At the end of 2008 I finished up my last day of teaching, which I had done in an “official” capacity for a whole year, and lugged a suitcase to Edinburgh. I then spent two weeks in Edinburgh with my family, two weeks on an insane tour around Europe, and then two weeks in England with a friend (with five days in the middle to Ireland). It was my first taste of “travel” in the true sense of the word – I’ve travelled before, of course. Every school holidays I “travelled” to my Dad’s house and back again – but that was more of a commute than travel (well, a twelve hour commute, but whatever). I even went to the Gold Coast with my Mum and sister when I was 12 – a big commercial plane and all! Beats Hazelton …
I’ve always wanted to travel. When I was 11 I announced my plans to study Italian and study it I did – so when I was 15 I spent two months in Milan on student exchange, living with a family (who remain my family in all but blood) and going to school every day. From the time I started working casual hours at a local grocery store, my savings have always been for “travel”. When I was 19 I went to Sabah for 10 days and wandering through markets and sipping cocktails while the sun set did nothing but aggravate the itch in my feet. It was the beginning of the passion for travel that had long since ingrained itself in my bones – but it took a while for me to actually do it.
In 2008 I had a blast. “Say yes to everything,” my mother had advised before I left (along with other advice that shouldn’t really go here in case my grandmother decides to stop by). And “yes” it was – though I amended the phrase when I reached Paris and, completely feverish with the flu and barely able to breathe I rejected an invitation to go out for the night and instead went to bed in a medicated coma that lasted sixteen hours. I decided it was better to say yes to everything that didn’t compromise your health or integrity.
This has served me well – particularly as saying “yes” often means questioning yourself as to what you are prepared to do and what you will not compromise. In the past, when I said “no” to things it was because it’s easier than saying “yes” – I don’t have to leave my comfort zone, nor do I have to confront my social awkwardness or admit to weaknesses. “No” often replaces “I can’t”, which really means “I don’t believe I can”.
In 2010 I spent eight months backpacking around the world. One of the first things I did was go to Peru and do the Inca Trail. Yes, Little Miss “I exercise when I roll over in bed” actually spent three and a half days hiking on obscure rocky paths and survived. Oh, how brave! How exciting! What an experience!
- I spent the first hour wishing I would sprain my ankle and have to turn back.
- I spent the second hour convincing myself I’d make it because I had more in me than I gave myself credit. This was rapidly replaced with “you’re an idiot for thinking you could do this” as the path got steeper.
- I spent the third hour contemplating jumping dangerously from semi-high ledges to achieve the desired sprained ankle. This behaviour continued well into the fourth hour.
- By the fifth hour, I resigned myself to the fact that I was doing this and no way was any porter carrying my huge butt back to Cusco since we’d almost finished the first day and I couldn’t afford his chiro for the rest of his life.
And I did it. My muscles ached and I could barely move for a week afterwards, but I did it.
There were many other things I did in eight months that I would never have believed was me. Put me in a room full of people I don’t know and my insides shake and tremble, my head starts racing, and I generally look for escape routes (windows included). You wouldn’t guess it, though – I smile, I boldly walk up to people and introduce myself, I tell jokes and dominate the conversation with excessive talking and endless stories that have the potential to humour or bore the victims I’ve approached. I’m an extrovert, apparently, even though I’d rather stay in bed with a book. Yet here I was, on my own, travelling through different countries and cities and actually meeting people, going out for dinner together having only met as we were both departing for the hunt, jumping in cars with them within an hour of meeting and driving around the countryside, combining laundry to save on costs, and sharing rooms with strangers and laughing at travel anecdotes well into the night.
There were parts about travel that I hated – the hostels full of inconsiderate travellers who seemed to wrap everything in plastic and decide to re-pack at 2am, the drunken *pat*pat*pat “oops, not my bed, sorry” at 3am, the not always knowing if there’d be a vacancy when you arrived at 9pm and didn’t quite feel like lugging your pack all the way around the city in search of budget accommodation … But I said yes to everything that didn’t compromise my health or integrity (except for ouzo in Athens, but that’s another story) and not only did I survive, but I’ve got stories to tell.
What are you going to say “yes” to today?