Today is a tiny anniversary for me. It has been one whole year since I hopped on a little plane and flew to the UK. To other people, it looks like I just went on a bit of a holiday – people get on planes all the freaking time, Louise, what makes this so special??
For the most part, nothing – nothing makes it special. What I did seems unremarkable to everyone else. I wandered around a bit, I played it pretty safe and I spent one heck of a lot of money with not much to show for it. Not to other people, anyway.
To me, however, the moment I stepped on that plane was one of those moments that will always be pivotal in my life (it doesn’t make the top 10; the moment I saw London from the air makes the top 10, but I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I hadn’t stepped on the plane – you get the picture. I’m horridly sentimental).
If you had told me, two years ago, that I would one day go travelling all on my own, I would have laughed you straight out of town. I wasn’t brave enough for that. I’m still not sure that I am. Those kind of thoughts were fairly common up until a year ago.
I wasn’t the kind of person who could handle staying in a hostel.
I wasn’t the kind of person who would accept a lift from a random stranger in the middle of the Scottish wilderness.
I wasn’t the kind of person who could handle the mayhem of the London Underground.
I wasn’t the kind of person who would go to a restaurant and eat dinner alone.
I wasn’t the kind of person to stand and look at some ancient wonder and openly weep without a care as to who was looking at me.
I just WAS NOT the kind of person to go travelling on my own.
And yet, I did. I did all of those things and more.
To the outsider, it looks like I spent a jolly six weeks gallivanting through the British countryside, seeing all the required sights and taking photos that a million people before me have taken. Do not get me wrong, I enjoyed that element of travelling a lot – it was awesome to see the places and things I had only ever read about. To me, however, I spent six weeks (which felt like one) gallivanting through the British countryside learning how to be comfortable on my own, learning my real limits away from everything that keeps me stagnant at home. Six weeks learning how to slow down and watch the world around me instead of being in my usual rushed state. Six weeks challenging myself and asking myself ‘Why not?’
There is that terribly clichéd saying ‘It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey’. I am dismayed to report that in this case, the cliché is correct. When I landed back home and breathed in the Sydney air again, it almost didn’t matter that I had just been to the countries I had always dreamed of going. It mattered more that I had broken down the walls that I had up against the world. It mattered more that I had actually done something – instead of just sitting around talking about doing something. It mattered more that I had time to work out who I was away from my city, my friends and my family. At home, I am not independent in any sense of the word, and that’s okay for the stage of life I’m in. Those six weeks, however, were such an insight into what life could be like when I eventually do gain my independence. Every decision was my own, every disappointment was my own, every cent I spent was my own, my time was my own and my happiness was my own.
One year ago, I went on a little holiday and I accidentally figured out who I am and who I want to be. That’s why today is kind of a big deal to me.