10 life lessons from travelling this year

airportIt’s hard to believe it’s been a year since I left England. It feels like a lot has changed in my life since the 30th of June 2017 when I was loaded up with all my possessions in Heathrow airport waving goodbye my mum and that easy lifestyle. I didn’t know how it would work out and I was especially nervous starting off in Venezuela. But now looking back I wouldn’t change a thing.

I’ve learnt a lot in the last 364 days and although from the outside I probably look the same as I did before I left, I feel different on the inside. So, I decided to share 10 lessons I’ve learnt travelling this year, hopefully you can relate to a few if you’ve been on your own journey.

1. Self-belief – travelling independently has taught me to believe in myself, as clichéd as it sounds. I decided where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do and I did it. Even when things looked a bit sticky, like crossing the border into Colombia on foot or getting to the front of a four hour border queue in Ecuador and being told I haven’t got the right passport stamp; I managed to sort myself out. I turned up in Canada without a job or a place to live and I figured it out. Just because others doubt you, doesn’t mean you should doubt yourself too.
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2. Language skills are really helpful – this is one of the most practical life lessons. Learning some Spanish along the way was really helpful. I was definitely ignorant thinking I wouldn’t need to speak the local language. To really experience the culture of a nation, you need to communicate in their language. The next time I travel somewhere new, I’ll take a short language course before I set off.

3. Things don’t always have to go to plan – being flexible and open to changing your plans helps you to make the most of travelling and life in general. In South America it was really hard to see everything I wanted to see in so many different places, in such a short time. Turning up in a town on a day when all the museums are closed; planning a beach day when it’s raining; trying to catch a bus on a day when there aren’t any; were all common occurrences when I was travelling and you just have to get on with it. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to change a situation, so make the most of what you can do, not what you can’t. (Hakuna Matata, basically but without the catchy song)

4. My worldly possessions don’t mean as much as I thought they did – I can be a bit of a hoarder at times, especially for mementos like ticket stubs. After having to carry everything I have on my back for four months I’ve realised, do I actually need all this stuff? Especially clothes – I don’t need tonnes of tops, dresses and shorts that I never even wear. I’m much more comfortable wearing leggings and jumpers anyway.

5. Desk jobs are really not for me – I kind of knew this before I set off on my adventures but travelling really confirmed it for me. I can’t just quietly sit at a desk doing the same thing everyday. It doesn’t fit my personality and I’m so glad I learnt this now rather than 10 years down the line when I don’t know why my life feels so unsatisfied.
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6. How to spend money more wisely – I still can’t claim to be any kind of budgeting expert. I’ve always spent money as fast as I’ve earned it but travelling definitely taught me (sometimes the hard way) that you can’t afford to do everything you want to do, even if you have the cash now. Travelling for five months without earning a penny means you have to consider what it’s worth spending money on and what you can live without.

7. I’m more outdoorsy than I thought – in the UK I was never interested in hiking or landscapes. My idea of a perfect day at home used to be watching movies and baking. Walking the dog was always a chore I resented and going for a run would be rewards with hours of doing nothing. Now I’m much more excited by outdoor activities and most of goals for the summer are around hiking and camping. My best memories of the last year have all been outdoors, especially teaching kids to ski.
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8. Working with kids is great – a perfect segue here. I’m never had a job working with kids before. I’ve volunteered as a sports coach and I’ve done the odd bit of babysitting for family friends but actually being paid to hangout with kids all day and teach them how to do something you love is great. I don’t know if I’d feel the same teaching children in a classroom environment but I’m tempted to try in the future.
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9. I have the best family in the world (but I already knew that really) – my family has been there for me the whole way through my travels, even when friends haven’t. My mum especially has been so supportive and helpful, whatever the time difference or situation; my auntie has to be the biggest fan of my blog, commenting on nearly every post, closely followed by my grandmother, and I couldn’t be closer with my cousin. Travelling on your own definitely has highs and lows but with my family behind me I didn’t feel alone.
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10. If you want to make a life change, you have to do it for yourself – this last one speaks for itself, really. A lot of people didn’t believe I could or would do all the things I’ve done this year. I wasn’t happy with my life before I left but through the life changes I’ve made I feel now I can determine my own happiness.

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First stop: Venezuela

First stop on my travels is going to be Venezuela. This is a country with amazing natural beauty and often gets overlooked by travellers.

 

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When I tell most people that my first stop on my travels is going to be Venezuela, their reaction is often quite negative. Don’t you know it’s really dangerous? Have you really thought about this? On your own? I don’t think it’s a good idea.

But I’m really excited about going to this beautiful country. I’d be ignorant to say it isn’t dangerous in parts but that shouldn’t stop people going to places and doing things they want to do. If you take precautions and are sensible then you shouldn’t let the fear of what could happen stop you.

I’ve done a lot of research on travelling in Venezuela. It appears that the safest way to visit as a solo traveller is to book group trips through a travel agency. Initially there were four sights I was interested in visiting: Los Roques (amazing islands off the north coast), Angel Falls or Salto Angel (the world’s tallest waterfall), Roraima (a breathtaking table top mountain) and the lightning show at Catatumbo (a natural phenomenon unique to Venezuela). After more research and first enquiries with travel companies, I realised it wasn’t going to be feasible to visit them all in the two weeks I have set aside for Venezuela. As the destinations were reasonably far apart, I made the decision to just see Angel Falls (pictured above from Google) and Roraima.

From here I had lengthy email conversations with a few travel companies, trying to figure out logistics and compare costs. This was quite complicated and the time difference was slowing me down but I’ve finally decided on the expeditions and the company I want to go with.

Osprey Expeditions, is run by local Venezuelan travellers and does lots of different trips across the country and continent. I’m going to be visiting Angel Falls first for three days and then trekking for six days to the top of Roraima and back down. On one of the days I’ll be trekking for at least eight hours, which is slightly worrying but if I can run a marathon, surely I can mange this, right? I’ve invested in some hiking boots which I’m hoping will make the journey a bit easier.

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In the next post I’ll give you a full rundown of what’s going into my four month traveller backpack (also a new purchase!)