Travel Planning

What's going to be your trigger to travel?

For me it wasn’t the boss who I wanted to stab in the eye with a fork (although that helped.)

It wasn’t the increasingly toxic venom with which i’d regard my blackberry before accidentallydropping it and cracking the screen. It wasn’t the “mean girl” at work who bought me an alarm clock and a princess crown as not so subtle form of passive aggressive secret santa presents.

Come January 2012 I was at an all time low. Depressed and feeling like i was failing on all fronts, I had a non existent personal life, a stress rash of excema on my back, my hair was falling out andmy skin had broken out. The brand, new, exciting role i’d taken on heading up the retail marketing team for a premiership soccer team in London had been stripped off all novelty once i’d finished enjoying making the footballers strip off ( to put on clothes forphoto shoots you understand…) 

Whilst the world and his wife was telling me how lucky I wasto have a dream job people would die for - I could only conclude that maybe God had inadvertently got me mixed up with some 22 year old boy called Dominic as I didn’t even like football that much.

In the few days I had off between Christmas and New Year I slunk away to the seaside with an old friend to recuperate. On my return I found another flurry of emails from work, they were round the clock and the fact that  I was on holiday didn’t mean a thing . I started to lie awake at night with an ever increasing sense of panic as the days ticked by  - worrying that I might never get away to do some proper travelling and pursue my dream of becoming a writer. Somehow here I was, 36, single, working a 60 hour week and living up the road from my parents. 

There was only one thing for it, i prayed to the heavens and decided to implore the great gods of the ethernet. I typed into Google: I want to quit my job and travel. And a blog article came up entitled: Why you should quit your job and travel.

Promising! 


It  had been written by a man with an even more ridiculous,  French sounding name than mine .His name was Chris Guillebeau,  a traveller and writer- who had ambitions to visit every country in the world by the time he was 35 and his blog was called The Art of Nonconformity. He’d been making plans to travel for a long time. I’d been putting savings aside for years, i’d accrued holiday and dipped my toe in the water of independent travel with a month in South America, I’d chosen my first flat to buy soley based on the fact it would be easy to let and provide a bit of extra income while I was on the road. It was not bought for the attractiveness of its location which happened to be up the road from my parents. And I was still here. 

Because I was frightened. Of everything.

I was frightened of giving up a regular income, of not being able to find work again, of being single and in my late thirties. 

 

My fearwas enforced by a media obsessed with rising unemployment figures and underlined by the mute incomprehension of my friends all of whom were either happy in careers or marriages or both and none of whom shared my passion to jack it all in and travel the world. 

I was frightened of the unknown. Not the unknown of navigating a chicken bus squashed between a little Tibetan man and a boy with a sack of raw meat - nothing about travelling the world scared me, it was all the stuff that comes before that moment that had me anxious and stuck. 

Change is frightening.  Going against the grain is scary.  Being different, doing different, wanting different from the general population at large is alienating,  difficult, uncomfortable and yes painful.  

But there comes a point when staying stuck is even more painful and as soon as I could see a way out, as soon as i had a little chink of light, the beacon of home and comfort that somewhere out there, there was at least one other person in the world who saw life like I did and I was no longer crazy or alone or on my own; it gave me the confidence I needed. The trigger to travel. 

I lost his site the same day that I found it. But it didn't matter.  A seed had been sown.  

I told my boss that all I really wanted to do was write poetry, travel the world and fall in love - lots. And that’s what i did. I packed my bags for Rio and embarked on a pitstop tour of the world, 13 countries in 19 months. 

I trusted that when i needed to i’d come across his site again. And sure enough just over a year later last July 2013 I found The Art of Nonconformity and discovered that Chris Guillebeau continued to travel and was in Southern Thailand at the same time I was. 

At the grand old age of 37 wrote my first ever fan letter, or at the least a very sincere, thank you email.  The fact that we were at that moment in time, both staring out at a similar strip of turquoise sea was in no small part because of him. 

And this July, 2014? This year I was in Portland, Oregon attending the World Dominatoin Summit a weekend of events, meet ups and inspiratonal talks set up by Chris Guillebeau to gather together remarkable people leading unconventional lives.

Two years ago it was stumbling across one man and his blog, a fellowtraveller and writer that finally helped me say no to what wasn’t working in my life, quit my job and follow my dreams and two years later because of that moment i’m able to write freelance, travel regularly and this July  reach out to not just one but surround myself  2500 other likeminded, positive, uplifting and non judgemental people. 

What’s going to be your trigger to travel? 


The Pain of feeling stuck, The Pain of re-entry and decision making - Thailand

By September 2013 I felt like one of those hoary old travellers you meet on the road: hair dangerously close to dreads; skin a little too sun burnt... feet would hold an intervention if you offered anything more stable a structure to walk in than the humble flip flop. You know the kind -  looks like they haven't had a good wash and a proper home cooked meal for weeks!  

I was expecting to be riddled with mixed emotions, fears and thoughts of the future when it came to returning home to London after 19 months solid of travelling the world.

Yet when it comes to it i'm looking forward to seeing friends and family again after all this time. I'm looking forward to roast dinners and a nice glass of Sauvingon Blanc, and most of all I feel a sense of huge achievement and pride in myself. I had always wanted to travel the world by msyelf and live and work abroad. And by Jove I did! 

But it hasn't all been plain sailing and the last few months basedin Thailand proved to be downright difficult. So what better time than a 13 hour flight to reflect.

I doubt i'll get much sympathy when I do touch down. Somehow explaining you've spent an inordinate amount of time on a beach or tropical paradise to those still slogging it out in the 9 - 5 doesn't really garner much sympathy. And yet as one wise man entitled a book:

"Whereever you go that's where you are,"

I sometimes feel like my trip would have been absolutely wonderful if I hadn't been on holiday with...well... me.  Me and the voice in my head that never seemed to shut up berating, bashing, worrying and analysing. 

By the end of summer I was hamstrung  with indecision. Where to go next? When to go home? 

For some reason I just couldn't decide. (In the end I stayed another couple of months in Chiang Mai to "work" on this site and going freelance.")

I realised a couple of things in that time. 

How to Make Decisions

Sometimes when i'm feeling low I am absolutely unable to make a decision. It was only with a great deal of perspective later that I realised I'd actually become quite lonely living in Thailand. 

Whilst i'd met plenty of people travelling I realise now that the pressure  you feel when you move from the corporate world to the rather more isolated world of a freelancer working from home is ten times harder if done in a country the other side of the world away from your usual support network of friends and family! 

The path is clear why do you throw stones in it?

I decided to stay in Chiang Mai an extra couple of months and put myself under an inordinate amount of pressure to complete the website i'd been working on and start building clients. I also felt a lot of fear around coming home - would there be any work, how would things be with all my friends and family that I left behind over a year and a half ago. It almost felt like i'd been away too long, friends had given up hope of ever seeing me again and just got on with their lives. I suppose it would be incredibly self indulgent for wanting them to be hanging on my every travel tale, but I also missed their support as well.

In the end through all that striving, struggle and effort didn't need to be like that. Sure, doing anything new means recognising internal obstacles and fear as it comes up and working through the discomfort. However I didn't need to keep myself held in an environment that had lost it's novelty for me. I'm a London city girl and as much as I love nature  - a small town like Chiang Mai did loose its draw after a few months. LIkewise many of the expat community in the town can be quite damaged. Either lost souls looking to escape the trials of the western world;  men searching for Thai brides or  those with quite serious alcohol and drug problems

 

As a freelance writer and traveller with all of my life packed up in a 12kg backpack, I could have gone anywhere. I didn't need to hold myself in an environment or around people that weren't a positive influence on me.  Yet somehow I managed to build myself a cage an inch wide of "shoulds" that kept me feeling trapped and stuck.

I think one of the set backs i've experienced trying to  live my life in a conscious manner is this  almost "Buddhist" desire which becomes a pressure to feel happy inside regardless of one's external circumstances. 

I realised a very simple and obvious home truth in my time living in Thailand. Whilst inner happinness is a great goal - we mustn't overlook the obvious. There are things in our external world that we have the power to change - people and place are two of those things. If our immediate environment doesn't feel good we can  change it - and make lives a bit easier for ourselves. 

Finally I understood the true meaning of the AA's Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

Likewise the desire to live and make decisions consciously set the voice that likes to worry, analyse and make sure everything's perfect into overdrive. Suddenly I wasn't making conscious decisions, I wasn't listening or hearing my gut intuition I was frozen and overwhelmed. Not making any decisions at all and then berating myself for making the wrong one!


As it came time to take my final flight home the voice went into overdrive with shoulds and shouldn'ts.

"Why didn't you fly here, that ticket was cheap, what a waste not to see this country!" 

And finally another much calmer, kinder voice cut through the nonsense. 

"You've had four hours sleep and you are going home after 19 months. Give yourself a break." 

On my final flight high up in the clouds above Asia I come to another truth, there really is no such thing as a wrong decision. No wonder  we tie ourselves up in knots and not move forward at all if we place so much emphasis on getting it right first time. 

We are not born perfect we are born imperfect. Life is not about getting it right but making mistakes and learning from them.

As I stare out the window of the plane watching the wing hover high above the clouds of a faultless blue sky i realise it's not about the decisions we make but having the presence of mind (or mindfulness) once we've made them, to adjust our course if necessary.

I'm not sure anyone ever got anywhere in a straight line from a to b - life is more like a series of stops, starts and zig zags. But as long as we are able to become aware of how we are feeling and gain the clarity and perspective needed to just adjust our course as we go along.

Becoming aware of the present moment helps us in this, if you are looking to develop more mindfulness in your daily life check out my free Meditation course. It's a beginner's guide to meditating and the exercises only take 10 mins a day.