My guide handed me a metal tray full of warm banana sandwiches, jackfruit, and a packet of TimTams. Breakfast at the top of a volcano. I took it gratefully; the climb had been exhausting. As I sat on the narrow wooden bench, the Balinese guides sat together in a wooden hut next to me playing guitar and singing Wonderwall. The sky was glowing orange over the distant peak of Mount Rinjani on Lombok. It was a surreal moment, but one of the best moments of my life. Almost exactly 12 months before my trip to Bali, I had barely left the house for 2 months because of severe anxiety. Fast forward one year to September 2018, I had just finished my undergrad degree and was sat on a plane to fly long haul for the first time in my life, and I was doing it alone. I pushed myself harder in 2018 than I had ever done before.
On my way up Mount Batur, I wanted to give up so many times. It was 2am, pitch black apart from the dim light of my torch, and I hadn’t really exercised much in preparation. Young guys on motocross bikes kept stopping to ask if I wanted a ride up as far as they could go, but I was determined to make it, no matter how long it took me. (Plus, it looked absolutely terrifying on those bikes!) I’d come to walk it, and I wasn’t going to let myself down. I did what I had been telling myself to do all year, just keep going. Just keep going, and eventually, you will get to where you want to be. So, I put one foot in front of the other, amazed that my body was capable of doing so much more than I gave it credit for.
At the second rest point, almost near the top, I got chatting to a woman from New York. She asked me if I had climbed all the way and was impressed when I said yes. She had taken the bike up and congratulated me on my effort.
“Are you here alone?” she asked me.
I told her I was, and that it was my treat to myself for graduating.
“Wow, well then that’s three mountains you’ve conquered this year! What are your plans now you’ve graduated?”
I told her I was starting a master’s the following month.
“Oh wow, and another mountain!”
Although my friends and family had told me how proud they were of me, it wasn’t until a complete stranger compared all my achievements to climbing mountains that I realised how much I had achieved. And, all the more, what I had overcome to get to this point. It helped me climb the last, and most difficult, part of the climb. Well, that and my guide literally holding my hand and pulling me up the rocks which, at this point, were pretty terrifying. But the payoff when I reached the top was incredible. I felt emotions surging through my body and I’m not embarrassed to say I had a little cry, overwhelmed and full of pride as I watched the sunrise over Bali.
Travelling alone teaches you a lot about yourself and makes you reassess everything you think you knew and wanted out of life. For me, it made me realise that I can do anything I want if I just go for it and keep going when things get tough. It gave me the confidence to just be myself. It was this mentality that pushed me to start my Masters, to apply for a place with a hyperlocal news service, JesmondLocal, something completely outside my comfort zone. I took a public speaking course and stood on stage at the theatre to give a monologue, I led a group seminar, and did training presentations at work. I became kinder to myself, realised how important it is to take time out, and most of all, felt so much gratitude for everything and everyone I have in my life.
I used to feel really sad and sentimental about New Year’s Eve, as though I was leaving something behind that I would never get back. I have no doubt I will still get a smidge emosh at midnight, and even though it’s just another day, for many it’s an opportunity for a fresh start, a release of emotions, and time for reflection. I’m going into the new year feeling pretty damn lucky to have had the experiences I have this last year. 2018 has been unbelievable. I achieved a lot and ticked a few things off my bucket list. But I know that 2019 will also be just as amazing, no matter what happens. You don’t have to do big things or achieve major life goals, it’s the many little things that make all the difference. You will look back in 12 months and realise that all those little milestones have propelled you forward more than you thought. If you can come this far in 12 months, imagine what you can do in the next 12.
Happy New Year!