It’s true what they say – time really does fly when you’re having fun.
It has now been two-and-a-half years since I left my safe life in Chester, UK, to embark on an adventure, although at the time I had no idea I would be away for quite so long.
I had a professional job, great friends and a lovely house share with equally lovely girls but I was also restless. I had always had itchy feet but early in the year of 2009 when the recession really began to take hold and my long-term relationship ended, I realised I could no longer contain my travelling ambitions and started planning. Fast forward six months and I had purchased a one-way ticket to New Zealand, a working holiday visa and a stopover in Hong Kong.
Countless friends told me I would not be returning any time soon but I honestly believed I would be away for six months then return refreshed in time for summer in England and the festival season.
Of course, my friends were right. Visiting Hong Kong solo whet my appetite for adventure and one year in New Zealand turned into two. A trip to Samoa made me want to explore more of the Pacific Islands (still on the list) and I am now in Darwin, Australia, after living and working in Sydney for a few months (amazing city), taking the typical backpacker route up the east coast and driving a relocation camper van almost 3,000km from Cairns to Darwin.
And the travel list just keeps on growing with Bali and Rarotonga already booked and talk of a trip to Nepal towards the end of the year.
It sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? A nomadic lifestyle with endless possibilities. For the most part, it is, but as with everything there are stresses, strains and limitations. Visas and money are the most common causes of stress along with meeting people and forging relationships that you have to eventually say goodbye to. Sometimes you just don’t click with people but other times you do and on those occasions you make amazing friends — the type of friendships you know will last for years to come.
There are also certain skills that are required for a travelling lifestyle. Being adaptable and employable are essential because adventure is expensive and bouts of travel are often followed by periods of intense working and saving. It can be hard to keep the aim in sight when working 10 hour days in a kiwi fruit pack house and feeling like it will never end or spending five evenings a week in a call centre repeating the same sentences a million times a night. It’s a test of patience but travel is not cheap so the trick is to grin and bear it – or head to the pub for a whinge and a pint with your new-found friends at the end of the shift.
Another tip I quickly picked up was to become creative in the kitchen – particularly when funds are lacking. Pumpkin soup made with coconut cream became my staple diet during a cold winter in Queenstown, New Zealand, mainly because pumpkin was cheap and snowboarding and having a social life was costly. But the most important thing is a sense of fun. As clichéd as it may sound, there is no point making the effort to visit places on the other side of the world if not to enjoy yourself and experience what the place has to offer.
So what happens to the traveller/backpacker with perpetual itchy feet? How long can such a lifestyle be maintained? I have no idea to the answer of either questions but I do know I will always want to travel and visit new places and I know of many people who have returned home or settled somewhere for a while to pack their bags again a year or two later in search of something else. Some people just have a wandering spirit and will never be satisfied with staying put.
On that note, it’s time to start preparing for the next trip – Bali.