Why I took a year off blogging: Break ups, backpacking and beginning again
Well, well, well…look who has decided to join the blogsphere once again. And at one of the most awkward possible times…right in the middle of a pandemic! In my defence, I did decide before Covid-19 hit the world. However the execution of my ‘come back’ largely took shape during lockdown. As no one had expected it to go on for this long (three months…but who’s seriously counting at this point?) I decided now was as good a time as any to start back work on my passion project. But enough about timing here’s why I took a year off blogging, let’s catch up!
Why did I stop blogging?
It started with a break up – a very life changing cliché. At the beginning of March last year me and my long-term boyfriend parted ways. I’d just turned 31 and had spent a lot of time in the last year deciding what direction I wanted my life to take. It’s so true what they say about turning 30!
It was no one’s fault. It was simply a case of two people wanting different things and starting to head in different directions. As difficult as this realisation was after 9 years, it was very much best for both of us. Not all love stories have a ‘happy ever after’ or even have to last forever to be considered a success. But I count myself lucky that I can look back on those 9 years we spent together and be grateful for the memories we shared and the experiences we had.
Unfortunately, the timing of this break up couldn’t have been worse as it came off the back of me about to finish up on a work contract in 6 weeks’ time. So I was also about to become unemployed! As you can imagine at this point my poor blog quickly dropped very low on my priority list.
So there I was, no partner and about to have no job. After initially thinking: “BEEP, what the BEEP am I going to do?” By the next day, this thought had turned to: “Right, it’s go time, what do I want to do?” Within a few days I had it figured out.
I moved out of Manchester two weeks later.
Where did I go?
I say the timing was terrible but two weeks post break up I was on my way to Dubai. As luck would have it, we were supposed to stay with my parents for a holiday there anyway. But instead of going for two weeks together I got the flight changed and went for a month, just me.
Turns out sun, sand and sea was exactly what I needed. I was literally on holiday for a month and as any normal person would, I loved it! Depending on how I felt that day, I would either go to the beach, go sit by the pool or go explore Dubai. Then spend some quality time with my parents in the evening. I’m lucky I had the time and space to properly recoup and figure out what was next, as well as relax and enjoy Dubai.
After I got back from Dubai, my Grandma kindly let me and my half a truck of boxes move in. It’s a very humbling experience when you move ‘home’ again in your 30s, I’ll tell you! But I only had two weeks before I was heading out on my next trip, Barcelona!
As luck would have it (again!) this was another trip that had already been booked and paid for the year before to celebrate one of my best friend’s 30th birthday. All I had to do was sit tight for a couple of weeks and I would be off again. And my god, did we have a blast!
This was unlike any holiday I’d ever been on before. We were two single girls partying and sightseeing in one of the most exciting cities in Europe. We stayed at the super fancy W Hotel on Barcelonetta Beach, went to the top of Sagrada Familia, visited Camp Nou, went on the cable cars to Montjuïc Castle and partied for three nights on the go. It. Was. So. Much. FUN!
Side note: Barcelona has vegan options pretty much everywhere you go which led to my discovery that vegan paella is an excellent cure for a hungover. Now you know, pass it on!
By this point I’d had a few weeks to think about what I was going to do next. But I was still unsure what I wanted to do long-term. One thing was for sure though, I knew I wasn’t done travelling.
This time I wanted to do something that I had never done before, a proper ‘out-of-your-comfort-zone’ adventure. I only knew one thing: I had my heart set on Asia. So with the bit of money I had started to save (for the joint house that never came to be) plus a loan, I booked a month-long pack-backing trip to Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.
It was always a dream of mine to go backpacking someday but I never knew where or when. Like with most things you, ‘plan to do someday’ there was always an excuse: not enough money, work, partner…the list goes on. What I actually ended up learning through this experience is that the ‘when’ is up to you. There is always going to be a reason not to go and there will never be a ‘right’ time. You need to make a plan and just go. But more on this philosophy later!
I landed in Bangkok at the end of May and met up with my group. The day after I travelled over the border into Cambodia and started on my month’s long journey.
I spent 9 days in Cambodia, quad biking around the rural villages in Siem Reap, watching the sun rise over the world-famous UNISECO heritage site Angkor Watt and spent some time on the private island of Koh Rong.
Every day brought new experiences and challenges which I loved embracing. Having a new adventure every day can be quite addictive! It was almost as if a switch had flipped in my mind. I wasn’t overthinking anything, I just did it.
From Cambodia, I travelled over the border into Vietnam and onto the lively (re: crazy!) Ho Chi Minh City. We spent the next 12 days in Vietnam, going down into the secret Chu Chi War tunnels, exploring the Imperial Palace in Huế, staying in the 15th Century port Hoi An and kayaking through caves in Halong Bay.
Vietnam turned out to be jam packed full of fun and new experiences. I learned how to make traditional noodles from scratch, drove a river boat and rode a motorbike through rush hour traffic. I also tried every vegan Vietnamese dish I could get my chopsticks on!
Despite my introduction to Vietnam being one of it’s most chaotic, dirty and loud cities it turned out to be my favourite country out of all the ones I backpacked through. I feel like I could have done the full month there easily and will definitely be going back!
Ho Chi Minh City wasn’t one of my favourites but had one the most banging night life’s of the trip. And the best food! I even found a vegan pizza place down a little alleyway on my Happy Cow app which made my day. It’s the small things for us vegans!
From Vietnam we slowed it down juuuust a little and crossed over into Laos for the next 5 days.
I’m ashamed to say before booking this trip that I had never heard of Laos. But this just made the experience more special and authentic; which is exactly how I would actually describe Laos! I didn’t have any expectation or preconceived idea of what it would be like. I just experienced it how I found it, which is a rare luxury today in a time of mass tourism.
Laos is a place you can tell is still a secret with it’s super chilled people and untouched landscape. It’s a little known gem in South East Asia. My advice to anyone would be to experience this country before more people find out about it!
The advantage of having a beautiful landscape with few travellers around makes it the perfect place to do adrenaline activities. It turned out to be right up my street!
In Vang Vieng I kayaked in tropical rain and thunder down the Nam Song River and went tubbing in a pitch black cave I had to lie down to get into. I also went jumping off waterfalls in Luang Prabang and visited a Sun Bear Sanctuary.
After Laos, I spent the last few days of my trip in Chiang Mai and Bangkok in Thailand.
Strangely, everyone always raves about Thailand so I expected it to be my favourite country on the trip. But I didn’t have enough time to get to know it.
Chiang Mai was by far my favourite city. I had a one on one vegan Thai cooking lesson at a local culinary school, drove a Tuk Tuk across the Chiang Mai countryside visiting little known temples and saw the famous ‘lying down buddha’ at Wat Pho.
Just over the border into Thailand we stopped at Wat Rong Khun. A buddhist site in Chiang Rai more commonly known as, ‘The White Temple’. I crossed the bridge of ‘cycle of rebirth’ where hundreds of hands are reaching out from below symbolising unrestrained desire. There is also a very random mural of fictional characters reaching out from hell too. I’m not sure why minions belong in hell but I still enjoyed visiting the temple nonetheless!
I spent the rest of my time filling up on vegan Thai food and getting every massage going before it was time to head home.
I felt like I could have travelled on for another month, and a lot of our group did. Equally though I was feeling refreshed and ready to start my life over again. It had been 4 months since I moved out of Manchester and I was ready to go home.
What am I up to now?
After everything that had happened, I wasn’t sure whether I would want to go back to Manchester. I have lived there since graduating 10 years ago and was wondering whether a change of scenery would be good.
I had thought about potentially going back to Dubai for a while. Or living somewhere else in Europe or other parts of the UK like Brighton or London. But that’s the funny thing about leaving home; no matter how far you go or how long you go for, it’s always going to be ‘home’.
I missed my friends and family a lot whilst I was travelling and they had all been a huge support. My family in particular offered a place to stay and encouraging words whenever I was in doubt. And I wanted to be surrounded by that support system as I started over again. So that was that, I was moving back to Manchester. All I needed to do now was find a job!
It took me a couple of months after I got back to find the right job but I did. I even managed to find one that incorporated travel in the job description which was a bonus. Of course, I’m not going anywhere at the moment but I can’t wait to get back out there again!
I found a great flat with a huge terrace in a new area of Manchester I’d not lived in before. Luckily I found an equally great flatmate and new friend to share it with as well. The only downside was moving a truck’s worth of boxes up four flights of stairs because the lift was out!! One thing’s for sure, if I didn’t hate moving before, I certainly did by the end of that day! Thankfully my Grandma and Uncle helped otherwise I might have given up and just started unpacking on the stairs!
Since moving back to Manchester I have been catching up with old friends, making new ones, dating (!) and settling into my new job and place. I’ve also managed to do a bit of weekend travel including two trips to London, Dublin and Northern Ireland. I look forward to sharing more about these trips in future posts!
What made me want to start blogging again?
I know I started this post declaring my comeback during a pandemic after a year off blogging was bad timing. But you could say this is actually the perfect time because of how much time the lockdown has freed up. Granted I’m still working full-time, only now it’s from my dining room table at home instead of the office. Physically staying at home means I gain an extra 45 mins a day from not commuting to work alone. Plus with our social lives on standby I have evenings and weekends free to work on Footsteps on the Globe. And I’m loving it!
This blog has been my passion project for the last five years. And as much as I enjoyed and needed that time out, I’m ready to get stuck in again. I’m excited to catch up with my favourite bloggers and start attending blogger events again (Covid-19 permitting). But I’m also just excited to see where Footsteps on the Globe could go. I want it to reach it’s full potential and beyond!
I hope you’ll join me, it’s good to be back! We’ve still got so much more to catch up on Footsteppers, how you been? 😉