It didn’t take me long to fall in love with travelling. I travelled from the UK to Australia through Southeast Asia. Little did I know that 4 years later, I’d be living in Sydney, working in my dream job and travelling at any opportunity: next stop, Cambodia! Travelling for me is the most exciting way I can spend my time, especially when it’s to new countries and although it may sound cliché, travelling has changed me. One of the biggest advantages I will take from my experiences travelling is how it has made me more confident in my day to day life. Here’s how..
1. In My Own Skin
One of the best things I’ve taken from my gap year is learning to be comfortable in my own skin. I learnt that everyone is different and to not care so much what people think of me. I think that confidence comes from a mix of meeting so many people, all with different personalities and from learning more about who you are as a person. Travel allows you to figure out how you enjoy spending your time, who you get on with, who you don’t and what’s important to you. As soon as you know and like yourself, it’s hard not to be yourself around others!
At home, we have family and friends that know and love us…warts and all. Your friends at home have probably held your hair up whilst you were being sick on the school field after downing a bottle of Cherry Lambrini and your parents have most definitely seen you at your worst! When you travel solo, away from the people who know you, and you’re surrounded by new people who don’t, it can be hard to fully let go and be yourself at first…what if these new people don’t get you? One of the beauties of travelling for me is that you can meet people one day and feel like you’ve known them for years a few days later. Noone is there to judge you – just to enjoy their time travelling for what it is: an opportunity to meet amazing people, see amazing things and experience amazing cultures in amazing countries, AKA the best time of your life!
2. When Sh*t Goes Down
Between the new friends, freedom and unforgettable memories the real travelling happens. You’ll miss your flight after a drunken night, lose your travel documents, forget to book a hostel for the night, run out of money, come across people you don’t like and you might even feel unsafe at times, but you’ll deal with the bad parts and move on. Travelling made me trust in my ability to make decisions. The more decisions I made by myself, the more I trusted my instincts and the more I became confident in my ability to handle anything thrown my way. At the time, you just get on with it but for me, it was when I’d finished my gap year and I looked back at how much I’d accomplished by myself that I realised how much more confident I’ve become.
3. In Social Situations
As someone who can’t stand small talk and awkward social gatherings I was a bit dubious about travelling, solo. Would I spend my gap year sitting in the corner pretending to be on my phone and avoiding eye contact with others? Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sociable person and I love meeting people but unless you’re being introduced through a friend, that first ‘Hi, my name is…’ moment can be a bit awkward for me. If you’re anything like me, walking into a hostel seeing big groups of backpackers chatting and playing drinking games together can be a bit intimidating when you’re all on your tod but it doesn’t take long to realise that everyone is in the same boat! These people might seem like they’ve known each their whole lives but chances are they met the very same way a few days before and are just friends waiting to happen! The good news is when you’re travelling you’ll always have something in common with other backpackers: travel! Go over and ask where they’re heading to next. Next thing you know you’ll be telling them your life story after a few rounds of Kings cup!
4. In My Beliefs & Opinions
Growing up, our opinions and beliefs are usually based on what we’ve been told and what our parents and friends think. Travelling gave me the confidence to question those beliefs and think for myself. However much freedom you’re given growing up to form your own opinions your environment will always have an effect on what you believe so travelling enabled me to open my eyes and to create opinions based on my own experiences rather than what I’d been taught. I became more sure of myself, had more to talk about and probably most importantly, I became more tolerant of other people’s beliefs too. Meeting people from all walks of life when you’re travelling makes you realise that your little world at home isn’t the be all and end all and there are so many interesting people out there to meet!
5. In Knowing What I Want
One of the biggest advantages of my gap year abroad was having the time and the means to figure out what I want to gain out of life. Travelling changed my perspective, set my priorities straight and gave me the confidence to think about what I really wanted, without any external pressures, away from the ‘real world.’ I realised I didn’t have to plan my future based on ‘the norm’ or what I’d expected of myself – I had absolute freedom to create the life I wanted. Before I went travelling, I had a plan and my future mapped out: Go to uni, get a well paid job, save up for a house and drive around in a nice car. Without the experiences travelling gave me and without spending time with the amazing people I met along the way, I’m not sure I would have been able to take a step back and really question what’s important to me. Knowing what you want and having a goal to work towards is so important, and travelling made that happen for me.