Exactly one year ago today I woke up in a hostel in Lima, Peru, on the very first day of my 30b430 trip. I described it on my blog as “staring down the barrel” of the next nine months and can fully remember the fear and confusion I felt for those first few days as I tried to get used to my new way of life, wondering whether I had made the right decision to leave everything behind back at home.
I’d like to say I left the UK in a cool, sophisticated way, having said my goodbyes and made my preparations. But in typical ‘me’ style it was much less glamorous than that, with me bawling my eyes out at the airport as all of the sadness and stress of leaving hit me in one go. Added to that the fact that I left check-in until the last possible minute which meant I had to run to my gate which was, conveniently, a 20 minute walk away in Heathrow. All of which meant that by the time I bordered the plane I was a blithering mess, unsure of whether I could make it through the flight by myself, let alone survive a round-the-world trip.
But of course, as these things always are, everything was fine. After a couple of days orientating myself in Peru, I quickly got back into the swing of things and within weeks had become a pro at booking into hostels, haggling with street vendors and grabbing the best seats on the overnight buses.
And soon it became my daily life, travelling slowly, seeing amazing places, meeting new people in hostels, talking to locals and gradually ticking things off my list.
And then, suddenly, it was over. I think because my trip is the slowest pace I’ve moved at for a number of years I don’t really feel like it flew by and I wasn’t surprised when it came to an end. The months stretched out while I was away. Without my long work hours, rushing to fit in visits to see friends and trying to squeeze in the many other day to day things you have to fit into life, time slowed down.
The other day my parents were talking about how this year has flown by but for me it doesn’t feel like that. Looking back, I can’t believe that I celebrated New Year in Buenos Aires, before travelling through Chile and on to New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Burma and China. It feels like it’s been a long year.
And now it’s done. My trip is finished. I crossed the 30 things off my list and I am now living the life I’d been so worried about before I left home. I’m 30, I’m back living with my parents, I’m jobless and yet I’ve never been happier. Because that’s what I learnt on my trip: nothing is as scary as it seems. Getting on a plane by yourself, with just a round-the-world ticket for the next nine months, isn’t as scary as it sounds; coming home and being back at square one isn’t as scary as it sounds. Because at the end of the day, you’ll always have the luxury of looking back and saying: “At least I did it.”