The Cliché is True: Travel Changes You (Or Reflections on 2018)
Well, there you have it. We’ve blinked and somehow we’ve nearly lapped another 365 days around the sun. And yes, some days it’s gone painstakingly slow, but on average (at least for me) 2018 has been an absolute whirlwind. Looking back, I can’t help but hum those lyrics from Rent: “How do you measure, measure a year? In daylights? In sunsets? In midnights? In cups of coffee? In inches, in miles, in laughter and strife?” Who knew that song was so profound.
So let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
My 2018 didn’t start as it meant to go on. Things kicked off with a few quiet and meditative months in suburban Florida, where I planned my travels, blogged late into the night and reserved all my energies for what I knew would be one travel tornado after the next. Though I did sneak in a family trip to the Dominican Republic in February.
First up was my (partly) solo trip through the Mexican Yucatan, which quickly became one of my favourite countries on the planet. Mexico has it all: sunshine and salt water (not to mention those mystic, icy-blue cenotes), enough history to suffice any serious buff, food that’s worth missing your next flight for and a vivacity that seems reserved only for Latin America. And my fun, whirlwind romance on Holbox Island was simply the icing on Mexico’s tropical travel-cake.
Refreshed and feeling like I’d mastered all things zen, I headed back for springtime in the States, where I met my adorable (little engineer-in-the-making) godson for the very first time and watched the pink-white cherry blossoms pop on Capitol Hill. A four-hour train ride later, I landed in New York, where I rang in my birthday with my brother and beloved bestie, Milkbar’s Birthday Truffles and Glossier’s Birthday Balm Dotcom, alongside too many glasses of champagne and owning the dancefloor to Blackstreet’s No Diggity. (That’s probably the best indication of exactly how old I turned this year.)
On May 1st, I bid farewell to the City That Never Sleeps and headed East. As in, reverse-time-zone East. My brother and I landed in Singapore and immediately fell in love with the city’s blend of modernity and multiculturalism. To think that this was just the first stop of our epic four-month adventure through Southeast Asia.
And then we were off - like a high-speed train in the night - island-hopping through Malaysia and Thailand before lazing about in the languor of Laos with our new sun-soaked skin. We ate our way through all of Northern Vietnam and then hiked it all off in the jungles and cloud forests of Borneo, where we befriended orangutans and macaques and did our best not to trip over hermit crabs.
Then, we went off the grid (quite literally) in the Philippines, swimming with sea turtles and venomous sea snakes and jumping into emerald-green lagoons and tidal rock pools. Here, I bid farewell to all my electronics, as they fell to their untimely death in Siargao’s Magpopongko pools. All this before playing Digital Nomad (and with elephants in their natural habitat) in what would be the final stop of my worldwide tour: Chiang Mai, Thailand.
In early August I landed – with a soft bump – in the midst of London’s heatwave, which thankfully helped to lessen the (reverse culture) shock. And, in true Yari style, I hit the ground running. I did my best to mix back in with Hackney’s hipsters, get my bearings in my new stomping grounds (and stake out of my favourite haunt for a good oat latte) and regale my mates with my travel stories.
Then, I began to script Chapter 12 of my London life.
And you know what? For the most part, the transition back to “normality” (if one can even call it that) has actually been alright. I’ve yet to slip into old bad habits or let my thoughts linger too long on my beloved previous London life. You know the one. The one that felt impossible to walk away from in 2017.
And I guess that’s because everything looks and feels different. Not so much within The Big Smoke itself, but within me.
The irony is, when I returned, I promised myself that I wouldn’t be that girl. The one who came back from backpacking around the word to say, “Travel’s completely changed me,” with a sly, condescending smile. I had no intentions of being a cliché. Or - quite frankly - a knob.
So I downplayed the change. Until a few weeks ago, after a thoughtful beer-infused conversation with a new friend in a warmly lit pub, where I described the relative ease of my return alongside each and every change, and he responded with, “Well, that all sounds rather profound to me.”
“Why yes, you’re right. I suppose it is. Let’s toast to that, hey?”
I guess it’s this profound change that has made autumn’s London limbo nearly as exciting as all of 2018’s travels. Since I landed back in London, I’ve grown this blog baby, joined the local travel blogger community (and booked myself onto two travel conferences for next year), started dating again (ok, ok, it’s really not so bad) and developed a newfound appreciation for my second home - rainy days, sh*t public transport and all. I’ve also started working more flexibly, made an appearance on the BBC (twice! Say what?!) and taken each and every challenge and life blow (let’s be real, there have still been a fair few) in stride.
And for this, I can only thank Travel. For teaching to me to live more comfortably with the unknown. For encouraging me to go for it (all of it, any of it) fearlessly. For showing me how to stay calm in a crisis. For reminding me that everything passes and things really do get easier. (Though a side of sunshine and an ice cold beer help too.) For pushing me to just say Yes, time and time again. And for reminding me that living life this richly feels oh-so-right.
It’s probably apt that I’m scribbling these words whilst I sit 4,000 feet above the earth, in that hazy in-between of a dark long-haul flight. As I type, I’m heading back to Florida, where all of 2018’s adventures began. There I’ll hit the pause button, reflect on my incredible year and gear up for whatever adventures 2019 has is store. Bring it on, baby.
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