• Sharon Kelly

1 Year, 12 Months, 52 Weeks, 365 Days, 8760 Hours

That’s how long I have been travelling, give or take a few hours 😊

It’s been quite a ride!

25 countries (23 new ones) - putting me 1 country away from crossing the 40 threshold

31,000 kilometres (19,000 miles) travelled

I wondered what I would have to say for a ‘One Year Anniversary’ post. Would I talk about the amazing places I have been (and I have been to some amazing places). Would I talk about the cool experiences I have had (and I have had some cool experiences). Or would I talk about how much this journey has changed me, how much I have grown, what I have realized, what have been the ‘ah ha’ moments, as Oprah would say 😉

I’m not going to talk about the amazing places I have been or the cool experiences I have had. While I don’t use this blog as a travel guide and write about each place with itineraries and tips for other travellers, I did a blog post only a few months ago when I was wrapping up my time in Europe that talked about my favourite places and moments and some highlights, and I add a favourite picture of each country to the photo galaxy, and post very frequently on Instagram when travelling, so I think I have covered the places and experiences.

I'll start with what I have realized, my ‘ah ha’ moments. Or maybe they are just my random thoughts 😊:

  • As much as I miss the comforts of home, I can very easily manage on what I can carry in a backpack. I can manage with what’s in my backpack but I don’t always enjoy it. Sometimes it is liberating and freeing, not being concerned that I am wearing the same clothes over and over again, but sometimes it is depressing

  • I miss shopping. Yeah, I’ll be honest about that. Probably should unfollow the clothes and home decor stores I follow 😊

  • After living a more minimalist life for two years, I wonder how much I will keep that up when I go home or whether I will revert back to my old ways. I downsized my home so I can’t accumulate as much as I did, but it will be interesting to see whether this journey makes a permanent impact on the way I live my life. And if it doesn’t, if I revert back to my old ways, then that's okay. As I’ve written about before, I didn’t embark on this journey to become a new person

  • I know I’ve also written about this before too but it keeps coming up for me... sometimes I feel like I have to justify my choices. I can’t go to every ‘can’t miss’ or ‘worth seeing’ place. At the end of the two years, will I regret any of my choices and lament ‘oh, I never went here’? Who knows. Guess I will find that out, but I can’t let anyone make me feel bad about missing a place or an experience. This is my journey and I have to make my own decisions

  • Some friends I actually keep in touch with more than I did when I was living close by. Sadly, some friends I have not heard from unless I make the first contact. I’m not surprised by that... I knew it would happen and had an inkling as to which friends it may happen with. Some have been surprising though. But on the flip side, I am thrilled and humbled by the friends who are so supportive of me and my journey, going so far as to sharing my posts on their Facebook feed or talking about it with their friends (who I don’t know). I have one friend who incorporates some of my experiences into the classes she teaches. And my parents ‘coffee gang’, who I met only once, always inquire where I am, and am I safe. Support and interest like that help keep me going. And make me want to go back home to reconnect

  • Yes, I do want to reconnect with the people in my life. At the start of this journey I didn’t know whether I would be home in 2 years or whether I would want to travel longer or maybe move abroad. But despite making some friends along the way, I am feeling the pull home, mainly to reconnect with the people who are important to me. I might feel differently if I settled somewhere, but any friends I make while in a city become online friends once I move on so I don’t have that truly personal connection for long. Regardless of how good the online connection is, nothing beats actually spending time with people and having a real face to face conversation. And I miss it. So while I may head off on more adventures at some point, I am pretty sure that I will go home at the end of the 2 years

  • Interacting with other people/cultures is part of the joy of travelling but sometimes it can leave a bad taste in your mouth, for lack of a better way of expressing it. For example, while in Kenya last month I was standing on the beach taking some pictures and some guys started to approach me. I was polite but said ‘I’m just here to look at the ocean”. One of them started saying stuff like ‘you don’t need to be afraid‘ and ‘we’re all just the same’, obviously referencing our different skin colour. It bothers me if his experience has been such that people don’t respond because they are afraid of him. But it also bothers me if he was trying to manipulate me like that to buy whatever he was selling. Somehow I suspect it was the latter as he was not the only one who tried that ploy while I was in Kenya. And on the topic of interacting with locals, some of my more recent countries boast about how friendly everyone is and how they only want to help tourists and that’s true, right up to the point when they start to ask you for a tip or to buy them something. I’ve experienced this enough now that I steel myself for it whenever a 'friendly' local starts to talk to me or walk alongside me

  • Long term travel is a lot of work. My Mum spent two weeks with me in Kenya and after seeing me spend hours on my laptop making travel arrangements for my upcoming Morocco leg, she commented several times on how much work it is - and it is. Trying to decide where to go, thinking about how I will travel from one place to another and what will be the cost. Looking for accommodations - considering the price, location (proximity to the areas of the city I want to explore and also the bus/train station or airport and how far I may have to walk with my backpack or what my transport options would be), reading the fine print of the listing and even double checking some details not in the fine print. And possibly most important, carefully checking visa requirements - a recent e-visa application required me to upload a passport like photo. Luckily I could pull something together since spare passport pictures was not something I thought to carry.

  • I still think I am carrying around too much but after a year of packing and unpacking my backpack, I can’t really see how to significantly lighten my load. And my load is preventing me from doing more spontaneous or off the beaten path travel. I can’t just show up somewhere and wander around looking for a place to stay. It’s such a hassle lugging my stuff around on buses or trains that I find myself often limiting my time in a country to one place ‘cause moving around is just much harder. It also makes short stays tougher ‘cause it’s a pain to keep unpacking and packing the bag, no matter how much I try to only have the necessities at the top. Not saying that any of that is necessarily a bad thing - as I’m trying not to judge myself on this trip - it is just the way it is going

  • As much as I think that I can handle pretty much anything now, recently a little thing freaked me out and made me question my abilities. While I was in Uganda, a bat flew into my room. Seeing that thing fly around my room during the night was very unsettling and creepy and was one of the first times I wondered whether I could really handle the challenges that I’m sure are ahead

  • You have to be in the right frame of mind to do a journey like this. Extroverts can find the loneliness and isolation hard, while introverts can find it hard to put themselves out there and meet people. You have to be prepared, as much as possible, for how this will affect you. However, I don‘t think you can ever properly prepare for what it’s really going to be like. I read several books, articles and blogs written by long term travellers but this kind of journey is just to something you have to experience for yourself. Everyone’s journey is different so as prepared as you think you are, you’re not

  • I’m waiting for that place or experience that takes my breath away or is so beautiful it moves me to tears (as several Instagrammers talk about). I have loved many places but none have made me cry (other than places like Juno Beach or the Rwanda Genocide Memorial but those kind of tears aren’t usually what the Instagrammers mean). And speaking of places and experiences, there will be ones that you love but there will also be ones that fall short of your expectations. You’ll have to deal with those and try not to let them taint your overall trip. Just move on - figuratively and literally

  • Sometimes I wish I could be like one of those old time adventurers/explorers and go off the beaten path with no modern conveniences like data plans and google maps, sleeping outside under the stars, without a care in the world, but that’s just not me. I think it’s really important to know your comfort zone and to push yourself out of it a bit, but not to the extreme that you will be uncomfortable, unhappy, unsafe etc. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone when I embarked on this trip and throughout this first year I have made decisions - largely around where to go and what type of accommodations to look for - that still feel within my new zone

  • Along those lines, I continue to be grateful I have the financial resources to make some decisions that make me more comfortable or safe, even though it will cost me more. After a 2 1/2 hour bus ride in Rwanda where I had to climb over people and bags to even take a seat and then sat there, crammed in with the person in the fold up seat in front of me being jammed into my knees with almost every turn, no one opening the windows so it was hot and stuffy, and the kid beside me throwing up into a bag, I know that a lot of travel like that will get me down. Yes, I may miss experiences, those ‘real life‘ travel experiences, but if I am not enjoying it, and can afford to make other choices, is it worth it? No, not for me

  • But those other choices may mean that I go over budget. Luckily I had a cushion, if not I would have to head home earlier. I think that’s another area where other people’s experiences may not align with yours - it may end up costing you more than you think so give yourself a cushion

  • I have always had an appreciation for how fortunate I have been in life but travelling has heightened that. In Uganda I saw little kids - 5 or 6 years old - walking barefoot along the roads, carrying water back from the well in containers almost as big as they were. I saw whole families, including little children, toiling away in the heat and sun, breaking down rocks to sell to construction sites. I’d like to think I was aware enough to know that a lot of the world is not as fortunate as most people are in Canada, but it has been heartbreaking to witness it at times

and finally...

  • After being in running shoes or hiking boots for most of 2 years, will I be able to walk in heels again?!

As it turns out I have quite a lot to say for a One Year Anniversary post 🙂 I know that most of my thoughts seem negative, but this has been an overwhelming positive year and I am excited for the second year 😃

So, how have I changed? Have I changed?

Honestly, I don’t think I have, other than living a more minimalistic, low maintenance life, and that was a given. So as I spent two weeks with my Mum in July, I asked her. And her reply: I was always independent, but I’m a bit more independent; I was always confident, but I’m a bit more confident; I would usually be able to go with the flow, but I am able to do that even more; I was always capable and could handle things, but I seem even more capable and able to handle anything (excluding a bat!).

So, as expected, no radical changes. Fundamentally I am still the same person who left Canada 1 Year, 12 Months, 52 Weeks, 365 Days, 8760 Hours ago... give or take a few hours

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