2013 was a momentous year for me: I left my job of six years, packed my bags and flew to Asia alone.
For too long I’d let my fears prevent me from this leap of faith. It was only through reading travel blogs and meeting travellers online that I realised a solo trip would be possible. Fear sucks the joy out of life, so I decided there and then to leave it behind. I needed to see what the world and me had to offer each other, and there was no time like the present.
The beginning of my trip (three flights to Burma) didn’t get off to the best start; the first plane was delayed, I missed the next one and by the time I reached my third plane twelve hours later than planned I was told my backpack couldn’t be found. Better to start badly I thought, things can only get better. What I found after that was nothing short of magnificent: the warmest people you could imagine, beautiful unspoilt landscapes and a sense of adventure I’d never had before. It set a standard that remained for my entire trip.
In Japan I found a charming culture of politeness, precision, and aesthetic beauty; a place of complete safety and a love for all things quirky and unusual. It was perfect. And in Taiwan I discovered new skills in the form of teaching and renovating when I took part in HelpX projects on different sides of the country.
Borneo gave me freedom to explore the jungle and a beach to relax on when I celebrated my 100th day on the road, and Singapore introduced me to a life I thought only the rich could enjoy, until I found the real soul of the place in Little India.
In China I found (to my surprise) that young Chinese people are just like me and you – our media had always portrayed them as brainwashed and out of touch with reality. They taught me how to beat the firewall so I could use Facebook so for that I’m eternally grateful. The firewall wasn’t the only wall I tackled – I climbed the Great Wall too, then flew to Chengdu to see the giant pandas which have been a love of mine since childhood.
I fulfilled more lifelong dreams by riding on horseback over the plains of Mongolia and catching the Trans-Mongolian train. In South-East Asia I saw a live Muay Thai fight, meditated with monks at a retreat, went white-water rafting, had an incredible motorbike ride along the mountainous Vietnam coast, met countless incredible people and watched sunsets night after night on the coasts of Cambodia and Thailand.
I also ended up in an illegal betting shop (someone’s front room) in Laos, got chased out of Ha Long Bay by a typhoon, ate intestines by accident, and had a small chunk of my thigh cut out in a Bangkok hospital. But hey, all part of the experience.
The grand finale was India; a country so full of diversity it taught me more about the world than anywhere else. I celebrated Diwali in the Golden Temple of Amritsar and dined with royalty amongst many, many adventures here. A wonderful end to a wonderful year.
My coming home was a bag of mixed emotions; happy to see family, apprehension about what the future would hold, and excitement about the endless possibilities.
After a year like that there’s no way 2014 can be dull. More big changes are inevitable – I don’t think it’s possible to fall back into the old way of life now I’ve seen the light!