Delicious Ice Cream and a Bright Pink Tricycle

Today, sitting in one of my favourite spots in Puebla, it hit me – I’m in a beautiful part of the world, almost as far away from my home as I could possibly be; eating hibiscus gelato while the winter sun warms my back – I am so lucky. Yes, I’ve been through a lot lately, and it’s been difficult, and I can’t express how many hours (days) I’ve wasted crying and feeling sorry for myself. But here I am, still standing, still breathing, still enjoying the incredible flavours of Mexican food, with tickets booked to one of my Bucket List countries in less than two weeks. I smiled, for the first time in a few days, thinking of how life works in funny and mysterious ways, but with any luck, it is working, and it will all work out in the end.

I watched a tiny little girl cycling around the beautiful fountain in the middle of the park, with her grandfather steering a handle attached to the back of her tricycle. Every now and then, her grandfather let go, and the little girl circled around helplessly until he took the handle and aided her to get back on her path again. Sometimes she would get stuck in a rut in the cobblestone pathway and wouldn’t be able to get out by herself; again her grandfather would come to her rescue, usually without her asking for help. Every time she needed it, she accepted it, and was on her way to happiness again. I suddenly realised why I was so fascinated by this little girl. The situation resonated with me for a reason well beyond what I realised I’d been subconsciously thinking about.

Four years ago today, my siblings and I lost our mother. She was always the person we would each go to when we needed help, especially for emotional guidance. Without her, I didn’t know who to go to, so I didn’t go to anyone. Like the little girl on her tricycle, without help, I went round and round in circles of depression and confusion and anger, and got stuck in many a rut. Even when people offered me the help I desperately needed, I usually refused, and pretended everything was alright. And I’ve regretted that ever since. I still haven’t healed properly, and I still get stuck in ruts every now and then, or let myself fall terribly off my path. But not anymore. I’ve learned to ask for help. I’ve learned to accept when someone reaches out and offers it. I’ve opened up, I talk, I cry, I don’t bottle it up so much anymore. I’m starting to learn to let people lead me back to the path I should be on, and it feels good.

A beautiful, very dear friend of mine once told me that when we are children, we feel a lot more than most adults do, and we make decisions based on how something feels. As adults, many of us learn to think and ignore our feelings in favour of making decisions based on logic and thoughts. This isn’t always a bad thing, of course; if we always made decisions based purely on feelings, we would be in trouble. However, it may be that we are also getting ourselves into trouble by always making decisions based on a process that involves over-thinking, stressing, worrying and ignoring our instincts or feelings. We need to make decisions based on a healthy balance of both. And I’m learning to; I’m starting to overthink a little bit less, and beginning to worry about the things I really need to, and not about everything there is in the world to worry about. I’m focusing on what I have to be positive about – and there’s a lot. I’m letting people steer me back to a healthy, happy path; and pick me up when I’m in a rut I can’t get out of alone.

When I got on the plane to Mexico, I never would have thought I’d end up eating ice cream in a park, alone. But what I realised today was, there are a lot of lessons to learn from this experience. And I’m surprised and delighted that I learned one of them from a little girl and her grandfather, and a bright pink tricycle.

8 Things I’ve Learned While Travelling The World

1. It can be dangerous to say “yes” to a food item without understanding what it is you’re saying yes to.

Once, I ended up with a bowl of hot cinnamon water served alongside a jar of nescafe, and a whole chili, stuffed with cheese, crumbed and deep fried. It wasn’t the most appealing breakfast and it was much spicier than I expected at that time of day!
On another occasion, I walked into a restaurant where the waiter asked me a question. I thought he was asking if I wanted to eat my meal here (rather than take it away) – he was actually asking if I wanted the set menu. All I wanted was a sandwich, but I ended up with a bowl of boiling, slightly flavoured water, with pasta in it; a bowl of salty, slightly flavoured rice; a jug of very sweet flavoured water to drink; and a cold, custard-like dessert. There would have been a main as well but it was crumbed chicken, which I declined. What an experience! Lesson learnt – don’t say yes without knowing what it is you’re agreeing to if you’re at all picky with your food! Luckily, it’s all an experience and makes for good stories!


My stuffed chili surprise in Oaxaca, Mexico – I finished it!


2. People change when you’re travelling together.

Setting off overseas with your brother, best friend, or partner might seem like a great idea – and a lot of the time it is! But other times, being in close proximity to someone for a long period of time can force you into a make or break situation. The key to travelling well with someone is communicating well with someone!


3. Plans change.

Don’t expect everything to happen when you want it to. You might have a bus booked to your next destination – it might not arrive on time. Don’t stress! Ask yourself – is there anything I can do? If the answer is “no”, then let it go, and let life play out as it was always intended to.
In Cuba I once booked a taxi to my next destination with three other travellers. We assumed it would just be the four of us and the driver. Alas, after waiting over an hour for the “taxi” to arrive, we discovered it was in fact a beaten up old van with no air-conditioning or windows that could be opened, no working speedometer, and the world’s smallest and most uncomfortable seats. And it was already filled with ten other people, so it was an extraordinary squeeze just to get us and our bags in! But we got to our destination safely and made friends along the way!


Waiting for our very late “taxi” in Havana, Cuba


4. Life goes on.

No matter what happens to you on your trip – getting mugged, missing a plane, not having accommodation booked and finding everything is full, or breaking up with your partner mid-trip – life will go on. You will find a way to remember why you came travelling in the first place and you will find something to make you smile again. My fiancé ended our engagement two months into what was meant to be a six month trip together before getting married at home. It was a huge shock, the worst thing I could have imagined happening on our dream trip. But I woke up a few days later and went for a walk and felt a little bit better. And in a week or a month I’ll feel a bit better. And whether I go home early or keep travelling, I need to believe everything happens for a reason and I have no choice but to keep waking up and going for walks and experiencing this beautiful world. I’ve made it this far, and I want to make it further.


5. Say “yes” to new experiences with people you trust.

Even during the middle of my break up, I had a friend of a friend ask me and my fiancé to go sight-seeing with them. Instead of being miserable and wallowing at home, I said yes, and I will always remember that day and those experiences with new friends as one of the highlights of my trip. New people can give you the distraction you need and remind you that there’s more to life than what’s bringing you down. A couple of days after the break up, I spent the day crying in bed at my Airbnb accommodation. That evening, the owner called up to my room to make sure I was ok, and asked me to join him and his friends in a gathering. The last thing I felt like doing was leaving my room to face the world, but it was the best decision I could have made. I spent the evening trying to understand new friends speaking much faster Spanish than I’m used to, eating traditional Christmas “rosca de reyes” cake, drinking amazing Oaxacan hot chocolate and not thinking about my troubles.


An excellent quote I found on a day out with my new friends, amidst my break up. It translates roughly to “Love isn’t forever, mezcal is!”


6. If you pause for a second and consider taking a photo, do it!

I guarantee that you’ll regret not taking a photo but you will never regret taking too many. A few times I was in a hurry somewhere and saw something amazing on the way and didn’t pause to take the photo and I wish I had! It takes a few seconds to take a photo – it’s always worth it!


7. Stick to your budget – but work a few extras into the budget before you start travelling.

Things don’t always go to plan (refer to #3), which can mean things are more expensive than planned. Allow for this in your budget so you don’t get too disappointed when you spend more than you expected to. I knew Cuba was going to be expensive but when I came back to Mexico and could use the internet to look at how much I’d spent there, it was even more than I expected and I was a bit shocked! But I don’t regret a dollar I spent there and will have incredible photos, memories and stories to tell from Cuba for the rest of my life.
As well as this, every now and then there will be something you want to do but you’ll think, “it’s a bit too expensive” and you’ll consider not doing it. Sometimes this is the right decision, but sometimes it isn’t. Reconsider your budget and write down the pros and cons of doing the activity/going to the new place/eating the expensive food. It can be well worth it, even if it sounds overly expensive at the time!


8. Make the most of your trip – you might not be back again soon.

Get out and explore! Eat new food, don’t stick to sandwiches and hamburgers and pizza. Try new drinks, talk to new people, give each new place a chance. Find one thing you love about your day each and every day – it’s possible and it’s the only way to travel!


Enjoying beers and mezcal in Puebla, Mexico