Finding My Footprint - Finding one's self whilst travelling

  “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”   Terry Pratchett

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” Terry Pratchett

If you have been on Facebook for a while and post regularly, you’ll find you will have ‘memories’ showing up on your timeline nearly every day.  Some will make you laugh, some will make you cringe, and some will trigger memories that started you on a road you never thought you would find yourself on.  On 09th January 2018, a ‘memory’ from three years popped up and Facebook asked if I wanted to share it with my audience (my friends and family).  This particular ‘memory’ remained me of my ‘old life’, remained me of the event that ‘was the straw that broke the camel’s back’ and started my current journey but also remained me of how far I have come in three years. 

 Oh the flashbacks; the memories.. Facebook remained me of the time three years ago where it was time for change. And..... I've never looked back.. 

Oh the flashbacks; the memories.. Facebook remained me of the time three years ago where it was time for change. And..... I've never looked back.. 

Three years ago, I was working as a Senior Probation and Parole Officer in Queensland.  To my friends, I had my ‘life’ together – I had a good job; established my career and had an excellent work reputation; I had a good stable income; could afford to live alone in a three-bedroom townhouse; owned car; and could ‘come and go’ as I pleased.  What my friends didn’t see were the anxiety attacks; the numerous sleepless nights and endless work hours; the struggles with my appetite and loss of my hair; the lack of self-care; and the lack of self-esteem and confidence that comes with constant self-doubt and hammering from outside influences.  I was good at showing others what they wanted to see and not air my problems.

I remember my aunty asking me the old-age question “But are you really happy?” My answer… “but who’s really happy?” Her response… “well then, something’s going to give...” Then it did.  Days after that conversation, I posted that post on my Facebook page after experiencing the worst humiliating day of my working career life.  That day was the tipping point for me.  I had to do something, anything.  I realized how poorly I had treated myself and the little voice in my head was right, “It’s time for a change; I wasn’t the problem.” I realized I had boundaries, but I was scared to exercise them; I was afraid to stand my ground with confidence; I would back-down when others applied pressure.  I was constantly told that I didn’t ‘respond well to change’; I didn’t roll with the change; that I wasn’t ‘resilient’ enough. 

If you’re brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting, which can be anything from your house to bitter, old resentments, and set out on a truth-seeking journey, either externally or internally, and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher and if you are prepared, most of all, to face and forgive some very difficult realities about yourself, then the truth will not be withheld from you.
— Elizabeth Gilbert

Days after that humiliating day and whilst doing some hard self-reflection, I received a phone call from a university friend at 4am one morning.  She had changed her life. From a senior manager for a state government agency, she was now teaching English in a small village in Vietnam and, in her own words, “I couldn’t be happier”.  With my friend and my aunty’s comments and stories as inspiration, I created a plan and goals, and 9 months later - I finally 'got out'.

Some friends and family thought I was crazy.  “But you’re giving everything up!”, “What is wrong with you? You have everything you ever need”, and my two favorites… “You’re being selfish, what more do you want?” and “You’ll regret it when you don’t have a job to come back too”.  I won’t lie, it was scary and I was apprehensive at first. I was leaving everything I knew.  I was cutting ties with people I have worked with for nearly a decade; I was saying goodbye to friends and family who I’ve always had around me all my life.  I was trading in my ‘old life’ where I was comfortable and knew all the ‘ins and outs’, for the unknown and unpredictable.  But I was also thrilled to shake off an old skin that felt so small and too tight.  

Since travelling, both with a good friend and solo, I’ve discovered how ‘resilient’ I truly am.  From learning new skills and obtaining new qualifications that had me standing up in front of high-school students to teach English, to laughing at my poor sense of direction and getting lost (both literally and figuratively), to navigating my way around a country where English is not the first or even second language. 

 Stepping out of my comfort zone found me teaching English as a TEFL teacher in a rural Thai village. And I loved it... 

Stepping out of my comfort zone found me teaching English as a TEFL teacher in a rural Thai village. And I loved it... 

Solo travelling challenged my personal boundaries and made me look at what I’m willing to accept and tolerate as a person and from others.  Listening and understanding my ‘gut feeling’ and the ‘little voice’ has gotten me out of some dodgy situations but has also led me to explore some of the most beautiful places and try some awesome activities.  Feeling comfortable to say ‘no thanks’ and not needing to explain myself, and yet feel comfortable to spark up a conversation with random strangers over lunch or in a dorm room.  Discovering what my body is trying to tell me and exploring different ways to manage anxiety without feeling overwhelmed or out of control. 

All those things that I struggled with before that fateful day three years has now become ‘part and parcel’ of who I am and my self-development journey.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still ‘a work in progress’ but travelling has given me opportunities to grow and explore the type of person I want to be.  I know, it sounds so cliché and just typing this makes me want to laugh out loud; but hey, I guarantee you, you will never return home the same person you were before you left.  Travelling, be it local or international, provides you with the opportunities to grow and challenge yourself. 

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I am currently in the progress of creating a life in which I won’t need to escape from.  Creating a life where my happiness, health, and wellbeing are paramount and when somebody asks me “But are you happy?” my answer, “Yes!”…