In the past, I got the chance to live, work and study abroad a couple of times… But I always dreamed of a nomad life where I could go wherever the adventure would take me, and most importantly, that would teach me things a stable life could not.
In May 2016, I left home with a one-way ticket to Asia. And yes, the trip lasted one year and five months – over a year longer than planned.
Wonder how I ended up staying abroad for so long and what it taught me about welcoming the unexpected into my life? Read on!
My trip wasn’t planned like this at all. I finished a work assignment in Europe and decided to take a 3-month break from my boring routine to travel in Asia. My plan was to apply for a new job upon my return, possibly abroad – but more or less stationary. However, life happened differently and the circumstances did not bring me back home. Instead I stayed and went even further away.
The main idea of my journey was to become more self-aware and learn things about life I could not understand in front of my laptop at work.
I questioned myself and my decisions a lot. It might sound silly, but I was not sure that it was possible to follow your dreams if they took you off the beaten track. Back then, I was often comparing myself with my friends, who were working hard to build the foundation of a great career, while I was ordering Pad Thai at a local restaurant.
Yet, I would do it all over again. The experience was completely different than living aboard with a structure (from studying or working). My perception of life changed so much and if I had to summarize life and everything else in one sentence it would be: ‘Why not?’
Welcoming the Unexpected
1. Dare to be brave and trust your gut feeling
You are braver than you think. I quit a prestigious job with a one-way ticket for Bangkok and a vague idea for a 3-month backpacking trip. Trust me, it was the scariest thing I have ever done. In the end, I had a lifetime of adventures and I now believe that great risks involve great rewards.
2. Welcome new people, but also learn how to let go
During my trip, I realized I can welcome new people in my life, but I also discovered that I was able to let them go pretty easily. I stayed in Nepal for two months and lived in a remote village with an NGO and 12 other volunteers. It was an amazing experience, but eventually I had to let it go – my visa expired and it was time to move on.
3. Allow/challenge yourself to have no plans
Sometimes you follow the crowd, sometimes you explore. I think the latter is the most rewarding. I will always remember life on a scooter with zero plans in Indonesia. I could not go to all the places I wanted to, because of the lack of organisation. However, I enjoyed a different path of life – and I have a very good excuse to come back.
4. Learn to let go of your stuff
You don’t need as much clothing as you think. It’s not amazing to only have a few outfits at hand, but it’s totally doable. I only had one backpack for a year and 5 months. I am happy to have more clothes than I need again now, but on the road I did not really mind. All I care about is my chess board, a friend to play with and coffee.
5. Say yes to opportunities
If you follow your heart and the boy with the nose ring and the tattoos, you can end up moving to Melbourne. Yes, I did that too – and it was the best decision I ever made. I had no idea that a relationship could teach you so much about life and yourself. I will be grateful forever that life brought me such a beautiful human to cross my path.
6. Trust in people
There are people ready to help you everywhere. I will always remember the time we were so broke in Sydney – and friends of friends of friends helped us out. We stayed at a musician’s house and then with the wonderful family of a friend of mine.
7. Be curious
You never know what’s around the corner and it’s a good reason to go see. I was scared when I rented a motorbike in Laos to go road tripping, because I had no clue how to change gears. I was scared the day I boarded my plane to Nepal and arrived alone in messy Kathmandu. I was scared when I moved to Australia for a boy I had just met. I was scared when I went by myself to the Himalayas with a map and a backpack. What do all of these stories have in common? I was curious and I decided to go with the flow. The greatest thing I learnt is that life is too short to limit yourself and feel miserable. Give it a go!
8. Accept your fears and let them go
As a long-term traveler, you will get eventually suffer from what I call instability syndrome. Sometimes I feel like settling down, adopting a cat, having my own apartment. But discovering the world is the most amazing thing I could ever do in my life.
9. Don’t blame yourself if you don’t know what you want to do next
This took me a while and tons of rejections from job applications to understand. Ironically, I found a job randomly while on holiday in my home country last September – the last place I was expecting to live.
10. Trust yourself and follow your heart
I know it sounds corny to say that, but it’s true. It might even take you a lifetime to really learn this. When I quit my job to travel, everything turned out well even though I was unsure about my decision. It was the same, when I came back home with very few plans. Yet again, everything turned out to be OK – I have a house and a job. I shouldn’t have worried!
11. Accept change
Understand that many things in life are not meant to last – and that is not too bad. Change is the only constant in this world. Your dreams? Your job? Your lover? They will all change over time, because you evolve as a person. Look at me: two years ago, I was craving adventures and a nomad life. Today I am working for a tech company in my home country.
12. Going home is not the same as going back
Going back home is also part of the adventure because your old beliefs will meet your new perception of life.
I don’t know what life will hit me with next. Sometimes this makes me happy and sometimes the worries overcome me. I am overwhelmed by the possibilities life has to offer and the multiple paths I can take to live it. So, even though I’m not so sure what I want to do with my life, I can’t wait for the moment when I decide what my next step will be!
This is a guest post by Aurelie Rousseau.