It has been almost a year since I last wrote on here. It's been over a year since I went to Australia, and a year ago today I was mid-way through my stay in California. I've finished my first year at the University of Chester and I am now back in Amsterdam for the summer. So I think it is time to reflect.
People always say they want to go traveling, but why? Well obviously I know why but these days you need a deeper reason for everything. I mean, people say that traveling is good for you. Good for the soul. But that doesn't really look good on your CV, so how do you justify it?
Above all, I have found it exciting and educational in a different sense to school. I like to say that I was traveling for 14 months, if I am literal about it, then I wasn't really, as I went home a lot for short periods of time in between but even then, it was a new home, with new adventures (like when we moved house using only a bike with a big basket). So instead, I shall say that I had 14 months of unstructured learning and growing up and here are just a few things I learnt from it:
Language:One of the most obvious things you might learn from traveling is a new language. Now I cannot claim to have learnt a new language but I can still remember a few words from several languages that I came across. I can also tell you, that I learnt more Turkish in 1 month in Turkey than I learnt French from 3 years of French classes at school! Now what does that tell you about Britons Language department? Anyway, that's a rant for another time...
So, my favourite Turkish phrase that I learned? pişmiş tavuk lütfen!
What does it mean? "Cooked chicken please" - Hey, don't judge, that's a very important phrase to me!
So what about in Australia where they speak English? Well, to tell you the truth I only met 4 Australians while out there, turns out Australians don't tend to stay in hostels. However, I did meet a tonne of Dutch people and there was one phrase that is stuck in my brain: Ik heb net pindakaas gegeten
... or you might know it as "I just ate peanut butter." - yes there is a story behind this one. Apparently there is a famous Dutch rap artist that isn't all that great, and when asked in an interview to rap, his excuse was that, ik heb net pindakaas gegeten, and so obviously he couldn't possibly do it.
As well as Turkish and Dutch, I obviously came across multiple other languages, there are phrases from each that I have learned but most of all, I have learned how to distinguish between them all, I can now recognize the difference between Italian and Spanish, something that I couldn't do before I went to Italy, and I now know what German sounds like with a Swish accent. These things may never be particularly useful, however, to reduce the chances of offending people and their culture, I think its at least a very polite thing to have learned. Who doesn't like being greeted hello by their own language?
My advice to anyone traveling anywhere, learn the very basics; hello, goodbye, thank you and please.The rest is all pointing and smiling anyway! Oh and maybe the word toilet too..
Health:Another big thing that I have learned while traveling is how to look after my own body. I think as a teenager, we often just take it for granted, and it isn't until something goes wrong that we realise how much we depend on them. (Hey everyone, take a second to appreciate how awesome the human body is!)
Something important I have learned however, is that most of the time, it isn't anything all that serious, so stop worrying or over dramatising things! I think this is one of our biggest issues. We as humans worry too much.. which causes stress, which in turn makes whatever we were stressing over 10 times worse. Damn circle!
I remember writing one of my first ever blog posts in 2012, and mentioning poo. I was writing about some of the things to prepare for when traveling (Mind the Gap Year, Dear - once again, thanks dad for that genius title). Well, I'm mentioning it again, and this time I write with far more experience. While it is one of the best ways to know if your body is functioning correctly or not, it can also throw you some curve balls, and is a perfect example of how most things are nothing serious. Don't be scared if one day, it's Beetroot Red and the next day its Pesto Green. You're travelling, and you're eating real weird. That's all there is to that one.
Other traveling health issues (apart from the obvious major ones which I wont be mentioning in this one because if you're worried about things like vaccinations etc. then you should go to somewhere official to ask questions and not get them from a random 20 year old like me) that I faced was loosing a lot of weight in Australia and gaining it all back in the USA. For some of you, loosing and gaining weight is just a normal thing that you've been dealing with since forever, but I haven't come across it before, so it was yet another learning curve for myself.
Something positive that I have found, is although looking at pictures of myself in Australia, I sometimes think, why am I not that skinny anymore? When I am not in a self-hating mood, I also think, I look so much better with a bit of meat on my bones! I know I am not anywhere near being "fat" so some of you may hate me for referring to myself as "having meat" but I am healthy for my height and body shape and that's what should matter in all situations.
One of the great things that I have learned from traveling, is that it really doesn't matter what you look like, where you're from or what size jeans you wear; if you're happy, and confident, people like you and there is nothing stopping you from having your own adventures.
Traveling is a great way to balance out the sometimes detrimental messages that glossy magazines send out.
Culture:This ones obvious. Traveling opens your mind to how other people live, how other countries work and how you might fit into all of that. I wont talk too much about this one as I think it's something you have to go and experience for yourself, but two things have just popped into my mind so I'll write about those:
Firstly, getting a pay as you go sim card for your phone. Now as far as I know, everywhere in Europe, you simply buy one for about 1 euro and put it in your phone and away you go. In California, (I don't know if this applies to all over the USA) you have to go to a phone shop and spend a good 30 minutes filling out forms and you have to pay something like $25 for the exact same thing. Not only that, but on top of the usual costs, you also have to PAY to RECIEVE texts. There are of course other options which aren't quiet a contract or a pay as you go but when you're only there for 2 months, it seems excessive to get anything else. Obviously, in the grand scheme of things this isn't a big deal but what have I learned from that experience? I guess, never take anything for granted, and never expect something simple to be the same as where ever you're from, because that's when it will hit you. Right in the money pouch!
Second, in England, or at least in the world that I grew up in, tattoo's weren't a very socially acceptable thing, at least not in the business world. If you have them, people tend to ask you to hide them when you are at work. In Australia, I met a lovely Canadian girl called Brittany who has a lot of tattoos; arms, legs, chest, and I was fascinated to find that she was a nurse and that it was perfectly acceptable in Canada to have a sleeve of tattoo's on show. How cool and forward thinking is that? Overall though, I did find that in Australia, I saw a hell of a lot more tattoos than anywhere else I've been to so far. Though I'm not sure whether that's because of a trend or because most people I met were in beach wear.
Survival:This category was a big one for me. I would say, that my "Gap Year" taught me the following things: that I can survive a stolen suitcase, I can find a solution to anything I set my mind to, I can survive on next to nothing and most importantly I can stand on my own two feet.
I don't know about you, but I would say that those things are some pretty important lessons. So in the argument of what does one get out of traveling that is of any value, it is that. Confidence in yourself. The confidence to take chances. The confidence to look fear in the face and shout right back. Or maybe in more relevant terms, the confidence to deal with a difficult customer or to tell the truth when something goes wrong or to have the confidence to start your own business. Basically, travel gives you the confidence to handle whatever life throws at you.
A way of life:Lastly, traveling is a way of life. Once you've done it, it's not over, you continue and you start to see everything as an experience. Most of all, it has shown me time and time over again that the best memories come to you when you least expect it or when you expect very little from something.
My favourite examples of my own spontaneous adventures are as follows:
- Taking a bus to an unknown location with 9 friends and 10 fat suitcases - Şile, Turkey
- Missing your bus with 3 friends in order to stay at an event for longer - Nimbin, Australia
- Staying in a place even when others leave - Second day, Noosa Everglades, Australia
- Going along with a spontaneous idea and filming it with the help of 1 friend - Fort Bragg, California
- Taking a chance on a far away job - Davis, California
With each of those 5 examples, I ended up finding a little piece of heaven, so my best advice to anyone wondering is to take chances and to go with the flow, as they say. I know its cliche, but it's that for a reason.
On another note, here are another two videos of my travels that I have created. The Australian one has been around for awhile but unfortunately YouTube.com has taken the music off because of one particular song used (I'm still working on fixing that but I don't want to use a different song because this one works so well) and unfortunately it wont let me upload it straight onto this blog but the USA one I made last night, so is brand spanking new!
I hope you enjoy watching them at least half as much as I enjoyed living them. That's all for the meantime but I've got some new ideas for this blog, so make sure to stick around if you like travelling ;)