Words By Frou Williams.
Growing up I never really travelled much, if at all. When you grow up in a family with four children and on a one parent income, holiday's were never really something in our vocabulary. Building forts in the garden, racing on toy tractors and playing cricket with my brothers whilst smashing all the plant pots on the other hand (and often the windows...eek sorry mum)!
When I was old enough to go on my first holiday with friends, we did the typical booze laden, come as you are, 18-30's, girls on tour...complete with printed t-shirts and hot pants. Oh the horror. Those were the days where you could get a 2 week holiday for £199 and we lived off ouzo and pot noodles. #balance ;)
Despite the fact we managed to get our drinks spiked, half the group ended up in hospital and all somehow fell in 'love' and just as quickly had our hearts broken by some holiday rep or another, my take away from this experience was that there was an entire universe of goings on around me that didn't just involve my little world of everything I had ever known. My mind was simply blown.
The world to me, in my early days of travel was a vastly big and scary place. Being away I felt out of my comfort zone, somehow unready for that world and yet strangely excited and liberated all at the same time. That feeling of unease, unsettlement, yearning for something more but also not quite feeling ready has stayed with me for a large part of my adult life, yes, even as I ventured out of the booze Britain holidays and on to what you might consider a more civilised and cultural affair! Well...not always civilised or indeed cultural but yah balance and life and learnings, right?! :p
In my late teens I decided that I would spend my life traveling as often and for as long as I possibly could. Experience, adventure, new beginnings, new sights and new learnings. I've been lucky enough to see a lot of the world and trust me, there are still more than a lifetime of places on my bucket list. Travel has shaped my entire life and the world around me in so many ways. Even as I've been back in the UK for the last two months I am constantly looking and thinking of ways to experience and have an adventure in my own country and in my own backyard. Ah, the to-do list of a never ending student of the world.
An ex once said to me, "Frou you can't do everything you want to do in life, you have to pick a few things and be happy with that" and my response was, "Even if I'm 90 and I'm still ticking off that list then I'll do it. Gin in hand!" To me, travel isn't a case of packing a backpack and off I go, it's a mindset. A mindset of exploration, to uncover, to seek out and delve deeper into the world around you. And to do that you too must explore, uncover, seek out and delve deeper into yourself. To challenge and stretch your beliefs as you encounter people, places and things that throw you off track for one reason or another. It's hard, it's painful and often a long and lonely journey but one that I would never swap for anything else in this world.
“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.”
Take relationships for example, those are often our biggest lesson learners in life. In every heartache we learn, we grow and hopefully we take the lesson with us as we continue throughout our lives. Sometimes, it takes us 5 (okay maybe 10 times, *ahem*) to learn the lesson, along with many tears and confused phone calls to friends around the world but the point is, this is your journey and it will take you however long it takes you. In other words, we shouldn’t view setbacks or as I prefer to call them, direction changers, be it emotional, physical, spiritual or geographical as a break between being there and being here. There's no A to B, in life rarely is it black and white. To me it's more about, bringing the “there” to the “here.”
When change happens, be it positive change such as travel or perhaps seemingly negative change such as heartbreak (trust me, you'll be SO glad that door slammed shut in your face, maybe not today or tomorrow but down the line) it provides a wonderful space for us to reflect and reevaluate on where we are at currently, where we want to go and where we've come from.
Relationships and travel are not too dissimilar - both can make you feel vulnerable, raw and exposed yet in the blink of an eye make you feel euphoric, alive and unstoppable. They both form the emotional evolution that accompanies our physical journeys. Both are simply movement - movement alone or with others, not only across time and space but also encompassing different moods and feelings.
Physically traveling or staying in one place, both give us the option of learning new ways of being present. Present in the moment, present with loved ones and present with self. Not an easy task. All of our experiences be them good or bad are never really good or bad just an opportunity to learn. And although we don’t often recognise it at the time, those experiences continue to exert an influence on our daily lives as we head into the next lesson where we undoubtedly face more challenges, feelings of euphoria and feelings of down right 'sh*t what the hell am I doing' - luckily it's what makes being human so beautiful. Painful and exhausting yes, but beautiful.
Travels is never just about the departure. It marks the beginning. A willingness and openness to find out more about a place and its people and ultimately to discover more about yourself as you go.
There's that saying that goes:
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colours. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” - Terry Pratchett
I know that my life's a journey of discovery, renewal, experimentation and sometimes downright trial and error. Those who know me have come to know that simply as 'me'. No matter where we are in the world we are continually engaging memories, reigniting passion and reliving experiences which ultimately then creates new experiences. That is why the travelling never really ends even if you do chose to stand still for a while or indefinitely. Travel is a journey of the heart not the destination.
To where ever you may be.