I'm an introvert. I know it's not necessarily a cool thing to own up to but it's true. As much as I crave friendship and attachments, the truth is that I'm lonely and that's entirely down to me, myself and I. I find it very difficult to start up conversations with people so I'm that awkward one you meet standing, shocked in a room full of people and end up desperately trying to move on to an easier, chatty person.
I grew up in isolation. Alone on a hill in between two other crooked houses. I went to a tiny primary school in the nearest village amongst a smorgasbord of small, old houses which were home to small, old people. My secondary school was on the edge of a motorway, completely and utterly away from the real world and I ended up working in a seriously small office in the middle of nowhere with little view to leaving it.
I could've carried on living my life cut off from the big, ugly world quite safely and happily but an opportunity arose. I was suddenly given the choice to pack my bags up and travel the world for one whole year. It's an idea which I found instantly intimidating. This is a freshly turned 21 year old man who only tried mayonnaise for the first time two years ago! Going to the supermarket is considered a night out for me so how on Earth am I supposed to go over to the other side of the world and survive? But after much deliberation I decided to throw myself into the deep end and book a one-way flight to Australia.
Getting on that plane was one of the most nerve-racking things I've ever done. The gravity of what I was about to do suddenly hit me and regret washed over me. I can't survive for a year on my own! I can't talk to people, I can't work public transport, I can't cook. I won't make it past 24 hours let alone 365 days! And whilst I thankfully didn't perish within the first 24 hours, I did feel monumentally overwhelmed and wanted to go home. It was a shock to the system standing alone, a million miles from home. If someone had given me the chance to bail out then and there, then I would've taken it. Thank God that never happened.
One week into travelling and I completely forgot about what I was so scared of. Of course it's intimidating at the start, but once you realise how lucky you are to be seeing the world, meeting new people and experiencing new things you completely forget that you're travelling alone and that you're so far from home. The only thing to fear is going back home.
350 days later I find myself sitting in a Sydney hostel adjacent to the beautiful Bondi beach, reflecting on some of the best times of my life. I've visited six different countries, met some amazing friends for life, stayed in hostels, camped under the stars and seen so many different sights and sounds which I'll never forget. I've skydived, bungy jumped and sailed the Whitsundays when I could've just have easily been sat at home doing the same old routine and letting my life slip by.
There is no better education than seeing the world. A lot of friends back home say to me, "Oh, I wish I could do what your doing." And they can, they're just too frightened to step out of their comfort zone or too lazy to actually set plans in motion. I can't urge you enough to drop your life and see the world, especially if you're a shy, lonely introvert like me. It puts everything into perspective and I will forever be changed.
Going alone is frightening, of course it is, but it's important to throw yourself into the deep end and teach yourself to swim. Loneliness is never a problem because there are endless opportunities to meet like-minded backpackers and nine times out of ten, they're incredibly friendly and helpful. In fact, the worst thing about travelling is having to say goodbye so many times to such fabulous friends. You'll find a valuable confidence within yourself which you never even knew that you had.
When you come home back to normality, people probably won't notice how much you've changed, but you'll know that you have. You'll come back with a greater knowledge about the world, about people and most importantly about yourself. Don't be afraid, do it!