Are you ever overcome with the desire to trade in your current life for a change of scene? If you were faced with a choice between following this desire and playing it safe by sticking with what you know, which would choose? Would you go beyond the status quo to try something new, learn a new skill, change jobs, move to a different city/country or take a travel adventure?
Although following your heart’s desires is the more enticing option, not everyone is brave enough to take the leap. Taking a risk is considered dangerous. It is easier to choose the security of conformity. Indeed, risky business can be a bit like playing with fire or handling a live grenade. But when life leaves you feeling jaded and you feel that you going through the motions half asleep, taking the risk to do something extraordinary can be rewarding and inspiring. It could be the breath of fresh air needed to reconnect you with your spirit and to feel alive again.
Alice Hall was faced with this decision. She was on a great career path, but something was missing. Earlier this year, Alice took a chance, quit her London-based job as a successful editor and spent four months travelling across Central America. I was fortunate enough to meet Alice briefly when she visited South Africa last year. With her cheerful nature and a killer personality, Alice is one of those warm, genuine, enthusiastic and beautiful souls who anyone would love spending time with. I asked her a few questions about the experience and here is what she had to share:
Costa Rica to Mexico: Alice’s Story
Quitting your job and leaving your friends and family is a nerve-wracking experience and it’s not for everyone. But if you find that you are restless and in search of something ‘more’, it might be time for a change or an adventure. No matter how big or small your trip is, it can help you feel that you are taking charge of your life and living it to the full.
I grew up in Harare, Zimbabwe until I was 17 and moved with my family to the UK – almost 10 years ago! Since then I completed a BA (Hons) in History and Politics at the University of Durham in northeast England, and have been living in London for 4 years, working as an editor at a healthcare publishing company.
While I enjoyed working as editor of two healthcare journals, I was working extremely long hours to meet deadlines. I had also been promoted to management which required a substantial commitment to the company and I began to feel like my life revolved around work.
At 26, with no other financial or personal commitments, I increasingly felt that this was the time when I should be enjoying my freedom and having some adventures, before putting down too many roots. One of the best things about the UK is that it is a great base to see the rest of the world. I have been lucky enough to travel regularly over the years, but early in 2012 I decided that it was the right time to leave my job and go travelling for 4 months around Central America.
The fun bit was researching the countries I would be visiting and planning a route from Panama up to Mexico, taking in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Belize along the way. However, I also needed to give notice on my flat and contact my bank and phone company to notify them that I would be away. Several visits to my GP were necessary to get the appropriate vaccinations (ouch) and anti-malarials. I had to sort out insurance and make sure my finances were in order – the list of things to-do seemed endless but before I knew it, I was on my way.
Backpacking requires you to open yourself up to any and all possibilities – from day to day, I didn’t know where I would be staying, or for how long, or who I would meet, or what I would find myself doing! It is possible to try and plan or ‘micro-manage’ a trip such as this but flexibility is important, as you need to be open to every opportunity that comes along. You also need to be confident enough to do things on your own, be it rock-climbing or eating in a restaurant alone, and yet open to meeting people from all walks of life. I think you need to become quite self-sufficient – you might miss home but you need to be able to stand on your own and be prepared to make all the decisions yourself!
The Central American Experience
Central America is a beautiful region, offering a little bit of everything ranging from beaches, islands, jungle, volcanoes, waterfalls, hot springs and ancient Mayan ruins. My favourite place would have to be the Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park, situated in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago in Panama. This untouched island chain has incomparable white sand beaches against a backdrop of lush and untouched tropical jungle that provides a refuge for leatherback and hawksbill turtles. One moonlit evening I was lucky enough to witness a 1.5m leatherback turtle hoist herself up onto the beach to lay her eggs.
As a female travelling alone, I found that I did always have to have my guard up – I had to keep a constant eye on my belongings while making sure I didn’t stray into dodgy parts of town, particularly at night-time. I felt quite vulnerable whenever I arrived at a new bus station, as it is fairly common for tourists to be pick-pocketed while trying to find their bearings in a new town. However, I made a point of travelling on public transport only during the day time, and kept a watchful eye out at all times. Where possible I would stand close to a local woman or family so as not to isolate myself as a target.
Tikal Ruins, Guatemala
I met many people throughout my trip and was continually inspired by those were travelling for a year or more on truly epic trips! I was lucky enough to travel with a guy from New Zealand for 3 weeks before he bought himself a motorbike in Guatemala and headed off to bike all the way down to Chile in South America.
I enjoyed the opportunity to be incredibly active. The highlights include climbing a volcano in Nicaragua, learning to scuba dive in Honduras, zip-wiring through the jungle in Costa Rica and motor biking around Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.
Lessons from the experience
I learnt that I can deal with most situations that I find myself in, even if they do seem daunting at first. My trip also helped me to appreciate things I had left behind, particularly my friends and family, as I did often wish they were there to share my experiences. There is so much to see in the world and so many new experiences to have – I know that I will always find time in my life for new adventures.
What’s Next for Alice…
A new adventure! I will be going to live in Australia for a year from September, on a working holiday visa. This will enable me to get a real taste for life in Australia, having the opportunity to work, live and travel in a new country. I will be starting in Melbourne but who knows where I will end up!
Read more about Alice Hall’s journey on her blog at: http://zimboalice-centralamerica.blogspot.com/