In the spirit of good old Queenie with her annual Christmas speech (which involved no abdication contrary to some predictions), I’ve looked back on the year about to end and thought about the key issues that provided inspiration for some of my blog posts.
I’m blessed to be able to say that 2014 has been a pretty awesome year for me. In late May, just before my 22nd birthday, I finished three years of hard work and early starts in the library to come out with a high 2:1 in my History degree. Sticking to what I wrote in my post this time last year about New Year Resolutions, there was no way I was delving straight into full-time work. Instead came a long summer and the joy of freedom. Sunny days in June swapped between being spent lounging lazily in Regents Park with friends or alone, and working at cricket matches getting immersed in the buzz of summer sport. Then at the end of that month, I jumped on the Piccadilly line and surprised a friend at Heathrow airport who I hadn’t seen for three years. It was during those 10 days together in London that I, ironically, had my best experience ever of the city in three years, alongside the realisation that my love for it had decreased. It was time for some fresh air, literally and metaphorically.
So after surviving my graduation ceremony and moving out of my box of a London flat at the end of July, I was super excited to pack my bags for six weeks of North America. I realised how much I had ‘grown’ as a traveller when I boarded my plane to Vancouver. I also realised, this being my first big trip that wasn’t either solo or with family, how special travelling with a companion can be.
It’s been a tough year for the aviation industry, particularly that in Asia, following the recent AirAsia flight loss. Three separate crashes were covered in the news during July and I remember feeling nervous before I flew to Canada, fearing something similar might happen to me. But the reality is that one is just as likely to have an accident whilst out driving. There are so many planes flying all around the world every day which arrive at their destinations safely. It’s because of their rarity that any flying accidents receive more media attention. At the end of the day, flying connects us to so many places and people, and that’s what we should remember above all.
Another wonderful thing that allows people to connect when travel can’t is Skype. It allows friendships and relationships to be maintained (for free!) which otherwise may have dwindled. I saw two separate foreign friends again this year who I keep in touch with using this tool. Facebook is also brilliant for maintaining travel connections; it’s been useful in allowing me to get to know better and re-meet quite a few people met whilst travelling. The internet can of course, also facilitate generous favours, making travel easier and cheaper for those involved.
Nevertheless, the relationship between social media/digital technology and travel has become a point of greater concern to me over the year. This is partly because of the impact it can have both on nature we see and on the nature of travel itself. Too much formation of stereotypes based on themes and discussions on social media can influence decisions made whilst travelling that might be regretted, or deter people from travelling altogether. It can also work the other way, with online discussion about travel destinations and experiences having the potential to build expectations too high, leading to disappointment when hopes aren’t fulfilled. Furthermore, too much sharing online raises questions about the value of privacy.
This said, travel can be beneficial in regards to the effects of social media use. Even if its use is intended to promote and support charity causes such as cancer research with the #nomakeupselfie or the ALS charity with the ice bucket challenge, too much social media exposure can narrow people’s perspectives and damage their expectations of reality. Travel has the potential to prevent or turn this around by placing individuals in isolated circumstances where they are temporarily cut off from civilisation. However, as the rise of the digital age leads to Wi-Fi access on coaches becoming a necessity and the encouragement of tagging Instagram snaps with a company’s name for promotion, even this capability is under threat.
Alas, despite all these travel-affecting issues, there are also those elements of travel that are truly heart-warming in their positivity. Certain scenarios can bring out a side in someone that it wasn’t realised was had, which can then be built on in order to become more permanent. There are always examples of the kindness of strangers, so many of which I have yet to record, and moments of coincidence when travellers meet again and then leave, not necessarily with a name and contact details, but with a smile worth far more than a million ‘likes’ on Facebook.
Towards the end of the year, job-hunting was getting me down and, not ready to return to London permanently just yet, I looked for a way to distract myself and travel some more. Au pairing has been a rocky but rewarding experience, with two weeks left of it to go after the new year commences. After this I’m doing what I had accepted would probably have to happen, and heading back to London for a job. But after September, who knows..?
Thanks for reading and have a happy and adventurous 2015 🙂