A lot of people might say dropping everything, buying a one-way ticket to a foreign destination, and traveling the world, sounds bat shit crazy. To some, it might sound exhilarating and freeing! When you get bitten by the travel bug, there is no way to deny it, even as crazy as it may seem. Many are too afraid to leave their “average” life to do something extreme. They are comfortable with life, and don’t see any reason to leave and venture far from home. I feel like venturing into the unknown is what life is about. Your home will always be home, but there is a world out there to explore.
I’m here to tell you about my experience of dropping everything, buying a one-way ticket, and traveling the world for 2 years. I lived the “average” American life. I started college when I was 17 (graduated high school a year early). After going to college for 4 years, and working pretty much full time on the side, I was over it. I had traveled abroad once before, and knew there was more potential for happiness. After that trip, I had a feeling that I just couldn’t shake when I was given some advice during that period. It went like this, “Life is too short to be unhappy with what you are doing. You have the ability to change your destiny the way you want it. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.” This came from my best friend, Becky Keel. Then it hit me. I was like, “damn it’s time to start really living MY DREAM, not just this “American Dream”.
My wanderlust finally kicked into overdrive in January of 2015. I was about to do something crazy, and maybe extreme to a lot of people. I remember researching different destinations in the world for hours. First, I thought about studying abroad (following in my best friend’s footsteps). After seeing the cost, I knew there was no way. My travel budget for a year was the same as ONE semester abroad… Finally, I figured it out. I decided to do 2 and a half months volunteering with animals, and the rest just going where the wind blew me.
My next step was the hardest part, booking my ONE-WAY plane ticket. Once I booked it, it made everything official and real. It meant there was no turning back. Unless of course I wanted to lose hundreds of dollars and feel like a failure. I now had a set date to look forward to. A date that would change my life forever.
DONE! No turning back. I booked a one-way ticket to Bangkok, Thailand with a five-day layover in Dubai, UAE of course. I heard more than once that I was crazy to be going to a Muslim country alone as a “little white blonde girl.” Let me be the first to tell you, don’t listen to all the travel/racist stereotypes you are told. There is always a safety protocol you need to follow while traveling in a foreign country. While, obviously, I take my safety very seriously, I was not going to let the negative people stop me. I refused to let myself be afraid of the world, new cultures, or different religions. I prepared myself to have an open mind and heart.
The next hardest part was telling my job, that I was putting in my two-week notice. I was working at a veterinarian clinic, doing what I loved and loving what I did. However, I knew that animals in other parts of the world needed help too. That was something I kept reminding myself. I knew I was taking a big risk by quitting my job. I didn’t know when my next money making opportunity would come up. I was going to have to live off my savings (which I saved for years), and learn to budget EVERYTHING! All I knew was that I was about to embark on the journey of a lifetime, and no amount of money could change that.
Then it came down to the little stuff like, what to bring, what backpack to buy, and every other thought you could imagine. I had millions of emotions flowing through me. Am I going to be able to do this as a solo 19-year-old female? What obstacles am I going to face? Am I crazy for doing this? Am I overpacking? These are some of the questions that were going through my head. I knew I had to think positive, and remember that I was a strong independent woman.
I started a countdown timer on my phone. When it got to 48 hours before my flight, it still didn’t feel real. I was sure by then it would have hit me, but I still felt like in two days I’d be waking up to the same day to day routine life. When I left my house for the last time, that is when it started to hit. Then at the airport, when I was telling my parents goodbye for the last time for, I didn’t know how long, is when it hit a little bit more. But do you want to know when it really hit me that there was no turning back? It was as soon as the plane took off towards Dubai. What was I going to do? Jump out of the plane? No. There was no turning back at that point.
The adrenaline of knowing there is no turning back is a feeling one can’t describe. It’s a million different emotions bundled together that you probably have never felt before. I knew when I stepped off that plane I was going to be in a completely new culture, alone. I made my destiny from that point on, no one else. The excitement of that though is what keeps anyone wander lusting.
As scared as I was, I knew I would never really be alone. If there was one thing I learned traveling, it is that there is always someone that wants to chat. You sometimes have to be the one to start the conversation, but you are never really alone unless you want to be. That is the beautiful part about traveling solo. There were times I wanted to be alone sitting on the beach enjoying the sunsets in peace. I got to learn a lot about myself as a person, accomplish goals, and see what the world really had to offer outside of my 9-5 job and college.
If you are scared to take the risk of dropping everything to travel, I am here to tell you, if I can do it, you can do it! It seems crazy at first, but the outcome makes it all worth it. I never thought I’d be gone from America for 18 months, but it just goes to show you, if there is a will there is a way! It wasn’t until half way through traveling SE Asia that I made the decision to do my yearlong working holiday visa in Australia. I saw the opportunity, so I took it while it was there. You can always return home, and go back to your boring job/school if that’s what you please. But I can tell you from experience, once you start traveling, you won’t want to stop. Your mind will constantly be thinking about the next adventure you want to go on.
If you want to know where to start finding your one-way ticket, I’d recommend www.skyscanner.com. Start doing research today on different areas of the world you want to travel to. The first step is setting goals. The next step is getting out there and accomplishing it. You got this!
Pictures below: Just a handful of amazing people I've met during my travels... From all parts of the world. I am thankful to have crossed paths with all them. See, you're never really alone when traveling solo... :)