Monday, 15 October 2012

Every end has a start

So it happened. I turned 30. The big 3-0 and to be honest, not that much has changed.

Before the event a friend asked me whether I was planning to have a party but I told her that honestly I couldn’t have asked for anything more from this year. However, regardless of that, it didn’t stop my family and friends spoiling me and I had a lovely day, followed later in the month by a brilliant birthday weekend with my extended family. Thanks to donations made on behalf of my birthday, we also managed to raise more than £400 for Ya Ge School for the deaf in Kaifeng, which I know is going to make such a difference to them this winter.

The staff at Ya Ge send their thanks.
As do the pupils.
And this little guy is really, really, happy!
And now it’s back to the real world. My friends who have already turned 30 had assured me how much they loved entering a new decade and how much more confident they now feel. But I think I’m still waiting for the wisdom of my 30s to hit me. Aside from the new wrinkles I’ve acquired around the eyes (which I’m trying not to look at too closely) I still feel exactly the same. It appears I’m still incapable of making my mind up about buying a pair of boots until I’ve emailed a picture of them to my friends and dragged my entire family into the shoe shop to watch me try them on, and I still don’t really know what the next step in life is going to be.

The time seems to have flown by since I got back and I’m still trying to get my head around where I want to go and what I want to do next. In one way it’s nice to be starting again with a blank slate, knowing that I can move anywhere and apply for any job I feel like. But it can also be daunting. There are days when I wake up and wish that the most taxing thing I had to do was decide whether to stay an extra night at a hostel or move on to a new place. But the possibilities are also exciting. One thing I definitely realised is that I want to carry on writing a blog. Seeing as my adventure is now over I know that this blog is complete and this is, in fact, the last post that I’ll be writing for it. Which in one way feels sad but in another feels nice to be tying things up. This particular adventure is now over; I did what I set out to achieve. I wrote down a list of 30 things, set off around the world and completed them before my 30th birthday.

Along the way I met some people who I think were a bit insulted by the whole concept of 30b430. “Life doesn’t end at 30 you know,” I heard said a few times, quite huffily, by people who had passed that digit and were still travelling. Which I was obviously hoping was the case, as I was quickly approaching it.

But for me the point in 30b430 was to stop putting things off and give myself a deadline. Maybe it’s the journalist in me or maybe it’s just human nature but I find that I always achieve more if I give myself a time frame in which to do it. That way I can’t put it off and say “One day I’ll go there or I’ll do that”. I just have to go and do it now. So that’s what 30b430 was about for me. It wasn’t really anything to do with age. It was about going on an adventure, doing things I’d always dreamed of doing and, perhaps most of all, enjoying the simple pleasure of ticking things off a list.

So thank you for sharing the adventure with me and here’s to new beginnings over at thegrownupgapyear.wordpress.com.

Em x


Monday, 1 October 2012

Home Sweet Home

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”  Terry Pratchett

After being on the road for nine months there are many benefits to being home and alongside the obvious ones of seeing family and friends, it's been the hundreds of little things which I've been enjoying. The joys of a hot bath, a full fridge and a dose of reality tv should never be under-estimated. I've also had a brilliant time getting reacquainted with my wardrobe and, having worn the same five outfits during most of my trip, the possibilities now seem endless. (Although I have become weirdly attached to my travelling clothes and things that during my trip I couldn't wait to get rid of, I've now become a bit sentimental about.) The downside, of course, is the fact that I now how to sort through ten years worth of stuff I dumped back at home in a panic before setting off on my trip.


So just the small task of sorting this lot out now...
...oh, and this as well!
The other nice thing about being back is that, after months of seeing places through the eyes of a visitor, I'm really appreciating the country I live in. It's been more than ten years since I lived in Scarborough and the other day I went to meet friends on the beach. Granted, it was a sunny day and I might not have had the warm fuzzy feeling had it been chucking it down with rain, but as I walked around the corner and saw the view for the first time of Valley Bridge framing the sea and sand it really did make me stop and think that had I been in another country I'd have taken a photo of it...


...so I did.
(Not sure how much of a tan you'd get though.)
Even now I'm really enjoying going on a train journey - mainly because they don't take three days and you don't wake up with someone sitting on your feet (China) - but also because the views are so pretty.

It hasn't, of course, all been plain sailing though and the fear of being jobless continues to loom over me; as does the mountain of paperwork which has piled up since I've been away. Suddenly the days are flying by, filled with to-do lists and the slow pace of my trip, where the hardest decision I had to make was where to go the next day, suddenly seems a long time ago.

In fact, my whole trip sometimes feels like a distant dream. At the time it felt like such a big thing to be doing but now I sometimes find myself double checking whether I actually did it. As I catch up with friends everyone keeps asking me how it was and I often find myself at a loss for words, before finally settling on "yeah, it was good". Which is clearly a completely inadequate way to describe the last year but suddenly it feels impossible to sum up every country, every experience and every person I met along the way. People have tried to help by narrowing it down with questions like: "What was your favourite country?", "Where would you definitely go back to?" and "Were there any places you hated?" But even these questions throw me into a mild panic. Did I prefer the kindness of the people in Burma or the spirit of South America? Do the gorgeous landscapes of New Zealand outweigh the craziness of China? Every place was so unique and different and brilliant in its own way, but it would take a lifetime to explain it all and, let's face it, no one wants to listen to that many travel stories.


Hmm...did I prefer the tea in Burma...
...or in China?
But then at other times I'll be walking along the street and I'll suddenly get a flashback of trying to salsa dance with a man in a puffa jacket in a Peruvian nightclub or watching a fireshow on a beach in Thailand with my sister. Or I'll remember one of the other travellers I met in a hostel or think back to a conversation I had on a bus and suddenly I find myself breaking into the biggest grin. Because I did it! And even though I was scared before I set out and there were days that were hard and moments I wondered whether I could actually complete this crazy adventure, I did.


A brilliant day with my sis, getting soaked during the Songkran festival in Thailand.
Some people say that travelling changes you and I met others on my trip who were trying to 'find themselves'. But I'm not sure I've changed that much. It may have made me a little bit braver and a little less stressed (maybe?). But it certainly hasn't helped with my terrible sense of direction (I've lost count of the number of times since I've been back that my friends have asked: "Em, how did you actually manage to make it around the world by yourself?") and I'll always be the girl who talks a bit too loudly and a bit too much.

That's not to say that things haven't changed back at home. People always tell you that 'nothing changes' while you're away but I don't think that's the case. During my trip friends had babies and others got married and suddenly everyone feels very grown up. But it's been so much fun to meet up with them all again and catch up on nine months worth of gossip, safe in the knowledge that some things never change.