It’s just a few days to Christmas; the presents are wrapped, the preparations are almost done. It’s time to take a breath, calm the already fraying nerves and reflect on the year gone by. So I thought I’d take a moment to write a Christmas message to you.
Considering where I was this time last year, it’s hard to believe everything that’s happened in the intervening months. Starry-Eyed Travels didn’t exist – it was not even a twinkle. But last Christmas, I was, in a roundabout way, given the gift of a year. One year, to do absolutely anything I wanted with my life.
More than anything, I wanted to be a writer and I wanted to travel. The logical step seemed to be travel-writing, so in January, I ventured a couple of articles to Kash at Europe Budget Guide and Margo at the Travel Belles. I fired off those emails in a tentative, nervous tone and waited for a response. I was hoping that my pieces might be published; what I got was far more than that. Both Kash and Margo turned out to be incredible mentors and dear friends – two entirely different people, but with equal measures of boundless energy, unsurpassed knowledge and a desire to help others succeed. I don’t know if it was luck or fate that practically the first pieces of travel-writing I ever did landed in their inboxes, but I can’t express how glad I am that they did.
So I refined my craft, developed my knowledge around my new field of work and found my voice. Starry-Eyed Travels launched in April – it was wonderful to introduce my very own site to the world and to engage with other travellers as the Starry-Eyed idea was born. Of course, it didn’t remain solely mine for very long, thanks to a wonderful group of guest writers and every Starry-Eyed Traveller out there. I am so grateful to all of you who read even just one post or looked at one picture – I remember the thrill of receiving the first comments and I still feel so lucky every day that people are engaging with and hopefully being inspired by this site.
Around the time of the launch, I was also busily planning the biggest trip of my life. I was well on the way with the writing half of my ambition; it was time to sort the travel half. So by the end of April, I had booked flights to South America and acquired a backpack.
On the 31st May, I flew out of Heathrow, not to return for 4 months. I considered myself fairly well-travelled, but as a backpacker and solo traveller, I was a complete novice. There was a moment, sitting on the plane next to two elderly Brazilian ladies who talked at me in rapid Portuguese, slightly slurred by their dentures, that I wondered what the hell I was doing. In fact, there were a number of those moments (minus the elderly ladies) over the first few days, but I don’t regret a single second of that trip. I explored 5 different countries, climbed mountains, watched the moon rise over the desert, thought that I was going to die on a bus in Bolivia and taught in a huge, rowdy school in Peru with no resources and no concept of planning. I even killed spiders and put them in the bin all by myself without screaming or anything. I have never felt more alive than I did at every moment of those four months. Every single day brought a new challenge or a new landscape that was just too awesome to believe. I was confronted with tough social issues and more self-absorbed problems like money running low or no hot water, but there was hardly ever a time when I wished I were somewhere else instead.
I left South America a changed person in many ways and with a whole heap of emotions. Luckily, I wasn’t plunged back into my home life straight away, as I spent just enough time there to exchange my backpack for a small suitcase and I jetted off to Italy – to meet the wonderful Margo and a sprinkling of other gorgeous Travel Belles. They were the most blissful days imaginable; the perfect salve after months of backpacking. And with the Belles being the utterly inspiring women that they are, I came back bursting with new ideas and enthusiasm – and of course, plenty of stories to tell after so long away.
Now, the gift of a year that I had is up and my life is about to change all over again. I am so grateful for the things that have happened – for the dear friends I have made, for the places I have been, for the support I have recieved – from you, the people who read my blog or who have ever read a single article, above all. Whatever happens next, Starry-Eyed Travels is here to stay. I hope you continue to enjoy it.
I wish each and every one of you a very joyful Christmas and hope that it is filled with warmth and wonder.
If you have any unfulfilled goals, or if there is anything you have thought about doing and ended that thought with “…but I’m not sure if I can.” I implore you – do it. You don’t even have to tell anyone, just make it happen. I promise you, it’s possible.
“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” – Brian Littrell.