One minute, I was lying on a beach in Croatia with a cocktail, and the next, I am back in Sydney, it is rainy and cold, and my Dad is on my back about consolidating my super. But now that I am back, I have had time to get over my post-holiday blues, and think. When I told people I was quitting my job to go travelling for three months, I received all different kinds of reactions. To some people, I may as well have been announcing that I was chopping an ear off, or moving to the Amazon to live with an indigenous tribe. Some people thought it was a great idea, and many of them wished they could do the same. To be honest, I didn’t really see it as such a big deal, but I got a strange attitude from a lot of people; while supportive, they thought that travelling for that long would hinder their careers, or their plans to save money or buy a house.
Although young people are travelling more and more frequently, there are still some people who really don’t see it as a priority. One of my friends told me she “didn’t really care” about travelling, and that she would rather save to buy a house. But for me, there is no price that can be attributed to the sort of experiences that I gained while I was travelling. I travelled alone, with friends and with family, and the different experiences that I had, and the things that I learned every single week, validated the money I was spending.
I stayed in hotels, hostels and on boats. I made friends with all different kinds of people with different ways of thinking. I told one of my best friends to back off, and made a bunch of new ones, went swimming in a lake at a music festival, jumped off cliffs, went canyon jumping in Austria, cycling in Amsterdam, room-shared with creepy ice junkies, partied in a cave in Croatia, danced for hours on many nights, learned about different cultures, and about history and art. I read, wrote, and ate every kind of dish you can imagine.
While these experiences weren’t all good, they will ultimately inform and change my life forever. Moments from the trip will resonate with me my whole life. It broke, then restored my faith in the human spirit. People I barely knew were always there for me; to help me, to take me home, or just to look out for me. I had to do things I would never have dreamed myself capable of.
Mostly, the trip helped me to be present in a way that I never was before. You have to learn to take whatever life throws at you, whether it be a tequila shot, a ride in a dodgy car, a change of plan, a creepy guy, or just a moment in time.
When you are away, that travelling defines who you are. You are more than an account manager, a banker, a teacher. You are a traveller, and mostly everything you talk about is related to travelling. The places you have been, or are going to. The stories you have to tell. You are no longer defined by anyone’s preconceptions of who you are. You aren’t anyone’s girlfriend, or sister, or friend. You are only you, and that you is defined by the things that you do and how you do them. In that moment, or the next.
When I was on my own, I was pushed to the limits of who I was. Often I hated being on my own, because if I was on my own, I was missing out on something. On any given day or night, anything could happen (and anything does happen). You may only meet someone and see them for one night, and yet, the bond that you shared will remain a memory. And that memory isn’t yet tarnished because that person, frozen in time, seems perfect. You may never get to know their flaws and that is the way they will remain in your memory. A memory of a time that is full of happiness; whatever that means to you; drinking cocktails in the sun, dancing, swimming, adventuring, but most important of all, feeling free- not feeling restricted by time, or by your relationships.
So even though I spent what would have been the deposit on an apartment, for me, it was well worth it. Meanwhile, my friend is slightly ahead in her career, or she may have put a deposit on a house at the right time, and saved money in the future. I will never really know what I could have missed in those months I spent saving money for my trip, and the time I spent away. But I don’t care. To me, the sacrifice was worth it.