2014 will always be known as the year where I took off on a sporadic jaunt without warning or in-depth planning, all within a matter of months of returning from my big 15-month Round the World trip (that ended up being only in Asia). It was a journey that saw me solidly on the move for seven months in some of the most curious, offbeat and challenging destinations I’ve ever traversed to date.
But it’s also the year where I completely lost my way. It was an unexpected emotional wake-up call to make some big changes.
Last year took me to 11 countries – Canada, Germany, Poland, Turkey, Malta, Greece, Finland, Georgia, Armenia, Iran and Sri Lanka – eight of them being new. It was during this year that I was itching for more travel and where I finally got to work on strategic, storytelling campaigns where I could combine my two passions – travel and PR.
It was also where I on the spot decided at a conference in Germany to embark on the ‘Istanbul to Iran’ adventure I had been thinking about for a while, with no idea how I would go about it, how long it would take, and what I needed to do. It was challenging and shocking, fast-paced and exciting. Landing in the Caucasus was a random addition to pass time in between my three months in Turkey and my two-week tour in Iran.
In the meantime, I finally found a place to call home, away from the real home I am not ready to return to yet.
In between, I lost the strength to deal with all manner of harsh situations – being screwed over emotionally by a user, verbal abuse in a hostel in front of a large audience, once again having to deal with yet another fractured ‘connection’, where a clash of culture and circumstance complicate things and, the worst of all, sexual assault.
The pressure of taking on so much work and constantly moving was affecting my emotions and how I was coping (or not coping) with these things. Undesirable things happened in 2013, but it was less harsh and far less frequent. I simply brushed it off.
My year of travels ended with a slow week-long demise of any sense of sanity or happiness in a hotel room in Sri Lanka, where all I did was sleep and cry in a succession that would waste an entire day. I ended up moving my flight back home to the UK a few days forward – my best friend picked me up from the airport and took me back to her house, where I’m currently residing with her beautiful family and being looked after.
I simply need some time off the road full-time, and for someone who loves nothing more than being on it, that’s a hard change to admit. This year will see me put an end to perpetual day-by-day travelling. I realised, that in all the frenzy of this chaotically beautiful lifestyle…
It is time to slow down.
It’s hard for anyone to admit to a breakdown; yet it’s not easy to understand why you are having one, especially when you do a job you absolutely, indescribably, unconditionally, love. To say anything negative appears ungrateful, and you become accustomed to washing over the negative to shed light on the glory of culture and people and places.
But in finding the goodness in everything, you can sometimes lose sight of yourself.
When you are out on the road, independent, strong-willed, courageous and proud to be doing something different, you don’t deal with blows as easily as you would when surrounded by the routine, people and surroundings you know.
When I was 18 my parents announced they were divorcing. My immediate reaction, while trying to balance the imbalance in the household, was to pack up all of my belongings, knowing that soon that house wouldn’t be my home anymore. I was at University and ready to enter my second year. I had a long-term boyfriend whose parents I could rely on if I needed. And for a time (which I counted at around two years) my parents were lost in their own individual worlds as I went on my way – my mother in a heartbroken black hole, and my dad on a road of bewildered freedom. My independence came at a price and became a stubbornness that was my defence and kept me strong.
Couple that with an eagerness for travel that had begun in my teenage years, and it was a burning fire that wasn’t put out until I jacked in another relationship, a purchased property and an eight-year career to embark on the dream – to travel and to write, to travel perpetually and make it a living. The one thing many people fear – solo survival – didn’t bother me at all.
But it completely overturned my life – for the better and for the worse.
I lost friends but gained many more with an insatiable appetite to know the world. Those who have chosen to stick by my crazy decision, do so with a level of curiosity where I know they are attempting to understand because when I usually return home I feel lost and unstuck and quite often rely on other people to help me settle back into ‘normality’. One parent says they understand that my self-confessed selfish lifestyle makes me happy. The other harbours a kind of resentment for me not being at home, leading the ‘conventional life’ that makes some people so happy, but which I just can’t get to grips with. On many occasions, you can feel incredibly lonely.
But not one day goes by where I regret giving up everything to make this lifestyle work. It’s both a gift and a delightful chore, and I enjoy nothing more than immersing myself in different cultures and inspiring others to see the world with a different perspective and to challenge their preconceptions.
After 2.5 years of continuous travel, I came to realise that I need to do it differently.
2015 is the year that saw me settle and live in one place while I continue to build my business – both the blog and my freelance PR work, managing travel brands and blogger campaigns. It came as no surprise to anyone when I announced this as Athens.
I’d previously gone to Istanbul thinking the exotic east-west pull would be a good contender for my temporary home, and while there were times I delighted in being lost within its charm, it quite often spat me right back out again. In Athens, it just clicked, and aside from the great food, the incredible people, the glorious sunshine, and the ridiculously cheap rent, Greece is perfectly wedged between the two regions of the world I am planning to explore – the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
I guess, for now, it is meant to be. In all those failed liaisons with people I got close to but then snatched away once again by life and circumstance, one came to me on the day of my meltdown.
“I had that connection with you for a short while, don’t forget. So, I know you. But I have a feeling that going back to Athens will cure you. You sounded a lot happier when I talked to you while you were there.
“So, when will you do that?”
It was just waiting for me until I found my way.