What I Learnt From Travel & Life Abroad – Year One

Auckland International Airport Departures

Tomorrow (26th October) marks the one year anniversary since I departed Auckland International Airport with my friend Emily on an overseas adventure to Japan, then Europe and eventually the United Kingdom, where I now live with my boyfriend David in London.

We have done a lot in the last twelve months. Personally, I’ve visited fifteen countries, including my first and second bucket-list destinations, moved to the complete opposite time zone, experienced a winter Christmas, made many friends along the way, and got my first tattoo! With so many firsts, let’s hope I’ve learned a thing or two along the way.

I guess the best place to start is at the beginning with the two weeks Emily and I spent riding the Shinkansen across the Japanese countryside. Being friends from high school, we have travelled a lot together, but this is definitely the most extended time period we’ve spent in just each others company, and I’m pretty sure I drove her up the wall at some points, haha… Sorry Em!

#1: ‘Me Time’ is imperative for my happiness/sanity

Once a day, or at least several times a week I need an hour or more to spend with just myself in my own head. I’m naturally introverted, which means I draw my energy from within. I think of this as charging my batteries. Sometimes I like to people-watch at a cafe, ride my bike, watch clouds in the park, or even clean the house. It doesn’t really matter what I’m doing, just as long as it’s just me.

Unfortunately for everyone involved, I tend to forget this every now and again until it’s a bit too late… Just last week I was getting frustrated with David more than usual. He had to work that Saturday, so I spent the first Saturday in a very long time (probably since I left New Zealand) completely alone at home. It was the best breath of fresh air. It doesn’t matter how I am with someone, I have learnt I am the type of person who needs A LOT of time to myself.

The day I climbed a misty Mt. Mitake, near Tokyo

#2: Fear is that thing that leads me to my limits and helps me surpass them

Fear is like my sub-conscious leading me in the right direction, so I now take fear as a sign of my next challenge. Of course, I am not talking about logical fears like being hit by a car. I am talking about fears as in mental barriers. Passing my mental barriers leads me to a place of deeper fulfillment. My fears therefore guide me to where I want to be, even if I might not have fully realised where that is yet myself. I now try to listen to my rational self, and lean into my fears. You may have heard the phrase ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. I like to say ‘feel the fear and follow it’.

If you’ve seen my last backpacking Japan vlog where I go solo in Tokyo, you’ll know I had a bit of a meltdown post Emily returning to New Zealand. Despite wanting to travel solo for such a long time, I felt very lonely all of a sudden, somewhat abandoned. But going solo was the best choice I could have made. It made me so happy to be able to make choices and do whatever I wanted by myself. If I’d let those fears and anxieties win, I’d never have made it to where I am today.

-8 degrees C atop Mt. Titlis, Switzerland

#3: Don’t wait, start now

Have you ever caught yourself saying ‘I’ve always wanted to do [insert anything here], but…’? I was at a bar recently and got talking to a girl who was hoping to get into journalism one day. I mentioned to her that I like to write a blog and she said ‘I’ve always wanted to do that, BUT…’

If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, but never have, you’re wasting your own time. I started many blogs before this one and I wish I had kept them going right from the beginning. There would be so many more memories recorded, and I’d probably be a lot better at it by now!

Tivoli Amusement Park, Copenhagen, Denmark

#4: There are never as many negative outcomes as I can imagine

When I’m thinking about making major, or even minor, changes to my life, my brain automatically jumps to all the worst case scenarios. However, I am happy to report most of these negative scenarios have never come true.

I had a fork in the road a few months back where I was deciding whether to accept a job offer or not. This was a very hard decision for me because though it was a good offer, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to be doing. I immediately thought, but what if I don’t find a job for months and I can’t pay rent! After running through all the scenarios in my head I finally settled on the fact that I am in a place in my life where I can afford to take some risks and aim for what I really want to do. I don’t have a mortgage or any children, plus I moved to London to seek new experiences. So, in the end I decided not to take the job offer, and thankfully I did find new work shortly afterward. I should mention that I was able to do this as I had some savings to fall back on if need be.


#5: Chances are, anything that’s worthwhile doing is going to take a lot of hard work

This sounds stupid and cliche I know. That ‘big break’ isn’t just going to fall into your lap right? But only in the last six months has the practicality of this actually sunk into my brain. Of course I never thought my ideal life story would just be laid out to me on a silver platter, but I don’t think I was too far from it.

It was about three months ago when a friend sent me a message that went a little something like this. ‘Hi Nikki, I recently started a travel blog and was wondering whether you would like to contribute some writing seen as you have done a lot of travelling yourself.’ Then they also mentioned it may be a good thing for my CV when I finish University… except that I had finished University about three years prior… ha ha. I started wondering to myself, why would they think I was at University, did I mention something that would imply that or was it just a guess? There was probably no significant meaning behind it from their perspective, but it flicked a switch for me.

I suddenly thought, if I finished University three years ago then what the heck have I been doing with all my time! They’re out there doing their thing and I’ve always wanted to do the same, so why haven’t I? I think I thought with all the competition, there’s just no point, it will be too hard and that one day something else will happen for me that I enjoy just as much. Well if that happens great, but right now I’m very happy pouring my soul into blogging.

Positano, the Amalfi Coast, Italy

#6: Do the things that I sincerely think will make me happy, are in line with my values and without regret

This probably seems like common sesnse, but it’s something I’ve had to work hard at. I am the type of person that is constantly considering what other people will think before making a decision and too often this has resulted in my less preferred choice/outcome, and then consequently regret for not having confidence in my own decisions. As mentioned earlier I also tend to think far too much about potential future consequences as opposed to living in the moment and enjoying every bit of life.

When we arrived in Athens, some friends we were travelling with mentioned they were thinking about getting a tattoo after we got back from the islands. I always used to be one of those people that thought they’d never get a tattoo, until about six months ago when the idea began to grow. I just had no idea what or where. When these friends told us about their plan, I was interested, but it wasn’t really until we were on the five hour ferry from Mykynos back to Athens that I decided I would join them. The thing I was most nervous about was making sure to choose something really meaningful to me and that I wouldn’t grow out of over time. The design I settled upon says ‘Zoara’ in Greek, meaning ‘Amazing/Big Life’ (the first letter turned into a wave). Greece has always been at the top of my bucket-list since I was about fifteen, and having finally made it here, if I was ever going to get one this seemed like the perfect time and place.

To me, getting this tattoo wasn’t just an everyday reminder to live my life to the fullest, it was a challenge to myself to push past the fear of regret. It also symbolises to myself that I am in charge of my life and my body and if I want to do something, I can very well do it. See below for a lovely photo of a wonderful Kebab featuring the fresh ink.


It’s been one incredible year. Thank you to all the people who have joined me along the way and supported me when I thought it was all too much. Here’s to another amazing year ahead! I hope you can join me.

See also What I Learnt… Second Year Of Travel & Life Abroad.



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