Margaret smiled at me. She looked very mum like. I always run into well meaning mother figures when I’m abroad.
She and I were the only passengers on the airport shuttle into Budapest. We got talking about the plane delay. Complaining is a great way to start a conversation it would seem. We got on the topic of why we were in Hungary. She was there for work. I was there because I could be. I was lucky enough to have friends there, the time, and no responsibilities.
“For £500 you could buy a Eurorail pass. Travel around Europe for a month.”
It’s around £500 if you’re 18- 25. If you’re 26 or older, it’s closer to a grand to get a Eurorail pass. It wasn’t a bad idea though. When I got out in district 8, Margret told me to do it while I was still young. I thought about how ‘young’ I was. I was strongly considering it.
It had been four months of applying for jobs I didn’t really want, and getting no where.
One morning I woke up and I contacted my agencies and said I was having a crisis and wouldn’t be available for work until the new year. This may be the only time when I’d have the money to travel and no commitments. When I could take a last minute deal. Buy a cheap ticket and see some more of the world.
I’ve realised I have quite a good network of friends around the world. I’m off to Brazil in November. A weekend in Paris in December. Perhaps Singapore in the new year, or China. I also know a lot of teachers scattered around the world in schools that need an English teacher. Maybe the life of a travelling teacher could be resurrected in Europe or Asia.
My friend Diana was right. I wasn’t fat and toothless. I did have options.
There is a lot to be said for having your gap year in your 30s. On the plus side, I have some money saved. I can do it in a bit more style. Hungary was a whirlwind of G&Ts, steak dinners and strudel. It beat my pizza pie budget when I was in New York.
On the downside, my mum and dad think I’m having a mental breakdown, and my savings are starting to dwindle, while my credit card balance gets bigger. It’s all I want to do though.
I didn’t have a gap year before uni. Well I did, but I was living at a mates house after my dad had kicked me out, working three jobs and desperately trying to lock down a job at Topshop #ambition. It was hardly ‘See the world before uni’ It was more ‘Prepare yourself for how much your life is going to suck when you have bills to pay and nowhere to live.’
I didn’t save a lot that year. Enough for a ticket to New York. I managed to meet my friends at the end of their travels, listen to their adventures around the world. We all still travel. Alone most of the time, I’ve noticed. We’ve even met up in different countries.
I think it’s something in your blood, wanting to be out there in the world alone, on your own adventure. Some people can’t live without it.
I like travelling alone. It’s never been something I thought was unusual. I always had a friend to meet somewhere, or I would make friends when I got to where I was going. I’ve never felt lonely. I’ve felt lonely at parties, in relationships, stuck at home. Traveling is something I’m happy to do by myself.
The reactions I get when I tell people I’m travelling alone make me smile. The concern, the sympathy. Did I have no friends to go with? Surely I’d enjoy it more with other people? Next time I could ask them to come along.
Being a woman makes it seem dangerous, but it’s just as risky as it is for men. I have been mugged three times, but I’ve made it out unscathed and often with most of my possessions.
The first time was at knife point and I was able to talk my way out of it. His pen knife was an embarrassment. I’d rather have been stabbed. The second time I was being an idiot, and wandering around at night with my headphones in. He got my iPod. But only as he ran away after i beat the shit out of him with an umbrella. So British. The last time I was mugged, it was at gun point, so I couldn’t really fight my way out of it. I managed to hold onto my shopping. It was worth more than the crap in my purse. Suckers.
Ok, it may seem uncertain. But it’s no more dangerous than your own back yard. You take the right precautions, you’re careful who you trust, and it all works out, most of the time. Occasionally you get a bit of bad luck, you wander into a bad area, fall asleep on the night bus with your iPod out; or date a man who thinks it’s acceptable to hold your possessions hostage because he’s teaching you a lesson for breaking up with him.
There are risks in everything we do.
Over the years my travels had introduced me to wonderful people, some of whom I’m lucky to still be in touch with. Sometimes you just spend a few nights having a good laugh, going to bars and wandering naked into the ocean. Other times you make travel buddies and end up at reggae festivals, or crossing the border into Panama.
I have had hand made pizza straight out of a make shift oven in a friend’s cave. It even had a door. The cave, not the pizza.
I’ve soaked in thermal baths under the stars. I’ve hiked up a mountain in Andorra, cooked my own dinner and then hiked down into France for breakfast. There were parties on the beach, night swimming in lagoons, and once I jumped on a motorbike to a ghetto in Belize to shave a man’s beard off.
Traveling has been good to me.
There was never a trip I regretted. Not even this one back home. It took me to Hungary, a dick fountain, dear friends and the knowledge that Hungarians will not budge in a bar. Soon it will take me to my nap buddy, caipirihnas and samba.
I was told I couldn’t live like this for the rest of my life. Maybe what they meant to say was that they couldn’t live like this for the rest of their life. It’s not for everyone.
If you have a travel suggestions let me know. I live out of a suitcase.