ON THE ROAD: THE LESSONS I’VE LEARNT





09.17



HAPPY NEW YEAR



I’m not one for half hearted resolutions, and the unlikely (whilst simultaneously self deprecating) exclamation, “New year, new me!” But since the beginning of a new year has dawned upon us, now is probably as good a time as any to reflect on my time in Asia, and what I have, and have not yet learnt on this marvellous journey so far.


Exactly six months ago today, I first arrived in Southeast Asia. It was a remarkable time for me – I’d never travelled alone, not to mention to the other side of the world – and boy, was I in for a shock! Now, January 12th 2018, it’s late in the evening and I’m back where it all began – in Hanoi – sat comfortably alone in a dimly lit cafe in the Old Quarter, hot mulled wine in hand… yes, it’s freezing here too. I can hardly believe that half a year has passed since I first set foot in the charming jungle city of Hanoi, Vietnam. Nearly two hundred incredible days; filled with adventure, exhilaration, new friends from around the world, plenty of laughter, and undoubtedly, a few tears.


During this time, I’ve witnessed the Great Hornbill in the rainforests of rural Kep, Cambodia; I’ve climbed the dusty summit of Mount Bromo, Indonesia, I’ve driven a motorbike through the winding roads of northern Vietnam and I’ve drunk rum and karaoked with the locals in Palawan, Philippines. I’ve also been lucky enough to swim with a dozen wild manta rays in Nusa Penida, Indonesia, trekked the jungles of Malaysian Borneo to find the humble Orang utan, I’ve learnt to surf in Lombok and I’ve taken an evening ride on the Star Ferry, Hong Kong, China. Here are just a few things that I’ve learnt along the way.



MY SEVEN RULES


1. Remember to put yourself out there… nobody else is going to do it for you. It goes without saying, but you’d be surprised how many travellers lock themselves away for days on end without so much as a hello. It’s absolutely normal to do this from time to time – we’re all human – but it’s also important to broaden our circles and get to know our neighbours too. I can’t stress enough how much you will learn about yourself and about the people around you if you take time to talk. Remember these are the lessons that you will take with you for the rest of your life, don’t let anything stop you from having lunch with the girl you just met in the lift… it’s normal when you’re travelling.


2. Don’t conform to others ways of thinking. Do things your way. Just as long as you’re doing something you love, keep doing it and do it with integrity. If that means travelling at a slower pace than others, so be it. Remember to take time to admire that view; if you want, go for coffee on your own; take a midday nap in that hammock that’s been staring at you all morning… take it steady. Don’t feel like you have to be busy all day everyday just because you’re travelling.


3. Don’t panic, you’re not obliged to get on with everyone you meet… and you won’t. Remember, you are just one among millions of other travellers… so don’t be alarmed if the girl in bunk five is giving you a hard time and you don’t have much to talk about with that guy you met at breakfast. Just follow your agenda, continue with your day. If that means you have to be ruthless and ditch them (so to speak), then so be it. If someone is cramping your style, say goodbye and be on your way… it’s that simple.


4. It’s not as scary as you imagine. I had my doubts about travelling before I left the comforts of home and my much loved family and friends. I worried that I would get lost in an unfamiliar city and be unable to find my way. I thought that I might get robbed and miss that all important flight. Undoubtedly there have been times I’ve feared for my safety… but by and large, if you use your common sense then you’ll be fine. People I’ve met out here are as friendly and hospitable as they come, and they will endeavour to help you as much as they can.


5. Avoid booking things in advance, you will change your mind and you will most definitely regret it. Back in the first world our lives would be a mess if we didn’t schedule time for things. However this is Asia and unbeknown to you, you’re going to meet your new best friend next week, and you may well want to change your whole itinerary so you can travel together. Be smart, don’t buy that bargain flight before you need to.


6. Don’t be arrogant. Every experience or conversation is an opportunity to for you to grow. Far too often we ignorantly go about life pretending that we have all the answers. It’s time for a reality check. No, we’re not always right and yes, those travellers who think that they are, are among some of the least charismatic people that I’ve met. Here’s a big thank you to that guy from the USA for reminding me to always be humble. Ok, you’ve travelled the world on your Harley-Davidson, but you still know nothing about social interaction… congratulations.


7. If there’s one thing that I’ve learnt during my travels, it’s that you hold the key to your own happiness. At home, it’s easy to fall into the big bed of comfortability. Many of us rely on the love and appraisal of others to make us happy. I for one made this mistake. I thought that if I fulfilled the hopes and aspirations of others, that I would finally be happy. I did, and guess what, I still wasn’t happy. But when I made the decision to leave the UK and travel on my own to Asia, I found real happiness. I accepted that it would be hard and that I would have nobody to lean on in hard times, but this further ignited my desire to do it. My lesson here is go out and grab every opportunity in life! Don’t take a backseat. Own your life, it’s yours after all.