Travel has been a recurring theme throughout my life, since the age of 15. I would go as far as to say that I’m “mad keen” on travel – not the intrepid type, though, where you lash your tent to a bamboo shoot sticking out of a craggy outcrop, thousands of feet above a raging torrent. My style of travel is definitely more urbanite – simple, but with basic home comforts like cold AND hot running water.
Actually, I much prefer living abroad for longer periods of time, rather than being a tourist or a holidaymaker. I get bored on holiday!
However, I might never have become interested in travel, had it not been for my German teacher at school, who was a bit of a tyrant (more on her later!). I was studying for my German O-level in 2 years, rather than the usual 4, and to help us with our fluency, she had assigned each of us a penfriend from her friend’s school in Germany. That bit was fine – I already had penfriends in France, Norway and Hong Kong, so one more wouldn’t matter. The problem came when she told us – no, ordered us – to visit our penfriends during the school holidays.
As I think I mentioned earlier, I was brought up not to question authority – so when my teacher said I had to go to Germany, I realised it wasn’t optional. It was compulsory – so I decided to own it.
When I broke the news to my parents, their reaction was to tell me I would have to fund it myself. So I went into town to look for a Saturday job in a shoe shop, like my sister had done previously, to earn a bit of extra spending money. In one shop I was told I was too young, and to come back in January, when I turned 15 – which I duly did.
By the summer, I had only saved about half of what I needed for the fare and for spending money, so my parents paid the rest. (I’ve since realised that this was the normal pattern – show your commitment first, and then we’ll help out if you need it. Whilst this is reasonable, and encourages independence, I have to admit – at the time it felt very unfair!)
Getting Off The Ground
When it came to deciding how I would travel, my Dad said I would either fly or not go at all. The reason for this was that I was well-known for losing my way (another metaphor?!), and he was afraid I would never arrive at my destination, if it involved changing trains somewhere in Europe.
On the other hand, I suffered from claustrophobia (until recently), and the thought of spending 3 hours encased in a tin box with wings filled me with dread. But the pull of going to Germany was greater than my fear of enclosed spaces – so I flew. I chose an aisle seat, but when the chap next to me found out it was my first flight, he insisted I take his window seat. Staring out of the window as the ground gradually disappeared beneath us, I was hooked!
The month I spent with my penfriend’s family was incredible. I learned to speak German quite fluently, I discovered boys (she went to a mixed school, and I accompanied her every day), and I made new friends who were nice to me and included me in everything they did – unlike my school friends at home.
Perhaps that’s why I love to travel. I get the chance to meet new people who take me as I am – at face value – because we will only be in each other’s company for a limited period of time, so there’s no time (and no need) to be petty.
I may have travelled more than many, but I still haven’t travelled as much as I would have liked, due either to lack of time or to lack of funds. When I was a student, I had the time to travel, but no money – although that rarely stopped me – and as a student of languages I spent several months living in both Germany and France. By contrast, during all the years when I had a job, I had enough money, but was only allowed to take 2 weeks holiday at a time.
The 6 Year Travel Itch
Six years into my IT career, I decided I wanted to get paid to travel. That was one of the main reasons I had become a computer programmer in the beginning – to have a portable skill. So I found a job where I could do just that – and it wasn’t the “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium” style of business travel, either. I was fortunate enough to spend 2 months working in New Zealand, a month and a half in Hong Kong, a month in Denmark, plus regular visits of 1-2 weeks to the Netherlands, Italy and Spain. I loved every minute of it, and I’m still in touch with many of the people I met while I was there.
Now that I’ve been in business for 6 years, that feeling of wanderlust has returned, and I want to have a location-independent business. I’m getting there – the majority of my work is now done on-line, so it could be done from anywhere.
It’s important to notice these recurring themes in our lives – and also to be aware when the pull of something we want to do is greater than our fear. Moving toward something we want is a far more powerful – and longer-term – motivator than moving away from something we don’t want.
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My 30 day challenge runs from Monday 11th June 2012 until Tuesday 10th July 2012. If you’d like to follow my progress, and help to hold me accountable to my promise to write every day, you can follow my progress on Facebook and Twitter #30DWC.