I left the rainy shores of the UK 18 months ago. Can you believe it? I thought I would be away for a year – tops! – and that by now I would be embarking on an office-based career surrounded by cats in London or Manchester. I was incredibly nervous and scared and alone when I first left (just read my first ever blogpost.)
Yet a week ago, after 12 months of living and working in New Zealand, I packed my bags once again and moved to Melbourne, Australia, on a Working Holiday visa.
I could write you a standard “Things I have learned travelling” post, but there are so many of these already online.
Instead here are 20 thoughts that I never had before I hopped on that fateful plane to Rio:
1. “Yes! My roommate doesn’t snore!” I haven’t had my own room in 18 months. I can probably count the number of nights that I have spent completely alone on two hands. Before travelling, I was a little spoilt in terms of quiet and space. I would wake up if even a crack of light shone under my door and I was less than tolerant of noise. Nowadays I sleep through most things and if I don’t like someone else’s noise I use ear plugs.
2. “So they stole my food…shit happens.” God have mercy on the souls of anyone at home who used even a thimble of my shampoo in my pre-travelling days. However, nowadays I am pretty relaxed about sharing. Obviously I get annoyed when someone takes the piss (like in my last home when someone practically demolished all of my food and thoughtfully left all the empty wrappers), but generally my policy is that sharing is good for the soul, and it’s not worth ruining your day if someone takes something minor without permission.
3. “Meh, it’s a bit of dirt.” I am certainly not a princess when it comes to hygiene and dirt. I have come to believe that we get way too uptight about personal hygeine, waste way too much water and use far too many chemicals. There’s nothing like a good 4 day trek to fix spoilt attitudes.
4. “Syria? What’s going on in Syria?” Politics was my passion in the UK: I studied it at university, enjoyed a good protest, co-chaired my university’s Women’s Association and loved reading the Newstatesman. I couldn’t imagine not keeping up with current affairs. However, I found that all this political frustration and anger was getting me down. So, I put down my Guardian app and had a break for about 12 months. Now I am a woman reborn and I dare say that my political beliefs have actually become more nuanced and astute as a result.
5. “Does anyone have any clothes that need washing? I only have about half a wash load.” Gone are the days where I would wear something once and toss it into my laundry basket (aka the floor). A limited wardrobe and expensive launderettes ensure that my washing is kept to a minimum.
6. “Much of the time I prefer hitchhiking to the bus.” If someone had told me 18 months ago that I would hitchhike across New Zealand alone and love it, I would have (unattractively) snorted with laughter. But I did do it and it was one of the best things I have ever done.
7. “I don’t care that much about wearing a suit and drinking cocktails.” Like most university graduates, I had ‘Sex And The City’ dreams of getting an “It” job, being free single, wearing devilishly stylish suits to work and sipping expensive cocktails in the evenings. Yet the most fun and entertaining job I have ever had is housekeeping (yes, cleaning shit and being spoken to like an absolute idiot gets me going.) My only requirement is that my work pays the bills and that it is something I enjoy.
8. “I don’t regret any of the relationships I have had this past year or so.” Before Brazil, I was a walking disaster when it came to relationships. I wasn’t sure if dating whilst travelling was a good idea and I have wondered many times if I should have gone all “Eat, Pray, Love” and tried being completely single. However, I honestly don’t regret a single relationship or travel romance – each one was amazing and I still respect and admire those individuals.
9. “Going to dinner alone is one of my favourite things to do.” I set myself up with a craft beer and my journal or a good book, and I am blessed with the most overwhelming sense of contentment.
10. “I think I actually, seriously, want to be a writer? Maybe? Possibly?!” Writing has always been my passion but I never considered it to be something that I could actually do. But even if I fail miserably or change my mind, I figure that I may as well give it a chance.
11. “Urgh, I keep catching my toe edge.” My boyfriend taught me how to snowboard. I hated it for much of the time, but by the end I started to actually enjoy it and stopped screaming “f**k!” every time I fell over.
12. “I have the best group of girlfriends.” Aside from one or two girlfriends back in the UK, I generally get on better with guys than girls. Girls scare me. However, I have the best group of girlfriends back in Queenstown and I miss them enormously.
13. “Oh my God, I can’t wait to sunbathe in December!” Summer is generally from December to February in New Zealand and Australia. Christmas with a BBQ anyone?
14. “Pfft…it doesn’t matter if that cut scars, I have a millions scars.” Some people collect tattoos when they backpack, I collect mosquito scars. They are all over my feet, shins and arms. I am a walking purple polka dot canvas.
15. “I don’t wear makeup 90% of the time.” I feel more pressure to wear makeup in cities, but mostly I don’t wear any except for special events and when I want to dress up. It’s my face and I am stuck with it so I am learning to love it.
16. “Getting on a plane alone is actually pretty easy.” I had heart palpitations on my plane from Heathrow to Rio and the idea of embarking on it alone was one of my biggest sources of anxiety. But it’s actually super easy: you just follow the departure boards and signs.
17. “I have my faults, but on the whole I am good person.” Like most twenty-somethings, I frequently fretted about not being a good person and not being liked. I can be super awkward and I have a tendency to talk rather than listen, but I am generally a kind and good individual who will offer you a good laugh (usually at my own expense.)
18. “What’s a good DIY haircut YouTube video?” My fear of the hairdresser isn’t because I am worried that they won’t do a good job, it’s because of how I prioritise my money. As much as I love sitting in the salon chair (and I do – I don’t judge people who enjoy a good haircut), I would rather spend $50 on a once-in-a-lifetime day out. So, I cut my hair myself until I can afford those days out and a hairdresser.
19. “Praise the Lord for new music!” I have an incredibly old 2gb MP3 player (it’s so old that the screen is black and white) and my tablet. Coupled with expensive yet slow wifi, being able to download and listen to new music is a rare and wonderful treat.
20. “I haven’t seen my family in 18 months and I don’t know when I will see them.” I am incredibly close to my parents and brother. There is nothing that I don’t tell them and there isn’t a single day when I don’t think of them. I had never imagined in my wildest dreams that I wouldn’t be home for two Christmases in a row and that I wouldn’t have sat in the midst of my Bazeley/Shears clan enjoying June 2014’s summer sun. However, I know that when I do finally go home, whether it’s for a visit or for good, I will appreciate them more than ever.