One year ago today I made the decision to quit my job and travel for a year. The desire for travel had been slowing growing for some time, accelerating ever since my first proper backpacking trip to Mexico & Guatemala in 2007. That desire had always remained in the realm of ‘some day’ though…until Laos. The first week of my trip was a revelation – I’d been nervous about my first solo trip, but from day one I began making friends, and I was lucky enough to be in a truly special country.
All my thoughts and feelings about travel crystallised into a firm decision thanks to Christmas day, which definitely goes down as one of the best days of my life. It wasn’t a day visiting historical sites. It wasn’t a day admiring beautiful scenery (although that was certainly a part of it). It certainly wasn’t a particularly culturally sensitive day.
Nope, what I did on Christmas day last year was float down a river on an inner-tube, wearing a santa hat, with a beer in my hand, and with a group of friends from around the world. And it was awesome. I’d started the week worrying about being alone and ended up exchanging secret santa gifts with a group of new friends with more sincerity than I’ve previously managed with colleagues I’ve known for years. This more than anything else is what really helped me make the decision. I love the way travel forces me to open up and meet new people, especially people from outside of the narrow circles I normally mix in. I love the way it challenges my preconceptions, takes me out of my comfort zone, and shows me why that’s a good thing. Sights, scenery, places are so often the focus of travel, but in my experience it’s the interaction with people that’s just as important, and can help create the most special memories.
I know next year I’ll see so many special places, and I’m really looking forward to that. What I can’t forecast, and what excites me most, is the unexpected experiences I’m going to have with people I haven’t even met yet.
(and no, I’m not sad enough to be posting on Christmas day. I’m probably slumped in front of Christmas Top of the Pops right now, as it should be. This is a post-dated post, obviously)