Hey, how are you? I hope you guys are doing well, wherever you are right now – geographically and also within your own lives. Do you love to travel? Or wish to? Perhaps you’re a frequent reader of travel blogs, inspiring memoirs and documentaries of far flung destinations. Maybe you’ve been an armchair traveller all your life, telling yourself each year that the next will be the year you hike the Inca trail in Peru, spot geishas in Kyoto, ride a motorbike across Vietnam, or just chill out and drink coffee in Colombia.
This year, you think, is just not a great time to travel. I have no one to go with and I can’t just travel on my own. It’s risky/lonely/terrifying and I don’t think I have it in me.
I know because I thought the same thing. It took me two years of planning and some serious mustering up of all the courage I had to get out into the world and backpacking solo.
If you think you can’t travel the world alone, I’m here to tell you that you can. I used to be timid and quiet, I had no idea of what I wanted from my life. And I wasn’t happy.
Back when I was 22, when I only dreamed of quitting my job to travel the world, back when I thought travel was just for the wealthy, I worked ‘round the clock as a chef. I put all of my energy into my job, and saved none for my passions. Basically I had no passions, no hobbies; I no longer sketched, didn’t exercise and overate. My parents would call to ask about my week and the answer was always the same, I worked and ate and slept and repeated. I spent a lot of money on things that I didn’t really want. They were my rewards for getting through another week – one more dress I wore just once, more technology I sat in front of – glassy eyed and unaware.
I didn’t even have the energy to think about what I really wanted from my life, so I plodded on, through the dreaded 12 or 14 hour days. I had no friends, no boyfriend, I was away from my family and it was the longest ten months I had ever experienced. They felt like decades.
Eventually, a new chef joined the team, one who had just returned from an 11 month backpacking trip around the world. He had stories from places I had dreamed of, and at my timid talk of maybe doing the same thing, he encouraged me, to do it now, or soon, or else I may wake up one day with a mortgage, children and a car loan and by then it would be much more difficult to achieve. Do it while you’re young and free. Five months later I moved to Sydney.
Now I look back on those few wasted years, the ones where I had no commitments or plans and I wish I had used them to travel. I’m happy I did eventually, since I could have easily continued on in the same fashion, without pushing myself out of my comfort zone or doing something that positively terrified me.
So, now I want to be that person to you. The one who tells you to go, chase your dreams while you’re still young and crazy. It will be a little scary, solo travel always is. But once you touch down in Rio, or Bangkok, or London, or Sydney you’ll find you’ll be fine. Go with the fear, lean into it, embrace it, it’s how you know you’re alive.
PS – Here’s what I wish I knew before I travelled solo, it might interest you too.
PPS - These photos were taken on a hike to Pouakai Hut at the base of Mt Taranaki last month
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