When I left Perth in July last year, I departed unknowingly. I didn’t know what would happen or who I would come across, but deep down I knew it was going to be the trip of a lifetime. I started the 9 month long journey in Brazil for World Youth Day with the group from Perth. It was an incredible experience all in all, in which we visited the famous Iguazu Falls, stayed with the most amazing Brazilian families, slept in a warehouse in Rio de Janeiro and attended mass with 4 million other people on Copacabana beach after spending the night there all together. It was a crazy period with things to do every single day. I was quietly awaiting the chance to be alone and do my own thing.
We had a few days of recovery from the hectic schedule, and I left with 2 other guys, separating from the group to explore Brazil and Argentina while everyone else made their way home. It was during this time where, looking back, I realised how fortunate I was. While in Sao Paulo, I came across a big group of Belgians who had also made the trip to Brazil for World Youth Day. This was one of those times where, when I look back, I just think, “wow.” We exchanged contact details and Facebook information and went our separate ways. At this point I hadn’t made any plans or even entertained the thought of going to Belgium to visit them, but it’s funny how life works, and that’s what I did. The beauty of travelling alone is that you are not held back by anyone or anything. You go where you want, when you want. In a way I believe that because I was alone, it allowed these friendships to blossom. So when plans to go to Berlin fell through while I was in Krakow, I booked a flight for the next morning to go to Belgium after receiving news that I had someone to stay with. The wonderful thing was that even after visiting in September, I kept getting pulled back somehow to Belgium. I went back again in November for a long weekend, and it was during this time that we decided to celebrate New Year’s Eve in the French Alps together. How fortunate I was to have run into these fantastic people, and I thank God every day for I know that these are the kinds of friendships that distance cannot separate. These are friendships that last a lifetime.
When I left for Europe at the beginning of August, I was excited about travelling alone. I was ready to face the world head on by myself, and was determined to come out on top. Spain was the first destination on my European itinerary, and it was here where I met someone with mutual friends back home in Australia. It was a great start and I was buzzing. I slowly became more and more comfortable with moving around on my own. I met so many people because I was forced to do so out of the need for interaction with others. Being out of my comfort zone allowed me to discover what I was like in the most random and strangest situations, like sleeping at airports, train stations and other crazy situations which in hindsight may have been a bit foolish, but brings to life the real sense of adventure, like how Mark Jenkins describes, “Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have first-hand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it.”
Through all these experiences I felt like God really looked out for me on my journey, as I was fortunate to not have any bad experiences or run into anyone meaning harm. For the rare times when I felt lonely, there was always someone placed in my path that made me feel at home. I’d been couch surfing with a family in Cortanovci, a little village in Serbia, getting to know them, their culture and language. By the end it felt like they were family to me, and when they told me the same, I was truly touched. When I left their home, the father of the family, who used to be a part of the Yugoslav Army back in the day, told me that I was like a son to him (he only had daughters), and gave me one of his war medals, something that I will treasure and cherish always. These are the moments I live for in life, and moments you can’t find on any Contiki tour or travelling around in groups of people. If I could leave you with any advice about travelling, I’d look to the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
Someone once asked me whether I wanted travelling to always be a part of my life. It already is. The adventure never really ends.