By Lexie Mullins
A few months back, I went through a break up that I can only describe as one of the most painful experiences of my life so far.
After weeks of feeling helpless, I decided to take a massive risk and do something I’d been dreaming of for years:
I quit my job and booked a one-way ticket to Australia, with stops in Bali and Malaysia.
The dream, right?
24 sleepless hours of travelling later, and I’d arrived in Bali. But what I’d given up didn’t hit me until I got to my hotel room. All the adrenaline had vanished, and there I was… alone. Alone in a country where I knew no one and had no one. I FaceTimed my family and cried for hours. The reality of what I’d done hit me, hard.
After a few days, I made a few friends and tried to find my feet. But when it got to the end of the day and my head hit the pillow, my thoughts would haunt me.
Each day, the uncertainty of what I would do, where I would go and who I would meet didn’t always excite me. Instead, it gave me an anxiety that I had never experienced before. Where was the mention of this in textbook guide to travelling alone?
Some days I’d deliberately sleep in until the afternoon just so most of the day was over. Others, I would find myself having experiences that words nor pictures can describe.
When you think of travelling, the first thing that comes to mind is those crystal clear waters and white beaches that are plastered all over your Instagram feed. Don’t worry they exist, they’re real and there really is #nofilter necessary. But travelling, especially solo, is so much more than beautiful landscapes and sunset cocktails alone. It’s not easy.
Solo travelling, inevitably, forces you to spend a lot of time alone. And even when meeting people, the only person you can really trust and rely on is yourself. You’re constantly in your own thoughts and some days you don’t have a full conversation in English. The lack of communication is almost unnatural.
I hate to sound like one of those annoying Brits that spends their summers in English-run resorts in Spain, but arriving in Australia and hearing English-speaking people was a relief. I was finally able to hold a conversation that flowed. I was finally understood.
Don’t get me wrong, experiencing other cultures is something I’m extremely grateful for. But not having a real conversation affects you. It’s isolating.
I’ve learnt so many things about myself that I would never have learnt had I stayed in the U.K. Mainly that I am stronger than I ever thought I was. That I would rather be alone than around people who don’t help me to grow emotionally, mentally and spiritually. That I can only beat my anxiety by forcing it out the door. That there is a whole world out there that is waiting to be explored. That there are so many like-minded people, a tribe of people that are just like me, and just like you, waiting to join their tribe too.
In the last few months, there have been so many times where I’ve wanted to give up, book a flight home and go back to my day-to-day existence. There are times where I’m sick of my own company and so engrossed in my own thoughts that I just want to scream.
Looking back, would I have booked that flight? I’m not sure, but I’m here now, I’ve got two jobs, a house and some amazing friends. I’ve built a temporary life 10,000 miles away, and I’m proud of that.
Who knows what else I’ll discover not only about the world, but myself?