I’d been dreaming of taking time off and travelling continuously for years.
But, like with most people, fear stopped me.
Fear of leaving the life I’d built, fear of selling everything and having to start over whenever I came back, fear of stunting career growth, and really, most significantly, fear of the unknown.
And there were so many questions.
How would I even start saving (and budgeting) for a trip with no return date?
What would travelling on my own for so long be like?
How would I manage to fit everything I needed in a backpack?
What if I didn’t like it?
What would family and friends think?
What if I loved it so much I didn’t want to come back?
The above was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. As someone who grapples with anxiety, the swirl of ‘what if’s’ felt too overwhelming to seriously consider it as an option.
Plus, I liked working in digital marketing and living in London. It was a life I’d dreamed of having for so many years.
And yet, I was deeply, unsettlingly unhappy.
Really beyond unhappy to what a psychiatrist and psychologist would diagnose as severe clinical anxiety and depression last September.
It was through starting to see a new therapist and trying different methods of managing anxiety that we finally started to talk about whether this picture of what I thought I had always wanted was actually serving me.
Was it terrifying to leave behind everything I’ve spent the last 10 years of my professional and personal life building to traverse SE Asia?
Was a bit ridiculous, selfish even, to drop everything and travel the world?
But, three and a half months in, it’s also the best thing I’ve ever done.
There’ll be more reflective posts to come on long term travelling realities, and what managing wellness is like while on the road, but if faced with the choice to do it all over again, I wouldn’t hesitate to say yes.
When I first started planning this trip, I thought I’d be gone for 2-3 months, max. I planned a pretty rigid schedule to match that- moving around Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos at what would feel like breakneck pace.
I didn’t plan the back half of the trip- what I imagined being a week or two in Vietnam, a week in the Philippines, and maybe some time in Indonesia and Australia- because I wanted to see how the first 4-6 weeks went.
I’m so glad I didn’t.
Being able to learn from what went well and what I would have done differently in my first few stops allowed me to plan a more relaxed venture around Vietnam, and forced me to reconsider visiting the islands in the Philippines.
They’re breathtaking and somewhere I hope to make it to someday, but not right for this trip at the moment- outside of budget and with wifi too weak to reliably teach English. Instead, I spent more time in Vietnam, made an impulse decision to see Taiwan and South Korea, and then went to Bali, where I decided to stay for a few months.
I always said I’d ‘come back’ when a job opportunity arose that interested me enough to consider it. In reflecting on what helps me grow in a work environment, I’ve realised the need for a change in the type of work I do.
So far, I’ve turned down two opportunities to go back to the digital ad world. Both would have meant ending my trip less than two months in, but more importantly, neither were quite what I’m looking for.
Even better, this trip has led me to consider work opportunities I hadn’t even thought to look into before.
And so, this is a very long winded way of saying, I’m cancelling my return date.
At the latest, I thought I’d fly back to London in July- possibly travel around Europe for a bit before going into whatever would be next.
But, these past few months have shown me how rare of an opportunity travelling like this is.
At the time of writing this, I do intend to go back to the agency world. In mapping out my five and ten year goals and dreams (an exercise I hadn’t properly done before this trip), it makes sense for me to.
What’s changed is that I’m no longer looking at working in the agency world as something I need to do to make a living, or something that will necessarily be the next few years of my life. Instead, it’s become something I’m excited to do to grow into and develop the life I see for myself years from now.
That said, until a work opportunity I truly feel like I can’t pass up arises, and bar any unforeseen circumstances, I’ll be travelling for a bit longer.
Nothing is fully planned- I’ve gotten into a habit of only planning a few weeks out at any given time. That alone should be a strong indicator of how much things inside me have shifted.
Background: I used to be the kind of person to painstakingly map out travel details weeks and months into the future.
If the past few months have taught me anything, it’s that I’m more than capable of handling whatever comes up.
There’s no way of knowing what will happen this afternoon or tomorrow, let alone a few months from now.
This time in my life feels big and transformative.
I’m excited for the potential of it all.
And, looking forward to sharing it with all of you.
Have you ever gone on a trip you found yourself extending for weeks or months? I’d love to hear about your experience.