I am writing this final blog as I sit in the departure lounge at Pearson International Airport in Toronto. Interestingly my first one was at Heathrow and here I am exactly 207 days later writing my final blog before I reach home…..
Home now has a different meaning to me. I have made connections with people in various parts of North and South America and with each I have a connection to home. Strangers became acquaintances that soon turned into friends. Friendship to me now has a different meaning. I have seen the generosity of human spirit and kindness where travellers share what they have. The local people, whether they live in Valparaiso or in Toronto, all shared their humanity. Whilst there are always exceptions to this, these are exceptions and not the rules.
I know the kid sitting at Heathrow airport on 30th January 2014 is not the same young man sitting here at this moment in time. There was some level of naivety then and perhaps a little bit of maturity now. Some lessons I have shared on this blog, others I have not because they are personal. It is clear that every lesson I learnt, could not have been taught to me unless I had travelled.
As I write this last blog, I would like to thank you my readers, for taking your valuable time to read my blogs. You have inspired me and encouraged me to write. I never thought that I would have over 17000 people reading the things I write. Do remember I got a C in English Literature so I know you did not come to read “Wuthering Heights”!!
Your comments encouraged me to be more bold and more daring. Each blog was about an experience which has shaped my thinking.
Finally I would like to thank all the people who opened their hearts and their homes to me. From the Favelas of Rio, to the leafy suburbs of Vancouver, people have given me their most valuable asset: their time. To each I say a personal thank you. You know who you are and the difference you have made to me.
So where next: There are many options and I would like you, my readers, to share your thoughts. How about that… you have read what I wrote and now let me read what you write…. place your comments in the comments box telling me where I should travel to next. The website will automatically include your comments so there will be no editorial privileges.
Until then, this isn’t goodbye, just au revoir, until we meet again…..
When I first told people that I would be heading to the Americas for seven months of travelling, the first question I constantly got was: Who are you going with?
The truth was that I never really wanted to travel with anyone on this trip. This trip was going to be my first solo travelling experience. The idea of travelling solo to South America where I don’t speak the language was nerve wrecking at best. However, as soon as I landed in brazil and met some amazing people in the hostel, the nerves and the feeling of displacement started to dissipate and I started to feel at ease.
Travelling solo taught me some amazing things about myself, about the world and about other people. And I wanted to share with you these lessons, in the hope it will encourage some of you to travel as well.
1. You can make your own decisions
Your life is made up of choices and throughout life there are always people influencing your choices. Whether it is your parents, your friends or your family. Travelling solo taught me to make my own decisions. When travelling solo you do not have to compromise, you are not responsible to anyone else nor are you obligated to do things you don’t want to do.
You want to party all night and sleep all day? Do it!!
You want to climb the highest mountain and swim the deepest sea? Do it!!
Travelling taught me that my life is my own and I have the freedom to do what I want!
2. You are never really alone
My biggest worry was that I wouldn’t be able to meet anyone and I would be alone my entire trip. However, this was not the case. Being by yourself taught me that there are travellers everywhere (many of whom also travel solo). Whether you meet them on busses, trains, in hostels or bars. These people will be open to conversation and you never know some of them may be looking for a travel buddy to. The key is not to to be shy and make friends wherever you can.
3. Solo travelling can make you spontaneous
I have always been a spontaneous person, but travelling made me even more spontaneous. Before I left the UK. I only had two things planned. My flight into Rio and out of Toronto. I had seven months to get from South America to North America.
This idea of leaving things open was the best thing I could have done. And to be honest some of the best memories of my travels was things I had not planned. For example on the last day in Santiago (Chile) I decided to randomly travel to Valparaiso. This was never part of the plan, however in Valparaiso I met some amazing people from all over the world. People I know my travels would not be the same had I not met them.
Therefore embrace the spontaneous nature, and don’t stress, go with the flow and life will take you up paths that you never dreamed of walking.
4. Strangers could become amazing friends
Travelling alone forces you not to be shy. This is key to meeting new people. And some of these people I have met have since become amazing friends. I can happily say I have more adopted brothers and sisters than ever before.
The friends I made ensured I was never lonely, they looked out for me and they helped me. This is what travelling is all about; meeting people that will become your new best friends and making networks with people all over the world.
Halfway through this trip I started to realise how limiting it is travelling with another person. Now I realise the possibilities that life holds for us if you just drop everything and go away alone somewhere.
Solo travel has enabled me to be more independent, more confident, more extroverted and more friendly with strangers. Through this I have learnt things about the world that no one else could have taught me.
Whenever the second Thursday of August comes by, I cannot help but feel a shiver crawl down my spine. It is a day where newspapers around the country show off pictures of
jumping girls, who have received their grades and are excited about their future. However, behind this veil of excitement there is a mellow and depressive feeling amongst those whose day did not go to plan.
For me, the results day of 2012 was a day which changed my life. That is why I am writing this blog. I want to share with you my experience of failure, and how I used that failure to shape me into who I am today.
I came to Results Day 2012 feeling scared. I came out on that day having received grades D,D,C. I was devastated, for the first time in my life I had failed at something. Words cannot describe the pain I felt. I wanted the ground to swallow me up and for me to never be seen again.
In my anger and rage I started to blame everyone; my family and even my friends! Everyone but myself. Deep down I knew that I was the one to blame.
Over the next few days after results day I went through a phase of self reflection. I realised that this failure was an opportunity for me to get my life back into gear, and slog for the next twelve months. Long story short I came out of results day 2013 with grades of B,B,C, eventually securing a place at Cardiff University.
You may be wondering why I am telling you this.
Today, there maybe some individuals who will have their first bitter taste of failure. For some, it will hit them quite hard, others will feel devastated.
When results day does not go to plan, it can be devastating. However, what matters after results day is what you do next! It is the way that you recover from your disappointment that decides the winners from the failures. After all the way we cope with failure, will determine who we are!
Let me give you an example. When learning to ride a bike, there will inevitably be falls. However, the only way to learn to ride the bike would be dust yourself down, and get back on the bike. If you fall off and think “I’ve failed, and I’m not gonna try that again” then you will never be able to ride the bike. However, If you do not do anything different then there is a chance that you could keep on crashing over and over again.
When a failure occurs, the world does not stop spinning. Life moves on, and so should you. As long as you learn from the mistakes of your past, then the future will be bright!
I want to end this blog with one of the tips I used to push myself, to achieve my goal. Every time I failed at something, I asked myself a question “How much do I want to succeed at this?”. If the answer was “Not much”, then it was time to move on. However if the answer was “Yes, I want to do this” then I got up, and tried again!
Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten”. – David Ogden Stiers
Last night when I started writing this blog, I saw the above quote and it made me reflect on one of the most important things in my life. My Family!
On reflection of this quote, it occurred to me that my family has no physical limits, Because when you limit something, there must be an end to it. And that’s not how I see my family.
My Family isn’t about blood, it’s about Love, Kindness and Caring. Its a never ending circle of people who have truly made a difference in my life one way or another.
Over the past 10 days I spent I have been in Des Moines – Iowa and Chicago – Illinois. During this period I spent the time staying at the residences of some of my Dads adopted Parent’s and Brothers and Sisters.
In Iowa I stayed with my adopted Grandparents Rita and Ray, and in Chicago I stayed with my adopted Uncle and Aunt. Rob and Mary Karen Reynolds. Never before have I seen hospitality, love and kindness in the way that both these families showed to me. They not only showed me the real American hospitality and warmth. But they showed me the life of the real Americans.
As I come towards the end of this trip, I started to realise and appreciate the friends I had made. Some of these friends are not only friends, but they are now part of my family. They always looked out for me, made sure I was ok and most importantly made sure I was not left behind or forgotten.
So finally, this blog is dedicated to all those who are my adopted parents, brother and sisters. You in your own way have made these past 7 months, The most enjoyable time of my life!
Travelling America has definitely opened me up to a lot of different values, cultures and mindsets. However the most interesting think I have witnessed in may short time in America was being part of the world famous San Francisco Gay Pride Parade. Here is my reflections from the day.
I have been travelling for 5 and a half months now: Through 6 different countries and two continents. After travelling for this long, you would think that I have witnessed all types of situations and scenarios, and therefore should not be easily shocked. However on Sunday the 29th of June I was shocked!
When I saw men of all legal ages, wearing outfits that allows the sun to shine in places where darkness is generally the rule. And seeing crevices in broad daylight previously unobserved left me first aghast and then shocked!
Never before have I seen a man ride a bike with nothing but a sock covering his gentleman areas.
I started wondering and reflecting why my first reaction was shock. I came to the conclusion that over the past 18 years of my life religion has brain-washed me to be against homosexuality. And I in my own error have not questioned my religion, but followed it blindly. Like a puppet dancing to its master.
Experiencing this parade has definitely made me question my religion. After all it is only through questioning can our conviction become stronger.
Since I started questioning my religion about this matter I have realised that, time after time people use religion as an excuse to demonise and victimise those who are gay, lesbian and transgender. However, who are we to judge our fellow human beings?
None of us have been created superior to one another. What gives us the right to tell another person that he cannot have a relationship with another person of the same sex?. Or that someone can’t change gender?
At the end of the day there is only one being who can judge an individual and that is God. Why are we humans constantly trying to be God and insist on passing judgements on people.
Pope Francis put this in a really beautiful way, when he was asked about the “gay lobby” in the Vatican.
“If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?”
This is a powerful message for all of us. A message for all of us to reflect on.