• Andrew Hartley

On the road...

'Why are you going there? What are you gonna do?', 'Oh, I wouldn't step foot in that country, I've heard its unsafe', 'When are you going to settle down?' - All of the classics there. This is the kind of spiel that I've heard since my first international adventure began 2 years ago in September 2017. At the age of 21, I very nervously made my way to China, I was surprisingly accepted on to a scholarship with the British Council through one of their programmes called Generation UK. Before taking that 10 hour flight to Beijing, all of those above questions that people from my hometown of Morecambe so frequently asked began to fill my mind. 'What am I really doing here?' was the main question running through my head as I stepped on to that plane... Fast forward 2 years down the line and I sit here in Auckland, New Zealand typing this up, having seen so much more of the world. Accepting my place on that scholarship was the best decision of my life.

I've learned so much over these past 2 years and my journey has taken me to see more of Europe, Asia and Australasia. From seeing my close friends graduate in Venice to playing drinking games and having barbecues in Cologne, I have loved every minute. More recently I have settled, for the time being, here in Auckland, on my way here I went to visit friends in Moscow and even returned to the city where I previously lived, Tianjin in China. Without that China experience, none of this would have been possible.

It sounds so cliche but travelling really has broadened my mind and it opens so many doors for the future. When I graduated from university in the summer of '17 I can honestly say I had no friends that were from anywhere but the north of England. The China experience has taken me to so many places since, I have now been able to stay with friends in London, Scotland, Italy, Germany, Russia, back to China and finally here in New Zealand. It's one thing going to these places but its even better when you know local people, they show you those magical non touristy places, they teach you about local culture and more importantly, they introduce you to their friends which opens up so many other doors. It really is a never ending book once you start travelling for the first time and it will keep surprising you by taking you to places you would never previously even dream about going to. Being from a small town in England, do you really think that 2/3 years ago I would think that I'd be taking a trip to Moscow for a week? Definitely not. That ended up being one of the best cities I've ever visited and I'll definitely be going back one day.

It is so easy for me to sit here and tell people to just go out and travel but I understand more than anyone how difficult it can be. So many factors come into it; when will you next see your family? Can you really afford it? Will you make friends easily in hostels? Are you really independent enough to make it in another country? The answers to these questions are so unclear. The only argument I have against that is how will you ever know unless you try? That's the attitude I had to take when I hopped on that plane to Beijing and it worked so well for me.

So where next?

Yet again, I'm arriving at the back end of my NZ experience and I'm asking myself that question every day. Plans change every day depending on the people you meet, especially when you live in a hostel the whole time. Last week I was wanting to go home, save and then do a year in Australia, the week before I was considering travelling to Vietnam to teach. The only thing that is clear is that I am due a Christmas at home since I haven't had a festive season with my family for 2 years so I'm looking forward to that. I'm rambling again, that's something you might get used to when reading my posts!

The reason I write this post is to not only encourage others to let go of those doubts about travelling but also to remind myself of how far I have come in the space of the last 3 years, I think its so important to be proud of yourself when you've survived so far away from home. You can read more about my recent NZ experiences on my next post.

So if you're thinking of travelling and people are constantly asking you questions that are similar to the ones at the top of this page. Please make sure you ignore them and think about what YOU want and at the same time always remember, you'll never know the answers until you try it out. That's it from me for now.

Peace out!

#travel #newbeginnings #russia #china #italy #nz #newzealand #auckland #friends #inspiration

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