Change, like laughter lines can creep up slowly when we aren’t looking. One day you look in the mirror and things are different.
My previous article which asked ‘Does Travel Change you?’ (you can read it here if you missed it) showed WHAT some of the external influences are which you can encounter when travelling and how they can change you; but here I want to focus on HOW they changed me.
I am often asked whether I believe that I have changed as a result of travel and if so, in what way am I different. What has travel done to me? As is the norm when change happens very slowly and you are close to it, I didn’t think that I had changed at all; or at least I didn’t until I took a recent visit back to the city where I grew up and I met some people that I hadn’t seen since I left school. And I realised that travel had changed me.
Or at least, how meeting all of the brilliant people that I had met since I set off, people who didn’t know me and who had no preconceived ideas about me had changed my perception about myself.
I can finally say that I like myself and I trust in myself. I am at peace with myself. Mostly. Oh of course I will never be happy with how I look, but I am getting to quite like ME.
Me – the girl who always felt second best – the girl who used to be nervous about dancing at the disco – the girl who got tied up in knots talking to the boys or having to speak out in the classroom.
There is a massive part of my life that is still sad but as somebody recently pointed out to me, at least I have done my grieving. The sadness will always be there but I refuse to allow it to shape me. Believe me, I have been as low as it is possible to go, but now I embrace life and I smile, smile, smile. And while my story is sad, I wouldn’t want to swap if for some of those other stories that are out there.
I can now shrug off the occasional poisonous and very personal comments that some troll or other attempts to post on my blog because a) their comments are so wide of the mark I realise that they have absolutely no idea of the bigger picture or the truth, and b) I am writing this from a hammock by the sea. One nil to me I think.
And I now know that I can cope if I drop my car keys down a filthy storm drain or if I miss my bus connection or if my hostel is fully booked. Standing up and making a speech is a piece of cake compared to walking into a party hostel when happy hour is in full swing. Yes, my stomach still sinks down into my boots but I actually almost enjoy the challenges now and I know that they are just more things to add to my lifetime curriculum vitae (I just think I found the title for a future article)
If I like a guy I tell him. What’s the point in pussy-footing about? Life’s too short and it can change in a heartbeat. And to those boys who used to tease me in school – well when you hook up – albeit for a brief two weeks with the hottest guy in town AND he just happens to be twenty one years your junior – two nil to me!
Personally, I prefer to travel relatively slowly and to get to know a place and some of its inhabitants and to learn what makes it tick. I like to spend long lunches chatting over a cold beer, or evenings enjoying a fiesta or sharing a big pot of food in a hostel with other travellers. I like to volunteer and to give something back – often exchanging my work and my time for accommodation and food.
I like to learn new skills and have new experiences. I like to stretch my mind and my abilities, push my boundaries and bury my fears. And now after two years of living like a nomad, a hippy, a traveller, a backpacker, a gypsy – call it what you will – I think that I can count on one hand the mornings when I have opened my eyes and had a day of boredom, routine or apathy to look forward to.
Contrary to popular belief, most of my days, like those of most of the long term travellers that I know, are very busy – in fact I am often more occupied than I ever was during my old life and when I had a standard working week; but I love my chosen lifestyle and I don’t consider my work now a hardship or a chore.
- Collecting cow poo – smelly but it was only going to be for a couple of weeks at most. And I was surrounded by the most stunning mountain scenery and working alongside some fantastic people.
- Lesson planning – probably the one thing that I enjoy the least, but the pay back when somebody ‘gets it’ is uplifting.
- Hours spent writing articles – more often than not, sheer pleasure, unless up against a deadline – but at least I can find great surroundings and choose to write from a hammock, an historic town square or a little independent coffee shop whilst I slog away.
People often ask me when I am ready to stop travelling and when I will settle down. Well for now, this is my life. It suits me.
I am working, I am giving something back. I believe that I am making a difference. I take each day as it comes, but I am not afraid to stop and change direction if it begins to become difficult or more importantly, I want to try something else.
In the third part of this series asking ‘Does travel change you’ I will focus on Why.
If you have enjoyed this article do let me know in the comments and feel free to share it with your friends Thank you for reading
You can read the first article in the series here: Article 1
The third article in the series is here; Article 3