The very first time I went solo-travelling I did much thinking beforehand about whether it was the right thing to do. I wanted to go but ‘what if’ thoughts started to dissuade me. A month before I was due to leave I got some news of a school friend that had passed away. It shook me, it’s not something I had experienced before. Although our friendship had never extended beyond the school walls it affected me greatly and I continue to think of her often. Whilst at school, if she had known what would happen in her early twenties would she have done anything differently? Would any of us?
I shouldn’t have needed the reminder that life could be short. We might not get time to do the things we want to do so we should grab every opportunity to do them while we can.
It’s a thought that is very much at the forefront of my mind this week given the horrific events in Manchester. The people affected had no way of knowing that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were healthy young people with everything to live for. Young people with plans for the future; plans to see more of the world. People living, like so many of us do, like we have so much more time to do all of the things that we want to do.
I don’t profess to know anyone affected by the events of Monday night in Manchester. But I’ve been thinking about them all week and will continue to do so for a long time to come. Assuming I have a long time to come. Either way, events like these remind me to stop putting things off. To stop being so bothered about… stuff. It really isn’t important. What is important is the wonderful spirit of the Manchester community and those further afield. You have my greatest admiration.
Up until about two years ago I wouldn’t have admitted to really being scared of anything. None of the obvious fears particularly bother me: spiders, snakes, heights, flying… I’m not too keen on fire having had an unfortunate incident at school involving my arm and a Bunsen burner but I can still light a candle with no fuss.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Two-Years –Ago-Me recently. Two-Years-Ago-Me was just about to book her first flight to the great unknown. She was hesitant about quitting her first ever (and to date, only) permanent job she’d ever had, or possibly will ever have if I continue at this rate. Two-Years-Ago-Me thought she needed to plan and was concerned about going away alone. She was nervous but not scared, she wasn’t scared of anything.
While I can say now that I have probably changed significantly, it is my element of fear that bothers me the most.
I am scared of commitment. I didn’t really consider it two years ago because I had decided to quit my job and run away but for some reason that I can only assume is age-related, I am scared of what I should be doing and more so, the fact that I’m not doing it.
I’ll be 25 soon. I am aware that this is in no way too late to change my life/settle eventually/blah blah, however I sometimes wonder if I am going backwards rather than forwards. At 18 I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life but I had plenty of time to decide. At 21 I still had no idea of what I wanted to do with my life but now I had a shiny new degree to try and use to justify my enormous debt. At 23 I still didn’t know but that was ok because I was going to go travelling. And going travelling is a really worthwhile thing to do so it’s ok to not know what else you want to do, you’re just finding your way in life, right? Right?
25 is a whole new ballgame. Not only do I still have no idea what I want to do with my life but it’s got to the point where it scares me, as if I’m running out of time to decide. In a way, I am. There’s only so much you can do with low-paid jobs and a lack of somewhere to live that isn’t with your parents. If I do another working holiday, will this disappoint my hard-working parents all over again? Will it make it impossible to find a job when I get home? The six months of searching haven’t found anything so far, do I want to go through it again?
These questions that go through my head on a near-regular basis are nothing new. Two-Years-Ago-Me thought these things to, especially when I was debating whether to actually quit my job in the first place. The difference between then and now is that none of those things scared me two years ago. Now, almost every possible outcome scares me in some way:
A permanent job: a permanent job means having to settle somewhere and not being able to just drop everything. I can’t do that, there’s so much to see! But…
A temporary job: could end at any time; what if I ran out of money? Although, I could leave again and travel. But…
Travelling: what if I get there and can’t find a job? I’d run out of money in a different country! I’d have to come home. And then…
Home: There’s so much still to see, I don’t want to settle! Repeat cycle of thoughts.
Feel the fear and do it anyway, I’ve heard that a few times. But seeing as I’m feeling the fear about every outcome, which one to choose? I can only hope that Two-Years-From-Now-Me picked the right choice and will sit there, glad that the scariest option won because it was all for the best.
At what point do we admit to ourselves that we’re now settled?At what point are we then happy about it?
This is something I find myself wondering on a regular basis… about other people. I can settle relatively quickly; the issue is that I also get bored just as quickly. During university I could only stay there for so long before I needed a change and went home and in the holidays spent at home I’d long to go back again. I’ve officially been back in my home country, in my childhood home for six months now and no sense of settling has occurred in any sense of the word. I have no more desire to actually find a stable job and settle into it than I did six months ago. I would love to own a house but find the thought of having to actually stay in the same place for a prolonged period of time crushing and restrictive.
So what is my problem? Why don’t I fit? I look around at happily settled friends; many of them younger than me; buying homes, getting engaged and buying dogs. People who are more than happy to plan for the future, live in the same area and have occasional holidays. A small part of me would want that if the bigger part of me wasn’t so afraid of it. Because all of those things mean you are Rooted. Such a big deal to me that it requires a capital letter. If I had a permanent job/my own place to live/a living animal to look after I couldn’t just take off and travel. If I found myself Rooted I wouldn’t be able to use that Canadian working holiday visa it took me months to get.
And yet, whilst having the visa I haven’t actually made plans yet to even go to Canada. I can’t even commit to that – I am a full commitment-phobe. My lack of commitment is driving me mad. Surely I can’t be alone in this? Wanting everything and nothing all at once. Wanting to make the parents proud by having a job but also wanting to see more of the world.
I’ve been using the phrase: ‘Oh I just got back from travelling’ as a way to justify being back at home etc but in actual fact, I have not just got back from travelling. I’ll be getting to that tipping point soon where I’ve been home for longer than I was away. But I feel like I’m living in limbo, waiting for something but I don’t know what it is.
Maybe I am just behind and one day something will make enough sense for me to stick it. For now, I’m just going to try and embrace the uncertainty and stop telling people that I recently went travelling. Step 1 in admitting it to yourself.
I used to spend a lot of time on Facebook. All through university it was the perfect way to show what a great time I was having. After leaving university it became a way to keep up with friends and check on what a great timethey were having. While travelling social media use took on a whole new meaning. It was perfect to show everyone the incredible views I was looking at; oh here I am on a beach, here’s me with all my new friends, there’s a mountain, etc etc. It was completely showing off about my sunny new life in a self-indulgent and unnecessary way and yet I couldn’t stop – I continued to post photos and updates as if anyone cared as much as I did.
It was also great for keeping in touch with home and I will be eternally grateful to Facebook Messenger for allowing me to make international calls to friends and family for free – a truly wonderful benefit of the technological age we live in. Facebook also allowed me to connect with new friends and, thanks to status updates, I was able to meet up with new friends in different parts of the world (my best experience of this being when six months after meeting him in Fiji, a friend saw my status update in Melbourne and we were able to meet up and go to an Essendon AFL game together. Because of this chance status update I caught up with a friend I wouldn’t otherwise have seen and cheered on a team that I wouldn’t otherwise have watched).
Of course, I still spent overall less time on Facebook while I was away compared to when I was at home simply because I was out having fun and didn’t feel the need to spend down-time scrolling through the newsfeed. I checked on it occasionally when I had an internet connection but no longer knew the ins and outs of the everyone else’s life. Days when I hadn’t been online at all felt fantastic, like I had finally let go of my Facebook fear of missing out and I realised I no longer cared if I missed out on friends’ posts.
So, what’s my problem? Since I’ve been home I’ve noticed a few changes in me (for more on this, see here) and one of those changes is in the way I use social media. Or rather, the way I don’t use social media any more. You see, since I came home and have been unsatisfied with my general situation (not having a job, trying to find a job, not being on the beach…) I have been unable to go on Facebook. In short, I am bitter and cannot bear to view other people’s holiday photos, status updates of their latest travels, announcements of engagements or life updates of buying their first home with their significant other.
It’s not that I’m not happy for them. And I fully understand that social media is only showing the parts of a person’s life that they want you to see: the best bits. I realise I’m being irrational. And yet I can’t bring myself to log back on. I’m not at the stage of being able to see my friend’s check-in in a bar in Melbourne/island in Thailand or mountain in Canada. It’s pure jealousy and I can’t seem to get over it. I’ve retreated into being a virtual recluse, shunning internet updates so I can sulk in peace. Instead, I spend the hours I used to spend scrolling through Facebook writing posts about sulking that I’m not having all the fun. It’s frustrating that I can’t get over my jealousy and yet; I feel so much better for going completely cold-turkey. I only know about what’s happening in other people’s lives when they actually go to the trouble of telling me, and they do so because we’re close enough for me to care. I don’t have to feel inferior to others because I don’t have the glossy life that they have edited for internet purposes.
I’m not alone in this – studies have shown that regular use of social media makes people feel more lonely and depressed. I can definitely say that it affected me greatly when I first returned home and I’m not ready to venture back to it yet. I would like to, one day, be able to use Facebook occasionally and maybe even post things that I think are funny or of interest. But for now I’ll stick to anonymity in blog-world where I can choose what to read and when to read it. Probably during times when I’m not sulking.
When I first told friends that I was going travelling I got mixed reactions but the only reaction that annoyed me was ‘are you going to find yourself?’ I was not going to find myself. I knew who I was and I wasn’t lost. I was quite sure of this and got quite angry when self-assured friends patronisingly asked me that question as if I was having some kind of personal crisis.
Of course, I was having some kind of personal crisis. I just didn’t want to admit it to anyone, including myself. It was only after I’d come home that I realised that there were almost two versions of me. I knew which one I liked the most. I knew which one my boyfriend liked the most. And I knew which one my parents liked the most. Unfortunately, we didn’t all like the same one.
The original version of me had a life plan that was favoured by parents and followed the usual path: go to university ⇒ get a job ⇒ buy a house ⇒ get married ⇒ have children ⇒ be happy. This version of me decided to take some time out to travel when the plan wasn’t really achieving that end goal of making me happy. It was only when I came home that I realised that despite me resisting the concept of ‘finding myself’, I had, in fact, done just that. Being away had calmed my demeanour, re-evaluated when I considered to be important and changed my attitude to life. I had become more spontaneous and worried less. I took risks, jumped off high ledges (with ropes – I hadn’t had a complete personality transformation!) and became less concerned about money.
Version #2 – Traveller Me – was fun to be around and I liked her a lot. I only realised she was different to the original version when I returned home. Almost like relapsing, the longer I was home the more I realised I was converting back to Version #1 – Home Me. As I’ve now been home for nearly a full six months I’ve totally lost sight of the favourable version of myself. I’m tense, worry more and am all-round more grouchy and less fun to be around. I feel it when I talk to friends I met whilst travelling, when I’m with my boyfriend and when I’m alone with my thoughts.
I’m wondering if I’m alone in these thoughts. When you’re away from home and staying in hostels you hear a lot that going home is the hardest part. But no-one talks about what it will be like when you get there and how you will feel. Do people that embark on long-term travelling have different personalities to those that don’t? Do personalities change to match the situation you’re in? When will I stop being annoyed that people were right when they asked me if I was going to find myself? And why does the thought of travelling again scare me a little even though I’ve done it before? I guess that’s why, for now, I’m a Rooted Traveller. But that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it 😉
It’s not that I don’t like being English. I actually like it quite a lot. Other nationalities seem to like our accent (why?) and our native language one of the most widely spoken languages in the world – which is handy if, like me, you’re terrible at learning new languages.
It’s just that I’ve never really understood why people from other countries around the world want to come here so much. Maybe it comes back to no-one ever being content with what they have but I just don’t understand why the UK is deemed to be such a great place to move to. I’m clearly biased but I’d take a New Zealand winter over an English summer any day.
One huge benefit of living in the UK, however, is the ease and relative low expense involved in leaving the country. Yes, one huge benefit of living in the UK is being able to leave. Hello, budget airlines. The greatest invention in travel since the neck pillow (or maybe the neck pillow came later. Either way, they’re both excellent inventions). It costs less to book a return flight abroad than it does to get some trains within the UK. In about the same amount of time too. The UK is fantastically placed in that a two-hour flight or less will get you to lots of destinations in Europe.
Finding weekend getaways becomes the mission of the rooted traveller. Especially if you’re surrounded by like-minded people who send you messages such as ‘there’s a flight sale on’. Two hours later you’ve booked the flights and just need to find somewhere to stay. Easy.
So this is my ode to and personal thank you to the budget airlines of the world. You make international travel entirely possible on a small budget. You allow moping post-travellers that have returned home to relive their most exciting days and sneak away for a weekend. You make life more fun and you bring the world together. And for this I thank you.
Bag-stirring [verb]: the method of finding objects in a backpack or suitcase in a small hostel room where the quantity of people exceeds the available space
The age-old debate amongst the backpacking community: suitcase or backpack. I realise that essentially, I am talking about a method of transporting personal items from one location to another. However, backpacker life is defined by moving around, not staying in one place for a long time and living out of bags. Therefore, choosing the right transportation method is essential and could save you a lot of time, effort and frustration.
The way I see it, there’s clear pros and cons with both methods:
Pros– they come on wheels so no need to carry them. You can look cool at airports as you aren’t risking hurting yourself or anyone else by swinging your heavy bag on your back (sunglasses will also help with this look. For inspiration see any picture of famous people walking through airports). If you have mistakenly packed something important right at the bottom of the case; in the event that you find a small area of space you can open your suitcase and observe all your possessions and find that important item without having to unpack and repack a bag at the front of a very long check-in queue (sorry to all passengers behind me when I packed my passport at the bottom of my backpack for, ahem, safekeeping. Didn’t wanna lose that!)
Cons – they can be heavy so cut into your baggage allowance (a 4kg suitcase for a 15kg weight-limit trip is always annoying). They cannot be easily carried up stairs unless you have excellent strength/helpful strong people around you. They do not have as many pockets/pouches/extra potential straps to tie things to (such as shoes which just will not fit into an existing bag)
Pros– easier to carry up stairs (just massively painful in some cases). They have multiple pockets and pouches to try and restore some order to the chaos that is your life.
Cons – they weigh you down so a small walk becomes a mammoth task (30° heat plus a walk through a city with your whole life on your back = a ridiculous thing to do to avoid the taxi fare). When you’re as feeble as me, picking up the bag in the first place becomes a difficulty, hence I have found myself (not even just once but twice) lying on my back like some kind of tortoise after picking the bag up, buckling under its weight and falling straight over. But the biggest con of all is the issue of never being able to see the contents of the bag without emptying it considerably. Hence, bag-stirring became a part of my life.
As a backpack user myself, I have wistfully looked at suitcases with a longing that I normally reserve for cold beer on a hot day or dark chocolate at any time of any day. I’d see people strolling round the airport, wheeling their suitcase behind them and wondered what was going through my mind when I chose my large backpack. At around 15kg it was almost too heavy for me to lift (did I mention I have absolutely no physical strength and/or fitness?) which made it a sweat-inducing, back-breaking, would-never-quite-fit-everything-in bane of my life. It hid random clothes from me, lied to me about the contents but occasionally allowed items to rise to the surface for a last chance at freedom.
Hostel rooms are typically far too small to hold even unpacked bags so the concept of taking clothes out of the bag is not a feasible one. Hence, bag-stirring™ became my morning and evening ritual. It became a source of hilarity amongst myself and friends as we did our daily bag-stir only to find a single sock, woolly hat and bikini top.
It is important to note at this point that bag-stirring can only be used when you are aware of what kind of clothes you are looking for (i.e. shorts & t-shirt/ swimming stuff/ something to sleep in, etc). If you are looking to re-organise your possessions you simply have no alternative but to empty the bag and start again.
The method of bag-stirring is as follows:
Prop up the bag. Any bunk bed will serve as an excellent stand for your bag to lean against; just make sure there is no-one asleep in the bed at the time
Put your hand in the bag and, without looking, stir the contents with one hand
You will know what kind of texture you are looking for, depending on what kind of garment you need. Use this information to try and find the right feel of item before pulling it out. However, be aware that together, your brain and sense of touch will trick you and items that absolutely don’t have the same texture will become one of the same in The Bag.
Pull out your chosen item and either a) bask in your glee as you successfully chose a suitable item; b) moan in frustration as an incorrect item has been sourced from the bag or; c) feel totally confused as you do not recognise the item that has come out of the bag as the item is not yours/was lost three months ago/is suspiciously clean.
Bag-stirring is not for the tired/emotional/nervous backpacker and definitely shouldn’t be attempted whilst under the influence of alcohol, in a darkened hostel room or in a rush. To go the extra mile, try wearing only the first three items that have risen to the surface that day. Whether or not you feel ready to admit it, I can almost guarantee that anyone with a backpack as a main item-holder has engaged in this activity at some point – those pesky things just insist on hiding just about everything. I implore you to embrace it as an art form and enjoy the daily surprise of the surface-risers. You’ll be doing it anyway, might as well enjoy it!
I don’t know if you knew this but I went to New Zealand. “I did not know this!” I hear you cry. It’s true, but I hardly ever mention it. To be fair, I don’t; except on this blog which is my outlet for ranting/moaning/being a princess.
Being in New Zealand was the best time of my life. With scenery like this, it’s not hard to see why.
I had everything I wanted and it was relatively easy to come by: a job, friends, my boyfriend, sunshine – it was all right there and life was lovely. Of course, it came to an end eventually and I left New Zealand summer to return to rainy British winter. While it was fantastic to see my family and friends after nine months away there were several thoughts that I had on landing and returning to ‘normal life’ that I just can’t be alone in, yet, there was no-one around me in my situation to moan to.
[on landing] Perfect, it’s raining. Thanks a lot. It was gorgeous sunshine when I left and look at that greyness
It’s cold too.
I can feel my tan fading already
I am so happy that I won’t have to carry this bag around anymore, it’s so heavy
It stinks too
WAIT, there’s a washing machine at home. That I don’t have to pay for. That actually washes clothes
Well this is looking up. Actual clean clothes
Come to think of it, there’s a shower too. With hot water. I won’t have to wear flip-flops in it!
I’m so excited right now
[on seeing family/friends that have come to pick you up at the airport] I didn’t realise how much I missed them
Yes, admire my tan, thanks
Your car feels bigger than I remember. Oh that’s because it isn’t full of stuff and food wrappers like I’m used to
[on the car radio] Wow they have this song abroad too. What a small world
Traffic in New Zealand is sheep on the road. Where have all the cars come from?
So sleepy. Might just close my eyes…
YAY home already! That was quick
Oh, I slept all the way, soz
Was my bedroom always like this?
Ooooh look, my old wardrobe. More than five outfits to choose from!
The shower. I love being home. This is the best shower in the whole world
You made dinner? This is incredible, food that isn’t pasta? Why did I ever go away?!
So sleepy. Might just close my eyes…
Oh, I missed dinner
I missed dinner??!! NOOOOO
I just got back from seeing the world and all you’ve done is tell me about work. Seriously?
Ok it’s night-time, I should go to bed
I’ve never been more awake in my life
I’ll just message a few friends
They’re having a party without me? Well, I guess they would, I don’t live there anymore
I’m missing such a good time
My own space though, that’s good too
I can’t remember the last time I slept in a bed that wasn’t a bunk bed
I can sit up in it, this is great
I love having my own room
I miss having people around
Ah, morning, should probably get up
ARGH it’s 3pm!
All my friends are on a night out at the beach, waaaah
It’s raining. Standard. I hate British weather
No, I don’t have a plan for what to do now I’m back
Can I go back now?
And repeat the final three points over the coming days 😉
*I hate that phrase. My spirit is vodka and is definitely not free
The thought occurs that I could, in fact, be Verruca Salt, the excessively spoilt girl in Roald Dahl’s 1964 novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I want the world. I want the whole world. Not in a squirrels and chocolates sort of way but in a literal ‘I actually do want the world’ sort of way. I want to go everywhere and see everything and not be tied down. I also want a career and a house that would be somewhere to call my own.
Possible? Eventually (I hope). Probable? No. Especially as I want these things now and at the same time.
So which way is it going? I’ve so far made it sound like both options are readily available to me and I can just choose one and that’s the end of it. Not so. I’m living at home, looking for a job whilst waiting to see if I get invited to apply for a Canadian working holiday visa. It’s two months since I started the quest for both and as of yet, neither have presented themselves.
The longer it goes on the more time I have to overthink my options. I change my mind about what I think I want roughly every ten minutes. In all honesty if I had my own way I would be on a plane to somewhere far away where it doesn’t rain and I can feel the freedom of travelling wherever I decide to go. I have a couple of things keeping me at home for the next few months so focusing on a career would be a good option. It would be a great option if I knew what that career should be. So in the meantime I’m searching. For whichever answer comes first.
It’s a typical case of indecisiveness and I’m hoping the answer will present itself in good time. But while I wait, if I could just have a squirrel. And a boat. And a golden ticket. NOW