Someone asked me the other day, since I’ve come back home for Christmas – what has been the best aspect of my round-the-world travels: the activities I’ve done, the people I’ve met, or the feeling of freedom and adventure? I had to stop and think. Of course all of these have been important elements in creating what has been an incredible trip, but to choose one?
As well as doing yoga everywhere – obviously – and unexpectedly trying and enjoying Bikram hot yoga, I have done so much over these past 10 months. I’ve learned to scuba dive, qualifying as an Open Water diver in Malaysia; got closer to the stillness of mind needed to meditate in Goa; lost myself in dancing, free-styling it in clubs and yoga centres; learned to tango in Argentina; embarked on a course in Tai Chi and Chi Kung in Goa; took part in a travel writing workshop and visited wineries in New Zealand; cycled through rice paddies and climbed a volcano at sunrise in Bali; watched orang-utans eat their breakfast, spotted nocturnal creatures and went trekking in the jungles of Borneo; cycled round ancient temples in India; plunged into waterfalls and explored the depths of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia; went hang-gliding in Rio; took Thai yoga massage classes in Bali; tasted more wine, admired street art, went star-gazing and sand-boarding in Chile; and got drenched in a small boat under the thundering waters of one of the modern natural wonders of the world, the Iguassu Falls. So many memories I will treasure for the rest of my life, particularly when I’m back working in an office every day.
As for the people I’ve met, I won’t name them all here, but I have been lucky enough to meet wonderful people at every stage of my trip. Several are now friends who I’m still in regular contact with, as we share our slightly offbeat travelling lives; some new friends I have met up with later on in a different country – which makes the world feel like a very small place indeed; and some are friends from back home who I was delighted to see again on the other side of the world. All have played an important part, as our paths crossed on our respective journeys, and I’m over the moon to have shared it with them. When you embark on a trip like this by yourself, you find yourself drawn to other people, and often they are in a similar situation themselves. We help each other, learn from each other, share travelling tips and tales and, sometimes, become travel partners for a while. It’s a joy to be able to share your newfound experiences as you explore unfamiliar places together.
The sense of freedom and adventure is a huge one for me. An escape from routine of the 9 to 5 (and beyond) job, and to get a different perspective on life from the consumerist, celebrity-obsessed culture we’re used to in the UK. And also, of course, to appreciate how good we have it back home. Personally, I find travelling an energising and nourishing experience which inspires me like nothing else. It breaks open your expectations of yourself and of your life, as you explore the wonders of the world in all her beauty. To have this freedom is an absolute joy and a privilege. Taking yourself out of your comfort zone, without anything to really define you, can be unexpectedly satisfying for the soul in ways you can’t anticipate.
But the one thing that has really made my trip special and memorable are the connections I’ve made with people. People from all over the world, some travellers, some local, have all made my journey extra fun and insightful. And for me this is what it’s all about. Whatever you are doing, the people you spend time with elevates an experience in so many ways. You can forge bonds quickly when you’re travelling; you support and encourage each other – a loving friendship can be created, even if you only spend a couple of days in each other’s company.
And then to come home. If only a slight return (to quote a song title from my favourite Britpop band, the Bluetones) for Christmas, I am now feeling even more blessed than I ever was. Going on the trip was special and coming home was something else, too. My heart is bursting with gratitude for all my wonderful family and friends, and I am feeling very loved. There is something both faintly unnerving and comfortingly reassuring about how easy it has been to be reacquainted with life back home, after such a long time away.
Soon I am off again, back to New Zealand. While I am happy to be continuing my travels, I know that this love and this happiness from my home life will still be in my heart, wherever I am. Just as, wherever I end up, the spirit of freedom and adventure will be there, even once I return to the 9 to 5 daily routine. Whether travelling or at home, it’s the people that really matter.