Being a suitcase kid growing up, I'm no stranger to a packed bag and fractured routine. The minute I got settled at one parent's house it was time to up and move to live the next half of my week at the other's place.
It's been that way for as long as I can remember so living out of a backpack on my travels has felt natural. Eight months ago I arrived in Réunion Island with my rucksack, no solid plans and feet itching to explore. After sleeping on the floor at a friend's, some WOOFing on a beautiful tropical organic farm and couch surfing with a local host I, surprisingly, found myself settled in one place as an au pair.
I've spent six months living with the family I currently au pair for and next week we'll be saying goodbye. In some ways this house has become more "home" than any four walls in the UK. But even with a solid base, I've still ended up living out of a bag and catching numerous buses every weekend to go adventuring. There's so much to see and do here, from paragliding acrobatics over the Indian Ocean to hiking across spectacular mountain ranges to feasting on creole food and conversation that eats into the early hours of the morning.
Starting to place roots somewhere after a big leap into the unknown, is a funny thing when you know there's a time limit and you're going to have to uproot. But I secretly love endings, because the end is what gives it all meaning. Nothing motivates me more to seize the day than knowing the fact that one day it will be over and, to put it bluntly, we'll all be dead.
The anticipation before a big leap out of the comfort zone brings such an exciting thrill, albeit sometimes sickening with the anxiety of the unknown. Next there's the moment you dive in and time goes really fast, blurring past until before you know it you're slap bang in the middle of a completely foreign place without even a familiar smell to ground you.
Then there's that process of getting to know your new surroundings, which at the time feels like forever but is soon forgotten in a heartbeat when, before you know it, you could walk round this place blindfolded and still find the way. Suddenly, the unfamiliar has become the familiar and it can feel quite settling as you move back into the comfort zone. A big sigh is released. You're at home.
For me, that delicious feeling of being settled somewhere is the sign that it's time to get up and go. Knowing it's about to end is what makes me fully appreciate the true joy of that moment. What's more, the joy of the everyday is easy to find when the everyday is ever changing. That's why I am so excited to say goodbye and see what's next in store. The more I do it, get out there and make an unfamiliar place familiar, leap and find my feet, the more I realise that anything is possible. Life is whatever I want it to be.
The good exam results, the steady job, the mortgage, the car...that's not how it has to be. I haven't paid rent in a year and it's been one of the best years of my life. Since this time last year I've had all kinds of different job titles. Organic farmer, massage therapist, B n B host, eco renovation builder and au pair to mention a few, all of which have enabled me to exchange my time for a bedroom and food every day. Travelling by exchanging work with welcoming hosts is one of the best ways to get to know a new place. Who needs money when we have all kinds of other skills to offer and swap with each other?
Saying that, for travelling, money is obviously useful to get from A to B. So, on top of the last six months of au pairing, I've just done four months teaching English in a primary school, allowing me to gain valuable experience and raise the money for my flight back home to see family before more globetrotting.
I'll miss the kids I live with who have become my very own little sisters. I'll miss their parents. I'll miss the daily family life I've been so lucky to be a part of and I'll miss the kids at school, the teachers who have welcomed me. But it's time to go, it's time to say goodbye and to find even more places and people to add to an ever-growing list of homes and extended family around the world.
Cap Méchant, Réunion Island
Paragliding over St Leu, Réunion Island
Cilaous, Réunion Island