2013 was a crazy year. I went from learning how to be single again to learning to love living in Auckland, somewhere I’d previously hated. And then, just when I was finally settled, I was forced to leave New Zealand and make a new plan; finding a job in London and moving back to England for the first time in 3 years.
2013 had some huge highs and some pretty deflating lows, but as I look back at everything that the year taught me I’m grateful for both. Here’s what I learned from travel in 2013;
Strangers will surprise you with their kindness
The man in the doctor’s office in Singapore airport who offered to pay for my treatment if I didn’t have enough money. I had enough money but he stopped my tears and lifted my heart in a moment where I couldn’t have felt more alone.
The complete stranger who switched seats with me on my flight from Seattle to Minneapolis so I could sit with my co-workers, even though this meant he’d have to sit next to someone who (how should I say this?) really should have booked 2 seats. He didn’t have to swap with me but he did.
Travel bloggers in London, like Andonis and Monica, who offered me a place to stay when I started my new job and hadn’t found anywhere to live yet. They didn’t have to put themselves out but they did because that’s what travellers do.
In 2013 these people made me realise that people are good, people are capable of caring for strangers even when they can’t offer them anything in return.
Always, always carry Gin Gins (otherwise known as ‘Never underestimate the power of ginger’)
Honestly, if you get travel sick and hate the thought of downing a load of chemical-filled travel sickness tablets, Gin Gins are your new best friend. I wish I’d discovered them sooner, I’d probably have had a better time at The Whitsundays.
Trust the Universe to take you where you’re supposed to be
I thought I was coasting alone quite nicely in Auckland. I’d lived there since June 2012, after 2 years in Australia, and having seen so many of my friends secure Essential Skills Visas and build a life in New Zealand I decided to do the same.
But The Universe had other ideas: a letter declining my application, a desk at work that I’d never go back to, the realisation that I didn’t have a back-up plan, a rush to rent my room out in the apartment I was renting with my friends, a cobbled-together idea of flying back to England and finding a job in London.
Despite how upset I was when I had that visa declined I’ve since realised that it was probably the shake-up I needed. I wasn’t supposed to be in Auckland, I’m supposed to be here in London.
Never underestimate the power of distance
One of my biggest, and most important, lessons of 2013 was something I realised when I got back to England; removing yourself from a situation is probably the best way to get over it. In my case I was getting over a break-up and, as the plane careered down the runway at Heathrow in July, I felt freer than I had in months.
You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing
Bungee jumping in Queenstown because that’s what you’re ‘supposed to do’ in New Zealand’s ‘adventure capital’? Worrying about meeting someone and getting married because that’s what everyone else seems to be doing?
By the end of 2013, fuelled by the confidence that came from seeing through my plan of finding a job and moving to London, I stopped worrying about what other people were doing and concentrated on myself and it’s something that I’m determined to keep doing in 2014.
Doing something that scares you is the best feeling in the world….
…and it doesn’t even need to be anything huge. Even getting out there and doing something that makes you feel even slightly apprehensive can leave you with a huge feeling of accomplishment and pride.
In 2013 I jumped down a waterfall backwards in the dark, underground. I went on a helicopter for the first time, over London. I slapped on a smile and said yes to as much as possible even though, at some points, I was so heartbroken that even getting out of bed was an effort.
Appreciate the small moments of joy
If you travel you know those small moments I’m talking about. It’s the moment where you’re on a plane with your favourite music playing, an endless sea of clouds stretching out beside you. It’s hanging out with a group of new friends and feeling totally content and comfortable.
It’s waking up in the middle of nowhere and being able to hear waves in the distance. Sometimes travel is hard, sometime you’ll want to be anywhere but where you are – it’s these moments that make it all worth it.
People who want to see you will make the effort to see you
When I moved back to England I wasn’t expecting all the friends I’d had before I moved to Australia in 2010 to be lined up outside my house awaiting my return, but I also wasn’t expecting some friends to ditch me completely.
At first I was upset – it always seemed to be me doing the messaging, the reaching-out – but then I realised that the friends who do want to see you will always make the effort, and they’re the only people you need to focus on.
That, and the fact that my Dad was adamant that I should “ditch anyone who bails” on me.
New Zealand has the most amazing sunsets
The first apartment I rented in Auckland had city views. I’d sit on my balcony and watch the sky turn a dusty shade of pink, the buildings almost silhouettes against the clouds.
Then I moved to a different apartment with harbour views where I watched the sky burn with yellows and oranges. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world.
Moving to London was definitely the right thing to do
Finding a job was hard, finding somewhere to live was even harder, but once I found my feet it was really easy to fall into life in the capital.
I’m busy all the time, which I love, and Europe is so close that I’ve literally just finished planning an upcoming weekend break there. It doesn’t have to be all about my 9-5 because in London there’s always something to do.
Of course I miss my friends who still live in Auckland; I miss road trips to the beach and walks along the harbour. I miss the weather, and the laid-back attitudes and my co-workers.
But life moves on, a new chapter starts.