Laura's Travelling Through It

My better late than never gap year


March 2017

Taking the time

Sometimes you just need to chill out. Take some time to be by yourself and simply be. It can be difficult to find the time to do this whilst travelling. There is so much pressure to get out there and do as much as you possibly can in as short a time as possible. You won’t be there forever, so get out there and enjoy it.

I’ve decided to spend an extended amount of time in Hanoi. My next places are experiencing less than ideal weather conditions, so I figured I’d stay here and relax. Yet I’m actually finding it difficult to do so. I’ve covered off most of the sites or ‘must sees’, yet I feel guilty at the idea of sitting around and doing nothing.

I had planned on spending yesterday planning my next moves, arranging buses or trains and a hostel. Instead, I simply extended my time here. I spent most of the day in the common area of the hostel and felt like I’d wasted a day. To make up for this, I had a night out with some girls I’ve met – had a great time, but certainly not planned (or budgeted) for. Yet, had I been at home, I probably would have spent the day on the couch playing games or watching TV. And I wouldn’t feel as though I’d wasted a day.

Before I left home, I told myself and my friends that I wasn’t going to put any pressure on myself; that I would take things as they came and do as much or as little as I pleased. I’ve got time on my side. Why pressure myself into doing something right away? I had grand plans to write blog post after blog post. I’ve been away for four weeks now and this is only the second post.

I left my life and friends and family behind so I could spend some time on me, for me. It’s okay that I’ve barely touched the surface and it’s okay that I’ve only done two posts. I’m not in a rush – good things take time. Yet, is it enough?

Travel can be therapeutic and it is so far proving to be. I certainly need a lot more therapy, but for now I need to be satisfied with working on my ‘R’s. Refresh, reboot, reset and relax. My first three weeks were manic, the only down time was on the bus and that certainly wasn’t relaxing. The short time at the beach wasn’t enough to reboot and the two night stops weren’t conducive to resetting.

Finding time to master those Rs is proving to be quite the challenge. In the real world, it’s near impossible. In the travelling world, it should be a given. Realistically, finding time for yourself is tough, no matter where you are. The ability to remove the guilt and take the time to be you, be yourself and work on you, it’s bloody tough. But it needs to be done. Tomorrow I plan on seeing a movie – being in Vietnam that could be a challenge in itself – however it’s a perfectly acceptable activity for rebooting.

We all need time to and for ourselves. Travel is no different. Live in the moment, but don’t forget to allow yourself to relish the moment. There’s no need to be guilty for taking some time out.

Make yourself a priority to ensure that you can continue to live in the moment.




In the beginning…

In the beginning I went through so many emotions and wasn’t sure if I’d made the right decision, yet knew that I had no choice but to get away. I initially felt numb, everything felt surreal and more than anything, I was experiencing immense uncertainty. But three weeks later, I know I made the right decision. I’ve not felt numb since landing in Bangkok and know to my core that this, this part of the world, this emotional state, this time, this is where I’m meant to be right now.

The last three weeks have been an absolute whirlwind. I’ve visited three countries and met many wonderful people, formed amazing friendships. I’ve found an absolutely gorgeous little coffee shop in Hanoi and could sit there for hours – I’ve been here each of the last four days. When arriving today, I was greeted with a smile and a friendly ‘Welcome Back’. What’s not to love, why shouldn’t this be right?

I began this journey with two days alone in Bangkok. I followed it up with 20 days on a tour and am now facing countless days to do as I please, whenever, wherever and however I want.

I generally find comfort in repetition and set plans. When travelling in the past I liked to explore a city by foot. I’d set myself a bit of a route on the map and stick to it – aimlessly wander in an organised and pre-planned direction. I’ve not had the opportunity to do that so far, beyond my first day in Bangkok. Being on an organised tour meant that we had set activities and short time frames in which to explore. But now that I’m on my own, truly on my own, it’s different. Time isn’t a pressure for me – I no longer have specific dates or times to stick to, I’m able to take my time and do my own thing, spend the time in a coffee shop, peruse the same shops over and over. I don’t have set plans. It’s oddly exhilarating, yet a little frightening.

All of my travels previously have been different and served different purposes. This trip is so far the most different and quite possibly the most needed. I’m used to travelling by myself and for the most part, I enjoy my own company. But more than any other time, I now need to break free of myself and get to know the people around me, make friends, have random conversations and take and give recommendations.

In everyday life, I struggle to start up conversations with strangers – sure, get a few beers or cocktails into me and I’ll chat to anyone, but I can’t spend my time drunk – as fun as that may be. I sat down for breakfast this morning alone at a table and within minutes a couple joined me, however spoke only to each other then left. Then a lovely South African guy sat down with me and we struck up a conversation. It wasn’t hard. It was easy – the biggest common denominator here is travel, we are all doing it and have done it. Travel is the perfect icebreaker – and it needn’t be scary. I should be able to talk to anyone, and if they’re not interested, I can try someone else. I can overcome my shyness. I won’t wait for someone else to make the first move.

Right now, life is good. Travel is good. I’m not numb. I’m not disinterested. I’m not broke and I have an idea of where I’d like to go. I can do this. I am doing this. I left home three weeks and two days ago. I’ve made friends, I’ve ridden a quad bike, done a motorbike tour and jumped off the side of a boat. That was just the beginning. What will I get up to in the next three weeks and two days?

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