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‘10 years, 80 countries - how I went travelling for a decade’

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Rhiannon Monks is a travel expert and founder of new app for connecting travellers, Travltalk.


When I left Australia for the first time at 19 and started travelling, I had no appreciation for the vast depth and beauty our world contains. I was inexperienced, with no prior exposure to many different cultures or ways of life.

Rhiannon at the Blue Lagoon, Iceland

So suddenly being jammed on a Contiki bus, with people from New Zealand, Japan, Australia, South Africa and America and hurtling through 15 countries across Europe was a distinct change of scenery.

Here’s what I learnt after that in my decade of globe-hopping…

It is okay to start out with a planned holiday tour to build your confidence

I do not regret starting my travels on a Contiki tour. I made lifelong friends from that trip, and went with my sister. But above all, travelling in an organised group allowed me to see what travel was like first hand, and helped me build up the confidence to go out on my own.

The two months I spent in Europe transformed me from a student into a 20-year-old graduate that was ready to take on the world. I came back to Australia and immediately devised a plan to travel again – this time a trip around the world to Canada, the US, South America, Europe and Asia. I had all the flights booked, with flexible dates, and no set plan.

Have the courage to not make firm plans for your travels

My family came to the airport to see me off in Adelaide. All I had was my backpack. I felt so free, but also quite intimidated. I was leaving a comfort zone I had known my whole life and embarking on an unknown world. I flew straight to Vancouver. I had a 365 day trip ahead and only two nights in a hostel booked in Vancouver. Beyond that the world truly was my oyster.

During my year away I met lifelong friends. Often daily. My British friend Jen is now a well know UK artist, my Austrian friend Paul is now a financial controller for Telecom Austria, and my Quebec friend Guillaume is now a Biomedical Engineer living in Innsbruck. I met them in the first three months of my travels and back then we just drank together, explored together, took road trips and pondered our future lives. I’m now 35 and we met when I was 20. The coolest thing when we catch up is to remember ourselves with the wonder of what lay ahead, and then meet up years later and smile at the adults we have become.

You grow up as you travel, and find valuable lessons in unexpected ways

As the years went by, I started to change my travel and go to more remote places, off the beaten track. Travel became less about drinking and parties and more about connection and culture. I intentionally went to places that held mysteries few understood, and to places that often were in contention. For example, I flew to Israel in July 2006 to visit an Israeli friend I had met six months earlier in El Salvador. My flight was due out the next day, and officially Israel declared war with Lebanon. I wasn’t sure if I should go, but my friend reassured me it was safe. I am so glad I went, because I was able to better understand the conflict of war, and that what you see on the TV is not representative of actual events.

A war breaks hearts on all sides. My friends in Israel were afraid they may be called back to the army - aged 23 and sent to fight in a conflict that ultimately would have no winners.

You never have to stop travelling!

After travelling for three years, non-stop with a backpack, I came to live in London. I got a career in media and took as many city breaks as I could. I will never stop travelling! It’s part of my soul, as are the wonderful people scattered across the world who I met along the way and now call my true friends.

Travltalk is for people that want to get out and travel and easily meet other people along the way, without having to wait around in hostels and rely purely on serendipity - especially if time in a place is scarce.

For more information or to download Travltalk for free go to www.travltalk.co

Follow on social at @travltalk 

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