What I Learnt from Travel & Life Abroad – Year Two

Novalja Sunset 2

Just as I wrote last October on what I learnt from one year of travel and life abroad, in homage to the end of my UK youth mobility visa, I have again rounded up a second year of reflections for today’s post.

Looking back at the first nine months of this year I went through a major relationship break up, moved house, changed jobs, attended therapy, turned twenty-five and finally moved back to New Zealand. I also visited seven countries, including Singapore, Scotland, Portugal, Italy, Croatia, Netherlands and Australia. It wasn’t a steady year, but through these life-changing experiences sprung insight and inspiration. To break it down, here are nine thoughts on what I learnt from my second year living and travelling overseas.

#1: You May Never Have Your Life All Figured Out

I was never one of those kids who knew what they wanted to be when they “grew up”. All I knew was the type of life I wanted to live – filled with creativity, discovering new places and people, travelling the world. I always thought clarity would come while overseas, and while this is partly true, there are still times when I feel as lost as the day I went soul-searching through Sintra. When you’re sixteen it seems okay not to know, at eighteen people say you’ll figure it out at university, then at university when you’re still not sure they say most people end up in different careers to what they studied for anyway… not the most helpful advice.

Now I’m twenty-five and I realise I was caring way too much about what those people thought, rather than focussing on what I was interested in and what would make me happy. I think the reality is I don’t want to walk a straight line. I want to do lots of things, but not one thing alone. What I wish I’d realised earlier is that work is not a race, there is time to change course and the most important thing is to enjoy the journey.

Arthurs Seat, Edinburgh
Edinburgh, Scotland – April

#2: You’re Not Special. Success = Self-confidence + Hard Work + Consistency

This took me a while, so just in case you missed it, you are not special. Just as Alex breaks it to Gigi, you are the rule, not the exception (He’s Just Not that into You, 2009). Even if at some point someone notices your exceptional talents and offers you a jet plane to your career dreams, you probably won’t see it coming and should definitely not wait around for this to happen. The biggest factors to success are self-confidence, hard work and consistency.

View from top of Castle of the Moors
Sintra, Portugal – June

#3: Lust ≠ Love

It’s easy to get wrapped up in feelings for someone, but when you travel you meet many new people and it becomes clear that this could happen again. Enjoy the emotions while they last, just don’t lose sight of your dreams or let your spirit be distracted by their presence. Remember what’s important to you and always remember your friends.

#4: Failure is Normal and Necessary

When my three and a half year relationship ended earlier this year, I realised I hadn’t been taking care of myself. I had forgotten my passion for dance and the importance of friendship, leading myself into emotional turmoil. This so called failure helped me recognise my shortcomings and ultimately got me to a better place than where I started.

Bruges, Belgium – December

#5: Only You Have the Power to Make You Happy

The weeks that followed my break-up were some of the lowest in my life, but it was from here I realised I had not been living my life to its fullest. In these darkest moments I notice I am the only one who can change my situation. Yes, I can ask for help and guidance along the way, and there can be people or situations which influence me positively or negatively, but I am the only one who can decide to accept a situation and what emotions to associate with it.

#6: Life Has No Purpose Until You Make One

Alone in a dark room it’s easy to feel like there is no point, but then there is no joy in a dark room. Do something that makes you happy. Do it regularly and more often.

#7: There’s Always Sunshine Above the Clouds

If ever in doubt, book a flight and see for yourself. Sometimes you just need a distraction until sunrise, in which instance I’ve always found movie marathons very therapeutic.

#8: Following Your Passions Will Lead You to Your People

I used to look for friends to take up interests with, but when I get involved in the activities I’m interested in the people flow naturally. Of course it makes sense, when you are passionate about something it is attractive and others become interested in you. It becomes something you can bond over. It seems silly to talk so in depth about making friends, but it is something I struggled with for a while living in London. Once I began dancing again I found my place.

#9: Live for Yourself, Noone Else

If after all this you’re still feeling lost and confused, all you need to remember is to live for yourself. Life is precious, people and opportunities will come and go and only you will be there through it all to look at what you have achieved, so grab life with both hands and live it!

Novalja Sunset 2
Novalja, Croatia – August

See also Where To Eat Amsterdam’s Stroopwafels, Frites & Other Treats.


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