I’m turning 30 in about 2 weeks. Even typing that doesn’t make it easier to swallow.
But I want to share with you some of my insights on travelling and things I’ve learnt in the last few years and in general how to cope with being an adult.
The truth about travelling is that it is not as glamorous as it looks. I know my Instagram makes it look like I’m having a great time – and I am, majority of the time! But I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t have to wake up at 3am to get ready for a 7am flight because those are the only time I can afford to fly, or I just woke up in a hostel where there wasn’t any hot water. Or that spending 4 days not showering because my accommodation’s bathroom was so disgusting that it was cleaner to not shower than to be in that bathroom for longer than a minute. See, not glamorous at all! But of course no one ever post photos of when they are struggling.
I think we are consuming a large portion of our time on social media in our day-to-day lives and it is playing a key part in our life that is altering both our self esteem and our alter ego.
With Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, we are constantly uploading what we’re doing, where we are, who we’re seeing and spending time with – all contributing to this fake universe; to an audience I still have yet to identify. It’s like we all want to be famous, or think we are famous because 10 or so people are paying attention to us? Someone once told me I should upload a certain photo because it will get me more likes, I thought this was a strange statement. If it’s my account then I should post what I deem is a good post, right? Does it matter how many likes you get or how many followers you gain? I guess the answer is yes, because that’s why you’re on social media to begin with? Maybe I’m just old fashioned and actually using it to keep in contact with my friends and family. And I don’t really care about what strangers think or not think about my posts.
Millennials have been a hot topic lately in a sense that people haven’t figured us out yet – and to be honest it’s because we haven’t figured ourselves out yet – that’s why we’re millennials. We’re still trying to figure out what living in this fast pace environment, of this Cyborg universe that is social media, is all about. Our right hand (or left) is attached to our phones. When we don’t have wifi we literally feel alone and scared in the world. There’s even a syndrome called Phantom Vibration Syndrome where you constantly check your phone because you think you received a message or call – why does this syndrome even exist, is the more alarming question.
Gone are the days where people are borrowing books from the library to research where to go and what to do in a destination. Nowadays, even I bookmark Instagram posts and blogs on places I want to visit, but these are the kind of places that are also popular for tourists. I miss venturing out on ‘off the beaten tracks’, which we don’t seem to do much any more because you would read up on doing things alone (as a female) that will get you into danger. I hate that in some countries it almost feels like I’m being punished for being a female and as a solo traveller. In the middle east I was ‘strongly’ recommended to not travel on my own and to sign up in a tour group instead. I mean I don’t regret any of that, I did meet amazing people who ended up being my friends. But it just makes me wonder what I could have seen or done if I were to venture out on my own.
I can’t even begin to tell you the amount of hours I’ve spent at the airport, either waiting in line, or waiting for my delayed flights. I mean it comes with the territory of being a traveller. Or the amount of time I’ve told myself to keep a budget per trip and basically blown that budget every time. There will always be ‘surprises’ that will be unaccountable, costing you more than your budget, like urgent cabs, or entry fees you weren’t told, or things breaking down. There are days where I wake up with dark circles under my eyes and my hair undone, still wearing last night’s outfit, and struggling to get my luggage together to catch my flight. Obviously, those are the days where I’m not taking photos.
My photos turn out good because when I travel solo, I travel with a tripod for my camera. I find taking photos on my tripod a lot better than asking a strange to take my photo. I don’t know why they have to zoom in on my face so much?! I do know what I look like.
Of course there are times when even the self timer doesn’t always seems to favour you.
People constantly walking into my photos…
When it’s so cold my gloves are in the way…
And just about every jumping photo I’ve ever tried to take on self timer, will never work out.
Or when I try to pose for a photo but then accidentally dropping something instead.
But the best thing about travelling is the experiences you gain, from seeing natural wonders like Wadi Rum, to the blue water of Zanzibar, blows me away. That ‘Ahh‘ moment when you realised just how incredible Earth is, is priceless. Or the feelings you get when you meet a stranger who helps you and potentially saved your life – that grounds me more than anything, to appreciate every person who walks into my life. Because everything does happen for a reason, and when it’s a negative – you learn from it. Most of all, I’ve learnt to be humble. I think sometimes I take my life for granted. I take my job, my friends and family for granted, while others don’t even have a dollar to their name.
My father has always said to me, I spend money like it’s water. I’ve never fully understood that saying until I went to a third world country where I had to buy bottled water to keep hydrated, but for a local sometimes that’s not an option. After reflecting at that comparison, I started becoming more strict with my money and only limiting myself to spending money on either water or food only when I needed to eat – not when I wanted to eat. The older you get the more you are self aware of what is needed and wanted in your life.
I still remember one of the sweetest moments when I was in India, lost with a friend with no cash and no phone. We had to get back to the city center to figure out our bearings, and no taxis would help us without showing them money first. A kind rickshaw driver stopped and gave us a lift into town, I said to him take us to the ATM and I will pay him for his service. After he dropped us off, I tried to gesture him I will pay him, he kindly shook his head and declined our money before he got back in his rickshaw and left. I don’t think he realised he almost saved my life that day, who knows what might have happened to us. I’m humbled by the kindness from a stranger. Humbled for the lesson my dad taught me. Humbled for people who have nothing but still willing to give.
Tips from how I afford to travel so often. While at home I eat nothing. Well I usually eat broccoli, and a lot of it. It’s cheap and I do love it, but I try and keep my food budget down to a minimal. I monitor flights all the time. Always on a look out for sales, making the most of off-peak travels, and I prefer travelling alone because it’s less pressure to go out and spend money at night. When I’m on my own, my dinner usually consist of a street kebab and fruit from the local supermarket. Probably not the best way to travel if you are a true foodie. Travel insurance, content insurance, car hire worldwide insurance, health insurance – get it all! It’s one fee per year, and in the long run it will benefit you more for your sense of security.
Some people have told me travelling solo is not for them, that they get bored on their own. I quite enjoy my own company. Things I usually carry with me when I’m on my solo trips. My laptop or ipad mini – great for watching movies and Netflix, my Sony e-reader – I’m currently reading 10 books all at once, will most likely finish all of them by 2020. An actual book, because sometimes I miss holding and the smell of books. My phone loaded up with plenty of music to get me through those long days on the road. Two portable chargers, one for my phone and one for my camera. Basically I pack things I would normally do when I’m at home. Even when I’m in my hotel room I’m still doing my usual Yoga routine via Youtube. There are ways around beating those loneliness blues. Staying in a hostel will definitely increase your chances of human interactions. But sometimes you want those quiet days in a hotel room soaking away in the bath tub.
And above all, my number 1 tip is to stay in contact with your nearest and dearest! I am a big advocate when it comes to Mental Health and sometimes you forget how nice it feels to receive a text message from your friends or family to check in on your trip. Or you texting them or sending photos of your trip to show that you’re thinking of them and wishing they could be there with you to share the experience. It works both ways to ensure you’re never feeling completely alone and that you’re not forgotten. Some of my best friends are those I only text once a month but when we’re together it’s like time had never passed.