Your skin tone, body shape, health and everything physical about you changes – it would change at home too. But the confidence you pick up through your travels brings you a new-found sparkle regardless.
Tip: Look after yourself where you can. For all the partying and whatever you get up to try to balance it when possible. Exercise, don’t eat $5 Domino’s every day and drink loads of water!
13. Becoming More Open-Minded
You leave home used to the people you’ve grown up with, studied with, worked with. Your friendships are based on things you are all familiar with and you don’t question the bonds you have when you leave.
This almost goes without saying – travel opens your mind to so many new types of people, new ways of living, new attitudes, new outlooks on life. This is one of the richest things that travel gives us, you learn so much from people you would never meet had you not left home.
Tip: Give people a chance! Some may be quiet at first, not everyone is confident and happy to get involved in whatever you may be up to. Great friendships can be formed with the most unlikely people – don’t discount on first impressions.
14. Material Things
Leaving home with your bags packed with ‘essential items’ you quickly realise you can live out of the contents of your backpack easily. My bag weighed 9kg when I left, I remember as when I checked in the guy asked me how long as I was going away for and I joked ”possibly forever” and he laughed … 9kg would have fitted in hand luggage!
Material things become less and less important to you as time goes on, you appreciate spending your money on experiences and time with people you want to be around so much more than buying something you could probably do without. You do get sick of the wearing the same clothes all the time and sometimes treat yourself but on the whole you see purchases as a waste of money.
Tip: Swap things you might need with your friends and share their wardrobes too. Anything to prevent you having to spend your money on things you could get by other means is worth doing.
Leaving home you most likely left behind people of a similar age to you, at similar stages in your life, all looking forward to what comes next. Being away you meet people of all ages and sometimes you all feel the same age. You realise that people from different countries have been brought up in very different ways to you and you often find that some of the youngest people in your groups have the wisest heads on their shoulders. Similarly, the older friends in your groups are often just as childish as everyone else … although you all know each others age it only really comes into account when you’re considering your future moves and what visas you have time to do.
Tip: Get away with it for as long as you can!
Home was something you left in search of something new and you look back when you’re away knowing ”nothing changes” and ”everything is still the same” there. Early on you want newness, unfamiliar ground and new people to fill your days.
The fact that home does indeed remain ”the same” slowly becomes something you appreciate. It’s good to know, whenever you are ready to return, for a visit or indefinitely, you know exactly what to expect.
The challenges of extended travel and the changes that occur over time away make us who we are at the end of it all. Everyone I have ever spoken to that has travelled always mentions the appreciation of looking back on the best times and remembering the good in everything.
Even if you are going through a rough patch on the road it is paramount to be proud of yourself for the fact that you went away and did it in the first place.
You threw yourself out there!
”Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory”
Top work Lara, this is one of your best posts. I think you excel in these more general musings on travel and what it means to a person. Hope to meet you soon… Rod