I won’t lie that with 12 days to go, there’s a part of me that’s getting a little nervous now. My mind’s playing games on all the eventualities that I haven’t planned for. When I step back from the moment and realise this, I can see that all the planning I need to do is done now. Instead, I try to think about the positives – the things that I’m looking forward to on the trip.

1) Testing my comfort zone
2) Being the sole decision make for where, when and how to travel
3) Seeing who and what I miss about home
4) Real life stories reshaping my own perspective
5) Answering the question “what do you really need in life?”

In this post, I explain these 5 things that mean the most to me….

 

1) Testing my comfort zone

Comfortzone

Our comfort zone is the behavioural periphery that encompasses the habits we have become accustomed to that we use to live our every day life. It largely defines our personality because it determines how we would normally act or think given a situation. There’s is a good chance that the most important lessons in life have happened when we’ve been outside our comfort zone, when we had to acted counterintuitively against our subconscious and found it to be something positive.

The book Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway, by Susan Jeffers, is a highly recommended read on the subject. The first chapter summarises an enlightening fact about what fear is in the most basic, generalised sense. She describes how “At the bottom of every one of your fears is simply the fear that you can’t handle whatever life may bring you”, then “if you knew you could handle anything that came your way, what would you possibly have to fear?”. She describes that “all you have to do to diminish your fear is to develop more trust in your ability to handle whatever comes your way”.

To me, this describes how recognising when you are in your comfort zone, pushing yourself through it and finally making it a habit, is by far the most effective way to lead a more fulfilling life. This is something I’ve actively practiced in the last several years and I believe that because of this, has lead me to achievements in career, investment, physical challenges and great relationships. I remember vividly, the day a friend emailed asking if I’d be interested in taking part in something called Tough Guy. If you’ve not heard of it, it’s a yearly 2-3 hour long physically and mentally gruelling obstacle course in the height of winter, where more people drop out or are taken out, than complete the course. I remember replying something along the lines of “no f-ing way” [pardon the language, but it demonstrates the passion in my view at the time]. After taking a minute or two to recognise why I said no and that completing it would be a great achievement, I signed up. I ended up completing it and a year later, completing it a second time, I can safely say it’s now become a yearly pilgrimage.

I’m expecting this trip to regularly push me outside my comfort zone in all manners of ways, but deep down I trust that while stepping outside, there’ll be plenty of magic to consume.

 

2) Being the sole decision maker for where, when and how to travel

Pointingopposite

When most people travel, they travel with at least one other person. Family holidays, honeymoons, trips with friends. For each of those trips, it’s unlikely that you being the sole decision maker on where you went and how you did it. People have varying opinions, risk tolerances, past experiences and free time. All of these will all be factors that make up the plans for the trip. The advantage of solo travel, is that you maximise both the flexibility and decision making ability. You decide where to go, how you do it (money, mode of transport), how long you spend doing it and most importantly, you can change it all at a moments notice.

Inherent with the power of decision making though, comes the responsibility of getting it right. You’re the beneficiary of those decisions, whether they’re good or bad.  Make good ones and you’ll pat yourself on the back with your ingenuity. Make bad ones though, and you’ll have to accept it for what it is.

In terms of my own experience, I’ve never travelled solo more than a couple of days. I would be lying if I said there weren’t times when I’d like to have shaped past trips differently. Either being too amicable or other people’s practical limitations. As for the wrong decisions, learning to accept and deal with the mistakes you make without blame can only be a good thing for the soul. I’m looking forward to making a lot of decisions, gaining confidence in myself by recognising that I make [hopefully many] good ones and proving that it’s not the end of the world when I make bad ones.

You may have heard the saying “it’s better to make a bad decision, than to make no decision at all”. The only way to find that out for real, is to do it. This trip will give me that opportunity.

 

3) Seeing who and what I miss about home

Homesick

I’ve always been a pretty independent person. My mum tells me stories about when me and my sisters were young and unwell, I’d always quietly take myself to bed and sleep the illness off. I can safely say I’ve always done my best to avoid medication, always opting for building up my own immune system. After university I was desperate to flex my intellectual muscles in the working world and obtain financial independence as soon as I could.

With all that youthful independence-proving though, I’ve always had the luxury of a loving and supporting family, with friends that I can really trust. It’s the part that hasn’t really been tested yet. I’ll be a lot further away from my home, my friends and my family for the longest period of time I’ve ever experienced.

Arriving in foreign speaking lands, not knowing where places you need to go are, not carrying a huge amount of belongings are going to be a part of everyday life. All of which, will require me depending on others more than I’m naturally comfortable with.

Couple these two points together and I’ll surely find out who/what I miss most about home.

 

4) Real life stories reshaping my own perspective

Storytelling

The number of new people I’m going to meet is about to go into overdrive. Fellow back packers in hostels and locals are going to come from more diverse a background than I would have ever experienced. It’s a certainty, that these people I meet are going to have a story or two to tell about where they’ve come from, why they’re here and where they’re going. I find real life stories, told in person, far more appealing and touching than anything I might read about in the papers, internet or see in films. Papers exaggerate, the internet needs a micro filter and films tend largely towards happy hollywood endings.

Aside from the detail of the stories, people’s views on life and their interpretation of it are going to bubble through. I’m expecting that absorbing these in huge amounts, from as wide a field as possible is going to reshape my perspective on the world. I don’t expect these to [cliche] “help me find myself” – I believe that comes in moments of spiritual calm. Instead, I see these stories sending across a plethora of possibilities on how diverse this world really is.

 

5) Answering the question “what do you really need in life?”

I have too much stuff

Status in society tends to be an major factor in how we survive day-to-day. In today’s society, it’s easy to climb the social status ladder as your career develops. You find those “luxuries” in life you start to treat yourself to, becoming necessities before you know it. It’s easy to find yourself too high in the tree, scared of losing the things you depend on.

By taking on this long term travel, I’ll be stripping my belongings to the bare essentials, living in shared accommodation and will be a completely unknown entity wherever I go. By bare essentials, I’m talking about whatever I take in my rucksack. By shared accommodation, I mean shared dorms in hostels and guesthouses. By unknown entity, I mean my background, education, career, income.

I’m looking forward to this, because by the end of it, I’d like to know what I really need in life and what is just a luxury.