It has now been a month since I returned to London from a years travel and I have been filled with mixed emotions, perspective, a new lease on life and a desire to keep something of that travelling magic and integrate it in to my daily life.
I travelled to 13 countries in Africa and 8 countries in South America. The trip ranged from tiny villages in Uganda to seeing the uber rich in Cape Town. Seeing how indigenous people live in Bolivia to climbing mountains in Patagonia. After 12 months on the road which included 5 months of camping (sometimes in boiling hot temperatures and other times in below freezing), four months in hostels which usually included staying in dorm rooms, showering in my flip flops, sharing rooms with snoring strangers and not being able to flush toilet paper for six months, I can still describe the feeling I felt when I laid on my bed for the first time. I’ll never take for granted a hot shower and a comfy bed again because towards the end both were scarce. These home comforts are worth their weight in gold but I know it is all part of the experience and I truly wouldn’t change a thing.
But more importantly I feel happy, healthy and grateful. I’ve read many an article or blog post about how travel changes you and blah blah but actually for me it was truly life changing and I hope I can share just a snippet of how a year travelling the world has truly inspired me and the way that I live my life without sounding like a total dick.
Being grateful with what I’ve got
One of the things I feel is how lucky I am to be born where I was, given the opportunities I had and was able to accomplish all the things that I want in life.Visiting tiny villages in Uganda and Malawi and seeing people with rags on their back, tiny homes made of mud and consuming only the food they can grow in their garden surely puts things into perspective. Having people ask if you’ll swap them your socks for a hand made bracelet or asking for pencils and paper made me realise just how lucky I am to always have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, food at the corner shop and money to spend on exactly what I want. Someone told me “We don’t have a lot but we are happy with what we’ve got”.
Becoming a minimalist and living with less
Becoming a ‘minamalist’ during my travels was easy because I could only carry 13kg in my bag so it was an easy transition but I really want to continue this at home, I’ve culled bags and bags of clothing, handbags and unnecessary crap since I got back and I’m currently trying to find somewhere I can send them where I truly know they will be of good use to someone. It’s awful to think how many ridiculous things I’ve got and just how wasteful I’ve been. Do I need 40 pairs of knickers, 10 bras, 20 pairs of socks, 10 dresses? Of course not. “Stuff” doesn’t make me happy, experiences and people do and that’s what I’m going to focus on from now on.
Learning about history through the people who lived it
I never really enjoyed school (which is weird because I’m now a teacher) but I learnt so much this year through listening to people and their stories which brought all of those boring history lessons to life. Listening to survivors’ stories of the genocide in Rwanda, seeing bullet holes and blood soaked clothes that have been left as a reminder and visiting a museum about this terrible tragedy was moving but horrifying. Attending the apartheid museum and reading Nelson Mandela’s book to learn about the oppression which occurred in South Africa was just horrifying and I found myself getting very emotional (which isn’t like me at all). In Colombia I learnt so much about their troubled past with gangs, violence, cartels, drugs and a corrupt government from the people who lived through it and came out the other side. Having visited sites and museums that have shaped a nation was difficult but I knew it was important on my travels to gain a real insight to these places and it would be impossible for them to not make a huge impact on me.
Feeling happy and healthy through a vegan diet & yoga
I met a wonderful girl during my Patagonia trip called Michelle who is a nurse and also follows a vegan diet. After many chats with her and watching documentaries that she recommended I knew that it was time for me to make a change and make whatever small difference I can when it comes to consuming animal products. I’ve always eaten meat but in the past few years I’ve eaten less beef and pork and finally gave it all up a little while back. It was so easy and I actually enjoyed cooking again with all the colours of rainbow. Upon my return to the U.K I knew it was time to try a vegan diet and after a few weeks I’m so happy that I have made the change. My friends have been super supportive, offering to cook, gifting me cook books and patting me on the back for the move.
I’ve always loved yoga but on this trip I got to participate in a lot more yoga, I had the time to learn, practise and really embrace it. I did a class in Uganda whilst overlooking the River Nile, My friend Amanda is a yoga teacher back in New Zealand so we attended a few of her classes. Our hostel in Guatape in Colombia offered early morning yoga sessions which we gladly participated in. I also do yoga from You Tube videos from Adrienne which I’ve really enjoyed. I feel so good after a yoga session, I’m much more flexible, my strength has improved and above all I feel relaxed and revived and a whole lot calmer.
Not wasting my time with insignificant people
I met a lot of people this year, the majority of people are amazing, interesting, have good conversation and have opinions on things that matter. But of course, there are the very few who are rude, inconsiderate, full of themselves, bitchy or for whatever reasons we just didn’t gel. I realised that actually I need to spend my time with people that truly matter to me, people that make me happy, people that make me laugh and people who I can have really good chats and interactions with and who enrich my life. Not people who put me down.
The incredible people who we met along the way shaped our travels and helped us to have the best time. Whether we spent 3 hours, 3 days or 3 weeks with people it was just so nice to get to know someone and find out about them and their lives. More often than not I felt so boring in comparison!
My love for travel hasn’t wavered
I’ve always loved travel and have been a traveller for the past 10 years, spending a whole year traveling has been a dream for quite some time and I’m so happy I got to fulfil it this year. I still love travel but next time I do something on a scale like this I really want to do something more meaningful. This trip was all about us and what we wanted to do but next time I think it would only be right to do something for us and help other people. Whether it be working with children or animals I’m not sure I just want to do something else.
But I will keep travelling, doing the long term travel thing hasn’t made me think “Ok I’m done now”, the list has only got bigger and I can’t wait to get back out there again and visit some new and interesting places and visit some of the fantastic people that we met along the way.
I’m happy that I’ve changed over the course of the year because I think I needed to. Life in London is fast, expensive, fickle and demanding so it was the right time for me to take a break, relax, recharge and realise that although it is the greatest city in the world, there is a whole big wide world out there ready to be explored!
But for now I just want to settle back into my life, see my friends, get back to work and finally earn some money and get planning for the next adventure.
I will finally get onto do some blogging about the last six months in South America because I just couldn’t face it while I was there. Everytime I opened my computer to write a blog post I knew it was time away from the travels so I decided against it.
Thanks for sticking with me x