21 AND …

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This month I turn 21. Only a few short weeks after that, I’ll have completed my Bachelor Degree. There’s something extremely daunting about the prospect of officially entering adulthood, and a level of responsibility that I don’t feel entirely ready for.

What is it about turning 21? Suddenly, people begin to ask you what you’re going to be, and they become extremely worried when you tell them that your Arts Degree qualifies you to do absolutely nothing. People expect you to have your life completely figured out. You’re expected to make plans about your career, think about settling down, buy a house, and be married with three kids all before you’re 30. And some people can do this – some people know exactly what they want, and they have a 5-year, 12-step plan on how to get there. But the truth is, I feel incredibly lost. And I’m completely okay with it.

I don’t have my life figured out. I have no idea what I want to do. I have absolutely no desire to settle down. Marriage and children aren’t even on my radar. I don’t see myself working a nine-to-five office job, living in a neat little middle-class suburb with a white picket fence and a husband and 2.5 kids and our pet dog Barkley. So where do I see myself?

The honest truth is, I don’t. I have a very clear idea about what I don’t want out of my life, but I’m far hazier on what I do want. I think this is partly because I want to achieve so much – I just don’t know what yet. I never saw myself as living in one place and doing the same thing for the rest of my life. I have an unquenchable lust for adventure. And I think that no matter what I make of my life, it’s sure going to be one hell of an adventure.

It’s okay not to have a plan. It’s okay to enjoy the journey without being completely sure of the destination. Because life is a journey, and if you’re too focused on the destination then you’ll miss out on actually living. I love experiencing the highs and the lows, making it up as I go. I don’t believe that becoming an adult means you have to give up the adventure and uncertainty of youth.

Conforming to society’s expectations is not the only option. Some people are genuinely worried when I tell them that I have no plans. But having a plan scares the hell out of me. If life is all about the journey, then I never want the journey to end. Because the truth is, I have no idea what to do at the destination.

I really struggled to come up with a title to this post. I floated a few ideas – 21 and Free, 21 and Travelling, 21 and Living… But I couldn’t find one that truly encapsulated what I wanted to convey. And, after writing it, I’ve realised why. I don’t want my life to be defined by one word. So I’m leaving it unwritten…

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100 DAYS

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The countdown is on!

It’s officially 100 days until I embark on my next adventure. The thought is both exciting and depressing at the same time: exciting because I leave in 100 days, yet depressing because I still have 100 days to wait.

This got me thinking. Why is it that the prospect of travel is so magical, yet for some reason everyday life is not? Why do we count down the days until a trip, believing that the adventure only starts when we get on the plane? Why do we anticipate the future instead of living in the present?

Adventure, excitement and creativity are everywhere. These are not things that are reserved for travel. They can be found everyday in something as simple as a sunrise, a smile, a song, or a hike.

The idea of wanderlust has always captivated me, but it has only been recently that I’ve realised that it can be created. To wander is to be free, and as Tolkien so wisely put it, not all those who wander are lost. And lust does not have to come with the negative connotations that are so often attached. To have a lust for happiness, adventure and life is a wonderful thing. To create wanderlust is to embrace a lust for freedom, for adventure. Wanderlust is everywhere.

So rather than dwell in my depression for the next 100 days, I’ve decided to create wanderlust here at home. And I’m doing this through the #100HappyDays campaign. I’ll be searching for and documenting happiness everyday for the next 100 days. You can follow my journey on Instagram, and maybe even be inspired to sign up and start your own.

Life is what happens when we are busy making other plans. Don’t let life pass you by. Live in the moment, creating wanderlust every single day.

MAXIMISE YOUR TRAVEL EXPERIENCE

When travelling, it is sometimes way too easy to become caught up in the excitement and chaos of exploring new cities and cultures. When this happens, you run the risk of becoming overwhelmed and exhausted, and your trip turns out to be one of rushing from one monument to the next, meeting deadlines and adhering to strict schedules. And this is NOT what travel is about! Here are my tips on how to maximise your travel experience – to get the most out of your journey, while also taking time to smell the roses.

(Although these tips are travel-based, you don’t have to be travelling to try them out. If you apply them to everyday life, I promise you will gain so much appreciation for every moment!)

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Explore the road less-travelled

While there is no particular order to what I’m about to present, this would definitely be my number one priority. I cannot stress enough how much more enriching your journey will be if you wander off the beaten track. Get away from the crowds, the tourists, the monuments, and explore the parts of a city that aren’t filled with obnoxious jean-and-runner clad tourists sporting fanny packs and neon caps. It is in the alley ways, in the local restaurants, that a city hides its charm. Don’t be afraid to explore.

Get away

Inevitably, there will be times of exhaustion and homesickness. The best cure is to escape – leave the city you’re in, and take to the countryside, the forest, the beach, the bush – somewhere where there are no people and no distractions. Climb a mountain, and take in the view. Swim in the ocean. Go hiking in a forest. Connect with Mother Nature, and you will come away feeling so rejuvenated and alive. A little break from playing tourist is not only good for you, but essential to ensure that you don’t become burned out.

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Eat like a local

Food is one of my favourite things about travelling. There are so many exciting and exotic cuisines around the world, and you are really doing yourself a disservice if you don’t try them all! Suss out where the locals eat, and you’ll avoid the nasty, overpriced tourist food that masquerades as authentic local cuisine. Try new things – you’ll be surprised! As a vegetarian, there are some things I will obviously never try. But experiment within your own beliefs and boundaries, and you won’t even care about the weight you’ll gain!

Document

The worst thing is to come home and not remember every single experience you had while away. Forgetting is inevitable, but it’s not unavoidable. The key is to document everything – photos, videos, journals. As an avid photographer, I’m never short on visual reminders about my experiences. A picture tells a thousand words, but it can’t tell you everything. It can’t always remind you how you were feeling, the story behind it, or the connections you made because of it. This is why I journal. It doesn’t have to be long and boring, just a few sentences about what happened that day, the people you met, and the conversations you had. Some days you’ll be able to write pages; others you’ll have merely a sentence or two. Length isn’t important. But you’ll thank yourself six months down the track when you’re reading through, nostalgic about the experiences you had.

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Be open to new experiences

It’s amazing how much more open to things you’ll become when you’re on the road. And this is a good thing! It’s so rewarding to force yourself out of your comfort zone. If you approach everything with an open mind, you’ll get so much more out of your travels. Eat new food, meet new people, ride a donkey, jump out of a plane, climb a mountain… Just do it. Conquer your fears, and live on the edge!

Connect with people

Meeting new people is one of the scariest but most rewarding things you can do. Make friends with locals, other travellers, Giuseppe the old pizza man… Listen to their stories, learn about their culture, and take an interest in their lives. Travel is meaningless if you don’t make these connections – it becomes a selfish, inwardly-focused act instead of a way to connect with and explore the world. Of course, you do have to use discretion – the man with the gun in the alleyway at night is probably not looking to make friends. But overwhelmingly, people are nice. People are interesting. Don’t judge people based on how they look, or what they’re doing. The people who don’t conform to the status quo often have the most exciting and unique lives and stories to tell!

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Connect with yourself

Travelling will tell you more about yourself than anything else in the world. It’s the only thing in the world that you can spend money on and actually come out richer. Learn about who you are, what makes you happy, what makes your heart break, and what makes you unique. Everyone has a story. Write yours.

WHAT IS WANDERLUST?

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Dreams. Adventure. Creativity. Exploration. Freedom.

These are some of the things that come to mind when I try to encapsulate what it means to have ‘wanderlust’. At its most basic level, wanderlust is a desire to travel. To see the world. To explore different countries, continents and cultures. However, to me it has developed a much broader and deeper meaning.

I caught the travel bug very early in life. I was extremely fortunate to have a  mother whose job allowed her to travel to exciting and exotic locations, and a father whose family lived on the other side of the world. Growing up, barely a year went by without a trip to somewhere in Europe, America, Asia, or (at the very least!) New Zealand. As I got older, opportunities to represent my country in elite sport continued this trend. Travelling was always a necessity for me. In fact, I can’t imagine where life would have taken me without it!

It has only been recently that I’ve developed what I would call ‘wanderlust’. In the last two years I’ve taken two major overseas trips, for the first time without my family. I can honestly say that I have learned more about myself during this time than I had in the first 18 years of my life. I discovered wanderlust, in the full sense of the word.

Wanderlust is not just about travel. Wanderlust is about dreams. It’s about adventure, creativity and exploration. Most of all, wanderlust is about freedom. Freedom of the body, mind and soul. It’s so very true that we have to lose ourselves to truly find ourselves. And this is what wanderlust is. It’s not just a physical journey, but an inward journey of self-discovery.

Creating Wanderlust is about documenting this journey: through photography, through words, and through stories. You don’t need to be travelling to capture wanderlust. You just have to be willing to create it.

This is my journey.