I have been in Thailand for around two weeks now, in a further two weeks I leave to work in Australia for 3 months then a further 3 in New Zealand. After my life being exactly the same for 10 years, living with my parents, no relationship, this was even my first plane ride, I have come in the hopes that throwing myself in at the deep end would help my confidence, self esteem and general happiness. I have had some great and not so great experiences so far and I don't want to sound ungrateful because it's a beautiful place and the chance of a lifetime but I'm still waiting for something to click. When will it come? Will it at all? Anyone else come travelling for this reason?
It's very early days yet on your adventure, and when you're travelling you're not necessarily going to enjoy every single moment of every day. I find sometimes that its hard to fully appreciate your travels until you actually look back on them; you need time to reflect and understand what you've gained from the experience.
I think getting on a plane and going travelling on your own will ultimately help your confidence and self - esteem, and that will grow as you get further into your trip, have more great experiences and meet more people.
Enjoy the rest of your trip, and let me know if you need any tips about NZ!
I think you perhaps need to change your expectations. Don't wait for something to "click" - just try to enjoy each and every day - go out with a smile and be determined to make the best of whatever comes your way. Then you will slowly find that you enjoy life more and that you are happier. Yes, bad experiences will happen - they happen to everyone. It is how you react to them that is important. Go out with some aims like these each day:
1) try something new
2) think of at least 5 positive things about your life
3) laugh properly at least once during the day
Learn to appreciate what you do have and set about changing those things that you don't like. By the sounds of things you are already part of the way there in that you know you are in a beautiful place having the chance of a lifetime and you did this to change your life. So just go out with a positive attitude and enjoy your travels!
This is the amount of time that I have not had a fixed home; moving to a new country, culture and language every few months and taking absolutely everything I own with me. It has been a significant percentage of my life, and it’s still long from over.
Confidence will come relatively easily over time, just from realizing how many little mishaps and trials you'll have conquered during travelling; knowing that you can be dropped off in a random city anywhere in the world, and will swiftly learn to navigate it, to become at home at it. That you can deal with transport options breaking down and just make up alternatives on the fly. That you can make up or adjust your itinerary as you go along. Common travel routines.
Change will come more slowly. You have routines ingrained from those 10 years of nothing much changing. Slowly you will unwind - you will re-evaluate what you're doing. When you don't have the limitations of everyday life; when you don't have the expectations of people who (think they) know you - when the only person judging what you do is yourself, then what do you care about? What do you want to do? This last is particularly hard. Do you really want to go see that Wat, or lie on that beach? Or are you only doing it because you think this is what's expected of you by people at home who know that you're travelling? Not an easy question to answer, in my experience, but given time, you can learn new habits and grow to realize new "purer" interests - things which you take joy in, purely for yourself.
With all of this, do take time out from the sightseeing part of travelling to regularly sit back and do nothing. Give your mind the time to unwind and reflect. Don't push it - just give yourself some quiet time. Find your own spaces in the busy places where you'll find yourself, whether it's a shady park bench, the courtyard of your favorite Wat, the lounge at your hostel, or wherever.
Some good opinions so far. I was once in a similar situation as you. It was my 23rd B-day and I felt that I needed to change who I was. So I left home and did a similar route - NZ, Asia, Oz - and told myself I wouldn't return home until I felt I was a new man with focused purpose in life. It took 3 year and 4 months before I came home. And I was a changed man. But it did NOT happen when something clicked a couple weeks into my travels.
It happened slowly over time, as I met and learned from new people, took time to think about who I was and how I saw the world, and most importantly, challenged myself to goals outside of my comfort zone. I realized that I was ready to come home when I achieved some of the travel/sightseeing goals I set out to do, but I didn't realize that something had actually changed until I got home and viewed the world differently than I used to and had a new understanding of how I should live my life. So be patient. It's not going to happen over night or from some magical moment. Change comes from growth, and that takes time.
But here's a couple tips that I found gave me a richer travel experience and I think helped me change my life:
Keep a diary. Write anything that comes to mind - notes on people you meet, things you see, drawings, poetry, dreams, philosophies on life.
Ditch the headphones and laptop. On buses and trains, in restaurants, sightseeing, whenever, don't be listening to your music with your mind off your travels. Keep yourself open to listen to what's around you, eavesdrop, and strike up conversations with just about anyone.
Challenge yourself. They can be small challenges, like taking local buses and buying tickets instead of getting your hotel to do it. Or even just talking to strangers if you are shy. Or go on a long hike, or hitchhike, bungy jump, scuba dive. Whatever it is that gets you a little bit out of your comfort zone.
Explore religion - even if you think religion is nonsense, or you are a fundamentalist in your own. Religions give people something to think about and present different views on the world. They also help you understand more about the culture of places you go. And what better place to learn about Buddhism, for example, than sitting in the courtyard of a temple in Thailand. Jot down things you agree with or disagree with in your journal.
Read books related to the culture and/or history of the places you go. If you don't make an effort to learn about the places you visit, then what's the point in going?
Get lost on your own. As long as you know of any dangerous places to avoid, wander around cities with no agenda and just see what happens. Go into local restaurants and shops, say hello to local people, and be willing to just go with the flow.
Thank you all so much for your advice and taking the time to leave such thoughtful responses. I read them in a cafe while while waiting for my boat from Koh Phi Phi to Krabi. I must have looked a bit of a dick as my bottom lip started to wobble and I had to cover my eyes. Felt good to know I'm not the only traveler who has felt this way and to be reminded of what my friends and family had told me anyway; not to expect too much and just enjoy. I was suddenly pretty buzzed to be moving on on my own again. Next day in Krabi I went to Tiger Cave Temple, got my Lara Croft on and walked the 1237 steps and 600 metres up to a beautiful temple, at the top I was beaming to know I'd achieved something for myself on my own that some people will never have the chance to do. Have been accepted into a really cool new gang of people and had such fun getting a teeny bit totally wasted. Checked out Princess Cove in Railay yesterday to see the giant wooden shlongs the fishermen leave the princess' spirit to get more fish, he he. Moving on to Chang Mai today, gruelling 22 hour bus ride but bring it on! Thanks again, happy travels x
First of all congratulations on what you have done – a lot of people will be in the same situation as you were Sam and probably dream of going travelling, but for one reason or another will put up barriers to stop themselves going. You’ve probably gone against everything that seems natural to you by stepping out in to the unknown and leaving the comfort of your home and family to do this – that in itself is a huge achievement.
I was much like you before I went travelling – my life had been the same since I got back from Uni and I had spent eight years doing the same old things. I left in September 2009 and was away for 18 months and it was the best time of my life. I have now been back nearly two years and am itching to get away again. I probably didn’t realise how much it had changed me as a person until I got back, and I can say for certain it improved my confidence and self-esteem.
The longer you travel I think the more at home and happier you will feel. Don’t forget this is a huge change for you and it will take you a little time to adapt. Maybe your expectations of an almost instant revelatory happiness were slightly unrealistic, but it will come!
Any reason you are only spending three months in Oz and New Zealand? Have you thought about spending a whole year in each place?
Sam! Enjoy Thailand...it is one of my absolute favorite places! You must be so proud of all of the great changes you've made and challenges you've taken on. From your first ever plane ride to Island hopping in Thailand in about a week...now that's pretty cool!
Keep us updated on Oz and NZ - you are creating some lasting memories my friend. Enjoy!