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And so life changes...

UNITED KINGDOM | Saturday, 16 July 2016 | Views [405]

I have read many blogs about adventures on the road in far flung destinations, but remarkably few about what comes next. The coming home. With 360 days of travel now one year behind me, I thought it time to reflect on my experience of how travelling changed my life.

I left the UK in January 2013 having sold up my business; a busy bar which I had run single-handedly for some years and which had left me totally exhausted. At the time I dont remember feeling particularly nervous or that I was even being all that brave. I had my backpack, a rough itinerary and a desire to go and let story unfold as I reached each destination. I think that's the key. Researching enough to be reasonably prepared, to have some idea of what you might like to see/achieve in a place, without trying to plan each step and then stressing when plans change, which they inevitably do.

Through my adventures I gained a new perspective on life. I took time in Asia to work on healing and discarding emotional baggage I barely acknowledged I was carrying and allowed myself head space to clear out the old and let in the new, whatever that might be. Change is one of the few things we can count on and yet one of the things we often try hardest to resist. Travelling solo teaches you many things, least of which is being able to depend on yourself to deal with whatever life puts in your path. While travelling, every day was an adventure with countless opportunities. I thought I would never be lost for words and the desire to share. Getting back to the UK in January 2014 was more difficult than I had imagined and my initial urge was to say hello to everyone and disappear again. It didn't quite happen like that. When you have sold up pretty much everything you owned and left a job you never actually intended to do, 'coming back' is in fact 'starting again'! The words dried up, the cold damp winter sucked out the enthusiasm of each new morning and here I was, with no idea of what to do.

During the past months many things have happened. I enrolled on a TESOL course and gained a hard-earned Trinity certificate which would enable me to teach English almost anywhere. I now had some sort of qualification, except that to teach abroad, almost everywhere required a degree. Well I didn't have one of those either. Living at home (having left over 25 years ago), not really wanting to be in England but no idea what to do next. The answer came to me in a pub. I was meeting someone for an informal chat about the possibility of working for them at one of their summer schools. I will refer to him as my mentor since that meeting changed my life. A position was offered and suddenly with new found confidence I finished my course passing with flying colours. Next came an offer of a permanent job from a school in SE England working in boarding and also enabing me to put my new qualification to good use and teach English.

Five weeks of intense summer school came as something of a shock after so many chilled out months but affirmed that I was definitely on the right track. My mentor again put faith in me and within two weeks of the job ending, I had applied for, and been accepted, to do a Master's Degree in 'Applied Linguistics and TESOL'. For someone who has spent a lifetime travelling and working to live, the idea of getting a degree seemed like a pipe dream. Now July 2016: I am half way to achieving my MA, and sometimes I still need to pinch myself that this is really happening. My job is fulfilling and rewarding, despite the challenges of settling into fairly strict routines.

A few months ago I did a skydive. I understood this to be an attempt to quell the restlessness that has been gradually building up. My twelve months of travelling did not cure my travel bug, but I am aware that I'm now ready to travel in a different way: to have a home and job to come back to, and to travel with other people. Summer holidays have started, bringing a week's adventure sailing to the Channel Islands and then travelling to India for three weeks.

I wanted to change my life and I did. I shall not step neatly into the grave when the time comes, rather go skidding in yelling that it was one hell of a ride. I will not look back and regret what I might have done, instead I am proud to have gone out and lived, thankful for the family and friends who supported me, no matter they may have thought privately as I set out to follow a dream whose name I didn't even know, whose path remained hidden and whose outcome is still unfolding.

To quote Michael Palin "Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected for the rest of my life".

Tags: benefits of travelling, direction, life changing, masters degree, mentors, starting again, tesol, travel bug

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