Having trouble getting beyond your fears and stepping out onto the road? Then this post is for you.
I cannot count the number of times people – particularly women – ask me about my backpacking adventures and declare, “I wish I could do that, but I’m too scared/anxious/single/frugal.”
And I completely relate to this. When I said that I wanted to travel South America by myself, a significant number of people thought that I was either utterly insane or downright stupid. People genuinely thought that the only way I could travel somewhere like Brazil was to go either with a boyfriend or a group of friends. I am also someone who is very cautious with money, and who suffers with anxiety. I don’t come from money and my parents didn’t pay for my trip – I had barely been on holiday abroad, let alone visited exotic locations and embarked on long-haul flights. All of this meant that travelling seemed like an impossibility.
But you know what? I went. I saw. I conquered.
And I was fine.
In fact, backpacking changed my life in so many spectacular ways that I was more than fine – I was fantastic.
So, want some quick inspirational points as to why you need to stop putting your travel dreams and go for it? Read on:
1. I hear, “I wish I had gone travelling” so many times. But I have never heard anyone say, “I wish I had never gone travelling – it was a complete waste of time.” Have you? Nope, didn’t think so.
2. Self-esteem. Once upon a time, an ex of mine declared that I would never travel by myself because I wasn’t capable of looking after myself in a foreign country; that I would be overcome by my anxiety within five minutes. And I kinda believed him. However, after eight countries + years of hitchhiking, trekking and travelling solo, I know in my bones just how damn capable and independent I am.
There is nothing in this world that I cannot do or accomplish if I set my mind to it.”
3. There are more than 7 billion people on this planet – you are going to make some amazing new friends. I used to feel like the black sheep in the UK as I really struggled to find my tribe of friends and to meet romantic partners who I had a genuine connection with. Within the first day of travelling, I realised that the reason for this was that I simply hadn’t broadened my horizons wide enough to meet my kind of people. I had the pleasure of getting to know some of the most incredible people on my travels, and I couldn’t feel more blessed.
Don’t confuse the sample of people that you know from home for the entire human population.”
4. Travelling allows you to see the best of people. It’s a common misconception that everyone abroad is out to either exploit you or mug you. As a result, we can arrive at our destinations a little pessimistic and guarded, wearing padlocked money belts, fearing that strangers will take advantage of our naivety and ignorance. But you know what? Most people are amazing. For every rude stranger, I have met dozens more who have offered me assistance, food, shelter, company, and transport with absolutely no expectation of anything in return. (Fun fact: most people are good and well-meaning!)
5. The world is an incredible, chaotic, beautiful masterpiece. I’m slightly ashamed to admit this, but I wasn’t too sure what was exciting about life in my pre-travel days. I thought that life was all about succeeding at school, working your ass off in the workplace, binge-watching TV on weekends, and maybe – somewhere along the way – finding a family who will look after you when you’re too old to feed yourself. But this planet that we call home is astoundingly beautiful, and in the blink of an eye it can make you feel as young and carefree as you were as a child (just stand on top of a mountain or visit the Grand Canyon – you’ll get all kinds of feels, I promise). Whenever I find myself asking the question, “What is the point in this boring work/life/job/world?” I take out my travel photos and have a long hard look. The answer is simple: “Because the world is a freaking incredible place, and I am lucky to be a part of it.”
6. Getting up every day and asking nothing of yourself but, “What do you want to do today?” Not for work or because your partner asked you. Not because it would be expedient or common sense to take that opportunity. Travelling is such a personal and wonderfully selfish experience when you do it solo. All you have to do is wake up and wonder, “What do you want to do that you will enjoy? What do you want to do for no other reason than that it’s fun/relaxing/interesting?”
Freedom is not the absence of commitments, but the ability to choose and commit to what is best for you.” Paulo Coelho in ‘The Zahir’
7. The joy of experiencing other cultures and world views. Who knew that education could be so fun?
To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” Aldous Huxley
8. You won’t be the same person when you return. Old ways of thinking and entrenched values are often challenged by life on the road. Even one month living out of a backpack will change you in more ways than you can imagine.
9. Socializing accompanied by wonderful alone time. I would drink and talk with fellow backpackers in hostels until the early hours, have deep and meaningful conversations by camp fires, and quietly admire a dorm-mate’s ability to snore louder than Boromir’s horn. Within days I would be enjoying a solo 12 hour bus journey watching movies and listening to music, trekking on a mountain with not a single soul for miles, or journaling quietly in the corner of a beach. Yes, travel is all about meeting new people and experiencing different cultures and crowds, but it is also about spending time with yourself and enjoying your own company.
10. You will never regret travelling – you will only regret not going in the first place. I’m reiterating my first point because if you are on the fence about buying that plane ticket, but are dying to go, you need to understand that you will never regret taking the plunge. The only regret that you will ever have is not going on the adventure of a lifetime.
There are many things that I could have done instead of backpacking for more than two years: I could have spent my life savings on a law conversion course, or on a Masters degree; I could have moved to London and worked in a well-paid graduate job; I could have settled down and found a long-term boyfriend; I could have joined a political party and put my First Class Political Science degree (that I worked so damn hard for) to good use; I could have joined a gym, bought myself wonderful clothes and taken Kylie Jenner-esque selfies; I could have joined a charity and served others.
Basically, I could have done all of the sensible things that you’re supposed to do, instead of throwing all of your savings into a backpack with no real end goal other than to have one hell of a time. But I have never regretted my decision. Not for a moment. Seriously.
Because I know that travelling has shown me not only the best that the world has to offer, but the best that I have to offer the world.
And when I came home I couldn’t believe the amount of stuff that I had. Stuff that, at the time, had seemed so important to buy and wear and display. Stuff that was so damned vital to my life that, by the time I got home, I had completely forgotten I owned it in the first place.
But this is what’s strange, whilst I can’t remember every material item I’ve owned, I can remember every travel memory like it was yesterday. It’s cheesy but true:
Travel is the one thing that you can buy that will make you richer.
I hope that you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it! There is nothing more that I love than encouraging others to follow their travel dreams and embark on adventures. If you’re planning you’re first ever trip, be sure to check out my First Time Backpacker Series for useful tips and tricks.