If you’d told me this time two years ago I would be living 9,442 air miles away from my family, friends and quaint hometown I’ve spent most of my life living in, I’d have been bowled over with hysterical laughter.
I’m the girl who moved to Ireland with my mum because I didn’t want to be left on my own. I’m the girl who got up at 4am every day and commuted to London for work because I didn’t want to move away from home. And I’m the girl who has been plagued with anxiety and panic attacks since I was about seven years old (that’s a story for another day).
But fast forward to 2015 and I’m now living in Sydney on my own. Well technically I’m with my boyfriend, but I mean without my parents around me or my adorable little dog snuggling into bed with me every night.
So, what changed and how did I go from the shy, mummy-reliant little girl to an independent woman? I want to say age, but it’s not. It’s like I woke up one day and a switch had changed. Just like that, overnight.
At the end of 2013, I moved to Northern Ireland with my mum and grandparents. And as much I loved living with them, Northern Ireland wasn’t at all for me. My boyfriend was in Australia on a working holiday visa (he’d already book it before we began dating) and my job was based in London. I felt so lonely, so far away from everything I was used to and I was slowly sinking into a depressive state. I spent most days crying and my anxiety hit an all-time high.
In May last year I decided to escape normality and visit Joe in Australia for three weeks. My biggest issue at the time was making it through the long-haul flight on my own. I’m not an overly nervous flyer but I was freaking out about making my connection, finding my way around Dubai airport and Joe not being there when I landed in Oz.
In those three weeks, I fell in love with Australia and a day before I was due to fly home, I dropped the bombshell on Joe that I was going to come out in November for more than a holiday. FYI, Australia was NEVER on my agenda – I hadn’t even thought about it – until I met Joe.
Life was good in England. I had an amazing job, I had money and I had my friends around me. But it wasn’t enough. Coming to Australia in May opened my eyes. I realised there was so much more out there and I wasn’t prepared to spend my life in England, get a house, have a family and gear myself up for a life full of regrets.
A thousand thoughts ran through my head before I left. I was worried about how my mum would feel, how much life would’ve changed when I eventually returned and that people would call me a failure if I went home a month later.
I gave myself three months – I think everyone else gave me three weeks – before I would go home. I’m now eight months in and I can honestly say coming travelling is the best decision I’ve ever made in my life so far.
School prepares you for the foundations of living but travelling gives you essential life skills. I couldn’t cook before I came to Australia, I had trouble striking up conversation with people, I hated making new friends, I wouldn’t go to the doctors on my own and I couldn’t sort out my own paperwork. I was basically incapable of living on my own.
I’ve met so many amazing people in Australia, I’ve immersed myself in other cultures and I’ve seen so many incredible things/views that have made me realise that life is for living and exploring!
Travelling isn’t for everyone – I completely get that – but don’t knock it before you’ve tried it. I’ve grown as a person, I’ve become wiser and I can honestly say – sorry mum – I now have the travel bug.
So, please, if you can. Take the leap, visit the amazing cities outside your native country and enjoy the ride of life. Check out the wildlife, take a million pictures and make friends all over the globe.