After 3.5 years I returned home: Not from being on vacation, but living my life.
Early 2017 I decided to resign my corporate job, sold what I had and took the plunge by going on a world trip. I did not think much about how long will I be away and what will I get to experience and with whom – I just wanted to leave since I felt so empty in my soul. Since I was not able to get another visa in the last place where I got stuck – Canada and USA – I was forced to come home to Slovenia, small country in Europe. I am ‘home again’. Different then I left. Why did I leave and who am I now, after coming back? What do I want and what not do I want?
During my travels I climbed Kilimanjaro, I swam with dolphins in New Zealand, I had leeches stuck on me and went screaming in Vietnam, I observed elephants freely walking in the forests in Cambodia, and I cried over the views in Faeroe Islands! I lived. Among local people, where I truly believe that is the best experience to feel what it means to live there – to eat with them, laugh and cry with them. I cannot answer how many countries I set my foot into nor how many miles I travelled – that was not point, the count was not my goal. I always aimed for quality over quantity. I haven’t taken photos of every place I visited and didn’t bother if I did not. I travelled for myself, with an old phone, extra gadgets would just mean extra valuables to take care of as a solo female traveler.
There is a question which I get asked a lot – why did I leave? I just felt I would like more from my life. Where I come from, the standards require you to follow some kind of a pattern, school, job, partner, house, kids, dog and 2 vacations per year. I felt I am not good enough to leave when I was younger, not good enough to go solo. I felt extremely trapped and small.
My perspective of a person is like a table with four legs. One leg is presented by yourself, second is professional life, third friends and family, and fourth your partner. The table might be stable without 1 leg, but when 3 cannot hold it anymore, something needs to be done. My visa was approved finally and left for New Zealand. ‘I started with Europe and then headed down under.’ I don’t think you need to go far to meet new people or experience new adventures. It depends what are you after. I was thirsty to see the world, I wanted to see it with my own eyes and hear with my own ears.
There was a strong desire to listen how Armenians think, what an Australian child feels when starting elementary school, how Indian kids are being raised and how Americans see their political reality. I was seeking the pure and native experience in spite of the fact that it would mean I won’t get see all the typical sightseeing places. I didn’t really go to look for that special thing. I just peeled myself of the standards and let out who I really am. I let myself be me and not let anyone to talk me down or disrespect me anymore. I trust myself way more and show the confidence. When I left, I was 30, I wasn’t a teenager looking for parties only, all the ‘luggage’ I experienced just tagged along. I was interested in understanding the world.
I saw people having similar problems worldwide, but the way they handle them is very different. I really learned to appreciate small things. When you see a hole in the floor which is your new toilet, it puts your mind in a new perspective. I still remember one friend of mine who explained how happy is she to have 5 deo-sticks at home. The statement just didn’t resonate with me anymore, there was no sense or logic for me.
I am not the old Spela anymore, I lost a few people after I came home, but I am lucky to be surrounded with others who understand. Remaining silent and calmy take all the injustices is not a solution for today community division, unfortunately this is now a days our reality. We are all different, some are satisfied only with happiness in expensive material goods, however, I see myself more on the minimalistic types with need to satisfying only the basics and looking for optimizations in life.
I travelled effectively as much as I could – here and there I paid for an expensive room, the sheets were great and the view was fantastic, but I lack spontaneous meeting of people and going to grab a bite with strangers.
Putting myself so many times outside the comfort zone, I have experienced loads of wonderful moments. But there were also moments where I felt very scared and these scary moments were not just in countries reputated for treating women poorly. I followed all the rules – not being outside when after dark, wearing appropriate clothes, etc. However, despite all precautions there is no guarantee. In these situations, I just had to trust my own judgement and my sense of the surroundings.
In a town I almost got mugged 3x times in a day or during a drive somebody threw a big rock on the windshield and luckily didn’t hit the driver. I don’t want to think what would happen if we had to stop. There are experiences, I feel grateful to have only a few of the not so good ones and plenty of wonderful ones. Not all people are the same, and as they say in India, every hand has 5 fingers. I mostly handled these moments alone, since there was no other choice.
Every time I had thoughts of quitting, but I encouraged myself to keep on going and trusting in the goodness of the world. Of course, if you are alone, it is hard, it is scary. But it is a moment to grow from; otherwise, nobody would do anything risky in their lives.
This was not vacation for me, as some people think. It was not always amazing. When I was ill, feeling sad, got lost or the ATM just took my money off my account but no notes came out – it was mostly me, and myself to solve the problems.
You learn to be resourceful and rely on yourself only. But trust others as well since I truly believe there is good in every country. I didn’t keep myself away from people, that was in fact the reason I started traveling was to meet them.
I did not really experience a culture shock anywhere since I saw good everywhere and some of those things where you need to adjust. I intentionally don’t use the adverb opposite of good. I let myself to be spontaneous. Still I am a person who is very effective and who plans ahead. At the very beginning of the journey, I had my trip thoroughly planned, but the plans did not work out as 2 days into it I got very sick and I ended up at ER for a night in Auckland, NZ.
Not every dream comes true, but it is a part of my story today. People anticipate that problems will disappear, but they don’t :). They follow you. But this is the point, not to disappear but to handle them. I really recommend trying solo traveling, even starting with a weekend alone in a nearby city will make a great change in you. Nowadays I like to spend my much of my time alone and I don’t feel bored. Be very flexible, think about what you want, eat and drink whenever suits you.
I observe a lot and see that these days, in the era of constant bombarding with all sorts of screens, headphones, sounds – many people shared with me that they are afraid of being alone by themselves and feel bored. See how far this has led us.
It has been almost a year since I am back in my home country, but I still don’t feel like I have adjusted. I still find myself wondering how strange it feels when people around me are speaking in Slovene since that was so rare for me earlier. I really came back to a very non favorable political and social climate where I felt quite awkward and pressured by the government and brain washed by the society.
I am certain I will travel again, but not for some time now. I accept there are different stages in our lives, at this moment I feel calm.
People are surprised when I openly say how we should surround ourselves with people who support us and take us as we are or support as we would like to become. Leave the rest out. Even if it means just for a little amount of time. It does not matter if you know someone for many years or it is a relative, you do not need to be connected if there are no common points and just intense encounters.
I am mentioning time, some people say at 35 years of age I am not old, but it still shocks me when kids address me with madam or miss. Sometimes we just don’t admit to ourselves that we tend to forget very easily that all the money we invest or give, we can kind of get back, but time… time is the true valuable which once is given, you will NEVER get back. Don’t waste it since nobody is living the clock backwards.
3 tips from Spela for traveling the world –
1. Stay local, buy local, meet locals. Listen more then you talk.
2. Take a break from technology. Seek for your alone time in nature.
3. Have a travel insurance. A must.
About Špela Sedej:
European bred and raised, proud Slovenian female. Master in Strategic Communications, with a major in Strategy and Relations. She is passionate about the world, cultures, mountains, and lakes.
3.5 years traveling. Solo travel around the world survivor – Continental Europe, Iceland, Faroe Islands, New Zealand, Australia, Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, Armenia, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Canada, USA (WA, OR). Affordable travelling, self-financed, digital nomad, and on-site short-term jobs.
Very open-minded. She doesn’t like dark chocolate. Her career path started at a marketing agency and later moved on to FMCG trade marketing, followed by B2B focused sales and marketing in the automotive and HVAC segment.
At the moment she holds the position of a Product Manager in a high-tech P2P app/platform IT energy marketplace Sun contract. She is deeply involved in combining sustainability with people’s right to choose what is best for them.
She is a strong international cross-functional team manager delivering exceptional results. She has seen in person how different tactics work in different parts of the world. Best creativity and fresh ideas only come with letting the soul and heart go wild are one of her directions in life.
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