“It’s all about the journey, not the destination.”
We hear this saying all the time. Some argue it’s about the destination, others that it’s all about the journey getting there. It’s different for different people. But whilst this debate has been roaring on not much has been said about the what it’s like before the whole thing kicks off, or the “Pre-Travel” phase as I’ve coined it. As such, and with my own leaving date suddenly sprinting towards me, I’ve come up with the “Seven Stages of Pre-Travel.” Seven stages that you tend to experience up until your adventure really begins:
1. BOOKING ELATION
You actually went and booked it! You might have done something insanely spontaneous (In my case alcohol is usually involved) or you’ve been thinking about this for ages and you’ve finally bitten the bullet. Either way, the money’s gone, your ticket’s booked and you’re filled with pure excitement. There are so many possibilities of what could happen, where you could go, who you’ll meet! You tell anyone and everyone that you’re going and this novelty wont wear off for a long time.
2. FANATICAL DAYDREAMING
You know your destination, and now you’re thinking about all the mind-blowing places you’re going to be seeing. You write lists of places you’re desperate to visit, find their locations and think about possible routes to take. Some of you might book hotels and plan out every little detail, that’s absolutely fine, others might just think up ideas and leave it at that. Either way this stage is amazing! You spend your days looking up exciting places and then day dream about being there. You watch youtube videos and read reviews and it becomes unbelievably difficult to focus on anything else. This carries on right up until…
3. THE STRESSFUL BIT
It’s getting closer now! Visas need to be sorted out. If you’re going for a long time you might have to sort out credit and debit cards. International tariffs for your phone might have to be changed. Does your passport need renewing? This stage has lots and lots of forms (Especially if you’re trying to get a Chinese working visa like me!). There’s no denying it, this stage can get annoying. There’s that fear that your visa might get declined and you’re suddenly worrying about if you have enough money to do everything you want. It’s not entirely in your own hands yet. If your visa gets declined or you suddenly realise you actually have no money, you can’t go. Things can still go wrong and you’re waiting on other bodies to give you the green light. And then all of a sudden, it’s done! Everything’s sorted and now it’s entirely on you!
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” – Mark Twain
This is probably where I am right now. A mix of here and stage five. All the documents are sorted and you’re just waiting to go. You’ve been waiting for so long for your leaving date and now all of a sudden it’s right here, staring you in the face. There are no more hurdles to trip over, no more third parties that might interfere with your plans. You’ve gotta be committed to this or your bail out on your own rights. It’s a huge mix of excitement and terror. Everyone’s afraid of the unknown and that’s exactly where you’re headed. But we all know that’s where all the best stories lie.
5. THE LONG GOODBYE
Who knows how long you’ll be gone for? You’re planning for six months but if you find some work you could be gone for years and there’s all these friends you wont be seeing in the meantime. This awkward feeling that best friends could become long lost friends and how it will definitely be different by the time you get back. You must now squeeze seeing all of your mates one last time before time runs out. Who knows what you’ll both be like by the time you get back? By the next time you see each other you could both be married with kids! (If you’re anything like me, lots of drinking will happen now).
6. THE FINAL DAY
“I watched the sun rise over the M25, illuminating a scene I’d passed through a thousand times before. As I squinted out at the familiar details I usually ignored, I was struck by the urge to memorise how it felt to be in England. I wanted to remember it all.” – Lauren Juliff – ‘How Not To Travel The World.’
All of a sudden every day objects becomes very important. You start feeling nostalgic about practically anything. “This will be the last time I see that Tesco’s.” You’ll go and have your favourite meal (My mums roast lamb…..words cannot describe how good it is!) and spend all of your time with the people you’re closest to. Everyone will eventually head to bed and you’ll lie awake thinking about the next day.
Oh and at some point you’ll probably pack.
7. AND YOU’RE OFF
“Almost from the moment I boarded my flight, life in England became meaningless. Seat-belt signs lit up, problems switched off. Broken armrests took precedence over broken hearts. By the time the plane was airborne I’d forgotten England even existed.” – Alex Garland – ‘The Beach.’
For some people it’s when the plane is airborne for others it’s when they leave the house. For me it’s right after I’ve walked through security and left everyone else behind. That’s it. You’re travelling now! No one on the other side of security can come through and you’re not about to head back. You could be in any random airport, anywhere else in the world. It’s started. Go grab some food, have a drink or two and get on the plane. Adventure awaits!