Taking some time to reflect upon my experiences so far and show some appreciation towards the rewarding opportunities that travel has given me. To my encouraging and supportive family, my awesome friends and whatever/whoever it is that’s out there guiding me, I thank you!
5) The food
Well this is an obvious one. Food is one of my favourite things about existence (is that sad?), I can out-eat most of my male friends and I’ll always be up for 3 courses no matter what time of day. I count my blessings for my ridiculously fast metabolism but I’m also totally okay with the fact that one day I will be fat… but I’ll be happy and fat, that’s for sure. Travelling opens doors, but it also opens your tastebuds! From the spices in the United Arab Emirates, to perfect Italian pasta, jerk chicken in Jamaica, ceviche in Ecuador and now rocoto relleno in Peru… I am well and truly eating my way around the world. I’ve even given vegetarianism a go here in Cusco and surprised myself with how much I can enjoy a meal even without meat in it – You learn something new everyday, huh?
4) The culture
Growing up in the UK means that I’m completely programmed to UK customs, to UK food, UK festivals, the english language etc. etc. But I think one of the major problems of not travelling, is believing that whatever way of life you may live is the ONLY and RIGHT way to live (which is of course never true). All across the world people embrace different traditions and act in different ways. It’s rumoured that in Russia people smile less and are very blunt (I’ll let you know if this is true when I get there), whereas here in South America people are warm and welcoming, giving kisses and hugs upon greeting. Neither way would be right or wrong, but travelling let’s you experience both ends of the spectrum. It opens your eyes and opens your heart to people all over the world and you begin to learn that, regardless of their background, we’re all pretty similar underneath. You stop seeing people as a certain religion or a race and actually manage to just see them as they are. Plus, culture is always exciting! What’s better than salsa dancing, participating in ancient incan rituals and trying on an array of multicoloured ponchos? There’s so much fun to be had on this incredible planet!
3) The books
It’s not really a secret that I am a complete nerd when it comes to books. I reckon I spend more money per month on books than anything else because I have this obsession with having to physically turn pages (sorry kindles/ibooks) and being able to keep them forever (sorry libraries). Although it’s a huge inconvenience to lug extra weight around when travelling, I think it’s the perfect time to read but I’ve always been pretty lucky that there’s an abundance of english books around whenever I volunteer in South America (There was a whole BOOKCASE full of novels when I was in Ecuador, I think me and Jemma read about 30 books between us!) Reading can compliment to your travel experiences and it definitely doesn’t take up all of your time, it just fills those spare 10 minutes here and there. There’s no place better to fall into fantasy-story-world than on the beach, or in the midst of the mountains, or with a flashlight in a tent and I’d quite happily sacrifice a few clothes to make space for a book. Here are 3 of the best books I’ve ever read on my travels:
I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
I may sound old fashioned, but I think you should put down the iPhone and get reading ASAP!
2) The people
Over the last few years I have met some insanely wonderful people on my travels. So here’s a shout out to the Costa Rica gang, our ecuadorian friend/free tour guide Maria Jose and the abundance of amazing people that I’m surrounded by here in Peru (special mentions for my soulmate, Ashley and my temporary big sister, Karin… you keep me sane!) I’m pretty flighty and I can sometimes forget to keep in contact with people, despite the fact that I think about them regularly and always have good things to say but that’s why I love my fellow travellers. They understand that we don’t need to talk 24/7 and that we probably won’t ever see each other again. Sometimes people only walk with you through life for a short period of time, but they can still have a massive impact. So here’s to the lady I chatted with about philosophy on the way home from work here in Peru, and the education minster that I discussed peruvian schools with, the farmers that we worked with in Ecuador, the kind family that hosted us in Costa Rica, the friends I’ve made on family holidays – the ones who I got drunk with on a cruise ship at 4am in the morning, or snuck out with to a Mauritian night club and the list could go on and on. You guys are what makes all of this 10x better. Every single person I have met has taught me something and has impacted my life in one way or another. Even the people that I didn’t like so much taught me more about myself and about accepting others than I expected them to – it’s hard to explain, but the people really do make the place.
I’ve deliberately made this point pretty vague, because it can mean so many different things. You can discover new friends, new places, new favourite foods, new languages, new talents, new EVERYTHING. But most importantly, I think (without trying to preach spirituality) you discover a lot about yourself. Each time I travel I become more and more appreciative for what I have, for my family and for my friends. I’ve learnt that it’s okay to let go if people stop having a positive impact on your life and it doesn’t make me a bad person if I’m honest about that.
Plus, I’m an only child and my only child syndrome will never disappear completely (sorry for snatching things/not sharing my food with you) but it’s definitely gotten better over the years. I know now that my opinions are never fact and that others have every right to disagree with what I say. I know that I’m capable of more than I ever give myself credit for – I can be independent, I can fight for what I want, I can communicate effectively in more than one language and I can be a loyal friend.
There’s still a long way to go, but I’m loving this journey that I’m on. This life path that I’ve CHOSEN to follow. I feel at peace with the person that I am, whether people like me or not and I know that there’s no point making a big deal about anything, or thinking that we’re any better than each other when, in reality, we’re all so small in this infinite universe! All the more reason to do whatever the hell we want to. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – Every 20-something has caught the travel bug recently. It’s easier now than ever to jet around the world with nothing but your passport and a backpack but my aim isn’t to see every single country, or go to every single continent – I don’t ever want to turn travel into a competition, it’s amazing that we can all share these experiences.
I’ve learnt that I’m okay with not doing what society expects of me, maybe one day I’ll be broke or maybe I won’t have the same high-flying jobs as my friends and goodness knows where I’ll end up settling down. But I don’t want to graduate university and end up doing something that I hate just because I need the money or desperately rushing around trying to find someone else who can make me happy despite being perfectly capable of doing that for myself. What I want is to make the most of every single second I spend on this earth. To be completely, utterly, blissfully happy with everything that I do. No comparisons to others, no negativity, no self-hate, because for all I know I could be gone tomorrow – so I want to live a life filled to the brim with adventures and good company.
And you know what? So far, so good 🙂