When I told my father I was going to go traveling, his response was unsurprising.
‘Who are you going with?’
I held my breath. ‘By myself, Dad.’
‘You’re not going,’ he said simply, making it clear that this idea was not up for discussion.
Of course, as a 28 year old woman I didn’t need my father’s permission. There might have been a timid 10 year old girl inside me who didn’t want to go against my father’s advice, but I was now an adult and I could do what I wanted. I wasn’t asking his permission, I had already made up my mind, and was simply letting him know.
Admittedly, I’d never quite understood why people went traveling ― or rather backpacking, as I was going to be doing. You carry all your worldly possessions on your back from country to country, roughing it in the strangest places. Where would you plug in your straightening irons?
It seemed dirty, unglamorous, and financially pointless.
But one day I finally understood. The UK was on the tip of a recession and things were looking pretty bleak. My job had suddenly become very insecure and there was talk of redundancies. I’d also just split up with my boyfriend, and the deposit we had saved for a house sat in my bank account willing me to use it for anything other than a new Bovis home.
You could say I just wanted to get away from everything for a while and go as far away as I could from the gloom of my small town home. I could suddenly sense the freedom, the opportunity and the adventure, and I wanted a piece it.
So I sold all my furniture, gave notice on my flat, quit my job, then bought a backpack and a ticket halfway around the world.
I only made it to my first stopover in Singapore, on my way to Australia, before the nerves really kicked in. I sat tired and hungry in my hotel room, seriously considering getting a flight straight back home. Because if I felt lonely after just 14 hours, could I honestly do this for another 12 months?
Yet something inside me encouraged me to not give up and to see the night through.
And thank goodness I stuck to it and carried on.
One of my worries setting out had been finding deliberately awkward people or bitchy girls on my journey, but those types of people are often cowards - and cowards don’t have the guts to go on adventures. Which meant I didn’t come across a single unkind person on my travels.
In fact, the people I met were everything I tried to be: kind, considerate, creative, down to earth, passionate, warm and friendly. Sure, I traveled on my own, but I was never alone - all the people I met became my friends, and we connected on a level I’d never had with any friendship before. From the Italian girl who gave me her jumper when I was cold at night in a hostel room, to the Japanese girl who helped me cook a meal, to the girl who helped me with my bags on a train, to the group on the tour bus who persuaded me to join them on a boat trip (which ended up being one of the best trips of my life). And the coolest guy I met walking down a mountain on Christmas Day who is still one of my closest friends.
There are many moments throughout my journey that I’ll never forget. Like the time I went on a big road trip adventure with a new friend, where we hired a campervan and literally had no idea where we were going, apart from that we wanted to head south. By resolving to ask locals for directions, we got tips for where to stay and new ideas for destinations on a daily basis. The freedom of not having a plan meant we were able to go anywhere and everywhere on a whim, and discover the most amazing things we wouldn’t have otherwise have found.
Traveling took its toll on me financially, that can’t be argued. After my journey came to an end, I returned to the UK absolutely broke and had to start from scratch. However, I came back richer for it. Travelling had enhanced my life in so many ways I’d never imagined. It opened my eyes to new cultures and the idea that everything is possible. It made me fiercely independent and demonstrated I didn’t need material things to make me happy. It also taught me how to navigate my own path and to be open and warm to others (no matter where they come from) ― and to always, ALWAYS, say yes to adventure.
Taking that leap to travel gave me the opportunity to learn how to be an explorer. Not only in the geographical sense, but also with my thinking and in the work I do every day. I now explore life’s opportunities in the same way I explored the world on my adventures, which is with confidence and courage - skills that were key in helping me start my own successful business.
In my 20s I had avoided the anxiety of change, but when you’re traveling every day is new and every bed is different, so you have to adjust quickly. Similarly in business you can be presented with new challenges on a daily basis and you have to resolve to ask questions to solve problems and get where you need to go. It’s the same as traveling, just a different kind of voyage of discovery.
So if you’re reading this considering an adventure of your own, I encourage you to go and buy that ticket. Don’t put it off any longer. Traveling is the best investment you will ever make ― you simply can’t put a price on it.