When undertaking a mental state examination on a patient, one is required to comment upon whether an individual is orientated to time, place and person. Sitting onboard an aircraft, 12 hours into a 32 hour journey, roaming somewhere above the middle east, I can safely comment that at present, I am none of those things.
I believe that is what my mind and body are attempting to do right now. In the last 48 hours I wrote my final exam of fourth year, passed my fifth driving test (yes, after 2 years I finally nailed it) moved out of my house in Birmingham, printed off a small tree’s worth of documents and packed two months’ worth of my belongings into a rucksack. I’m writing this on my first of three of flights to Samoa.
I can hardly believe that any of this is even real right now. I’ve been planning this elective trip for months. And here I am on a flight to Singapore, legs stretched across three seats and in constant motion, may I add, for the permanent fear of getting a DVT…. Feeling absolutely terrified.
I had a good old cry at Manchester airport all those hours ago. I haven’t felt this anxious or scared in years. I haven’t been so out of my comfort zone in years.
Every single irrational fear has crossed my mind on multiple occasions. What if I never come back from this trip? What if someone tries to shove drugs in my rucksack somewhere in Bali and I get framed? What if in case of an emergency landing, I fail to adopt the brace position appropriately? And perhaps the most rational and thereby scariest of all… What if I have to come back to the UK early to resit my exams?
I have wanted to travel alone since I went to Cambodia on a volunteering trip three years ago. The feeling of bliss and complete liberation was addictive. It ignited a wanderlust in me that never waned. I worked almost full time for my longest summer holiday to gather the funds to help me in materialising this vision I have nurtured for the last three years. I even perfected my gap yah voice to an alarming degree of accuracy. The plan? Samoa. Sydney. Canberra. Melbourne. Bali. Lombok. Singapore. Home. It’s okay though…my bestie is joining me for Indonesia and despite being a drunken liability on occasion, when it comes to travelling, she’s got it covered.
Not like me. I’m doing this for the first time ever and I can’t say I feel particularly… together. I don’t really know ‘how to travel alone’ and I’ll just have to learn on the go.
In the few weeks leading up to this trip, several things began dawning on me. The overriding feeling was that I really have to take total care of myself because no one has my back anymore except me. Even with flight booking and visas and insurance and study permits (I never realised just how much paperwork was involved in travel) I had no one to really remind me what to check or what to do. I almost ended up missing something vital, which totally threw me off guard. In essence, the security of having others around to help me out is stripped away. There’s one major lesson learnt already and I haven’t even landed yet.
I wanted this. I’m reminding myself of that now. As all my friends are off gallivanting around Malaysia on a big group vacation, and whilst I’m gutted to be missing out… I was the one who chose to do something else. I wanted to push myself to get out of my comfort zone and it has already started happening in a very real way.
I really don’t know what to expect. I would like to return home better equipped to think more wisely, sharply and intuitively. I would like to have reflected hard on everything that has happened this past year (which is a lot) and I hope for my time away from everything familiar allow me to return to that life with fresh perspective. I also want to have a minimum of five frayed wristbands, some nice streaky tan lines and a handful of stories that I may re-tell, much to everyone else’s regret.
Now that’s off my chest, I’ll be doing my utmost to stay present and take it one step at a time.
Here’s to facing the unknown, alone.