Lately, I’ve struggled with the concept of ‘reality’ and being a ‘grown up’…
At least 50% of my Facebook friends have kids, are in serious relationships, have settled down or are looking to settle in the next few years and are saving for that house deposit. It’s depressing seeing daily updates of people who supposedly have everything, or at least in their eyes have everything they want. I look at myself and see a single, 22-year-old graduate, who still lives at home. When I tell friends and family I will not entertain the idea of children until I’m at least 30, they laugh. That’s preposterous! My granddad makes snide comments about not living to see his great-grandchildren because I’m STILL single and my younger sister boasts she’s obviously the next to get married as she is the only one in a relationship.
When you have societal pressures telling you to live and act a certain way, it’s hard to break free and rebel from that expectation. For now, seeing the world is my priority. It may be a long and challenging road, but one that I am excited to veer down.
Fear. Blood cuddling fear.
How can you fail at something you desperately want, if you don’t try? A very sad and somewhat pathetic philosophy, but one I found myself following.
Each month pay day would roll around and, under the naive act of saving to travel the world, I would transfer that money into my savings account. As the month rolled on, little by little, money would be transferred back. A friends birthday, a night out, planned days out; a girls gotta eat right? I’d convince myself that every purchase was necessary, when in reality, it wasn’t. It created a loophole which I couldn’t get out of. How can I travel when I have no money? It was, in retrospect, the perfect excuse to carry on with everyday life, a twenty-two year old girl enjoying the luxuries a full time wage could afford.
I had always set a specific time frame for my travels: January 2015. It was far enough in the future that I felt I didn’t need to worry. Of course I would be able to save my desired amount, I have over eighteen months! It wasn’t until August 2014 rolled around and I realised I only had £2,000 in the bank. With the knowledge I would be receiving a hefty bonus from work in May, I decided to extend my travel start date to July 2015.
“I want to spend a couple of months in Africa before I head to South East Asia!” I proudly declared.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I would love to spend months on end over landing in Africa. But this was just another excuse to postpone doing the one thing I thought I desired. And I still desire it.
It is horrible to admit but I am terrified of travelling solo. It is a massive undertaking for me, a very introvert girl. But something I know I need to do. Even as I booked my flight my hands shook with nerves. After the initial shock and muttering “holy shit I actually did it” for around an hour I told my parents what I had done. My dad smiled with pride and my mum looked on with dreaded fear. As I recounted my plans the fear was replaced with excitement, and pride. I had finally done the one thing I have wanted to for the last year. I am flying away to South East Asia in February 2015 and I don’t think I could be any more excited or happier.
I may not have as much money in the bank as I would have liked, but screw it, I’ll be in Asia!
Last night, I booked it. I booked a one way flight to Bangkok. Finally!
In 123 days I shall be boarding a plane and waving goodbye to life as I know it. No more slaving away for 50 hours a week in a soul crushing job, no more bills and responsibility. No more commitments. I shall be free to live life as I choose, in one of the most beautiful locations on earth.
My arrival into Thailand coincides with the epic full moon party. After a weekend in Bangkok I shall be heading straight for Koh Pha Ngan. After that, who knows?! I do have a rough itinerary in mind which encompasses Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia; but the beauty of solo travel is the opportunity to finally do exactly what you want. I learnt from other travellers to never plan every detail of a trip. Let the country, its culture and the people inspire your journey.
Right now I am counting down the days, and starting to pack my backpack. I am shaking with nerves and excitement. This will either be a beautiful disaster or the revelation of a lifetime.
I don’t really know how it happened but somewhere between Heathrow and Bangkok, I lost my camera.
It was the best thing I could have done.
In that instance I transformed from a mere tourist to a traveller. Everything revolved around the other senses. I wanted to capture every memory, every scent and every texture. I created a three-dimensional collection of all the sights I saw during my journey through Thailand.
It made me stop and think about what I was looking at. I had to create an emotional bond between me and the object of my vision. In truth, this created a bond with Thailand. I am eager to go back for I have fallen in love with the country.
The next time you are out, I plead with you, please put down the camera. Don’t just look at what you are taking a picture of. See it! There is so much we can learn from our surroundings. Breathe in the culture, see the real life behind the images you will take home. Treasure the memory.
Our first night in Bangkok, and our first visit to this prestigious street was thwarted with jet lag, laziness and a sheer need for something other than aeroplane food. After spending about an hour in a bar proudly declaring ‘We Do Not Check ID’, we ditched our group, bee lined for McDonald’s and went to bed. It is safe to say we missed the main hours of the street.
Around nine am, with a clear head and a full stomach, I ventured out of my hostel finally ready to see what all the fuss was about. I stood flabbergasted at the crevice of the small alley joining Khao San Road. The street was empty; a far cry from the scene I witnessed seven hours ago. I took a couple of teetering steps and soaked in the silence. Without the market stools, the food carts, the drunken idiots and amass of tuk tuks and pushy drivers begging to give you a lift, the street seemed like any other.
Khao San means ‘Milled Rice’. It is a clinging acknowledgement to the historical role this street played in the rice trade. By night, you can’t think of anything more than drinking, drinking, and shopping. But by day, this street reflects a different attitude.
People were starting to come out of hibernation. Tuk tuk drivers huddled together, planning their day. Travel agencies cropped up along the street, offering to take you wherever you wanted to go. I noticed, parked at the end of the street, a rubbish lorry. At least, that’s what it looked like. Men suddenly started flying in from nowhere. Wearing a surgical mask and fluorescent overalls they picked up their brooms and started sweeping. There must have been at least twenty, each clearing away the rubbish and dirt from the night before. Pride marred their every move. In this action, I could see the history of the street. How it become one of the prominent roads in the Rice trade. Why, since 1782, Europeans would declare Thailand the ‘Venice of the East’. Their hard work created this street, and that hard work continues today.
As I stood there, immersed in the scene of a nation proud of their land I thought back to a line I once read. The writer declared Khao San Road as “a short road that has the longest dream in the world”. To this, I say hell yes! The transformation between night and day is awe-inspiring. But what never falters is the dream the street holds. Every visitor will always leave a small part of their heart in Khao San Road. I know I did.
There is only one thing you need to do today, and that is ‘Kick Ass’. So whether you are spending the day in a dreary office, hiking in some far off forest or just trying to get your little girl to fall asleep, remember to grab the day. Make every second count and don’t regret the decisions you make, for they are the ones that will shape your future. Live life to the full and love with all your heart.
I wish you luck on your journey through 2014. Remember, you are awesome.