I took a step (read: giant leap) out of my comfort zone and embarked on an eight-day journey, exploring Northern Thailand, with complete strangers, in a foreign country, solo.
Now, I’ve travelled solo before and I love it. But honestly, travelling with the same ‘strangers’ for eight days terrified me. “Will they like me?” More importantly: “will I like them?!”. So many little worries were bouncing around my over-thinking mind.
Stepping out of Bangkok airport, I was struck in the face with the overpowering humidity and I knew I was in for a ‘not so average holiday’. Then, I met my group… and all my misconceptions flew out of my brain as fast as the fearless tuk tuk drivers sped down the narrow Thai streets.
Across the week, my amazing trip taught me some really helpful lessons on living in the moment, putting others’ needs before my own and transforming nerves into excitement. Here are seven ways my trip helped me supercharge my resilience…
1. Not knowing the language isn’t as scary as you think
Learning a language that’s different to native one is… tough. Fact. But whether you know a few words or know enough to get by, there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing someone’s eyes light up when you attempt to speak in their language. Whether they’re laughing at you or with you, there’s an understanding that you’re trying. Just navigating a taxi from the airport to my hotel taught me this sweet, simple lesson, and with all the translation apps out there nowadays it’s easier than you think. Just practice a few words and phrases during your flight or travel time.
2. Pre-travel nerves are a good thing
Before meeting my Contiki group that I’d be hanging out with for the coming week, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I felt nervous. But the beauty of this is that when you start to feel a little uncomfortable about new experiences and you know it’s not what you’re used to, your mind opens up to new possibilities. This is what makes travel so incredible. New experiences, new people and new destinations will help to freshen your perspective on life away and at home.
3. A different time zone helps you live in the moment
Thailand is four hours behind Australia and so the different time zones meant disconnecting from life at home was inevitable for me. It forces you to focus on the now and living in the moment. I took the opportunity to disconnect from the stresses of home and instead connect with my new Contiki family. 20 strangers from around the world, one trip manager, a local guide (also our amazing translator) and too many cackles of laughter to count – this was an unforgettable combination and I’m so glad that I threw myself into the experience.
Travel encourages curiosity. It somehow helps you disconnect from home but at the same time connect more to the present.
4. ‘Scary’ strangers quickly become your family
So, here’s what was weird (but awesome) – I felt a close connection with my group from day one. It’s funny that we were basically a group of strangers clinging to each other among a crowd of even more strangers. This unspoken truce to stay close and looking out for each other basically fast-tracked us getting to know each other. We spent pretty much every waking moment with each other – whether it was getting massages, chilling by the pool, having bus sing-a-longs, jumping in waterfalls or taste-testing all the street food. For me, it felt like we were all destined to meet and become a ‘oddly’ close Contiki family.
5. Group travel teaches you the art of compromise
When it comes to group decisions majority wins, right? On a trip like this, you learn very quickly how to respect other people’s opinions/wants/needs. It also taught me some valuable lessons on how to communicate with people who speak the same language as you, but have completely different society values. Probably one of the biggest lessons I learnt was how to take people’s feelings and opinions on board and re-evaluate rather than react.
Similarly, things may not always go to plan or go the way you wanted them to. I learnt that being resilient means adjusting to things that may not necessarily go your way without turning it into a crisis.
6. You can get by (and even enjoy yourself more!) with just the necessities
Thailand taught me that there really is no need for fancy things. From street food vendors cooking up the most tasty, spicy meals with just a wok and fresh ingredients; to local artisans weaving and beading right in front of your eyes – we’re so used to thinking that we need the biggest, latest and greatest things to maintain a particular status.
7. The effects last long after you arrive home
No matter how short or long your travels may be, self-discovery is a peregrination. Traveling is non-stop – you’re always learning, re-living and imagining all you’ve done. When I arrived back home, I found that I was eager to plan my next travel destination, it just made me want to learn, grow and become the best version of myself I could be.
In fact, it made me realise a lot of things. Strangers quickly become your family. Goodbyes are indefinite ‘see you laters’. Songs spark a memory, smells ignite your senses and you’ll witness sights so beautiful that you won’t be able to forget them. This intoxicating mix of experiences and memories is what self-development is all about – and I know that taking that giant leap out of my comfort zone was totally worth it.