The Traveler Stories Series. Each month we feature a story (or two) written by another fellow traveler, who shares with us their own travel experiences. This month, meet Hayley, the beautiful wanderlust and blogger at Ms Hayley J. She shares with us her story of quitting her job at the age of 32 to live the life of an expat, and travel the world.
I’ve always liked to travel and I think I always knew I would become an expat. My travels started when I was young. Mum tells me that I first went on a plane when I was 6 months old. Add to that, our family travelled around Australia for a year when I was 8 years old, and then I went overseas for the first time at 15.
When I turned 32, I had a great life, great job, but something was missing.
I knew that if I stayed with my job, I would continue to be successful, but the thought of a life that would lead to a white picket fence and 9-5 job till I was 60 scared me more than I liked to admit. So I took a year off, said goodbye to my friends, and headed overseas. When I look back now, I guess that I knew I wouldn’t be returning anytime soon.
The original plan was to volunteer overseas for 6 months, then travel for 6 months. I decided to volunteer in Phuket, Thailand for a great Thai charity that teaches English to underprivileged children. I am not a teacher, so I volunteered in the office doing whatever was needed, which ended up being primarily fundraising, because that is my background.
This was the beginning of my expat life.
Don’t get me wrong, the decision to leave Australia wasn’t easy, but in some ways I always knew it was the right one.
I never felt scared, just excited.
To stay felt wrong, even if I didn’t know what lay ahead. I guess I was just curious about what else there was to life. A good friend summed it up for me saying, ‘You will never regret going, but you will always regret staying.’
I will always cherish my time in Phuket, because it was like falling into an instant family. Because we were based in a small town, the number of young expats was quite small. Plus, many of us were in the same boat – stepping away from our lives to experience something new.
We worked together, played together and became very close.
While the original plan was to stay for just 6 months, I ended up staying for a year before I felt the urge to travel again. It was then that I told my old job in Australia that I wouldn’t be returning and embarked on a solo adventure to Central and South America.
Central America was incredible. I had travelled solo before, but not for such an extended period of time.
I loved the climate, the beaches, the people and the freedom that came with travelling alone. My Spanish was non-existent when I arrived and only really improved to basic conversational level, but that didn’t matter. Everyone was friendly and I was able to get by.
I loved the laid back attitude of the Mexicans and ended up spending nearly 2 months there. Over 5 months, I explored Mexico, Belize, Guatamala and Cuba.
I could have stayed longer, but I wanted to see South America as well, so I headed south to Peru. It was totally different from Central America, including the language. Who knew there were so many versions of Spanish!
I visited Macchu Picchu, as well as the incredible desert coastline of Peru. I spent a month in Bolivia, adjusting to the altitude, visiting Salar De Uyuni and going down a working mine in the highest town on earth. I zig-zagged between Chile and Argentina, through wine country, over the Andes to Buenos Aires, one of the most vibrant cities in South America. I even stopped over in beautiful Uruguay.
I then headed back north to Ecuador where I visited the incredible Galapagos Islands. The amount and variety of wildlife there is astounding. Finally, I spent a month in one of my favourite countries ever, Colombia.
It was in Colombia, almost a year after leaving Phuket that I began to miss my tribe. I missed friends and was tired of being on my own.
Don’t get me wrong, I had met incredible people, but as is the travelling world, people constantly come and go. To travel with someone for a month is about as long as is possible before you want to go down separate paths.
It was then that I decided to head back to Phuket and work. I wasn’t ready to go home and I missed my Phuket community so much. As life would have it, I moved back to Phuket and had another amazing year there before I met my now husband and moved to Europe.
You just never know what is around the corner.
People often tell me that I am ‘brave’ and that they could never quit a job and move into the unknown world. I don’t believe this for a second. It is merely a decision and we make decisions every day.
For me, moving overseas is one of the best things I ever did.
I have no doubt that if I didn’t leave Australia back in 2012 I would still be there in the same job, doing the same thing I always did. Or maybe not. Maybe life would have thrown something else at me.
Hayley is a self-confessed travel addict and blogger. She loves adventures and meeting new people, and has been documenting her journeys for 5 years at Ms Hayley J. Follow her on her journey through her Blog & Instagram.
If you have an interesting story to tell and would like to be featured in our series Traveler Stories, please get in touch!
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