For the past five years, my life has revolved around my degree. Studying such a hardcore subject like physics has been intense but involved a lot of work. Having spent the majority of my life in education, I don’t know anything else — this has always been my life.
So, this Friday when I finally handed in my last piece of work on my last ever day as a student, it felt bittersweet. I’ve had a great time at university — I’ve made some amazing friends and had some life-changing experiences. It feels unreal to think I may never attend another lecture in my life, never have to sit and spend every evening working on that week’s homework, never have to make that hour-long trek across town to my lectures. It feels liberating and exciting but it also feels disconcerting.
I feel like a child who has had their security blanket snatched away, and their comfort zone diminished. I’ve always had the comfort of education to fall back on. Now it’s been taken away and I’m left to face (and conquer!) the big, wide world on my own.
With this chapter closing on my life, I realise I can choose to do anything that I want with my life, and I’ve chosen to travel for as long as possible. I can’t wait for this new part of my life.
Can anyone really feel completely prepared for a new adventure in their life?
Can you be prepared for traveling long-term?
I like to think the situations I’ve been in throughout my life have prepared me well enough to cope with every scenario that may be thrown at me throughout this trip. I’ve had a lot of tough experiences, and my journey through life has been far from easy.
For two years, I suffered from an eating disorder. At one point it got so bad that for a period of two months, I lived on nothing but two apples a day. The main cause of my eating disorder: Anxiety. I wasn’t starving myself to be thin. In fact, I didn’t want to starve myself at all. I wanted to eat more than anything in the world, but for some reason I just couldn’t force myself to do it. I’d sit there with a plate of food in front of me, and whenever I put anything into my mouth I would just heave and heave until I spat it out. In hindsight, I should have gone to the doctors to sort myself out.
But I didn’t.
I overcame it all alone, which, to this day, is one of the things I am most proud of myself for. I took it day by day, and gradually tried to increase the amount that I would eat, in incredibly small amounts. I would eat one chip on one day, and the next day I’d try and increase this to two chips. It sounds pathetic now, but it was such a big deal to me, to actually see myself being able to eat food again, that feel myself getting stronger and stronger with every passing day. I was determined to succeed, and once I set myself a target, I wasn’t going to give up and fail. I improved day by day until I got to the point where I just didn’t think about it anymore. It was natural to me, like it used to be when I was a child.
I had found the strength and courage inside me to defeat this problem all by myself.
The anxiety that led me to suffering from this eating disorder had been present in my life from the age of 16. Anxiety is a strange disease, and it’s one that is hard to control. For someone that has never experienced it, or ever had a panic attack before, it’s hard to explain. Honestly, it is one of the most terrifying feelings in the world. My heart would be racing, I wouldn’t be able to catch my breath, I’d have pins and needles over my entire body, I’d be covered in sweat, and I’d be 100% convinced that I was about to die. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. This anxiety stayed with me for so long, that it got to the point where I just wasn’t sure how to function and live a “normal” life anymore. I became a recluse and rarely went out, afraid that once I’d be in public I’d suffer from an attack.
One day, I decided I’d had enough and that I was going to conquer this once and for all. I could have had counselling, I could have gone to the doctors and got some medicine to help me, but I didn’t want to do any of that. I decide to fight it alone. I started reading up on coping mechanisms, I started keeping a diary of my thoughts and worries, and I started forcing myself into situations which scared me, in order to show myself that nothing bad would ever happen. Gradually, I started to feel better with each passing day. The panic attacks subsided, the irrational fears and thoughts melted away, and I began to feel like myself again.
As of today, the last panic attack I had was a long time ago, and if ever I feel one coming on, I know how to stop it and to keep calm and prevent myself losing control.
And so, I reach this new chapter in my life. I’ve overcome these trials and terrible experiences, and you know what? If I could go back, I wouldn’t change a thing. These circumstances have made me who I am today, and have made me realise just how tough I really am. I’ve realised that if I set my mind to it, I can achieve anything I want to. I know that traveling will test me, both mentally and physically, and I believe that my journey through life has prepared me well for this experience.
I can’t wait to start my new exciting adventure. As I write this, I have approximately 108 days to go before I board that plane and set off to my first destination on my round the world trip.
I am going to purchase my one way ticket out of London tonight, and although this fills me with fear and apprehension, it also fills me with excitement and the knowledge I’m about to have the greatest adventure of my life….