One’s Company, Two’s A Crowd

I was asked recently if I liked travelling with friends or preferred going it alone and meeting people along the way. My first answer is, and probably always will be, go it alone.

I’m sure most people would look at that response and think “But won’t you get lonely?” The short answer is “No”. The longer answer is…still “No”. I don’t feel the need to justify to people why I want and prefer to do things on my own.

I have been travelling with friends. I have been travelling with family. It’s fun. They have been some of my favourite experiences. However, unless you are travelling with someone who is identical to you in every single thing you want to do there will be compromises. A lot of compromising. And the “compromises” usually end up being majority rules. I have found in this instance that I have usually gone off on my own and met up with people at the end of the day. If you’re going to travel to a place together but then not spend any time together, you may as well have gone on your own.

I’m not a party person. I’ve visited places with friends who are intent on going out at night and getting drunk. That doesn’t interest me. If I wanted to do something like that I wouldn’t travel halfway around the world. That’s something that can be done in your own backyard.

I have had some fun times travelling in groups. Sometimes it is unavoidable. I’ve had the tour group experience and it has been hit and miss.

  • Ireland on a bus with 40 other people, mostly Aussies looking to get drunk…not overly enthused by this.
  • Egypt in a group with 12 other people – awesome. A small group where you got to know everyone. This tour was over seven years ago and I’m still in touch with some of the people I met here. I would definitely do this again (tour groups are the only way to go in Egypt).
  • A six night, seven day camping trip in America with 12 other people – so-so. Five Irish girls who had never been camping before and complained nearly the whole trip does not make for a good experience.

I have had some fun times travelling with friends and family. My sister visited me for a month during my time in London. We took off in a car (with a friend of mine for the first week) for four weeks and toured around Cornwall, Devon, and the Cotswolds before heading across to France. We were interested in seeing the same things so it was easy to plan. And because my sister is the complete opposite to me…I was able to let her do all the talking and sit back and observe and listen. I’ve often been told I come across as rude and disinterested but to me it’s the opposite. Just because I’m not talking doesn’t mean I’m not interested in listening to what others have to say…this brings me to my next point.

Travelling on my own forces me out of my comfort zone. I don’t have the backup of friends and family to fall on when I want conversation. I’m a naturally reserved person and I’m quite happy to hide behind someone else who does all the talking. Being on my own I can’t do that. I need to be able to approach people and hold a conversation where needed.

Being on your own means no restrictions. You can go at your own pace. Don’t feel like doing something in the morning? Relax! Stay in bed a bit longer. Unless there are certain times you need to be places (museums, attractions etc.) take it easy.

I should take some of my own advice there. When I go somewhere I tend to try and cram as much in as possible. We live so far away from everything here that an opportunity to travel overseas for any length of time doesn’t come along often. I should learn to relax and take each day as it comes, be a bit more spontaneous (a discussion point for a future post).

Travelling alone is not without peril. Even though I have not had anything happen to me (touch wood) you do hear some horror stories in the news. I’m planning my big odyssey for next year and will be venturing to South America for the first time. Needless to say my Dad is a bit concerned about me travelling on my own through some of those countries. I’ve had people ask me if I’m going to travel the continent using a tour company. My answer is no. I will be using a tour company when I need to (i.e. Inca Trail trek) but I want to experience it for myself. I don’t want people telling me when I have to get up, have breakfast, be ready to go by…

People are still concerned and I’m sure there are valid reasons for their concerns. However, I’m not a party animal. I’m not going to deliberately be putting myself in a situation where I could end up with a spiked drink or worse. I won’t be in places where drugs are rampant (well…I hope not anyway). I’m a smart person. I’m using contacts I know to give me advice on where to stay, what to see, what areas to avoid. I’m not going to just rely on guidebooks. I’m going to rely on people in the know.

This is not foolproof. I do feel some trepidation in doing it on my own but I would regret going all that way and then rely on a tour company to tell me what I am doing each day. Tours are good for meeting people sure but…you also miss out on seeing a lot of the real sights. Hopefully by going it alone I will be able to immerse myself in local culture a bit more.

I’m interested to hear other thoughts on this – solo, with friends, group? Why? How could you convince me to do it with other people.

I’m looking forward to my trip next year. I won’t let anyone put me off my dreams. I want to be a traveller, not a tourist…

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Travel quote found on Pinterest

10 Years

What is so special about 10 years? A lot can happen in 10 years – births, deaths, marriages. The date 12 May will always be imprinted in my mind because it’s the date I set off into the unknown. I left behind all that was familiar and moved clear across the other side of the world.

10 years. It doesn’t feel like 10 years. Sometimes it feels like yesterday. Sometimes it feels like a dream. Sometimes I look back and wonder “Wow. Did I really do that?”

And I guess the big question is why? Why did I do that? I have my big sister to thank for the idea. I was unhappy in my job (almost floundering I guess you could say). Big sis had been invited to a wedding in the States and asked me to travel with her. That would have been awesome…and then she suggested I keep travelling over to England and live there for a while.

The thought was in my head and wouldn’t get out. Could I do it? Could I give up everything to make a go in a new country? Of course I could. Anyone can do anything they want when they put their minds to it. Did I want to? I did, I really did. Did I feel comfortable doing it? Heck, no.

But…the seed had been planted and once there it would not go away. The trip to the States fell through so it was straight to England for me instead. So, I scrimped and saved. I got my passport renewed. I was lucky enough to have a grandparent who had been born in England, so I was eligible for the ancestry visa. This gave me four years with no restrictions, as opposed to the two year working holiday visa. 

Planning started to fall into place. I joined one of those International Exchange programs, who organised my accommodation for me for the first few nights. That was one less stress on my hands. I had my important documents – passport, visa, one-way ticket (eek!).

Why did I choose May? I’m not entirely sure. Maybe it was to make sure I had enough money saved to make a go of it until I found a job. Maybe I just pulled it out of the hat randomly.

The day got closer and closer. I had finished up work at the start of April. I moved out of my flat not long after (I loved that place) and went back to Portland to spend the last couple of weeks with my parents. I was getting more and more nervous. I knew some people would wonder if I would make it. I wasn’t known for taking risks (still not really…). I had people trying to tell me horror stories – acquaintances they knew who ran out of money because they couldn’t find jobs.

It didn’t deter me. I wouldn’t let it deter me. I would make it work and I would enjoy it. If I only lasted three months so be it but at least I tried. It actually helped that a really good friend from high school was going to join me a few weeks after I arrived. At least I would know one person.

My parents and I headed back to Melbourne a few days before departure. Big Sis had arranged a farewell dinner for me. I thought it was only going to be family but she had arranged for some close friends to be there as well.

Finally the big day was here. I was nervous. I was excited. I was s***-scared! But I was determined. I was going on an adventure! I had my parents, sister and grandmother there to farewell me. My parents even stayed at the airport to take a photo of my plane departing. In fact, my father documented the whole departure as can be seen in the following photos!

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The flights were long. I flew to London via Bangkok and Frankfurt. I almost missed my connection in Frankfurt because it took me the longest time to work out I had to change terminals.

I finally landed in London on 13 May, which was also my parents’ wedding anniversary. The exchange program, when organising my accommodation, had organised a transfer from the airport so that was one less thing to worry about. I got to the hostel, checked in and then stepped outside to go exploring…and it started raining.

Welcome to London. Enjoy your stay.

I will write more about my experiences in the future but I will finish by saying this…

I thought I would last three months. I lasted almost three and a half years. It has been the most rewarding thing I have done in my life and it now seems almost a dream. 

If you dream it, you can achieve it. If you are contemplating a similar adventure, and you’re not 100% sure I say go for it. What’s the worst that could happen? You get to see a bit of the world? Good on you.

Welcome

There is a certain je nais se quoi about travelling I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand. I just know that once I start I don’t really want to stop, and the only thing that does stop me is real life.

I have “been there, done that” to quite a few places in the world, more than some people will dream about in their lifetime but still nowhere near enough to satisfy my curiosity and thirst to see the world.

So what is the purpose of this blog? I aim to share with you my experiences, my dreams, my plans for that trip of a lifetime*, and in return learn from your experiences.

Join me on an adventure (virtual and hopefully real).

I Want To Fly Away

* Not guaranteed to be everyone’s trip of a lifetime.