The last few weeks have felt quite strange for me.
All my life I’ve wanted to travel long-term, and in 2016 I spent a whole year in South East Asia doing just that. I partied on the Thai islands, backpacked through Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore, and spent months living and working in a bar in Cambodia.
However, towards the end of the 12 months, I started to feel as though something was missing. I felt a niggling feeling that I needed something more, that I needed to be progressing in some way other than exploring different cities and beaches.
(edit: stop reading NOW if you don’t want to read about more “me, me, me.” It doesn’t get any better than this.)
I’m passionate about four things other than travel: writing, learning (and writing) about social issues, growing my blog and making money.
I need to be doing all of those things in order to feel completely happy. If I’m not doing the former two, I feel a bit like the characters in Huxley’s Brave New World – all doped up on soma and perfectly happy but lacking in substance.
If I can’t learn about things, debate with people and create articles that I’m proud of, then I don’t feel like myself.
If I’m not doing the latter two, I feel like I’ve failed myself. After always being a high achiever at school/college/uni, I feel the need to be successful in whatever I choose to do. For ME, success is having a lot of people read my writing, and having money in the bank that I can use to invest in a business, property, or whatever else.
And thus comes the dilemma.
I long to travel, to see new places and experience new cultures, but if I spend all of my time on the road, then I won’t really have the time (or motivation) to write about the things that really matter to me, nor the means to earn and save a lot of money.
It’s not that I can’t afford to travel. There are schemes such as Workaway, which allow you to work for a few hours a day in exchange for food and accommodation, and of course it would be so easy to go back to Cambodia and get my old job back.
Cambodia did make me happy – who could ever complain about living on a beach? But I know that even if I went there with the best intentions, the 40-hour work week combined with the endless parties would mean that I wouldn’t be able to work on my blog enough for it to get off the ground, and as I’m still in the early stages, it’s so important that I give it my all if I ever want it to take off.
Not only that, but the more important issue is that if I went back to Cambodia for a couple of months, I’d come back broke (I’d still have my savings but they don’t count!).
Which brings me to my next point.
I want to have enough money by the end of 2018 to buy a small apartment in Spain. It’s an idea that’s been playing in my mind for years, ever since I found £10,000 studio apartments in Italy, but I’ve never really mentioned it to anyone. The sooner I have my own place which I can use as a base and also rent out, the better.
Perhaps that should be my priority?
But then I worry about being too old to backpack! It sounds ridiculous to say at 24, but getting older is probably one of my biggest fears, and even if I stayed in the UK for 6 months, I’d feel as if I was losing precious travelling time.
In some ways, I think that doing a few Workaway projects around Europe would be ideal. The flights are cheap, I wouldn’t have any expenses, and I’d be able to see new countries while still having time in the evenings to work on my blog (I’m looking at quiet hosts, like animal shelters etc.). I wouldn’t save money but I wouldn’t spend it like I would if I went back to South East Asia.
I get excited whenever I think about Workaway because it seems like the best of both worlds, but every time I think I’ve settled on a host, something stops me from sending an application: fear.
I know that people won’t get that. They’ll think that because I went backpacking around Asia on my own, a month-long trip to a farm somewhere in Europe shouldn’t scare me.
But backpacking is different. If I don’t like a city, or a hostel, I can just move on. If I arrive at my Workaway project and don’t like the hosts, or the area, or the work isn’t what I imagined, I’m stuffed. I also worry about whether they’ll like me. What if I’m not as interesting, or outgoing, or as skilled as their other Workawayers?
I’m almost 800 words into this post and I still haven’t really touched on Cambodia, aside from in a negative way. It’s odd, as ever since I left Cambodia, I’ve had it in my mind that I’ll be heading back soon. I’ve never seriously considered any other option because I just believed that I’d be back on a plane to Asia before I knew it, especially as one of my best friends has just started travelling around South East Asia and I’ve been so excited to meet her in Cambodia and show her around.
But I keep asking myself, if she wasn’t there, would I be so desperate to go back?
I do miss the sunshine, the beach, the dogs (especially my handsome man Rufus <3!), the drunken nights and the lack of responsibility that there is in Cambodia, but I feel as though another year spent working in a bar would be foolish. I’m scared of arriving there with the intention of just staying for a couple of months, and 2 months turning into 12, and before you know it, it’s January 2018 and I’ve accomplished nothing.
When I think about travelling to somewhere different, or working really hard on my blog, or saving a few thousand pounds, I feel excited. I feel motivated. When I think about Asia, I feel an uncomfortable knot in my stomach. Maybe that says it all.
Maybe I need to stop giving myself a time limit and just be for a while. Maybe after another 6 weeks, or 2 months in the UK, I’ll have enough money in the bank that I can just pop over to Cambodia for a couple of months to play with dogs and drink vodka crapple’s. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll have the money but I still have misgivings about Asia.
Maybe I need to stop telling myself that I’m some sort of ‘bad traveller’ if I stay in the UK for more than 4 weeks a year. Maybe it’s okay to sit down, regroup and get my life together a bit before I pack another bag and slum it in another dorm room somewhere.
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If you’re still reading, I apologise for the diary entry masquerading as a blog post. Initially, I had no intention of posting this. I just wanted to get my feelings out so that I could sleep. But then I decided that it can’t hurt to make this public. If I want my blog to be authentic, then I have to share my anxieties about travel, and I have to be honest about the fact that it isn’t all it seems sometimes. I think a lot of travellers probably have dilemmas like this, and I think that even the people of my generation that don’t travel still feel these ‘quarter-life’ anxieties about where they should be going with their life.
Lastly, do you have any advice for me? Maybe I need an outsider’s perspective on this! In fact, scratch that – I definitely need an outsider’s perspective! Share your thoughts with me in the comments below X