My passion for travel stems back five years and each time I dipped my toe in those short and sporadic nomadic adventures, there was always something that got in the way of the bold decision to embark on something longer – stability. I left University eight years ago, instantly landing a job that gave me a step on the ladder to a successful career and I’ve always been in long-term, serious relationships. More simply, I’ve been what some may call lucky.
But to me life was too comfortable and those quick and dirty travel hits didn’t curb the addiction, so it was only natural that over a matter of time an inherent need to break out of mould would manifest itself into a deep rooted desire to travel for longer.
I did short backpacking stints to Vietnam, India and the USA for a couple of weeks at a time to really make the use of annual leave. With boyfriends I always made it clear that at least one of my two trips taken in a year would be solo – it was just something I needed to do and which I thought was an acceptable compromise of dating non-travellers (fail). I never realised it was a subconscious need to escape.
But my solo trip in November 2010 for five weeks to Cambodia, Laos and Northern Thailand changed everything. I was already six months into my first mortgage agreement with a guy I had been with for two and a half years. It hadn’t felt right for some time but I was locked in, grounded to a point that people call ‘their lot in life’ and who lack the courage to challenge it. So I used travel as a life test and the final decision maker. Two weeks never felt enough, would five?
It wasn’t enough and I didn’t miss my boyfriend. I wasn’t excited by a text and I wasn’t fazed if I couldn’t get near a PC to send an e-mail. I was revelling in traveller glory as I temple hopped and boarder crossed, experienced local life in homestays, navigated stunning landscape and slept under the stars on a boat floating down the river Kwai. Add to the mix the exposure to post-war devastation, the confusion of having feelings for someone from a completely different culture to my own and end that with a tough three day jungle trek on the Thai-Burma boarder and you could say I was physically and emotionally tested to the extreme. And I loved (and learnt from) every minute.
But there was a distinct moment where the epiphany manifested, albeit aided with beer. It was in a bar in Laos aptly named Utopia. I remember meeting three couples travelling together (heart-breaking when my other half’s desire was to stay at home) and people who had bravely ditched everything in the pursuit of adventure and happiness. All I felt was insanely jealous and all I did was make excuses because of it. I was having a life crisis, shockingly in my mid 20’s. Then an older and wiser friend said to me: “Becki, you can’t have everything at once. You can’t have the nice house/a boyfriend/great career AND travel like them. It’s one or the other and you need to choose.”
And he was right. I could see he regretted waiting to do it now that he was in his 50’s. Out of those five weeks, it only took one to realise I was deeply unhappy with my situation and I went home with one goal: to quit everything that was remotely stable.
Because stability hindered the independence I craved. Stability was stopping me travelling and regret isn’t in my vocabulary. So if you want to make a giant leap of travel faith that requires immense life changes, then my message to you is this:
Make the break. Hard, upsetting decisions simply clear a path for happier ones to come along and fill the gap. The decisions you may have to make such as ending up a relationship, quitting a career you’ve worked hard to build or upsetting people are some of the toughest. I guarantee you will feel absolutely terrible, confused and guilt ridden for some time but it does comes good in the end.
I made a decision that started a chaotic series of events when I returned home from Thailand on December 20th 2010, the final nail on the head being me bursting into tears after watching Eat, Pray, Love on the plane home and thinking ‘that’s me.’ I finished my relationship a week later and told everyone I was planning to leave – not for a Gap Year but indefinitely.
Life was shitty for a while with the tears, explanations, packing, questions and legal documents. I spent two months homeless living on a mate’s couch (this doesn’t count as couchsurfing) and was jobless for six weeks. Every ounce of security and dignity had vanished. I cried myself to sleep every night because of the absolute mess I was in – all because I wanted to go travelling.
But that was the elixir that keep me going until I got work, found a houseshare and started the real therapy – saving. The dream is now becoming reality and security is being traded in for adventure. I leave this July full of pride that I finally made this happen and despite the upset, pain and upheaval, I have absolutely no regrets… except maybe not doing it sooner.
“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love.
Becki is the author of www.backpackerbecki.com which aims to inspire others to fulfil their travel dreams as she prepares for hers and will host her travel tales when she leaves in July for a two year solo stint across more than 20 countries. It could be more or she may never return – that’s all part of the fun – but her honest reflections, infamous rants and doses of wit will always remain constant during her thirst for off the beaten track adventures. Follow her on twitter @backpackerbecki or join her nomadic followers on Facebook.