As 2019 draws a close we find ourselves not only heading for the end of a year, but the end of a decade.
On a personal level the last ten years were full of ups and downs of the highest level and as part of the return of more regular blog posts I wanted to do a three part analysis of my mental health decade, with the next part being my favourite, 2015 – 17 – the backpacker years.
If you know me personally or are familiar with this blog then you will know it is near impossible for me to find the right words for what my travels have done for me.
At the very start of the decade these trips were merely an idea and during my darkest days they seemed a million miles away.
The booking of the trip came as a major turning point in the therapy process, I sat in a session one Monday and spoke endlessly about how much I would love to do it but never had the drive or confidence to act on it.
Seven days later I went back for the next session and i’d booked myself a little trip.
Something clicked within me mentally that week, I booked an appointment at the local STA Travel store, got presented with an itinerary I couldn’t resist and that was it, in March 2015 I would be heading on a three month solo adventure.
Australia – 2015
I spent a total of six weeks in the sixth largest country in the world, doing the classic backpacker route of Melbourne all the way up to Cairns.
For the first two weeks, split between Melbourne and Sydney, I was travelling by myself before catching up with two of my very close friends from home who were in the land down under for five months.
Over the six weeks I climbed Sydney’s famous harbour bridge, snorkelled around the Great Barrier Reef and got to hold a Koala at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, with the latter being the moment I really believed I was in Australia.
New Zealand – 2015
Ahh New Zealand, my favourite country on this planet.
After being really comfortable travelling around Australia with friends I was quite worried i’d struggle to get back into the swing of solo travel in New Zealand.
Luckily I got to spend nine days with a group I bonded with almost instantly as we explored Hobbiton, learned about the Maori culture, skydived and bungy jumped in the same day as well as some quality nights out on the beautiful North Island.
For the final five days of my first trip to New Zealand I caught up with a friend I hadn’t seen in 13 years when we were both eight-years-old and living in the same village in Essex.
It was only when Facebook became a thing again that we got chatting again and I would genuinely say that meeting up on the other side of the world was one of the moments where I realised how accessible the world is and how small a lot of the things and people that were causing me grief for so long were.
After 15 days I left New Zealand but knew I would be back…
USA – 2015
The final month of my trip was spent in the states, visiting most of the big cities and national parks on either coast as I took in all the cliches of LA, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Yosemite, San Francisco, Washington DC and New York.
The West Coast adventures were spent with a really awesome group as part of a week long road trip which finished in San Fran where I discovered one of my happy places and I am so excited to be heading back there in April 2020 for a very special event (More on that a little later!)
For the final 10 days I split my time between DC and NYC by myself, DC was a City I had never been to before so I explored the museums and monuments, including the Newseum which got me thinking a career in journalism would be pretty cool…
New York was a place I had been to four years earlier with my Dad and I knew I wanted to end the trip there.
Knowing the type of person I am I knew there would be a lingering sense of sadness at the end of the trip and I wanted to have that, as well as time to reflect on everything, not just the trip but my mental health development in general, in a city I was familiar in.
New Zealand – 2016
I said I would be back in New Zealand sooner rather than later and eight months down the line on December 27th 2015 I was at Heathrow airport, reunited with my backpack and ready to experience all that I missed out on during my first visit.
The second trip cemented New Zealand as my favourite country on the planet as I, with a whole new group of friends from all over the world explored fjords, glaciers and the chaos of Queenstown which saw me leave with my first tattoo.
The trip once against finished in Auckland as I spent some time catching up with my old friend from Essex once again.
New Zealand truly gave me the happiest days of my life and i’ll never forget it.
London – Paris Cycle – 2016
This one isn’t so much a backpacking trip, but is an incredibly important moment of the last ten years and needs to be mentioned.
In September 2016 I cycled from London to Paris over three days raising money for Mental Health Foundation.
As part of the fundraising I shared details of my mental health struggles with people outside my closest family and friends for the very first time and the response was just massive.
The physical challenge of the cycle itself is my proudest sporting achievement but the effect of sharing my story has made talking about my mental health with others so much easier and i’ll never stop appreciating how important that is.
Peru – 2017
After 18 months of working hard I was reunited with my backpack one last time as I was heading for my South America debut.
I flew to Peru on my 23rd birthday and the purpose of my visit was a simple one – The Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu.
The hike didn’t disappoint, I loved every second of it with a great bunch of lads and the Inca ruins are 100% worth the hike, by far my favourite wonder of the four I have seen so far.
Bolivia – 2017
Same planet, different world, that is all there is to say about Bolivia.
In my second South American country I explored the beauty of Salar De Iyuni, cycled the worlds most dangerous road and had a night in La Paz I will never ever forget.
The country is just crazy and I cannot recommend the place enough.
Brazil & Argentina – 2017
I’d always dreamed of going to Rio and early on in my stay it became one of my favourite cities in the world. I explored a favela on a guided tour, ticked another wonder of the world off my list and went hang gliding above the jungle and ‘landed’ on a Ipanema beach.
Waterfalls are one of my favourite things in this world and Iguazu is firmly sitting at the top as the best I have ever seen and it was incredible to experience it from both Brazil and Argentina.
North America – 2017
Before hanging up my backpack for good I had six weeks in North America, mostly visiting places I had been to before, but giving myself more time, which is something I didn’t have a lot of in 2015.
I also visited some new places in San Diego, Toronto and Boston but the highlight of my six weeks in North America was my two week stay in San Francisco.
My time in SF felt like a holiday within my holiday, some days I did nothing, other days I did something and I got to catch up with one of my closest friends from my travels where I met his now Fiancé and lots of their friends and I cannot wait to head back to Northern California in April 2020 for the wedding which just goes to show that friends who travel together stay together.
So there you have it, I don’t know if I would say my travels were the most important phase of the last ten years but it has definitely been the highlight.
I could talk about my travels endlessly and my flat is essentially a shrine to those months of the year where I was lucky enough to explore this beautiful world of ours.
One thing I know for sure is that if I didn’t start talking, there is no chance they would have happened.