What Being Away For Seven Months Taught Me

25/09/2017 17:36 | Updated 28 September 2017

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1. Experiences > Material Objects

This is probably one of the most important things I discovered about myself while travelling. I was never one to spend hundreds of pounds on clothes, but I'm definitely guilty of frittering money away on silly things. I would much rather spend my well-earned £££ on a real-life experience. Nothing beats exploring a new country or city and this can easily be done if you save those pennies. Just remember: one Starbucks coffee is the same price as three meals in Asia. What would you rather?

2. How to live in the present

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In the digital world that we currently live in, it's so easy to get wrapped up in social media. Most people these days (and I admit it too!) spend far too much time on their devices and, when they do go on holiday, they're obsessed with showing it all over Snapchat or Instagram. Whilst I was vlogging and Snapchatting my way through Australia and Bali (you can watch the vlogs here), I did switch off most of the time. Travelling made me realise that living life to the fullest really is better than anything on your screen {as cliché as that may sound}. Next time you go away, try switching off and fully enjoying the place you're in!

3. To be myself

This isn't going to be one of those stereotypical "I found myself on my gap yah" stories, but I learnt how to be myself. When you're at home, you have this whole image of yourself that might not be how you truly feel on the inside. Travelling opened up this opportunity to express myself and to discover new things. I started not to care about what clothes I wore, and I got involved with some things that I'd never have thought I would (you can read about my skydiving experience here). I also became a lot more independent and, with my mum miles away, I had to deal with a lot on my own - remember when my phone got stolen in China? Yeah...

4. Everyone you meet can teach you something.

You'll meet so, so many new people on your travels. Something I quickly realised and began to accept while travelling was that I didn't know it all. No one does. Every single person I came into contact with was able to teach me something - whether that was something straightforward like directions or knowledge of a new place, or something more complex like patience, or the ability to be kind to everyone. If you're open to this idea, you can really learn a lot while travelling (as well as making lots of new friends).

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5. You don't need much to survive.

Living out of a 46L backpack for seven months (experiencing both summer and winter) was a life lesson in itself. The clothes I took with me were the clothes I had. And that was plenty. I learnt that hand-washing clothes in the sink with some soap and water was quick, easy and cheap; I accepted that it was okay not to wash your hair every other day (or even to shower everyday!); I started to appreciate the things I owned and realised that I was, and am, incredibly lucky. When you're too busy chasing the sunset, swimming in hidden lakes and eating your way around the country, you'll realise that you don't need much with you at all.

6. Planning is important, but don't over-plan.

Obviously you want to have some kind of plan before you start travelling: where are you going? How long for? How much money will you need? But it's much easier to play things by ear and decide as you move from city to city how long you want to spend there. The internet might say two nights, but you might want four. Flexibility is key. Also, things don't always go to plan. Remember that time Alice and I were homeless for a night? It was one of the scariest experiences of my life but one that I'm nevertheless glad to have had. Over-planning can take the fun and spontaneity out of things.

7. You can do anything if you put your mind to it.

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When people hear about my Gap Year travels, I'm not surprised if I hear the comment, "you're so lucky!" or, "I'm so jealous." Most of the time, I can tell that they're thinking, 'she must be rich', and the truth is that I'm really not. I slaved away working four different jobs (some at the same time) and stashed away almost all of my earnings. With a goal in mind, I'm insanely proud of myself for entirely self-funding seven months of travel. You really can do anything if you put your mind to it. If you want some money-saving tips, head over to this post!

-- The post What Being Away for 7 Months Taught Me first appeared on A Piece of Viola.

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