I’ve been lucky this summer, because it’s been a summer of near constant travel, more-so than usual for me. If we count May, I’ve visited Italy twice (Bologna and Cinque Terre), Spain (to Mallorca, where I stayed in a villa with my mum for a week), Sweden (for a travel blogging conference), and Prague (for a weekend holiday with a friend). I also have a weekend in Brighton coming up, as well as a few days in Paris at the end of the month. It’s been a spectacular string of travels, and I’ve loved every minute.
And, oh yeah, I also fell in love with a drink.
I’ve been thinking a lot about community lately, and about support networks. I’ve been thinking more and more about my blog’s tagline – “It’s not just the where and the how of travel, it’s the who and the why.” I’ve been thinking about what this blog is here for, and what on earth I aim to achieve from it beyond the (hopefully not but probably) navel-gazing stories about my travels, emphasis on the my.
And, of course, the more I think about it all, the more it comes back to this: the main reason I travel, the main reason I blog, hell, the main reason I get up in the morning, is because of the interactions with people I have from all over the world. Meeting new people and engaging with people from different backgrounds and cultures is the whole reason I am so addicted to travelling in the first place. I wrote a post recently about how I believe people are good, and in that I talked about how much I’ve gained and learned from interacting with people of all walks of life.
But I am just one person, and I represent just one kind of traveller.
I love this time of year, I really do. It’s not just the food and the decorations and the smell of the pine tree, it’s the time spent with family. This year, I feel incredibly blessed to be able to see all of my loved ones on Christmas day; my dad and sister Zalie, who both live in Winnipeg, my mum, who lives in Toronto, and my brother, who lives in Vancouver. We’ve already shared tons of laughs (and drinks) together, and the festivities will continue until I fly back to London on the 29th.
But OK, I’ll admit, I love the presents, too. Which brings me to the point of this blog post – I’d like to send ten gifts out to say thank you for another wonderful year of your comments, emails, messages, likes, and general support.
I recently got an email from a reader; let’s call her Olivia. In her email, Olivia told me about her plans after college and of how she was excited to get a job in the field that she studied. She then asked me this question:
“I love the idea of travelling; I love reading travel blogs and studying maps. The thing is, I don’t really know if I want to travel beyond a couple of weeks away at a time, and only with my boyfriend or my friends. I like my life here and I’m happy with what I’ve created. I feel like a fraud by saying that it’s not really my dream to travel. What do you think? Am I being crazy?”
When I was a little girl I really only dreamt of one thing: to travel. It’s what I wrote in all my journals, it’s what I told people I wanted to do, it’s what I thought about when I couldn’t sleep. I would make lists of all the places I’d go and all the things I’d see. But is this dream for everyone?
This year, I will say that I’m thankful for the things I normally list: my friends and family, my health, the health of those I love, my job, my flat, this blog and all of the amazing people who read it, and so on. But this year, I’m thankful for something else, too: for being present.
My mum has been saying this to me for years: be present. I’ve also thought that to be present is a key quality I want and need from the other important people in my life, whether they’re friends or romantic partners. So what do I mean by being present? I mean to be fully engaged and aware, to take in what’s going on around you, and to appreciate the life you’re living. To really listen when someone’s talking to you. To take some time to look around you when you walk somewhere. To actively seek new and fun experiences, even in your hometown. I’ve felt it a lot when I’ve travelled, but it’s not as easy to do when you’re living in the same city for a while, or living a more repetitive life.
While travelling, I’ve met dozens if not hundreds of other solo female travellers. Through the blogging community, I’ve also met loads of inspiring women who live the solo travel lifestyle and share their experiences online. One of the women I’ve met is Kristin Addis, author of Be My Travel Muse, who has travelled on her own for three years. I remember meeting her for the first time – it was at a pub in London two years ago, when she was in town to attend WTM (World Travel Market). We talked about Burning Man and Southeast Asia and she showed me a couple of her gorgeous tattoos. I’ve since met up with her at a few other blogging events, and we were even both listed on Buzzfeed’s recent list of women who will inspire you to travel solo.
A few weeks ago, Kristin emailed me with some very exciting news – she wrote and has just released a book on solo female travel, called Conquering Mountains: How to Solo Travel the World Fearlessly. I had a chance to read the book last week, and I can attest that it is a fantastic resource for women interested in travelling solo, or even for experienced solo travellers.