As One Chapter Closes, Another Begins


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.

Lauren at a luau
Hangin’ out with my Hawaiian girl!

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….

Previous 4 Months Until I Leave to Travel: What Am I Supposed to Do?
Next I Just Booked a One-Way Ticket Out of England

15 Comments

  1. Drew
    March 29, 2011
    Reply

    Very inspirational Lauren! I know you’ll be able to conquer anything that gets in your way on your journey. Look forward to seeing you at the end! :D

    • Lauren
      March 29, 2011
      Reply

      That will OF COURSE be the highlight of my whole trip!!

  2. Sheryll
    March 30, 2011
    Reply

    What an inspirational story. I know first hand how much anxiety has an effect on your life. I did the opposite of you, I ate everything in sight. Eating helped me deal with the anxiety, and helped me deal with the feelings I didn’t want to have. As a result, I gained almost 40 lbs.

    I’m so happy that you managed to pull through this tough time in your life all by yourself. It’s these trials that, in the end, make life all the worthwhile. Now that you’ve gone through this, you know exactly how to deal with stress, anxiety, trauma, etc. It’s sort of like school I suppose.

    Good luck on all your adventures doll! I can’t wait to read about them all :)

    • Lauren
      March 30, 2011
      Reply

      Thanks Sheryll!
      Yeah, anxiety is awful, but it definitely makes you a stronger person after having had to deal with it!

  3. Kieron
    March 30, 2011
    Reply

    Congratulations on overcoming anxiety – I suffered from depression and you really just can’t explain why you feel the way you do. But beating the illness definitely makes you a stronger person… I know I’m far from the person I was 2-3 years ago!

    It’s only natural to fear the unknown and I think that’s the beauty of long-term travel. You can NEVER be fully prepared for what’s going to be thrown at you! Good luck with everything, it’s gonna be one hell of an adventure! :)

    • Lauren
      March 30, 2011
      Reply

      And nothing is worse than people who don’t understand telling you to just pull yourself together!!

      It’s so exciting to know that anything could happen! :D

  4. Rafael Rodrigues
    March 30, 2011
    Reply

    Great post there are alot deep secrets that you reveal inthia post with your eating disorder and anxiety issues. I hope that this round the world trip is a memorable expierience. Conquer your fears!

    • Rafael Rodrigues
      March 30, 2011
      Reply

      I was typing the previous comment on my ipod unfortunately so there’s a ton of typos. I meant to say….

      Great post there are allot deep secrets that you reveal in this post with your eating disorder and anxiety issues. I hope that this round the world trip is a memorable experience. Conquer your fears!
      ………………….

      What locations are you planning to head to? London is your start and how many stops are you planning on making along the year?

  5. Anthony
    April 4, 2011
    Reply

    If there’s one thing I like on blogs-it’s 100% raw honesty. Even if it’s not particularly nice (or quite traumatic in your case) I salute you for putting it out there and sharing your story.

    I also love your perspective on not changing a thing, nicely done.

    • Lauren
      April 5, 2011
      Reply

      Thanks! I definitely agree with you and I don’t want my blog to gloss over all the hard and trying times and make it seem like the perfect trip.

      Every experience I’ve had has brought me to this point in my life, and I couldn’t be happier! :D

  6. Ian [EagerExistence]
    April 10, 2011
    Reply

    So nice of you to be so open and honest to the whole-wide-world.

    I suffered social anxiety for years. Too “shy” to talk to strangers — even behind the counter in a shop.

    Now that I’m older, its almost completely gone, but it still sneaks back when I’m meeting large groups of strangers (parties, work meetings, etc.)… and occiassionally when I’m trying to pickup a girl. The booze helps there.

    Throwing youself out into the big world for a solo adventure is one helluva way to get over it too :-)

    • Lauren
      April 10, 2011
      Reply

      I used to be a bit like that too, and I’m still intimidated by large groups of people. But as you say, once I get out there on the road I’m sure that’ll all go away! :)

  7. costume homme
    October 13, 2011
    Reply

    I shared this text very well written on delicious , thanks you

  8. SM
    September 9, 2016
    Reply

    I know its an old article.. but came across this when i actually needed a boost in my life. Going thru the same things that u discussed above.. but now ur chapter has given me hopes… Thanks a lot for putting down ur story :)

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