Looking through my social media pages, a clear image of who I am comes through. A young woman - living life to the full, eating loads of carbilicious foods, and travelling more than one probably should to different corners of the globe. Which is great, because that is me - but it got me thinking about all those things we aren't so urgent to post about. The day to day montony of full-time work, difficult times with friends or family, or just when we're generally not feeling it.
My life since moving from Melbourne to London has been incredible for so many reasons, namely the fact that my job allows me to travel so regularly. I love traveling, it's who I am and what I love most - but hey, travelling can have moments that are really tough. Not bad, just tough. And I think it's about time we recognise and celebrate those times, because everyone goes through them - and most important, everyone gets through them.
1 - Travel can be overwhelming
I love the thrill of going to a new country. Landing in a city unknown that is waiting to be explored. But what happens when you step into that city, and feel completely overwhelmed? Completely out of your comfort zone?
I don't know why, but as I've become older, I'm finding big cities more and more challenging. Give me a small city any day, and I will be loving it from the get-go. There's just something about being in a big city that initially makes me feel so uncomfortable, so on edge, so lost.
Take, for example, my recent trip to NYC. Concrete jungle where dreams are made of, that's for sure - but it took me the first day of adjusting to even start appreciating the place. I was completely and utterly terrified. Which felt crap not only for me, but probably also for Aiden, who had to endure me in that moment (good man!). It only took 24 hours to shift, but the feeing was there and it was real.
Another time I remember this happening recently was on my trip to Austria. I was travelling alone, which has perks and challenges in itself. I'd spent 3 days in Salzburg and 1 in Hallstatt, and was absolutely loving life. I was on my way to Vienna feeling on top of the world, like I could take on anything. And then for some reason, Vienna came and hit me, smack bang in the face. I remember being on the train from the airport to my hostel, eyes wide, apprehensive, fearful. Of what? I'm not sure, but the feeling was there.
I think this is a really normal feeling amongst travelers. I know my two examples aren't by any means taking place in countries where a "culture shock" would occur, but I still think it's important to recognise and expect this feeling to happen when travelling. Embrace it, acknowledge it, and share how you're feeling with the people around you. If you're traveling with a friend - let them take charge for a while until you adjust. If you're traveling solo - befriend someone at your hostel, in a bar, or a walking tour, and ask them what their favourite parts of the city have been. Most importantly, when you're feeling overwhelemed or out of your comfort zone - don't ignore it or pretend it's not there.
2 - There can be arguments
Think about it. You're literally spending 24 hours of everyday in the company of one, two, or however many other people. They're the first people you talk to when you wake up, and the last before you go to sleep. There are no secrets when you're traveling with others. Which is great, and fun, and makes for a much stronger friendship. But, it would be silly to not acknowledge that, after some time, things can become tense. I'm not talking about a weekend away with the girls, but I am talking about those times that you might be in one person's company for weeks or even months. It gets tough. And that is normal, my friends! I love my friends, my family, and my partner to bits - all of which I have traveled for significant amounts of time with. All of which we've all had moments where we've wanted to rip each others heads off (thankfully - we remained calm!).
My tip - remember, good friends and family will always love you, no matter what was said after a few too many wines, or what was said in a moment of frustration. Traveling is the most amazing experience when shared with the people that you love. But traveling is hard. Acknowledge this. It causes you get much less sleep than you would normally get. It throws you out of your comfort zone and forces you to deal with situations that you normally wouldn't need to. All of these factors - as well as literally living with and sleeping on top of someone else can take it toll. Embrace it - but do kiss and make up promptly.
3 - You deal with some pretty icky situations
When I think about some of the crazy things that have happened to me in the past few years whilst travelling, I am thankful that I can look back at each of them now and laugh. Thankfully, I have never gotten myself into a seriously icky situation, but there have been some pretty decent attempts.
Thinking about my social media profile again - I never would have posted a selfie of that time at Gatwick Airport - my face completely blotchy and bawling my eyes out as I got held back at customs being interrogated about my right to live in the UK. Oh, and how about that time when I was still in my hotel room, casually checking the time of my flight and realising the flight LEFT in 10 minutes? What about that time when I lost my passport just 2 weeks before my surprise trip to Australia?
Life, in all it's elements, has it's moments of craziness for everyone. Look back on those moments that at the time were really testing and stressful, and celebrate the fact that you got through each one of them. It all makes you stronger.
4 - Hello Travel, Goodbye Money
You know the quote - travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer. Truth. But definitely not the kind of rich that has you going on a shopping spree every weekend. I am certainly a woman of wealth in terms of my experiences and how much of the world I have seen. I am also a 30 year old woman with no life savings and limited supperannutation, whose biggest asset is an impressive collection of Tupperware.
But - this has totally been worth it. The past 4 years have been the most incredible of my life. I know that this isn't a lifestyle that I can maintain forever, and I know that it's going to end soon enough. When I'm back in Australia, or when I settle down and have a family, there is absoultely no way that I'm going to travel as I am now. So - I have let go of comparing myself to others around me, I have let go of the fear of what the future might hold, and I am embracing my life as it is now. The time will come for me to grow up and make some adult choice...but that time just hasn't come quite yet.
So, for my fellow travellers, whether you're a novice, an expert, or somewhere in between - my message is this. Enjoy your travel. Make the most of every moment. Ride the ups and downs and acknowledge how you're feeling in every moment. Talk to others. Laugh with you friends. Look around. And most importantly - know that wherever you are right now, whatever you're doing, it's exactly where you're meant to be.
Saying goodbye is never easy. Especially when it's a, "I don't quite know when I'll next see you" goodbye. Even if you rehearse and plan for it. Even if you promise that there will be no tears. And even if you've done it a million times. I'm sorry to say it, but it just doesn't get easier. But, as an expat/traveller/nomad/wanderer, saying goodbye is inevitable. It's a fact of our lives.
Here are my 3 simple steps which I hope will make that airport goodbye a little less painful for us all.
1) Keep your farewells short and sweet
You know the old KISS saying. Well, now is the time to apply it. Quick hug, quick kiss, and be done with it. Don't bring up the fact that you don't know when you'll see each other again. Just hug, smile, kiss, and be gone. Trust me, it’s easier this way. Or, you could try what my family and I do. We always end our goodbyes with a, “See you next weekend!” statement. Usually it's for something involving wine - and it definitely takes the awkwardness out of the goodbye.
2) Limit who comes to airport
Three’s a crowd – especially at an airport. If you’re lucky enough to get a lift to the airport, keep your spectators to two at the absolute most. Airports are emotional places as it is, and the more is certainly NOT the merrier here. If you do have family coming to the airport, apply rule 1 and promptly say goodbye at the customs gate. Make sure you walk off through the gates with a smile though, as this will make your family happy. Even if that does mean that tears start flowing as you venture through customs. No judgement on that side of the gate! Be brave, my friends, you're almost there!
3) Get a drink
Hooray - you’ve made it through the hardest part! Once you're through customs, find the closest bar. Now, it's time to celebrate the beginning of your new adventure, so get yourself a nice glass of something cold and refreshing, and give yourself a pat on the back for being a trooper. Cheers to you!
I've got to say, being comfortable to travel on your own isn't something that comes naturally to most of us. It didn't to me either. Before moving to London, I would never have thought it possible that I travel anywhere on my own. I was totally dependent on those around me, always. But I soon came to realise a hard truth - if you spend your time waiting around for others, chances are high that you'll miss out on the experience.
I'm proud to say that I've done a number of trips solo now - and booking a trip by myself does not faze me in the slightest anymore. The more I travel alone, the more I appreciate how rewarding it can be. But, I also recognise the challenges of traveling solo, and it's definitely not always as glamorous as it's perked up to be.