How can I possibly sum up a year of living out of a backpack in various countries? It’s going to be a challenge – but I like those. During the last 12 months I’ve visited eight new countries, had almost a year of sunny weather, eaten and drank a lot of new things, met more lovely people than I can even remember and got myself an impressive scar along the way.
This year has been an adventure, a joy, but more than anything it has been an education. What I will take away from my travels in southeast Asia and Australia is how great it is to experience new things. It’s important to me now in a way it never was before. Trying things I’ve never done before – maybe never thought I would want to do – has been so important during this trip and my best memories come from moments where I did something unexpected yet surprised myself by enjoying it.
The ‘highlights’ of my travels are the times I stepped away from my comfort zone and into the unknown. Sure, it was scary at first. I will never forget the feeling of utter terror I felt boarding my plane at Heathrow a year ago and not having a clue what was in store for me. After a few days I felt so happy and proud of myself that I’d had the courage to fly off on my own. It was the best decision I ever made.
A few times during the past year I’ve done things that Helen circa May 2012 would never have guessed I would do. Hindsight is an annoying thing, and I feel that the me of old was a tad too ‘English’ – conservative, restrained and, dare I say it, a little boring. Helen today is a lot more open to new experiences – in fact she loves them. I look back at my old life and feel so thankful I was forced out of my safe, British cocoon and made to live 100% in the present. Travel is amazing for encouraging you to just ‘be’ and not think about consequences or the future too much.
However, there have been times when I’ve felt slightly worried about myself whilst on the road. Out in the big wide world it’s easy to get a little lost, forget where you came from and maybe act out of character sometimes. Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about what I need as a person, what makes me happy and try and bear that in mind when I’m making decisions. I will never stop trying new things whilst travelling, but I’m definitely becoming more conscious of my identity these days and recognising the ways in which I may have changed during the past year. One thing’s for certain – it’s definitely been an interesting journey to get to where I am right now.
It’s not time to head home yet but when it is I hope I can keep my love of the new going even when I don’t live out of a backpack anymore. Until then, I look forward to enjoying discovering more countries, people and experiences for the first time.