One entire year away from home. Away from the daily hum drum life of suburban-hood. It was a decision that took great courage and thought. A decision that, for all I knew, was going to change my life forever. From the moment I was asked on the hard shoulder of the M25, to the moment I flew home after 12 months of adventure; the impact on my life was phenomenal.
It's a stigma known throughout the teen generations, that a great way to postpone growing up or facing your responsibilities, is to take your hard earned cash (or your parents savings) and run away. The idea that you can have a years holiday away and it be deemed as a spiffing idea to 'clear your mind', 'find yourself'. When in fact what the underlying impression is, is that you can't bear to trudge off to university, to then go on to start that rat race of a life that you know consists of one 2 week holiday a year, to some trashy touristy hideout, and what seems like a hellish lifetime hand cuffed to an office desk or your idea of 9 to 5 nightmare. It's something I have always been critical of, however I realised that it doesn't matter why your going or where your going, only that as a human being having to make the conscious decision myself is not an easy one, and is one full of trepidation.
When returning home to be welcomed by friends and family, your immediate reaction is to extract a montage of memories from your experiences, so people can just get a taste of the epically different life you have lead for the past year. The general questions people ask just to be polite, when in reality they don't want to be reminded that they have just spent the past year with little to no changes of scenery, whilst we have been witnessing changes in our circumstances every day. The questions on everybody's lips; what was your favourite country? What was your favourite experience? Questions that for me were deemed just damn unanswerable!
The security, warmth and kindness that you regularly find amongst your family and friends, suddenly cannot be taken for granted, as you are seeking this from strangers. This was something I thought I would have no problem with at all. I deem myself to be a reasonable, approachable and an easy person to talk to. Due to my loud vocal chords I thought I had no problem getting my point across. However, it is terribly different when you are trying to talk with people who have no clue what you're saying and no amount of hand gestures will help. The guilt and burning red face as your voice starts to raise louder and louder in hope they will hear better; better enough to wonderously understand what you're saying.
Smiling and nodding became universal in all the languages we came across. The movements of 'I don't understand you, but I'm going to smile to make it look like do!'. However, the most amazing relationships were made even with the language barrier.
We had our little lonely planet guide for basic phrases as to not look like ignorant westerners. We had an absolute blast attempting the languages and took pride in our passion for learning along the way :)
A few people stand out for me as the most special relationships I formed whilst away. Save and his family in Fiji, who ultimately named his daughter after us! Terence in Taupo in New Zealand, who allowed us to stay with him and showed such unprecedented kindness and trust. We have also kept in contact with friends we met whilst traveling that we still keep in close contact even now. One particular friend we met in Fiji, Jane, the fun and loving Irish lass that trekked it all the way down south to attend my surprise 21st! Friends for life is what we set out to achieve, and achieve it we did!
One of the questions is; what is your favourite and least favourite country?The country that I would pay to go back to in a heart beat would be Cambodia. The countryside was raw, the people were all heart and the country had been through hell albeit not so long ago. We had the best adventures there including the endless motor biking everywhere, the Irrawaddy dolphins and the elephants. You may have noticed I haven't mentioned my least favourite, Australia. Australia had the worst moments, best to read the Australia blogs for that reasoning.
The experience was one I will never forget, I have struggled closing the chapter of this part of my life, now, writing this final paragraph two years on.
Let the story continue... The journey from 19-22 is over... The rest is history in the making :)
Thank you Daniel for, well, everything.