Now it’s time to stop looking back, and look forward… In just over a week I’m flying down to Langkawi, Malaysia. I’m spending 2 nights there, and then 3 nights on a crazy small Thai island, Koh Lipe, and after that… I have no set plan. I’m going at it alone, for the first time in my life; I’ll be travelling (for more than 5 days) on my own. Just me. No childhood best friend. No travel buddy I met in China. No one. It’s been something I’ve always wanted to do, and do slowly. When I was a teenager I dreamed of picking up, leaving, and having no life plan. I wanted to travel to different countries, working as I went along to earn enough money for my next destination. Sadly, as I got older, and some might say wiser (?), I realised, for me, that’s not a feasible way to do it. And you know what? It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that that’s okay.
Being in the kind of environment I’ve found myself in, surrounded by travellers, people who only know how to live internationally, people who spend every weekend, every holiday, every day off going out to explore new places… it makes you view your own adventures and plans very differently. I sometimes feel inferior to the people around me, a lesser “ex-pat” or “traveller” because my list of ticked off countries isn’t as long as theirs… You live in this constant different mind-set that the only reason you’re here, the only reason you’re working 40 hours a week and living in a country that makes every task difficult, is to get that next stamp in your passport. And, please, don’t think I’m complaining. I know just how damn lucky I am to be here and have these opportunities, I don’t quite know why I’m getting them or why I’m here, but I know how fortunate I am. It’s just difficult to step back and see it from the outside sometimes. It’s difficult to see how it really is, outside of this stupid Country Garden bubble, out on the other side of the Great Chinese wall.
It’s exactly the same, if not 1000x worse when you’re actually on the road travelling. You meet people along the way, and the conversation always starts the same…
Where are you from? How long you travelling for?
First off, it’s always a punch in the stomach when I tell people, proudly, that I’m from Wales, just for them to give me the side eye and mutter “You don’t sound Welsh.” Or, even worse “Isn’t that in England?”… but anyway, I will not get started on that topic, I’ll be here for days if I do… It’s that 2nd question. Maybe it’s just me, or some of the people I’ve met, but you get the feeling that no matter what answer you give, no matter how long you say you’re travelling for, or how many countries you’re going to hit, you feel like it’s not good enough. You feel that you’re being compared to everyone else on the backpacker trail. There will always be someone who tells you, or looks at you as if your travel plans are the most pathetic, unworthy plans of all. Yep, I’ve met them. They’re the ones who (most of the time) have been given a load of money by mummy and daddy and are out there to “find themselves” and spend all the cash. I know I know, I sound bitter, and maybe I am. I’ve always compared myself, my life, everything, to the people around me, and I’ve always come up the one at the bottom (in my head anyway). But, I’m finally learning to do that a little less, to stop putting myself, my choices and my life down and thinking of it as lesser than others.
The other day I had a moment, you know one of those where things sort of just, click, they settle and your brain feels clearer and your body happier? I had one of those, sitting in my half packed up apartment drinking tea, it suddenly came to me that I am in complete control of how I do things. Now, I know at the age of 24, I should have come to this conclusion slightly earlier, but, it became so damn clear to me yesterday… I was forcing myself to travel, and take on the next few months in a certain way. A way I thought was how I had to do it, ought to do it. I thought that the only way for me to get this real solo travel experience, was to go in blind. Like, really blind. My original plan, that I told everyone about, was to fly to Malaysia, and then….nothing. That was it. No final destination, no route, no list of countries to hit, no time limit (sort of, I mean, I need to be home before August but, that’s like half a year away). All I was going to give myself was a budget. I was just going to go until I hit the end of that pile of money, and then head home… That sounds exciting right?! Exciting, crazy, brave, reckless, free and so many other adjectives! But… as excited as I was about it, I was also feeling uneasy… I felt like I was putting too much pressure and too many unknowns on myself to really, truly enjoy and look forward to the experience. I was stopping myself from making any solid plans because I was too afraid to break this pattern, and how it would look. How fucking stupid?! I’m a grown ass woman. If I don’t want to travel like that, then I bloody well don’t have to! I’ve earnt this money, I’ve worked the hours and squirreled it away. Why am I forcing myself to do something in a way that I don’t feel 100% comfortable with?! I know right, it’s an epiphany and a half for my little pea head to take in!
So, after realising this, and figuring out what it is that I want, I went and did it. I put another “checkpoint” into my mysterious 2018. Three checkpoints in fact! I have the start and end of my Malaysia/SEA travel booked. I had my flight to Malaysia already, but I went ahead and booked my flight out. I’ve given myself 4 weeks and 2 days to travel south down mainland Malaysia, see Singapore, and then get back to Kuala Lumpur by the 4th of March, when I’ll be flying down to that beautiful country that has had my heart for over 10 years now… that’s right, for the 3rd time, I’m heading back to New Zealand! Yaaahhhs!!
It’s like the best of both worlds. I have points and stages to my travels/over the next couple of months, but for the most part, it’s still pretty empty and free! I have a month to travel around a country, deciding as I go where to stop in on next, where to skip, where to spend one night, where to spend 4… But I know I have a next stage. I have my Malaysia travel, and then I have New Zealand! I think I’ll spent a few weeks/a month in NZ (money providing), and then I’ll have to book my flight home, via Hong Kong (to pick up a suitcase). After that though…. I have a wedding at the end of April, Art Basel in June, another (much awaited) wedding at the start of August, and then a week in Spain with Molly. I love it! I’m able to have some sort of plan to my life, but without making a week by week schedule! It’s the perfect balance for me, and I’m so glad I realised it in time.