For those who know me, I can occasionally be brave and other times not so much. For example, I can happily do a speech in front of 100 volunteers about an issue but I have to get my boyfriend to order in restaurants for me. I like to think of it as balance.
However earlier this year I took the biggest step out of my comfort zone and set off to travel around Australia. For a month, I would leave behind my family, friends, boyfriend and of course my lovely place of work and the comforts of home. I’d spend 10 days with a friend who lives in Tasmania and then travel to Sydney and, after joining a tour company called Contiki with 50 others, would travel along the coast ending up in Cairns.
I’d spend 30 days away from everyone and everything I’ve known. Which for me was the scariest idea – I’m a home bird and like to be in control and organised, yet here I was travelling well over 10,000 miles to places and airports I’d never been to in order to spend time with people I’d never met other than via brief conversations over social media.
Now firstly I should be honest, the first week was hard. Probably one of the toughest weeks of my life, my anxiety was strong, and the distance between myself and the ones I loved felt more like a world away then just couple of flights. And I should also point out that (following an incident a few years ago) I was terrified of flying!
Yet a month later, I’d completed 7 flights, not got lost in any airports, didn’t end up losing my passport or running out of money and more importantly made it home alive – albeit not very tanned – and happy.
Now this isn’t about bragging about being brave – trust me I really wasn’t (so many tears!) But I wanted to share with you some of the things I learned:
- There’s nothing wrong with being afraid
Sometimes we feel guilty because we are scared. Maybe we feel weak or that we are letting ourselves down. But at the end of the day, it keeps us safe, it makes us think about decisions rather than rush in, and it makes the end achievement even more impressive, because despite everything, you did it!
- It’s really important to be able to laugh at yourself
On the first night of meeting the tour group, we went to a pretty impressive restaurant which had the unique selling point of you getting to cook your own steak. After waiting for my turn, I spent over 20 minutes cooking my steak (aka burning my arms on the barbeque!), sat back down with my new team mates, cut it open to see it was practically still alive. The table broke into laughter and I wanted the ground to open up and hide me and my shame. But in the end I just laughed – after all, I was working as a part time baker/cook at the time so managing to commit such a fail was pretty ironic! And from that moment on, we were all friends – and I wasn’t allowed to cook anymore meals!
- Never be afraid to ask for help or talk about what’s happening
On some of my worst days, when missing everyone felt too strong, I could take great comfort in texting home and talking to those around me. In a world where we are taught to deal with everything alone and mental health is still a bit of a taboo, I can’t stress enough the importance of talking to someone. Anyone – whether it’s a best friend who knows all about you, a family member who knows how to calm you down or just sitting for drinks with new friends. It was surprising the things I found out about people when I opened up about myself.
- It’s your life, so spend it how you want too
For those who know me, I absolutely HATE team games; they fill me with an uncontrollable rage. So when I took my seat on the tour bus and the excited tour guide started to mention games, my guard was up and the online messages of ‘I want to go home NOW’ where landing all over England like rain. It took me a while but I eventually learnt to say no, that I didn’t want to play, and it was the best decision I could have made. The rage lifted and I spent the rest of the trip worry free. So if you want to spend some time alone, then just do that. If you want to watch trashy telly in your pjs instead of going out, then do that. At the end of the day, you deserve to be happy just as much as anyone else, so if you don’t want to go the gym today then don’t and if you want that donut – then have it! Like I said, it’s all about balance!
- Be kind to everyone – especially yourself
Some days you wake up and feel strong, some days you don’t, and that’s okay. I’m sure even the bravest people have hideaway days. Be gentle with yourself and don’t push it too far. You’re being brave enough as it is, so sit back and relax. You don’t have to conquer the world every day.
- You might find a gecko in your bathroom or get chased by a cow
Yep, both of these things happened to me – amongst a million other bizarre, yet hilarious incidents. Life will always throw surprises your way and some will be easier to deal with than others. But – and I hate the cliché – everything happens for a reason, you’ll either learn something or make memories to last a lifetime. So look for the light in the darkness and enjoy the madness because you’re only here once.
I should point out that I’m not perfect, some days were harder than others and sometimes I wish I’d done things differently. But the point is that I did it, and now I have friends all over the world, and memories that make me laugh so hard I stop breathing. Sometimes you have to push yourself, get out there and do things.
I didn’t know if I would enjoy travelling, but I did. I developed a strong love for jelly shots, free wine, living in summer clothes, scuba diving and exploring. But more importantly it’s taught me about things I don’t like, mainly flies, jellyfish and long-haul flight boredom. I guess the point is, you’ll never know if you don’t try.
If you want to go to uni, then go. If you want that job, then go out there and give it a go. Take that step into volunteering if it will help you on your way. This is your life and your moment, take it easy. Take care of yourself but, more importantly, don’t be afraid – things go wrong, things don’t work, just get up and keep trying.
If I can do it, then you definitely can.