I’m a year older today.
Although I wish I was a child again and all I had to do today was make a wish and blow out my candles… My birthday is always a big time of reflection and change for me.
One year ago this very week, I was in Siem Reap visiting Angkor Wat with a heavy question on my heart.
“Did I still want to travel?”
Spoiler alert: I ultimately decided that YES, I truly felt and believed that I was at the right place, with the right people, living a life people only dreamed of.
A year and a half ago, I was 5 months into my year-long travel journey.
I remember quitting my job, selling all my stuff instead of paying for storage and shipped my clothes to my parents house and took-off with my ex-boyfriend to travel.
For years I wanted to quit my corporate journalism job and go off on an amazing journey, traveling around the world while having incredible adventures… and memories.
I daydreamed all day long (by that I mean I spent a lot of time on Pinterest pinning travel inspiration) and started writing down all the countries I wanted to visit.
I watched a lot of Youtube videos and did a lot of research about how to travel. My search history was filled with questions like “how to quit your job and travel for a year” and “will I regret quitting my job to travel”.
Finally, I set a date to realize my dream: by October 2018, I told myself, I’d have enough money to be able to quit my job and travel.
In the span of 365 days I changed my whole life. Literally. Every single aspect of my life has changed.
And now, one year after long boat rides on the Mekong River, noodles for breakfast and my crazy obsession with elephant pants, I want to reflect and examine “Did I make the right decision?” by looking at how my life has transformed.
I firmly and unequivocally believe that perhaps the most important gift of all that I developed with travel is that of empathy. Learning, understanding the situation, feelings and motives of another person is a true gift and skill to have.
Many think of travel as leisure, something we do as an extra with the time we have, but I like to look at travelling as a part of education. We can only learn to put our own problems in perspective if we understand and empathize with international problems.
Before, as a television reporter, I only shared the news, but I never understood how other people, other nations' problems could affect me or my country. I’m not suggesting that it’s only through travel that you can develop empathy, I’m only suggesting that, at least for me, I understand and feel in my heart when reading about the struggles of people that I have been fortunate enough to visit.
All of a sudden, I wonder how my friend Salai in Myanmar was dealing with the impending war, or if the Australian families I worked with, have survived the bushfires or if the Lao teacher I taught English to was teaching other children English so that they too can find work. The world just became smaller.
Live in the present.
I was never taught to focus on the journey and not the destination. My parents always told me to get that degree so that I could get a good job. I always accomplished my goals by thinking of the end result. I worked tirelessly to get to the finish line, but somewhere along the way, I got lost.
Getting lost allowed me to go and travel, because I no longer knew what I was doing with my life. I felt like I was continuously just wanting to check off boxes as fast as I could.
Finish school. Buy a car. Get a job…
Today, I look back at my one year travel experience as a beautiful journey. People plan trips that are 10 days long and visit 3 capitals around Europe. There is now a whole industry around finding Instagrammable places.
For some, it’s all about checking off boxes which indicate they’ve been somewhere, without thinking about whether they’ve actually seen anything.
For me, that kind of travel is bullshit. I prefer to slow travel and learn to live each day to the fullest. To only think about the present. To appreciate the beauty my eyes could see and to be grateful for being safe and healthy. Affirmations became my best friend.
Money comes and goes.
To travel for a long period you need money. I was very cautious about how much money I was spending and making sure I always had enough to continue travelling as much and as long as possible.
In Vietnam, my ex boyfriend and I got all of our money stolen in the hotel room while we went out to eat. We had taken out a good chunk of money at the ATM machine a week before and we got it all stolen. There wasn’t anything the cops could do. I was miserable. I cried for the whole day.
But then, I met this German guy who showed up in my life saying how he couldn’t afford a hotel room and that he was trying to sell jewelry on the street. I told him what had happened and he told me that “money comes and money goes”. Just like that.
A week later, I was fortunate enough to have met some nice people who hosted us so we didn’t have to pay for a room. In one week, I had lost money, but gained friendships and memories. Not to mention my German friend ended up selling jewelry and made money to continue his journey.
In the end, life always has a way of working itself out. Money is meant to be spent, not kept. There is always a way to make money and there is always a solution to our problems. Money comes and it sure as hell MUST GO!
I can do anything.
The most important thing I learned while travelling is that I can do anything I set my mind to. I hiked mountains in Laos and Vietnam. I walked a part of the Camino de Santiago in Spain. I learned photography and editing. I planted trees in New Zealand and learned how to make Boeuf Bourguignon in France. I learned how to meditate and eat with my hands in India. But most importantly, I learned how strong the mind is. I never gave up. I never set boundaries. I always stayed positive and always accepted that I’d fall. I’m the most courageous person I know. And for that, I am truly grateful.
This story is just the beginning of a new chapter. And I’m diving right into the unknown, again. And that’s just the way I like it.
What about you? Ever thought about what you've accomplished in a year?