LIFE

It doesn’t always start pretty

MEL NOAKES

The Self Care Coach

Do you remember the first tentative steps you took to learn or experience something new?  The knot in your stomach? The lurch from excitement to fear and back again, over and over again?  The voice in your head that worried about if you’d make it if you’d ever in a million years figure this out?

I’m a self-confessed travel-a-holic and have travelled to over 50 countries and counting and I’ve been fortunate to take two separate gap years abroad which changed my life.

I can tell you tales of salsa and sunsets in Colombia, monsoons and chai in India,  beaches and shooting stars in Australia and I can give you insider knowledge on Barcelona, New York, Istanbul, Buenos Aires and the list goes on.

But it didn’t start like that.

It’s not the destination, but the journey

Photograph taken in Playa Blanca, Colombia

I fondly remember my very first backpacking experience.  It was an inter-railing trip around Europe.  I’d devoured the Lonely Planet guide to inter-railing, dreamed of Rome, Amsterdam and beyond. I talked non-stop about the trip for months.

I finally started packing my bag a week before the trip, expertly folding, rolling and scrunching all manner of items.  I said a BIG farewell to friends, my boyfriend, and family and finally the day arrived!  I set off to Waterloo with my teary mum and three friends who waved and cried me off as I went through the gate.

Hurrah adventure!

On the train, I sat next to a lovely gent who was curious about my trip and we started to talk.  He asked me what trains I planned to take, what my route was, where I was staying and a host of other questions which I in later years would ask and answer countless times around the world.

In the two hours it took to get to Garre du Nord I realised I was woefully under prepared and frankly terrified.

Once we had arrived I frantically looked at the train boards in the station and couldn’t stop the tears from welling up.  I had no idea what I was doing.  I didn’t have enough money to stay in Paris and I panicked.

I looked around and found the staircase back to the ticket office and climbed the stairs.  A lovely woman saw my distress and asked if I was OK and gave me her phone so I could call my mum.

About three hours later, just six hours since I left, I was back in Waterloo London.

Your goals are roadmaps

Photograph by Natalie Fox via Unsplash

Some four months later I boarded a plane to Sydney for a year-long trip around Asia, India and Australasia.  I did my research. I saved and made sure I had the money and I knew what to expect. I boarded the plane to Sydney and I knew I would be OK. In that year I learnt a huge amount about myself and the world.

Seven years later I boarded another plane to Ecuador, but this time with a one-way ticket.  I was a pro.

Me in Tikal Guatemala and on the Lapa Steps in Rio de Janerio

1.  Set a goal

If you don’t know what you want in the first place, you don’t know what direction to take.  What is specifically you want to achieve?  For me, travelling was about experiencing the world and understanding it better. I also knew I was motivated by independence, adventure and a lust for new experiences.  By knowing what you want, and knowing what it is that really motivates you by having that particular thing, you’ll stay on track, no matter how many twists and turns there are in the path.

2.  Break it down into smaller steps

We often carry our BIG dreams around and they feel so big and so hard to reach that we are overwhelmed and don’t start.  Richard Branson didn’t become Richard Branson overnight.  Oprah didn’t become Oprah in one fail swoop.  I’m happy to tell you that there is no such thing as overnight success.

By breaking a bigger goal into smaller steps it makes the journey manageable and feasible. For me going on that first trip and learning that I needed to plan better, emotionally and practically, means that the next time I knew to research the places I wanted to visit, read travel blogs, save (double) the money I needed and I was better for it.  I broke it all down into little pieces.

3.  Give yourself permission to fail

Imperfect action is far better than perfect inaction.  Not everything will be pretty in the beginning.  You might not know what you need to know (see above!).  You might make the wrong decision.  You might not have all the answers.  The beauty of “failing” is that it isn’t failing at all.  It’s feedback and lessons and opportunities to grow.  These experiences are the very things that pave the way for successes and give you the confidence and strength to make anything happen.  My friends continue to tease me about that first trip, but I’m still the one with the Airmiles to my name.

So what are you going to start today?

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