#1 It's okay to be fearfulYou're entering the unknown on your own, BUT don't let that fear hold you back. Fear is good, it's normal and everyone you met on your adventure has felt the same way. To quote my favourite Tween Movie "A Cinderella Story" -"Don't let the fear of striking out, stop you from playing the game". I was nervous the night before I set out. My bag was being packed over and over again and I felt I was under prepared. When I was dropped off at the Airport my fears had gone. I could not have been readier to start my adventure. I had built up leaving in my head to be something that it wasn't. I wanted to go, I've honestly never wanted or needed something so much in my life. I knew I'd be coming home and I knew that I was more than capable of dealing with whatever this crazy adventure would throw at me.
#2 Say "YES" is empowering
Saying Yes is extremely freeing. It gives you a sense of accomplishment. I've always been a worrier (still am to a certain extent) my Mum would describe me as "very sensitive" and I suppose I am. I wanted to face my fears above anything else on this trip. In the past, I have often declined offers that were too much outside my comfort zone simply because I wasn't in control and I was scared of the unknown. I decided that I wanted to challenge myself, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do anything I put my mind to. I decided that I was going to challenge my comfort zone and boy did I do that! I jumped out of a plane, I swung from the highest swing in the world, I went white water rafting on grade 4 rapids, I ate crazy food and I have absolutely no regrets. I'm even wondering what's next to push my limits that little bit further (Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro?)
#3 The Kindness of Strangers will restore your faith in humanity
The kindness of strangers is amazing. Nearly everyone I met on the road was incredibly kind. People look out for each other on the road. They too are far from their family and home comforts. You become a little family and you'll have endless laughs and experiences. I have also been blessed to met so many wonderful people in Asia that really looked after me in Australia too. Giving me a place to stay and cooking me an authentic Aussie BBQ. The kindness of people made me realise that there are a lot of genuinely kind people in this world. This goes both ways. If you get the chance to do something kind for someone else - Do it. You don't know how much something as small as someone sharing their chocolate with you means until you're the one who needs it.
#4 You'll find clarity
Clarity will come when you least expect it to. With travel as well as experiencing a wonderful new and different country, there is always an element of escapism. Why you're escaping will come to you. It may not be a big profound light bulb moment (Mine certainly wasn't) but you will learn things about yourself you didn't know. You will experience feelings you didn't know you had. You will learn so much about the world and about people. You'll learn and see things you don't neccessarily want to, but ultimately you'll come home with some form of clarity and hopefully a new broader outlook on life. For me, it was on the very top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was our last night with my group of friends I met in Australia, and I just kept thinking to myself "I'm finally here" I've dreamt of this moment for so long and I'm standing here, and I'm living in this amazing moment. If I can make it to the other side of the world relatively unscathed, I can achieve everything else I want and the penny finally dropped.
#5 Trust your Gut
Always trust your gut instinct. Mine rarely steers me wrong. If something doesn't feel right don't do it. If you don't feel comfortable staying somewhere don't. It's definitely better to be safe rather than sorry. There were a few times when I opted to get a taxi instead of walking back to my hostel on my own, as I felt uneasy. Yes, I was trying to save money, but ultimately I wanted to get home safe and for the sake of not having drink or two the next night I opted for a safe taxi. Even in terms of street food, if something looks a bit on the dodgy side go to the next stand. This is definitely a case when your gut will thank you!
I like to think most of the time I have a high level of tolerance. I'm a definitely a "people" person and I love meeting people from all walks of life. I always find you can learn something from everyone you meet. There isn't a person you can't learn something from. When you're traveling solo you met so many wonderful and weird people. If you're in a hostel or going on a day trip together, you're going to have to get along. Embrace different cultures, embrace the differences and embrace the experience together. You're all there for the same reason and as long as there is mutual respect you'll enjoy each others company! Side note: If you're up early/come in late from a hostel for the love of God respect those still asleep! You may have to get up at 5 am for a flight, but I need a much-needed lie on after living off 5 hours for the last month!
It's incredibly cliche, but you really do make friends for life. I'm still very much in regular contact with a lot of the people I met while traveling - Like I said I'm a "people" person. There is definitely a mutual interest from the get go. You love traveling and so do they, but it becomes deeper than that. They nearly miss a flight waiting for you because you've got a "dodgy stomach", They laugh with you until you can't breathe over something crazy happening in Asia. They offer to help you shower when you get attacked my monkeys (see next point) and they don't let go when you're both crying saying goodbye. Traveling on my own was daunting as I love company - but I never, ever felt I was alone. You're only alone as much as you want to be. Real friends, will also not laugh at you when you accidentally get burnt from the intense sun. They'll hand you their Aftersun and Spray you periodically so you don't get Heat Stroke!
# 8 How to make the best out of a bad situation
Okay, this is quite specific but on my way home, I travelled the Thai Islands. I got attacked by two monkeys off Koh Phi Phi (Only me!) It was horrendous and it's something I won't forget for a long time - my scars won't let me! I was so lucky to be in a group that acted so swiftly and brought me to Koh Phi Phi hospital where I got treated. It was scary at the time, but once I found out it wasn't incredibly serious I was fine and saw the funny side- I even went out partying that night much to the amazement of my friends. Yes I was sore and yes I was on all sorts of medication but I grabbed a Diet Coke and I partied as much as I could until my body told me to go to bed! I didn't let anything stop me from enjoying the last few days of my trip. I was going to be sore whether I was in bed or out with friends - so I made the better choice. Life is for living and I had a few long flights home to mope if I wanted to. Before traveling I might have fallen into the "Woe is me" team but I made the most of the bad situation and I thoroughly enjoyed the last few days in paradise albeit on a cocktail of anti-rabies medication!
#9 Negotiating Skills
You definitely learn to fend for yourself and get yourselves out of sticky situations. I could write a book on my experiences traveling and I will continue to blog about my adventure. I was held up through no fault of my own (Slight lie) in Singapore Airport for over an hour in interrogation and I had no one there to help me. No Mammy holding my hand fighting my battles for me, It was hot and I was terrified if I'm entirely honest. With some calm explaining, I was free to go (I should add chief negotiator to my C.V!) I've never been in trouble for anything in my life and I had these flashes to "Banged up Abroad"! Thankfully it was all solved relatively quickly and I was free to continue my journey on to Australia. I also became the best negotiator in Asia by the end of my trip, negotiating everything from Tuk-Tuks to those coveted Elephant pants!
#10 Letting Go
I can be a bit uptight I'll freely admit that. But traveling solo taught me that to fully enjoy yourself you have to let your inhibitions go a little. Don't drop your guard down completely but relax and enjoy the moment! A prime example was in New Zealand after visiting a Maori Village. We enjoying a typical Maori style meal we were all being dropped back to our hostels. The friends I made were on a different bus as they were staying in a hostel on the other side of Rotorua so I was on my own. Every nationality on that bus had to sing a song for a bit of craic on the way home. Normally I'd be mortified, but I had the whole bus singing "It's A Long Way To Tipperary" by the end of it. Sometimes you can feel quite vulnerable on your own, but the whole bus were howling laughing - although that could be my tone deaf singing!