Some of the most wonderful experiences of my life have left me with cherished memories and some have changed me – and my outlook on life – entirely.
There are simple ones such as three individuals dining at separate tables at a pavement restaurant in Barcelona and simultaneously noticing each other, realising how silly it was that each of us should sit there in silence. We all moved to one table and shared our meal and a few laughs. I’ve never seen them again, but I always remember how we came together for that moment.
Or spending a day sightseeing in New York City with an Italian girl I met in the queue to the Empire State Building.
Then there are the deeper relationships, like the girl I met in a backpackers’ in St Ives, Cornwall. She lives in San Francisco and I live in London. We just ‘clicked’ and spent a couple of days looking around Cornwall together. 21 years later, we’re still good friends despite the distance.
Don’t get me wrong, I have had scary experiences whilst travelling like getting lost in the roughest part of Johannesburg or my guide getting us lost in the jungle in Borneo. Staying calm and using common sense is what helped me then and I’m still here to tell the tale – though I’ll save those ones for another time.
Thailand left me with fonder memories. Taking a bus between areas, a Buddhist monk sat next to me on his way to an English lesson at university. He asked if I’d go with him to his class and help them practice their English. We laughed almost non-stop the whole time.
A couple of hours with some of the warmest, most contented people I’ve ever met was one of the happiest moments of my life and it always brings a smile to my face when I think about it.
Onward to a silk-weaving village and I met a family where only one girl spoke a little English. When I mentioned I was studying textiles at uni, she took me around showing me each stage of the process, from baskets of silk worms through to spinning, dying, weaving and hand-painting the lengths of gorgeous brightly coloured fabric stretched out under their homes on stilts. They invited me to stay a couple of nights with them – such generosity to a complete stranger you wouldn’t encounter in London or any big city in the world. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay, but they drove me to the main town and saw me safely onto my next bus. They restored my faith in human nature.
It’s unlikely these things would have happened had I been traveling with someone else.
The thing is, I moved to the UK from Australia by myself with a one-way ticket and just £700 to my name – the biggest solo adventure of my life and the one that’s had the biggest impact on who I am as a person. Of course, there are bad people out there, but the majority of the people I’ve met are good and kind. Too many women use being single as a reason not to do something. I say use it as the reason TO DO something – you may not get another chance and it might just change your life forever.
Michelle Kent, is the designer behind Suitcase Susie, a range of fine bone china tableware and home textiles with distinctive designs inspired by travel and some of the world’s most beautiful places. An Australian by birth, but now lives in London, UK. She went to university as an adult studying Surface Design at University of the Arts, London. Favourite travel experiences include helping monks with their English lesson at a university in Thailand, being a little poorly in a wonderful hotel in lovely Udaipur that meant she stayed there longer, and getting lost in the jungle in Borneo. She hasn’t yet returned home to marry the boy next door… You can find her talking on twitter here @..