G’day, mate! I am currently living in Perth, Western Australia. I just moved here a little less than a week ago after two incredible months in Melbourne. I plan to live here for two months – that seems to be the perfect amount of time for me. I am staying in an incredible house with the best housemates I could ask for. I am renting a room from them, a real room that has windows and a real door. I even have my own bathroom! Life could not get any better.
I don’t often look at the calendar, but just yesterday I realized that we are one week away from November 23, 2016. This is a very special day for me, because I left home to start my travels on November 23, 2015. I can’t believe it! I’ve been traveling for almost an entire year now.
This revelation brought back lots of memories. I thought about the day I left San Francisco. My parents dropped me off at the airport with my bags, we took some pictures, and I got in line for security. I had a moment in line, where it felt like time stopped and I saw myself from outside and I just thought, “What am I doing?! This is insane. I don’t know anyone who has ever done this. I quit my job. I don’t even know anyone in Europe. This is crazy. Am I making a mistake?” I honestly had a bit of a breakdown in line at the airport. Tears flowed and I had to swallow it back and tell myself, “Amanda, you are okay. You will be fine. If anything terrible happens, you can buy a ticket and go home and get another job and come back. You will be okay.”
I didn’t realize until months after this moment what I actually did. How brave that was. Sometimes people tell me that I am so brave, so strong, for traveling alone for such a long time. To me, it didn’t feel brave at all. I felt like it was something I had to do, something I needed. It seemed right and it seemed like I was just following my gut. But now I realize, even though I thought I was just trying to pull it together, it was brave. And I am proud of that. Because I’ve spent a lot of my life doing what I thought I should do. What was “normal.” But now I am doing something that I want to do – I stepped out of the American dream that was cut out for me and I chose something different. Stepping away from the norm to follow what you believe is right is always going to take courage, but it usually comes with great rewards.
Some people can work 9-5, climb the corporate ladder, buy a house and have kids, and be perfectly happy with that. I’m not saying that is a wrong way to live. But if you feel like you want something more, if you feel unhappy or unsatisfied, listen to your intuition. Listen to your gut.
When I was working 9-5, I liked my job. I rarely had complaints. I didn’t start traveling because I was running away from anything. I had a good life, I have a good family, strong friendships, a lot of people who care about me. But I spent all of my free time reading travel blogs and websites. I went googly-eyed as I perused photos from exotic places – Thailand, Africa, Iceland. I wanted that. It took me a while to realize that it wasn’t as out of reach as I thought. It took me a while to realize that the only thing holding me back from what I wanted was myself. This is disappointing to realize, but I am so happy that I noticed that and did something about it.
Looking back at the past year, I am so surprised at how it turned out. So many things didn’t go as planned; actually, almost nothing did. Even during my three months in Europe, I completely changed the course of my itinerary, multiple times. I stayed an extra week in Paris, I skipped a few days in Zurich to celebrate the carnival in Venice. I skipped Munich and went back to Hamburg to visit a good friend I made (I miss you, Svenja!). During my time in Berlin, I skipped most of the touristy things to do and instead spent my time with one of my favorite people I’ve met, Maria; we tried lots of restaurants and just got to know each other. Some of my favorite memories of Europe are my favorites purely because of the absolutely incredible people I’ve met there. I am so happy I had the opportunity to go ice skating in Amsterdam (miss you too, Jacky!), drink morning coffee on the beach in Barcelona, go on a nine hour tour of Zurich with a crazy couch surfing host. I’ve met people that I would have never met, people that have influenced my life in incredible ways. I am so incredibly grateful to everyone who has opened their home to me, invited me in, and did something amazing for me, asking nothing in return.
I’ve always been uncomfortable with people giving me things. I like to be independent. I prefer to be. Traveling has taught me something incredibly valuable though – people WANT to help. The world is a beautiful place when you realize this. It is not selfish to let people help you. I am so grateful to everyone who has helped me along the way, and I do everything in my power to give back when I can. I recently hosted my first couchsurfing guest! It was an amazing experience.
It is funny to think about my trip to Central America. That was meant to be the beginning of my journey, but I ended up spending three months in Europe prior. It was so amazing to reconnect with my family and then head to Central America. I got to spend a week traveling with my sister in Nicaragua, eating gallo pinto and drinking margaritas on the beach. I’ll never forget the time I crashed the motorbike when my little sister was on the back (sorry, Bre). I’ll never forget building sand castles on the beach with two four year olds. Spending a week with my sisters and mom in Costa Rica at the best airbnb ever (seriously look at this) was something I’ll never forget. I’ve made so many incredible memories in the past year. My life has been so full, so crazy and hectic but calm and completely satisfying at the same time. There have been lots of good times, but plenty of bad times too. I try to show both on here (see my craziest travel experiences of Europe and Central/South America).
So many things happened that I never expected. I didn’t expect to meet people who I would connect so well with. I didn’t expect to get sick in Colombia, I didn’t expect to go to Machu Picchu on the foggiest day of the year. I definitely didn’t expect to see the llamas getting it on at Machu Picchu. I never expected to get ripped off from a taxi driver in Nicaragua. I definitely never expected to crash every motorbike I’ve driven (only minor injuries the first time, no injuries the second). I never planned to move to Thailand in the first year of travel. But it all happened, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Thank you so much for following my journey in the last year. I can’t believe I am living in Australia right now (this has been my dream for so long), and I also can’t believe the plans I have for the future. I constantly change my plans, so I don’t like to disclose them too often (because I’m 90% sure they will be different by the time they actually happen), but I will say that I am currently planning out the next 4-5 years of travel. The more I see of the world, the more I learn, and the more I realize there is to learn. This last year has been one of rapid growth and self development for me, and I can’t wait to see where the next year takes me.
Thanks for reading, and cheers, mate! <3