One of the things I love to do is to travel internationally and explore different places. My husband and I are keen travellers but as he has a senior position at work, it means he’s unable to take long periods of time away. Once he retires, (5 years and counting), my plan is to do the same (Why bother working? For what?) and hopefully, we could pack up our bongos and just head out for months at a time to live, explore and enjoy various countries around the world.
At times I see myself spending time at a beach bar on a tropical island with a beer or a cocktail in my hand wearing my favourite tropical shirt and chatting with locals.
Other times, I see myself wearing a thick plaited jumper being battered by the strong winds, on a boat heading towards a Scottish isle to undertake a course in aran knitting.
Most of the time, I see myself wandering around the art galleries, museums and book stores around European cities.
Of course, when the opportunity arises to travel internationally, I accept in all cases.
It has happened in recent times when I have been asked to present at conferences. Usually, there’s always a feeling of dread when asked to speak. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always honoured to have been asked but then soon after, the feeling of “oh, I have to prepare for this and what am I going to talk about?!” sets in that I get myself into a state of mild anxiety.
However, usually, what I do is I will ALWAYS make sure that I take some leave on either side of the conference and instead look forward to the time alone to do my own exploring. Regardless of whether the conference is in Australia or overseas, you’ll always find me going on some adventure BEFORE the conference so that I get to know the “lay of the land”, the culture and history of the place I’m visiting. That way, when the conference does start, I’m more relaxed as I feel more connected to the participants and I can ease into the speaking and networking. By the end of the conference, I’m usually ready to leave for home so it ends up being a mini break for me.
Spending time by yourself, for yourself is such an underrated activity. I love it and yearn for it. Making plans, exploring new sights and chatting with locals of the bars, cafes, galleries and museums is a delight for me.
There’s always something new to learn from them that will take you down somewhere that is not in a guidebook. An event, a place to visit…even having lunch or dinner by yourself is another indulgence for me (usually you end up having an exchange with the locals anyway when they enquire, “where are you from?” and embarrassingly I reply “Australia” in the hope they don’t talk about our ridiculous stances in treatment of refugees and our lack of climate change policies.
Last year, I had the chance to visit Frankfurt (and then, Strasbourg) as I was speaking at LearnTec2020. I got there in the nick of time before the shut downs and enjoyed myself immensely. I think it was a trip that basically set my mind switching over to what I really wanted to do in my life – and travel was it. It was also the love affair with the French language that started in Strasbourg which then meant I completely immersed myself in French language learning.
Travelling alone means that you have entire days with you, your thoughts, your expectations. These are the questions that I usually have in my mind as I start out every day:
- “What am I going to do today?”
- “Who will I meet today?”
- “What food am I going to try today?”
- “What beer or wine will I taste today?”
- “What exciting thing will happen for me today?”
(The irony isn’t lost on me as to this is how we should all be starting our days – the exciting feeling of expectation).
Of course, travelling by yourself does present you with some personal challenges at times. I’ll never forget the saga of getting on a wrong train and having to then back track to take 4 connecting trains to get to that town. I took video footage of it so as my day started full of expectation quickly spiralled out of control…..but I held it together along with some help of locals and a little paper pad and pen that I used to draw out what I needed to locals who didn’t know English.
(When I travel, I usually don’t have internet on my phone unless there’s some wifi so it means going “old school” – having to talk to people!)
I think travelling by yourself or taking time to do things by yourself is a great way to learn about yourself.
It’s scary to be out of your comfort zone but at the same time, it’s a time when you can feel most alive. You’re in control. You have to keep your wits about you. Your senses are heightened and you’re just taking in things, people, sights, signs around you because there’s no one else to rely on. Everything you do, from getting up from a chair, taking your belongings with you if you need to go to the toilet or to the bar, requires forethought as to how you’re going to do it.
At the same time though, if we don’t get out of our comfort zones, we never learn because we don’t challenge ourselves because we’re stuck in fear.
That’s no way to live a life.
I’m looking forward (hopefully, we’re not going into another lockdown) of travelling to Brisbane in late July for a teamwork week. It’ll be my first trip since January 2020 and already, I’m planning taking an extra 3-4 days before hand to explore the city and making an itinerary of all the things I want to see and do. Of course, all the restaurants I want to eat at. This time, I’m taking my bike helmet so that I can hire a bike to cycle around to the places I want to visit.
I can’t wait!