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Posted By: Liam on 6th Jan 2013 20:51

I remember packing my bag just over one year ago. I was 19 years old and I had just finished my 2nd year at college. I was saying goodbye to my friends, family, routine and studies for a full year.

My first of 20 flights for the year was from Cape Town to Johannesburg, before making the long haul to Washington D.C. I spent a lot of time waiting in airports during my trip. I amassed about 60 hours of sitting and waiting for planes.

Of all the hours that I sat and waited, the first hour at O.R.Tambo airport is the one I remember the most.

I sat at an Ocean Basket, drinking my final Castle Lager for the year, when I received an email from a friend who lives in Guatemala. He is a well-travelled man, who had recently finished the trip of a lifetime. His words stuck with me for the entire year. As I reflect on my experience they come back to me.

He said: "So Liam, my friend, enjoy every last bit of it, all the good things and people you meet, but also enjoy the loneliness, the hunger, the times when you feel lost. Hope to grow and change for the best…and when you get back, keep all that in mind and fight to be that oke that lived through all those experiences and discovered some of the best treasures in life, if not, the best treasure in life…."

One year down the line, having experienced all the good things, meeting amazing people, feeling hunger, loneliness and being lost; I can honestly say that this year has shown me the best treasure in life. The simple treasure of living.

I`ve always loved the feeling independence and enjoyed much of it, even when living with my parents during college. But, nothing compares to the feeling of independence I experienced whilst abroad.

As much as I dreaded packing, I loved the feeling of putting my `life` into a 75 litre back-pack and knowing at that exact point in time, whether I was in the busy streets of New York City or a dusty road in Nakhon Pathom, all that mattered was me and my bag.

There wasn`t a reason for me to check my phone, call a friend, or a dental appointment to go to. Of course, I felt the pressure of certain responsibilities, but the feeling of being independent on my travels inspires me to want to do it all over again.

STA Travel took me on a journey through 25 countries, 75 cities, all in the space of 12 months. In this time I learned a language, worked in a hotel, taught English in Thailand, fell in love, didn`t read a single book, drank 100s of different beers, swum in all the oceans, saw millions of faces, climbed a volcano, got lost (many times), met a monk, ate bull testicles (in Myanamar) and longed for a braai (the entire year).

Being away from my home for an extended period of time had its challenges. Although, I moved around at a rapid rate and seldom found myself thinking about home or missing home comforts. But, when I did, it wasn`t easy.

It`s hard to pinpoint what I missed most about home.

Now that I am back, I have enjoyed seeing my friends, playing with my dog, making biltong with my dad and watching cricket whilst lying on the couch. It seems that the simple things bring on the greatest feeling of comfort. A comfort that only home can bring.

I`d like to pass on a few quotes to keep in mind when travelling. Some I heard, some I wrote myself:

`Accept change, as it is a reward for being daring`

`Eat when you can, shit when you can and sleep when you can`

`That old t-shirt that you don`t really like, it`s still a t-shirt`

`Take something from every situation and try your best to learn something from everyone`

2012 was a life changing year for me. Travel opened my mind and senses to an array new experiences and sensations.

Viva Travel!

STA Travel, OR Tambo, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Thailand, Nakhon Pathom, Travel