As a stubborn Brit, I find it hard to contemplate a hot Christmas, at least outside the house anyway; I love becoming a blanket burrito and being toasty warm in my living room. Last year, my build up to Christmas mostly took place in Oceania, and I found it quite difficult to acquire that festive feeling wearing shorts and smothering on the suncream.
“Welcome to Canada, the temperature outside is 14 degrees, please stay seated until…”
I sit up in the aeroplane seat, rubbing my eyes and struggling to get my jet-lagged body and sluggish mind to catch up with the whole you’re-now-a-solo-traveller-and-have-to-make-it-alone thing.
A sleepy walk through the airport – one that’s now blended in my mind with countless other airports – plus a train ride, and I’m spat out into the centre of Vancouver. Disoriented, overwhelmed and utterly alone. At this point, early into my solo travels, I lacked confidence in my ability to successfully navigate this new lifestyle, and felt like an intruder in my new metaphorical backpacker shoes.
As soon as I could hold the concept of my future in my head, as in a future in which school wouldn’t be a thing and I would have to make decisions about my life for myself, the idea of exploring the world appealed to me. Throughout my last years of secondary school and during my time at sixth form college, I plotted hundreds of different trips for future me: some relatively reachable, others sheer fantasy, but all got me a little closer to the plan that actually materialised.
‘They sell a lot of bagels here’, I remember thinking five days into my three-week stay in Vancouver, Canada. It was the start of my first ever solo trip and my British brain tuned in quickly to oddly specific observations about my new surroundings on a scarily frequent basis; I was over saturated by fresh experiences, like a biscuit being repeatedly dipped into tea, my mind was turning to mush with each new thing I was noticing and having to process.
Seeing a glacier in real life is like seeing behind the scenes of the world; the pure geological strength of the planet displayed in front of you. Glaciers are the remnants of the cold carving knife that shaped the landscape millions of years ago, forging valleys and shaping mountains, and a stark reminder of the forces of our environment and the ways in which it’s changed over time.
Hurtling down a Hawaiian highway at midnight in a stranger’s battered truck is not how I pictured my life would be when I was daydreaming in college exams two months earlier. I was there alone, roughly 4500 miles from the closest person I knew and 7323 miles from my hometown and family, with limited knowledge of my surroundings and a phone with no signal. Apparently I had decided in a state of wanderlust a few months prior, that signing up to stay and volunteer on a farm on the island of Oahu by myself was a perfectly fine idea.