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Laura's Travelling Through It

My better late than never gap year

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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Why Travelling Through It?

The thought started forming in October and it didn’t end. I couldn’t escape it and it seems that things were aligning to make it happen.

Some dramatic life events happened in 2016 – some good, some great, and some the absolute worst. When my apartment was put up for sale then sold, I had no choice but to move out. So instead of looking for a new place, I followed through on my decision to go travelling.

My news was met with mixed reactions, most of them as I’d expected. When telling mum and dad, the obvious parental concerns came out: Where will you go? Is it safe? What about your house deposit? Friends were supportive and excited for me. Work colleagues were excited yet disappointed I’d be leaving them after such a short time.

At that stage, I wasn’t too sure about the exact where or when, but I knew I had to do it. As my sister pointed out, I will always have the opportunity to save money again, but I won’t have the opportunity to travel with no responsibilities again.

So the next few months passed, and here I am. Sitting in a hotel in Bangkok with the next 20 days planned and then nothing. I’m telling myself that I’ll be away for three months but I’m not sure. It’s a start. I’ve tried not to give myself any expectations or commit myself to anything except letting me be me.

In life we have many regrets, but travelling isn’t one of them. After a tumultuous 2016, I’m ready for a more relaxed and rewarding 2017. That’s how I’ve come to be Travelling Through It.

 

 

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