I’m going to be honest here. I never had a life long dream to travel the world. Although I’ve always had a thirst for adventure, I never imagined packing my bags for good and becoming a passionate globetrotter. I grew up in a sleepy town in the South East of England where everyone knew each other’s names and there was next to nothing to do. The town was cosy and familiar but there was no way this suburban life could possibly feed my hunger for adventure.
It was with that thought I moved to London on my own at the tender age of 18. As I settled into big city life and began to make friends, I decided I wanted to seek out a career in radio. I got to work and began interning at various stations around the city, as well as holding down a job in a pub. As my passion for radio grew and grew, as did the fire in my belly.
At the age of 20 I was working as a personal assistant for the creative director of an online radio station, and all I could do was feed off her energy. I hadn’t quite hit adulthood yet, but I was ready to straighten my tie and fight with the big dogs.
Back when I was a sexy DJ, before I turned into an unwashed backpacker
It was just at that moment things started to take a funny turn. Throughout the previous years, I had been sporadically DJing in dive bars so that I could make up the money to pay my rent. A fortunate serious of events had led to an agent turning up at one of my gigs and he wanted me on his books. Goodbye promising radio career, hello glamorous life of a DJ! I spent all my nights from then on dancing in clubs and getting paid to play music I love. And drinking whisky. Lots of whisky.
Three years went by, and oh my, they were some of the best years of my life. Legendary nights were had, decade defining music was played, and above all I had made friends that will last a lifetime. Then one day, my mind changed. I don’t know how, I don’t know why and I don’t know the exact moment, but I had an overwhelming urge to leave. My feet had become too comfortable and were now starting to itch.
I was at a point in my life where my responsibilities were minimal. I was single, I was self-employed and the house I rented with friends was nearing the end of it’s lease. If I didn’t take this opportunity now, then I never would. I likened myself to a child watching a carousel spin round. I stared as all the horses slowly turned around me. I desperately wanted to join the ride but I had to get my timing just right. As the horses sped up, I knew if I didn’t jump now, then the whole experience would pass me by. So guess what? I jumped.
In my natural habitat
It’s almost like my bag packed itself because 4 weeks later I was on a plane to Dubai. Within an hour of deciding I wanted to see the world, I had wandered into a travel agent and booked a 6 month trip. I started in South East Asia, went onto China and Japan and then I was to finish up in Australia and New Zealand.
I was travelling through Thailand and Cambodia when I noticed all my fellow backpackers were urging me to visit Laos. I feel a bit embarrassed about it now, but at the time I’d never actually heard of the country Laos. I ended up getting a bus straight to a town called Vang Vieng, which you may know as being famous for it’s river tubing and mountainous landscape. I had been there for 2 days by the time I was offered a job in one of the riverside bars.
Home sweet home – I love working in the bar
I’d heard of people abandoning all their travel plans and getting stuck in these places, so I was determined not to become one. After a couple more days of my new friends relentlessly asking me to start work, I finally and happily agreed. Two weeks went by until it was time for me to get on my flight to China. This was when I started to regret booking my flights in advance.
I wasn’t ready to leave all my new friends and this beautiful town I was lucky to call home, I felt like I had over planned. Alas, it was with a heavy heart I said goodbye but it was onto my next adventure. Even though I had to leave Laos way before I was ready, I went onto have an incredible time exploring China, Japan and South Korea. I then travelled up the East coast of Australia for a month and planned to go on to New Zealand.
A couple of days before I was due to board my flight, I had a sudden change of heart. I missed Vang Vieng. I missed the mountains, I missed the atmosphere, I missed the people – both expats and locals alike. I missed our little community of like minded people. I changed my flights and ended up living in Vang Vieng for another 8 months. All in all I extended my trip by a year.
I made the best of friends whilst working abroad (photo by Peter Lee)
It just goes to show, anything can happen when you travel. You go out thinking one thing and come back thinking another. You may think you’re going in one direction, but fate intervenes and you end up going a way you thought never possible. It is this unpredictability that gave me the travel bug.
When I arrived back home, I started planning my next trip almost immediately. Before I knew it, I was in Amsterdam meeting up with friends from all corners of the globe. I’ve now gone on to visit Vang Vieng almost every year since I first arrived and now I couldn’t imagine any other life. My overwhelming urge to be on the road, or in the air, or on the tracks will not and cannot subside. And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Don’t be ashamed, we’ve all got it… How did you catch YOUR travel bug? What were your first backpacking experiences? Have you ever worked abroad?