Travelling solo through Europe, Turkey and Thailand – at barely eighteen. First stop was Spain, where plans to stay with a friend fell through at the last minute. Rachel discovered she was too young to stay at a hostel (she was turning 18 in two weeks) so she found a small, cheap hotel in Madrid. Thus began the trip: alone in Madrid for five days.
The Thailand part included a month of volunteering.
Why did you feel it was important for you to do this
I needed to take a year that was all about me and what I wanted to do. After being in school for 12 years and not really enjoying the classes I was forced to take, I needed a break from all that. I was also hoping that it would help me to figure out what I want to do in the future which, before I left, I had absolutely no clue.
What was the risk(s) for you – what worried you about going forward
Safety was a major risk, but I was also nervous about taking a year off while all my friends went on to school and on with their lives. I was also afraid that I wouldn’t have a good time and then would have wasted a whole year.
How did you overcome the worry (emotionally)
I just forced myself into believing that everything would work out. Thought happy thoughts about the whole thing and tried not to think of the negatives that made me anxious.
How did you physically mitigate the risk (as opposed to overcoming it emotionally)
I talked to people who had taken a year off to travel and people who hadn’t. I also talked to people that travelled by themselves and they all were fine so I figured that I would be able to make it too. I budgeted carefully and saved for two years to go. I pre-booked my flights and also planned the beginning of my trip and other key parts of it like crazy so that when I embarked on the new adventure I wasn’t totally thrown into something unknown.
What did you gain from the experience
Everything. I learnt more about myself and what I want from life. I also consolidated the idea I had that I was mature and independent and can do things all by myself. If I hadn’t travelled I also wouldn’t have seen such beautiful things and people. Volunteering helped me understand the struggle that some people have to go through. Seeing it with my own eyes and seeing how grateful they were for help made it all seem a lot more real than just learning or reading about it.
I also broke some bad habits on the trip so that was an added bonus! (No more hours in front of the TV anymore)
What was the actual risk outcome (ie. Did the thing you worried about happen?)
Nothing went wrong at all, nothing I was worried about ever presented itself. There were a couple moments of nervousness about catching flights but I felt safe, and once I started exploring all the new places I knew I didn’t waste the year.
Was there a downside (it might not be the thing you worried about)
The only downside is that I’m decently broke compared to what I’m used to, but it was all worth it.
What should you have done differently
I think I might like to travel more with a friend because there were some times where I got a bit lonely but then again there is a downside to travelling with a buddy too.
Would you do it again
YES YES YES a million times yes.
Maybe should have gone for longer. Maybe I shouldn’t have thought about the money so much and just did absolutely everything. But it was still great.
Did it inspire any further adventures, accomplished or planned for future
Definitely going to travel A LOT more because of this trip.
What are the 3 most important pieces of advice you’d give someone else interested in doing this
Know that you are going to be alone the majority of the time so you have to be able to handle lots of ‘you’ time.
Don’t stress about the little stuff and just go with the flow.
Don’t go with any expectations of greatness. Just go knowing that it will be a different experience and try to enjoy it to the fullest.