Travel changed my life. There’s nothing overtly dramatic about that sentence; I imagine anyone who has travelled for a sustained period of time would tell you the same. Buy a one way ticket and receive a free lifestyle over haul, mindset upgrade and awakened understanding of the world. Pretty good, hey? I can’t promise you won’t come back wearing elephant pants smelling vaguely like cheap beer and mosquito spray, but they hide that bit in the fine print.
There were times during the year I spent backpacking around Australia, New Zealand and Asia that I could explicitly recognise that I wasn’t the same person anymore. Other shifts were far more subtle and I’m sure many I’m yet to even have discovered. I think it’s what makes coming home so hard: you know that you’ve changed whilst everything you ever knew has remained the same.
It’s like a sort of club. Initiations take place in the form of south east Asia night buses, hostels with wipe clean sheets (this genuinely happened once) and sunset Bintangs on the beach. That feeling of belonging in somewhere entirely ‘other’, the sudden urge to get rid of all of your stuff after living out of a 12KG Osprey bag and the very intense realisation that there’s something so much bigger out there than you ever could have possibly comprehended. We just about draw the line at wearing ‘Travel Changed my Life’ t-shirts, but we do have a secret handshake and everything.
So, a one way flight, 11.5 months, 14 countries and miles and miles and miles covered, here are:
5 Ways Travel Changed My Life
My Goals for the future changed
It didn’t take long before I realised that I could never see myself feeling particularly content with a cosy 2.4 lifestyle. In fact, at times the idea of such routine actually scared me a little. That isn’t to say that there’s anything wrong with wanting or enjoying a more linear lifestyle, but the idea of perpetual Sunday lunches, Monday mornings and remembering to put the bins out gives me the shivers. I don’t know exactly what the next few years – 2, 5 or 10 – of my life will look like but I know I want them to be jam-packed with adventure, spontaneity and a little bit of uncertainty.
I became far more eco-conscious
Perhaps we’ve all become a little more ‘woke’ to the environment this year but even within the space of the last few months my feelings and approach have changed drastically. I can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened, but I just can’t un-see it anymore. I know it’s not as simple as saying no to a takeaway cup and yet it makes me cringe when I see people using them now, even more so when they’re ‘cute’ props on Instagram. I’ve still got a lot to learn and a long way to go (don’t worry, the irony that I’ve flown a ridiculous number of times this year has not escaped me) but it just seems like the only way to try and live now.
I realised that the little things are actually the big things
I have been incredibly fortunate to have seen and done some immense, incredible things this year. Whales, skydives, wild elephants…moments I will never forget. Yet it’s the little things that I recall with the deepest sense of appreciation. One of my favourite moments of the entire year was swimming naked in a lake in New Zealand at sunrise and then eating granola and drinking tea in the carpark out of the back of our van. I learnt to feel incredibly grateful for a hot shower, for cheese (it’s expensive!), for the feeling of warmth on my skin. That isn’t to say that every day felt like a gift or some other equally as vom-inducing Hallmark slogan. There were times when I was fed up, sweaty, tired and frustrated but I can honestly say each day something made me feel grateful.
Driving a camper van across Western Australia
Suddenly owning a lot of ‘stuff’ felt claustrophobic and greedy
I’ve never been particularly sentimental about materialistic things, but I have accumulated a lot of stuff over the years. Whilst I still relish my little luxuries and you can’t prise my fluffy slippers from my feet, the thought of owning so much now feels stressful. In fact, even travelling with two 12KG backpacks at times made me feel as though we were surrounded by crap. I spent a lot of the year envisaging the mass clear out I’d have back home and now that the time has arisen I’m looking at everything with a new ‘why did I ever need this?!’ perspective.
I’ve learnt to put myself first
Not in a selfish way but in a ‘this is what I need right now’ way. Undisturbed by the day to day and by family, friends and commitments, I think you get to know yourself a lot better. I listen to my body more now: I’m not afraid to say nope, I actually I need to get an early night tonight. Limited wifi and a stronger sense of need to prioritise my time online (as well as the logistical efforts of working remotely) had me setting much firmer work related boundaries. The challenges of travel push you gently each and every day – sometimes they club you round the head with violent force – and you have little choice but to learn to face things you’ve simply never had to before. In doing so, it’s almost impossible to remain the same.
Taking the train in India
Have you been travelling? How did it change you? Comment below!