Well, I never thought I would be writing a post about my own solo journey, as the idea of the Wanderlusters UK was to share our story together but life likes to throw obstacles in our way to challenge us. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and things happen, both good and bad in life, to make you walk a certain path and become a certain kind of person.
If I could condense all of the knowledge and life experience I have gained from traveling over the past 13 months and throughout my 31 years of existence on this Earth, if I could condense it into three words after seeing the poverty and struggles of people who can only dream of the opportunities that I have been given in my life and after my own hardship, losses and struggles, I would choose the three words “Life Goes On”.
I left Melbourne on Wednesday 2nd May 2018 and flew to Densapar Airport in Bali. It was a strange feeling saying goodbye to the city and country that I had been living in for the past several months and it was an even stranger feeling saying goodbye to my partner in crime, who I began this adventure with, yet I would finish it alone. I was at a low point, I was battling my demons and I was struggling. I had battled through my anxiety and depression and had just started a new job in the city, which I was excelling in but there was something missing in the city, a certain buzz. I craved more adventure. I could have stayed and worked in the city, saved money and continued to live and work in Australia but there was only one reason that I ever went to the city and that reason wasn’t for my own benefit. I had job offers elsewhere that were more suitable for me but I turned them down to be in Melbourne. Money has never been my biggest motivation. I crave excitement, adventure, and discovery.
After being so down, I reached out on social media and was inundated with support from my family and friends. I was offered places to stay in Australia, I was offered places to live back home and received really encouraging words, even from people I didn’t know but in the end I was alone on the other side of the world and only I could make a decision and that’s what I did.
I received news from home that My Nanna may not be well. She is one of my heroes in life. She has defeated cancer several times and yet still has the most positive outlook on life. She is never without a smile on her face and still at 70+ years of age, is one of the last one standing at parties. I had a facetime conversation with her and she looked amazing and full of life as always. She told me not to go home for her and to seize the opportunity while I had the chance, before going home. Something inside of me clicked and it became clear what I had to do.
Before my travels, My stepdad was in a coma, My Nanna was recovering from life-threatening surgery, My mam and Aunty had breast cancer scares and I crashed my car. It made me realize that time is the most important thing in the world. Time is the only currency that you spend and can never claim back. Every moment that we are alive is a once in a lifetime experience. We will never look the same or feel the same as we do at this moment
Melbourne doesn’t have many flaws. It is a beautiful city but it lacked a certain spark. I think there is such thing as too much of a good thing. It lacks character for me. It doesn’t excite me or make me feel alive and I am not the only one to feel this way. I believe there are three completely separate experiences when you go somewhere. You can go on holiday, travel or live somewhere and each one creates a completely different experience. It just wasn’t a place that I wanted to live.
I decided to fly back to Bali, our last destination that we visited together to retrace some of my footsteps. I didn’t want my memories of the places that I loved to be ones of heartache, so I decided to create new memories in my favorite places. Bali is a good place to relax, clear your mind and heal. Once I said goodbye to the city and Rach, I headed to the airport. Upon checking in, I was told I couldn’t fly unless I had an onward flight, so I pulled out my Macbook and decided there and then that my next destination would be Hanoi, Vietnam. This was another one of my favorite destinations. I booked the flight and boarded the plane.
I somehow managed to have access to the entertainment package on the flight, even though I didn’t pay for it and watched three movies before landing in Bali. I watched Jumanji, The Greatest Showman and The Shape of Water. I enjoyed all of the movies but in my mental state, I felt very emotional. I was surrounded by couples, laughing and drinking together and there I was alone, going back to the places that I had visited not so long ago with my partner, who I was no longer with. After breakups, many people can’t listen to certain songs or go to certain places because of the heartache it causes them but there I was, 60,000 feet in the sky or so, going full throttle to destinations where I had made very special memories. I was starting it all in the face but was determined to get through these difficult moments and come out smiling at the other end.
Upon arrival in Bali, I collected my luggage after waiting for some time. It felt weird as a purple suitcase came around the conveyor belt, I nearly reached out to get it, thinking it was Rachels but then I remembered that I was alone. I grabbed my suitcase and headed towards the exit. I was greeted by about 200 locals holding up signs and offering taxis but as if by magic the first one I looked at had my name on it. I smiled and at that moment I felt that I was in the right place at the right time.
My driver, Gustu, took me to my homestay where I was greeted and made to feel very welcome. The homestay had only cost me £69 for seven nights. It had a comfortable king size bed, air con, a washroom, a little seating area at the front and most importantly, it was in a great central location at the heart of Ubud. The staff were fantastic and brought me breakfast every morning. I spent five nights in Ubud, eating amazing food, writing my book and spending many hours reflecting upon my journey. I knew that a guy and his partner that I knew from my hometown in the UK were also in Ubud, so I paid their hotel a visit to say my hellos and goodbyes, as they were leaving that day. It was good to see a familiar face and hear the Geordie accent.
During my stay in Ubud, I visited familiar sights that I had been to in the not so distant past. I went to the Royal Palace, visited the art market several times, I did the Campuhan Ridge Walk and visited Puri Saraswati Temple.
On the 6th May, I turned 31. As midnight hit, I felt quite emotional as I was alone in my room, many miles away from my friends and family and only a few weeks earlier I had made plans on how to spend my Birthday in Melbourne. I got up at 5 am to watch the Tony Bellew Vs David Haye fight (I was happy that Tony Bellew won) and treat myself to a spa day and pizza from my favorite pizza place in Ubud. I had booked my homestay for seven nights but I ended up cutting stay short and headed to Kuta.
Ubud is a great place but it doesn’t have any park areas or a beach to relax in the sun. I decided to head to Kuta, primarily for the beach. My driver Gustu picked me up at 9 am and we had a three-hour drive to Kuta. It normally takes an hour and a half he said but we hit heavy traffic.
Upon arrival, I was shown to my room, which is where I sit as I write this post. This hotel only cost me £50 for seven nights. It’s very basic but has a very large, comfortable bed and washroom. There is no air-con, only a ceiling fan but it is in a great location, at the heart of all the action on Kuta and a two-minute walk from the beach.
On my first day here, I headed to the beach, which is beautiful. I felt so relaxed and knew that I had made the right decision. There are many stalls where they try and persuade you to take a look at their goods but after a year of traveling, you learn to give them a stern no and a look that shows that you are not interested.
I ate more amazing, local food and drank many Bintangs. I met a guy from Hawaii, who works out at sea. He works with some Indonesians and learned some of their language, and he could speak fluently with the locals. He introduced me to Arak, which is basically Indonesian Moonshine. Only certain places sell and even then it’s illegal. You have to ask for it carefully and quietly. After a few moonshines and more Bintangs, we went to a few different bars, ate some pizza and then I ventured back to my hotel. I somehow managed to find it, even though the streets around here are like a maze.
Today, I woke up late, I rested well and had a smile on my face as I woke up. It was the first time I was drunk in quite some time and just meeting people and socializing with them has given me a little boost of confidence as I lost it all over the past few weeks and months. I believe that by the end of this trip, I will be back to my old self. I visited the beach again today and swam in the sea.
I’m staying in Kuta for one week and then have no idea where I am going next but I am staying in Bali until 29th May as that is the date for my flight to Vietnam. My Uncle Geordie is going to meet me in Vietnam and we are going to spend two weeks there, re-visit Cambodia for a few days and then Thailand for a week or so before I return home to the UK.
I look forward to seeing my family and friends. I feel blessed and privileged to be in good health and be able to do this journey but more than anything, I feel proud of myself for having the courage to continue after many setbacks. Thank you to everyone that has helped me and shown support. I am filled with gratitude.