Well, what do you want to know?
I guess I should say I come from a travel-loving family – my mum used to take holidays with her sister, and my dad used to travel all over Europe, taking odd jobs at the same time. When they met they just began travelling as a group but stopped when I came along. We would take our yearly holidays to the coast for my birthday, spending a week being typically British. Those birthdays were pretty awesome and gave me a love of the English coast, however muddy and cold they were.
My childhood in one coastline at Hunstanton, Norfolk, England
When I was 11, I asked my mum if we could go somewhere different that year, perhaps somewhere that involved a plane, and to my surprise, she said yes. This started a 15-year obsession that is only getting more and more prevalent in my daily life and thoughts.
We stuck close to home, visiting the Canary Islands for a few years, then taking our first leap into long-haul travel going to Costa Rica. Each year after this the flights got longer until I reached my limit at 10 1/2 hours to Sri Lanka. It didn’t take me long to realise I had a distaste for flying. We would go away each year for my birthday, and I would spend all year saving up my pocket money, and later when I was in college, my EMA money –who remembers that! A throwback to the times!
El Lago de las Ninas, Gran Canaria
Once I left home for University, I still had that drive to save save save, and because of student loans, while others were out drinking every night, I was saving for weeks somewhere in Asia, while all my friends were saying “I don’t know how you can afford to go away all the time for so long”. I guess I just knew what I wanted, and made it a priority above most else. It felt so great to be paying for the entire trip now as well, I felt like such an adult. This, of course, makes you realise how much things cost though, so I began to use hostels instead of all-inclusive hotels, ate at hawker stalls instead of western restaurants, and began to volunteer to cut my costs and stay out longer.
By this point I’d left my first University after one year; I studied Interior Design at college, and my best friend was at the time studying it at a different University, and telling me about it was giving me some serious nostalgia. I was having some serious feelings about putting the camera down (I was studying Photography) and picking up the pens again.
So that’s what I did, in 2011 I started at Huddersfield and felt on top of the world, I felt like I was in the right place. Until I wasn’t. During the summer break in my first year, I took one of the best trips of my life; me and a friend from my old uni had sat down one day and jokingly but seriously said we should go on a trip together one time, and for about 10 months we had been planning a marathon 9 week adventure around Sri Lanka.
It was just a really long, adventurous road trip, and I had the usual travel blues for a month when I got back in September, but things were still fine, I was enjoying the new year at uni, and happy to be back in that world again.
The day we adopted an old man on our trip to Dambulla – it's not him in the photo though!
After this something clicked during January after the Christmas break. I just didn’t feel right. I wasn’t enthusiastic about the projects we were set, and pretty soon I lost all drive to go into any of my classes or to get out of bed. I had doubts about seeing out my last two years, and if I really was happy to be working more on the computer software than with the pens and paper, and I wasn’t.
I spent the majority of three months in my room, venturing outside and feeling somewhat ‘normal’ when I had a sudden burst of life every now and again. I lay in bed one day, having not brushed my teeth in days, eaten properly for weeks or even had the desire to get up and shower, I knew life had lost its appeal and I needed help. I went to see my university doctor, and one generic form later he called it Cyclothymia. Great. That’s the second diagnosis in a month.
Since I was a kid I’d had back pain, but this year it had become pretty constant and I was continually uncomfortable unless I was laying down. Big hands up to the university doctors again, who put me straight in for an X-ray at the hospital which, if this was coming from my doctors back home, would’ve taken months. Within a week I got the results that I had a rather scarily named problem that thankfully wasn't life-threatening or about to get worse, but was still a real nuisance. I just have to live with it.
As soon as I got off my butt and got those answers from the doctor, it was like a wake-up call and I took the next 4 months focusing on me and rebuilding myself. I’d pretty much decided I didn’t want to stay at university though, or, at least, Huddersfield. I
’d found out from my friend in Sri Lanka that his University was a UK partner campus, which basically meant I could transfer courses as long as I got my grades. I went through the whole procedure, had skype calls with the course head over there, paid the fees and was just waiting on my grades and Student Finance in the UK, without that I couldn't afford the transfer and course fees on my own. I don’t know how, but I completed all but one of my modules, despite not being in for 2/3 of my second year.
When the results came around, I was short by 10 credits, so I couldn’t transfer. This didn’t bother me though, because at the very last minute – like 3 days before I was due to fly to Sri Lanka – after months of backward and forwards, student finance confirmed they couldn’t grant my application for funding. What total idiots. They’d kept me on a fish hook for months, yet I didn’t feel like my world had ended, I felt strangely calm.
I had already booked my summer away and decided to tag a one month trip to Sl onto it now I didn’t have university timetables to consider or houses to rent. I spent August volunteering at a dog shelter in Thailand, and it turned out to be my second best trip to date. After this, I was on my fourth trip to Sri Lanka, with no plans other than where I was to be staying. This trip was the catalyst for ‘living there’ and the start of my most important life lessons from it.
The best sunsets are in Koh Lanta, Thailand
My Sri Lankan timeline is a post in itself, but from that month on, my friend turned into my boyfriend, and I made a little life for myself in the city, searching for jobs that would train me as a massage therapist. I managed 5 months before I ran out of money, and for fear of overstaying my visa and being blacklisted, I borrowed money to get me back home.
I never wanted to leave but had no money to get back there. There was only one option, I needed to start working. I got my first job as a cleaner at a college and soon earned enough for a very long trip, but by this point, I’d been away for too long, the relationship was breaking down and I was forced to return solo, with nowhere to live if I went back.
Id spent the last year immersing myself into the travel world of YouTubers and digital nomads, and became enthralled by the lifestyle – who doesn’t! – I’d convinced myself I could spend a few years travelling off of £3000 and wanted to start a blog (hello blog, only 3 years late). I’d booked my one-way ticket back to Sri Lanka before we had broken up, and now he would be out of the country with work, I had a quick lesson in how quickly your money goes when you have to pay for your accommodation.
The 2016 twelve week ‘adventure’ was a real flop. It was actually my worst. My big ‘trip of a lifetime’ where I was ‘going to leave home’, just sent me craving for home, with money n my pockets. I had four happy weeks on that trip, and they were all the times that I was outside of Sri Lanka.
At my happy place, Koh Lanta
I’d holed up in an Airbnb with nothing to do, my friend had hung out with me for a while, then vanished off the face of the earth. The rest I had to drag in just to hang out with me. It became apparent very quickly that because my ex wasn’t around, neither were they. It was just too much effort. I saw them all twice in 6 weeks, and it was when my ex had returned.
I spent most of my time sinking into a depression, having a breakdown and learning cold hard truths about whom I could count on in life while watching the life I'd built in Sri Lanka crumble around me. It cut me so deeply that when all I wanted was to go back home, I made the silent decision that I couldn’t come back here; for the good of myself, I had to stay away from Sri Lanka as would only bring me pain. I had nothing left here. It broke me and left me with a wound that still hasn’t fully healed today. And I still haven’t been back – yet.
Each year that I’d come home, I've become more appreciative of my country and the life I lead in the UK. I stopped saying ‘I don’t want to live here’ and crave being with my family, my dogs and being out in nature.
Dog, camera, boots, check… Time to walk into a wall of green
I worked a demanding cleaning job for 10 months before my domineering boss and the workload broke me, and I took some of my savings to go away for 2 months, returning to Penang, one of those few places I actually enjoyed from last year's trip. I set a challenge to pay zero on my accommodation and spend £500 on my daily expenses, and I pretty much nailed it. I tried CouchSurfing for the first time and had an amazing volunteering job that turned this trip into my 4th most amazing trip I've ever had.
The view I came to love waking up to each morning, Penang
I’d planned to try and ‘leave home and go travelling long-term’ in 2018, knowing I'd need some capital behind me. But I was sick of part-time work that left me in pain every night, and I’d also met someone in Penang, so, why wait? Life is for the living, and I packed my bags in November 2017, living in Penang with the idea of using it as a base while I took trips from Kuala Lumpur. And queue the depression again. And the relationship breakdown. And the general life crisis.
So, here I am. I returned home 4 months ago, broke and drained from failing trips. I am sick of working for someone else at the expense of my health and have put off making money online for too many years. I'm taking baby steps and am content with being home right now. I am of course daydreaming of some trips to take in a few months, because, come on…. Haven’t you seen my pattern yet?
*Last updated July 2018