+ A reflection on my travels around the world

Franz Josef glacier hike
Writing from the (dis)comfort of Bangkok airport’s waiting area, it all seems so unreal that I’m actually going home. For over five months I’ve not had a proper bowl of cereal, have no idea about the UK music charts, and have not slept in the same bed for more than a week at any one time!

*Cliché warning* It feels like I’ve learnt so much since departing from Heathrow on Sunday 15th February as a semi-innocent graduate with the rest of my life ahead of me. Here’s some of the ‘life lessons’ I discovered on the road!

1) You really don’t need as much as you think you do.
Everyone tells you before you go travelling to only pack half as much as you think you need, but obviously we all try and squeeze as many home comforts in as possible. In my case it was a big but warm and furry Abercrombie and Fitch cardigan, too many dresses, and enough body butter for multiple bodies!

2) Necessities aren’t as necessary as you first thought.
Seriously, I haven’t used shaving gel for five months – thankfully shampoo lathers up a treat! And thinking back to all the keepsakes I have back home, like old magazines, cassette tapes from the early ‘90s and books I’ll never read again, I’ve decided to carry on this new minimalist lifestyle and de-clutter my life as well! I am even going to go as far as throwing away clothes that I only mildly like, because what’s the point in keeping things you never use? I’m not going completely mad though and throwing away my shoes; a girl has to have one addiction!

3) All over the world there are nice people, and not so nice people.
If you’ve never left your own country you might have a tendency to think people from other countries are vastly different to you because of their ‘weird’ culture and habits. But, as I’ve travelled and met face-to-face people from all over the world, you realise that essentially human beings are simply the same. We all care about our friends and family, want to make friends, have fun and just enjoy being alive. I guess travelling does make you cross paths with people who can be umm… on a different page mentally but that’s part of the experience! At least when you’re backpacking you can leave them whenever you want!

4) Being a diva gets you everywhere and nowhere at the same time!
In SE Asia particularly you have to lose your (may I say it?!) middle-class pretentions and muck in like those less unfortunate than you. That means having more cold showers than you would like, needing to fill up a grubby bucket full of water in order to flush your shit down the toilet, and generally slumming it. During some points of my trip i’ve had to forgo a shower due to being on subsequent overnight buses, which was HELL but also is sometimes necessary. Also, being surrounded by people gobbing phlegm all over the streets, usually right near your feet, is not nice but it comes with the territory I suppose.

So diva might not be the best word to use but you definitely learn to hold your own and put yourself to the forefront when needed. Many people try to take advantage of young foreign backpackers, trying to overcharge them or fool them into buying services they never wanted. In Vietnam and Cambodia especially you are constantly hounded and surrounded by up to a dozen jobless guys all offering you ‘friendly’ assistance for a price. During my Thailand-Cambodia border crossing visit, a guy took my passport off me and proceeded to fill out my forms even though I never asked him to! He then demanded money for something I could have done myself. Basically you have to stand your ground and refuse to pay for things that you don’t want. Taxi drivers and tuk-tuk drivers in Bangkok can also be twattish in their ability to take you to the opposite place you asked them – in one day I had three different guys drive me to the wrong place (Tesco-Lotus rather than Jim Thompson’s House, The Royal Hotel rather than the Palace), so I point-black left them and told them I wouldn’t pay a dime – I managed a whole day around Bangkok without paying for a single taxi/tuk-tuk!

5) As much as you might dislike being home you will end up missing it.
For me, living at home in England is sometimes not unlike being permanently asleep! If you’re skint at home you really don’t have many options for things to do. You row with your parents, grow bored of working full-time or studying, and yearn for some adventure! So while travelling ticks the boxes for making you feel alive and enjoying new experiences, it is not all it’s cracked up to be. If one of your family gets ill or you crave a good night out with close friends, it’s impossible to be with them. Travelling at least makes you appreciate how much family and friends mean to you.

Some words of advice

+ I have probably said this before on my blog, but if you are thinking about going away but are scared, pull your bloody socks up and just do it! Never again will you be as young, fit and free as you are now. So try and dissolve those fears by going to STA Travel or ringing Trailfinders and book a trip.

+ It’s really not as difficult as you might think to travel independently. There are travel shops all over the world or you can go direct to bus stations etc to transfer to your next destination. Also, most of the time you don’t even need reservations for hostels and guesthouses and you can just turn up. Failing that, use www.hostelbookers.com to be on the safe side.

+ Make sure you scan or photocopy your debit and credit cards and passport. I lost my debit card and it would have been really difficult to freeze the missing card without knowing the card number etc.

+ Whether you’re going on your own or with friends you’ll have a great time!