This time last year, I set off on my biggest trip so far. I literally went round the world.
I’d just left my job. I was still mega-stressed. I was even having difficulty just thinking about and planning the trip, to be honest. On the day that I went to the airport for my flight to Rio (via Frankfurt!) I was thinking to myself that it was a big mistake. I wasn’t ready. Everything wasn’t planned in minute detail. My head wasn’t in the right space. I was still dealing with the issues that had grown while I was in the last year of my job. Why on earth was I going? It wasn’t the greatest way to start a trip of a lifetime. But I pulled myself together, got on the plane and had the best trip I’ve ever had.
So what did I gain from it?
I learnt a massive amount. About me and about the places I’d visited. Okay, I’m no Michael Palin, but I am now equipped with tidbits of knowledge about an array of cities and countries that I wasn’t beforehand.
Understanding the difference between good stress and bad stress
The stress I experienced (much of it self-inflicted) during the dying days of my previous job dragged me down. It did all manner of bad things to me. The stress I felt on the trip was completely different. It motivated and excited me. This is almost certainly due to the balance of cost and reward. At work, I was in a situation where I was having to do things I knew were wrong just to appease a manager who had no understanding of what I or my team did. On the trip, I could see the benefits. The benefits were real. The benefits were worth it.
Restlessness in the midst of calm
I’ve never been able to switch off. I acknowledge that. Maybe I’d be a better person if I could. But I can’t. Even on such a protracted trip, I couldn’t just stop. If I was in the hotel longer than necessary, I’d feel I wasn’t making the most of the experience – even if the alternative was wandering lost around a housing estate in Milan on a rainy day! What I learned was that I can be calm and restless at the same time. The restlessness will be the motivator to do something, but the something can be an activity where, mentally, I can switch off. I’d wander for hours and I’d end up somewhere and have no idea how I got there. It allowed me to free up my mind and start leaving behind the issues that had prompted the trip in the first place. It was, in fact, during such wanderings that I really firmed up the aim to set myself up as a coach. The mental space and random thinking helped me make some key decisions along the way.
I’ve been on many trips. A lot of them have consisted wholly or partially of solo travelling. I like travelling alone. Probably the most important way that this trip and my travelling experiences in general have impacted me is the realisation that I can worry all I like, but it’s not going to change things. I’m a natural worrier, even when things are seemingly going well. Certain, very small things can trigger a bout of worry. Through travelling solo, I’ve learned that things will almost certainly be okay. Maybe not ideal, but okay. Even when things don’t go to plan, I know I can get my sh’t together and sort out an alternative. And that attitude and resourcefulness is as invaluable day-to-day as it is while travelling.
You achieve more by going outside your comfort zone
There have been many times where I haven’t taken the right (or what I perceive to be right) decision because I’ve been comfortable doing what I was doing. Travelling at the pace I travelled, I wasn’t afforded that luxury. It was a case of challenge myself or waste the opportunity.
An appreciation of good people
Even when you can’t understand one another, people will look after you. I was carted off from a Metro station to hospital while I was in Japan. I’ve never had to go into an ambulance before, ever. I was actually scared. But the people the Metro station staff, the ambulance people and the doctors and nurses in the hospital were amazing. Much of the relationship with these people was conducted through Google Translate.
Incidentally, if you get the opportunity to be ill anywhere, pick Tokyo – the ambulances are tiny and cute, so it adds an element of fun to the experience!
How has travel affected you?