For as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by maps, atlases, globes and geography. While most kids were playing with Barbies or on their Gameboys I had ‘GeoSafari’; a total geek fest of a computerised toy that taught me about flags, countries, capitals, landmarks and geology then tested my knowledge with a quick fire quiz. In fact I played it so often I was able to answer each question within a split second. I still vividly remember the jolly sound that came out of it when I got the answer right.
I was fascinated by puzzles and secret codes as a youngster which morphed into a love of foreign languages – the new words and alien grammar made me feel like I was cracking a code. I started learning French but the lack of pace of learning in school made me frustrated, so to combat that I went to France after University and studied French in a language school in Nice for 6 weeks which taught me more in those short weeks than I learnt in 6 years at school. Learning the alphabet in sign language with my best friend was great fun – we used to communicate with each other in lessons via reflections in a glass cabinet while the teacher was droning on about god knows what. I have ambitions to learn Spanish in the coming year too.
In my teenage years I spent many happy Christmases watching Michael Palin repeats of Around the World in 80 Days, Pole to Pole and Full Circle, enthralled by the scenery and the challenges he faced.
In my final year of University I decided I wanted to travel the world before I went into work. I planned out a trip to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and California and told everyone I was going to go. I had two problems however: a severe shortage of funds, and a crippling shyness with a lack of self-confidence. Thank god I didn’t end up going when I was 21. France was a safer and shorter means of escape and it helped me get some much needed confidence.
In 2008 I took a life-changing 2 week holiday to Thailand on an organised tour. I booked it out of a need to escape and a need for adventure but I gained so much more than that. I realised I was capable of putting myself out there, getting on with a group of people I’d never met without feeling awkward, and actually relaxing. It was the first time I hadn’t worried about anything. It was a revelation. I can still take myself back to the tranquility I felt in the swimming pool of the guesthouse in Koh Phangan looking out to sea.
Since then I’ve taken organised tours to California/Nevada/Arizona, Thailand (again) and Albania/Croatia/Montenegro/Greece, learning something new from each trip that would give me the confidence to go it alone.
Many travel bloggers whose blogs I read avidly talk about the need to escape their ‘cubicle job’. My situation was a little different – I actually loved my job for most of the time I was there, which made the decision to leave quite difficult. It was varied, presented new challenges, and I was appreciated. In return I appreciated what I had and really cared about doing a good job. The problem was that I had incurable wanderlust, and started to think that I might benefit from being outside and meeting more people. I felt like there must be something I’m missing out on. Then I found this little video that seemed to sum up my feelings…
And so here we are. I’m ready to take on the massive challenges of travel by myself. I expect I’ll be terrified at times and elated at other times but whatever happens it will be a lifelong dream realised, and feels like the natural next step forward.
Update (April 2015): My first big solo adventure lasted for 9 months and took me to Burma, Malaysia, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Borneo, Hong Kong, China, Mongolia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and India. Upon returning to the UK, I started working for myself and have been studying full time for a Masters in Sustainable Development. I thought I had ‘got travelling out of my system’ but I was wrong. Travelling is a part of me, and I’ve realised I can’t ever be in one place for too long. When I have completed my Masters this year I intend to travel again, to Australia, Central America, South America and more. To keep updated, sign up to the newsletter in the right hand sidebar.