I used to feel wary when talking about travel. Those vapid, rich people in The Inbetweeners 2 make me cringe and anyone who says things like ‘you haven’t lived until you have travelled’ isn’t someone I want to associate with. Personally, I don’t think those who travel are any better than those who don’t – they just have a different set of priorities or goals in life. It’s all personal preference. Travellers have a stereotype of being an ‘I’m better than you because I have seen the world’ attitude which some people I have met along the way have had, but for the most part people have been lovely, normal people who just enjoy seeing new places. If you spend a year going around the world, the chances are you will talk about it because that’s how you have spent a year of your life. That’s not being self absorbed or thinking you’re better than anyone else – it’s just the same as someone talking about the job that they have worked in for a year.
Whilst the idea of saying travel changes you makes me want to vomit, there is some truth in that idea, but before you roll your eyes and close down this post, hear me out. Travel changes you because of the things you learn along the way, not because you can now start a conversation by going ‘how many countries have you been to? I’ve been to 68 already!’
Through my time around the world, here are some of the things I have learned:
1. Materialistic things don’t really matter. I was a massive shopper back in England. I was the kind of girl who bought a new outfit for a new social occasion. When I left England, I had sent a box of clothes to my uncle’s in Australia and took a bursting suitcase that was just (and I mean just) under the weight limit I was allowed to fly with.
Along the way, the weight of that suitcase lessened as I ditched things – a pair of boots, a ludicrously thick coat, all left behind for someone else to use. As my suitcase got lighter, I began to understand how little I needed. As long as I had shoes I could walk for distances in, swimwear, something that was a little warmer, the odd nice outfit for special occasions, then I was fine.
Now we have settled in Sydney, I still have this attitude. When we got here, I bought a few items to replace things that had become worn or needed updating, but since then I haven’t shopped. I don’t feel the need to – I have what I need already.
2. Image is not everything. The only time I wore a lot of makeup back home was when I was going out, be that for a meal or drinks with friends, but I did wear makeup most days. The idea of being barefaced in the world unnerved me.
Since travelling, I have done a total u-turn on this idea. I know shows like TOWIE make makeup on the beach seem normal, but in reality it isn’t. Everyone is there to catch a tan, to swim in the sea, to chat to friends. You don’t need to strut along in wedges and wear jewellery and be caked in layers of makeup to go to the beach – you just need to go and have fun.
3. Even if you hate it, your home is your home. For as long as I can remember, I have hated Bradford. Escaping to Australia has always been my dream, and a dream I am incredibly happy to have achieved.
Whilst living in Sydney is everything I could have imagined and more, it is a different kind of home than Bradford. I miss knowing the streets like the back of my hand, the smells and sights that remind me of my childhood. I miss the grey days, the in between days, the shopping at The White Rose and the familiarity of the faces I walked past in Morrisons. I think I had to go away to appreciate what I had. Sydney is my home now, but Bradford is the place that will always be my actual home.
4. Like life, travel is what you make of it. I remember being told that you have to do this experience, that you have to go to this place, that you need to see this sight. Most of the time, those recommendations were good, but sometimes we have gone to places because other people said to and have been so incredibly underwhelmed. That’s not to say things aren’t good, but they aren’t what we wanted to do.
Travel has taught me to stick to what I want to do. It doesn’t matter if that spot is better for likes on Instagram or if that is on someone else’s bucket list or if that is where someone had the best meal of their life – what matters is what you want to do and how you want to spend your time. If you choose not to go to an iconic sight, then you choose not to. If you want to spend your day on the beach or by the pool or scaling a mountain, then that’s fine – it’s your choice. Your idea of a good holiday won’t match mine perfectly and you should never feel guilty for that.
5. Travel isn’t just one big holiday. Okay, in a way it is, but travel is actually hard work and pretty stressful. You have a schedule to maintain, flights to catch, a weight limit to stay under, new roads to navigate, a budget that means you need to account for every cent you spend. You can feel lonely and isolated, homesick and vulnerable. Travel means wonderful possibilities and ensures you see some amazing things, but keeping on top of everything is hard work.
When we were travelling, about three months in I had a day where I was just sick of it. I didn’t want to be on the go anymore – I wanted to unpack, to know that I could relax somewhere for more than just a few days. I hadn’t seen the bottom of my suitcase in months, I was wearing the same outfits on rotation because unpacking then repacking a few days later was soul destroying and I was tired, so tired, of waking up somewhere different every few days. Whilst that might sound like an adventure, sometimes you really do just miss the stability of the norm.
I had the most wonderful time on my trip and I have ticked off so many bucket list dreams and yes, sickeningly enough, I do feel like travel has changed me, but changed me in a way that growing up changes you. I’m no better than I was when I lived in Bradford. I might have done a few new things and seen a few new places, but I’m still me. Just a little older, a little wiser, a little more sun tanned.
What have you learned from travelling?