My first big overseas trip was a 36 day trip to Europe with Topdeck. I was going through a really hard time before I booked it. I was unhappy with my life and my relationship and a close family member had just passed away, I was devastated. I remember very clearly, sitting at my desk at work, trying to fight back tears. I was incredibly angry and frustrated, overwhelmed with how unhappy I felt in life. All I could think was, “I need something. I need something BIG.” Without really thinking, I jumped on a flight booking website and found a sale on one-way fares to Paris. I grabbed my credit card, hands shaking, and booked it.
That was an incredibly exhilarating moment for me. At 20, it was the first time I’d really stood up and done something big for myself. I figured I’d just sort out the rest of my trip later and, when it came time, I decided a Topdeck trip was the best way to do it. So I booked myself on the longest trip I could find, ended up meeting one of my best friends in the whole wide world and had a 36-day adventure that would change my life forever. It sparked my love for travel. It set me up to live the life I do now, all because I got to a point of such anger and frustration I acted impulsively and did something a bit crazy. Thank gosh for crazy!
I just found myself on my second trip with Topdeck, this time for work, thanks to the amazing teams at AirAsia, Perth Airport and Topdeck. It was an amazing experience for me because last time I was on a Topdeck trip I was in a really bad place in my life, feeling completely lost and helpless. Fast forward 9 years and I’m on another Topdeck trip as part of my dream job and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.
Watch this video to see some of the amazing things I experienced on the Road to Phnom Penh….
If you read my blog posts regularly, you’ll know I believe everything happens for a reason. My Topdeck trip 9 years ago and this one weren’t a coincidence, they were acting as mirrors to bookend my 20s and allow me to see two very different points in my life and fully appreciate them and how far I’ve grown and how much I’ve learned.
Before I took the big step of booking that one-way flight I had tried to get my friends to travel with me. I’d attempted to motivate those close to me to book a trip too, for us to have the adventure together because that way it would be ‘safe’. But all I received were empty promises and false hopes. It occurred to me I couldn’t keep putting my adventures and my life on hold, waiting for others to do it with me. I realised I had to take charge of my own destiny and be brave enough to go by myself. That’s the beauty of group trips, you can take the bold step of going by yourself but you know you’ll never be alone and, if you’re lucky like I was, you’ll meet one of your lifelong soul mates outside the meeting point hostel at 5am in the morning and be friends for life.
I meet so many beautiful, intelligent, hard-working, strong women who want to travel and see the world but feel held back for various reasons. If this sounds familiar, I want these words to be your very own mirror. They’re here to remind you that it’s okay to be worried, doubtful or scared and it’s also okay to want more for yourself, to crave adventure and choose yourself first. If your soul is longing for adventure, don’t keep putting it off. If you need something ‘big’ in your life, like I did, then just go for it. Do it. Because I promise you, it will change your life.
My trip taught me so many things. It very clearly highlighted the parts of myself I was ashamed of, tired of and desperately wanted to change. It also gave me a huge amount of clarity, I remember sitting on a rock in Meteora having this strange sense of calm ripple through my body and soul, out of nowhere I realised, innately, this is what I wanted in my life. To travel and find myself in moments like this one, totally lost in the world, tangled up in wild adventures. That moment fuelled me to the place I’m in now.
My most recent trip taught me a great deal too. I saw myself on my last Topdeck trip and compared who I am now to who I was 9 years ago, the growth shocked me. I realised I’m so much calmer and content in my life. Where I used to be quick to anger, easily frustrated and intent on controlling everything, I now realise the small things don’t matter, everything happens for a reason, I can only control how I feel (not what others do) and it’s a lot easier just to chill out and not stress because everything works out in the end, as long as you follow your heart. My view on myself has changed drastically and, 9 years later, I’m now really proud of who I am. That’s something I couldn’t have said 9 years ago.
The road to Phnom Penh was an incredible journey. It started early in the morning at Perth Airport, waiting to board my flight with AirAsia. We rode Tuk Tuk’s through the crowded streets of Bangkok and tried street food. We explored ancient temples in Chiang Mai and rode around on trishaws. We visited the Golden Triangle and ate ice creams in Chiang Rai. In Laos, we journeyed through the mountains and buzzed down the Mekong by long boat. We wandered through local villages and woke at dawn to give alms to Monks. We marvelled at limestone cliffs in Vang Vieng and explored the welcoming streets of Luang Prabang. We visited ancient sites in Siem Reap, pausing to let the sheer magnitude of Angkor Wat wash over us. In Phnom Penh, we met beautiful locals, ate Amok and visited the glittering Grand Palace. I saw the sun come up to rise, growing from a tiny red slither on the horizon to a burning orange ball in the sky, as my plane came into land at Perth Airport.
There were so many moments I’ll keep with me forever. I loved hanging out the side of the longboat, buzzing down the Mekong, the warm sun kissing my shoulders, wind in my hair. I loved seeing the awe-inspiring mountains of Laos, totally taken back by a beauty I never existed in South-East Asia, then overwhelmed again by the sheer beauty of the perfect golden sunsets over the limestone cliffs of Vang Vieng. I loved buzzing around Siem Reap in a Tuk Tuk, feeling totally and completely safe, eating local food and exploring markets.
My first solo trip was inspired by fear, frustration and desperation. Now, they’re inspired by a love of adventure, an innate self-trust and value I have for my own happiness, dreams and desires. It took 9 years and a lot of hard work and travel to get me here, but I’m grateful I went through it all and learned everything I did.
So, to anyone who read this and found themselves nodding along, feeling a sharp stab of familiarity at particular words, let this post be a light for you. Let it spark the adventure in yourself. Don’t put your desires on hold a moment longer. Get out there and see the world and, as my grandma tells me every time I see her, “Grab life with both hands. Don’t waste a single moment. Love every moment of your beautiful life.” You don’t need anyone else to go with you or enable you to have what you want. You are all you need to have your own amazing adventures. So, stop waiting and do it now. Life the life you want to live right now. Just book it and go.
I just want to say a huge thank you to AirAsia, Perth Airport and Topdeck. This amazing adventure started for me at the gorgeous Perth Airport, where on-the-ground staff made the whole process of checking-in really easy and seamless (especially at 5am! How are they so upbeat?!) I was also blown away by how easy and stress-free it was to transition from International to Domestic (a process that usually tests the patience of any traveller). Also, you guys, the coffee at the airport is amazing.
I can also safely say I’ve fallen in love with AirAsia’s quiet zone, a beautiful, peaceful place that should exist on every plane in existence. They just seal you up in there, nice and quiet so you can get a good rest. I very clearly remember a time when it was too expensive to fly from Brisbane to Sydney. Now we can fly from Australia to places like Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, China, Japan, India and Laos, thanks to airlines like AirAsia who are making travel affordable and easy. Hot tip: if you ever find yourself on a Premium Flexi fare with AirAsia, transiting through Kuala Lumpur, you can get access to the Red Lounge. Woohooo!
Phoebe Lee is a travel writer and award-winning blogger with a love for storytelling. Phoebe creates practical, fun and engaging written content designed to inspire and energise travel-lovers and dreamers. Follow her and Matt’s adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box and through Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.