How travelling helped me accept who I am

Do you feel like there is a whole level to yourself that you haven’t explored yet? Have you ever felt like you aren’t at home in your own skin? Do you ever find yourself apologising for the things that make you, you?


That's how one of Harvest Rain's producers, Stephanie Sanders, felt. And then she took a trip that completely changed her life.


I’m twenty-two and 2016 was the first time I have ever been overseas without my parents.


This year, my sister and I decided we wanted to go to New Zealand and in the space of 24 hours had booked and paid the deposit for a two-week trip.


I am half kiwi and a huge nerd, so after growing up on Tolkien and getting to see the Lord of the Rings brought to life on film, I had started writing a list of places in New Zealand that I wanted to visit years ago.


I had had numerous people around me go travelling over the years and most of them always said the same thing when they came back (and it sounds slightly cliché) – “I learnt so much about myself on my trip. I grew up so much.”


And I didn’t understand it in full until this year.


Things I learnt whilst travelling:


1. You really do learn so much about yourself when you travel. When I left Australia, I was in a weird place where I was unsure about a lot of things in my life. Two weeks spent immersed in travelling what is practically Middle Earth as you see it in the films gave me a whole new perspective on what I wanted to get out of my life. I was in my happy place. I came back feeling alive, refreshed and, most importantly, I came back with a greater acceptance of who I am. I came back unapologetic of my passions and the things that make me who I am.


I was (and still am) the kid who would always be reading whenever I got a chance. I read Modern History text books for fun (because history is cool!), I would read the class novel at least 3 times because I liked it and I would always write way too many words in assignments (because you just can’t fit a detailed character arc into 2,500 words!). I was the young girl who would run around in the back yard with maps that I had drawn on tea stained paper, with a bow my dad had fashioned me out a branch from the back yard and a cape I had made out of a sheet pretending to be an elf saving the day. I always used to end passionate sentences about a book I was reading or a movie I loved with “but yeah, I kind of liked it” because I didn’t want to be too passionate about something that was considered “nerdy” or “geeky” even though those were the things I absolutely loved. And I was still apologising for how nerdy my trip to New Zealand was right up until I left because I was scared that people would think I was weird – regardless of how excited I was!


What I came back from my trip knowing deep in my heart was that firstly, whatever you are passionate about is cool because think it is and because love it. Secondly, I learnt that there are people out there who are just as passionate about the things that you are, and that alone can be the basis of a really cool friendship. I now have friends across the globe because of my trip to New Zealand. And thirdly, it is so freeing learning to accept that you are who you are for a reason. Goodness, if we all liked the same things wouldn’t life be incredibly boring? Individuality is incredibly powerful.

2. You appreciate time. Working is hard – we can all appreciate this. We all lead busy lives that are driven by time and scheduled down to the minute. After an incredibly busy first 8 months of full time work, I had gotten myself into a loop of working until everything was done and then I would stop. (Handy hint: don’t do this. You will burn out and it isn’t fun.) I was burnt out when I went to New Zealand and I spent the first week of my trip being a bit of a recluse – because I just needed to recharge. And at the time I felt bad that I wasn’t out doing lots of things but I also knew that I wouldn’t appreciate everything I was experiencing if I was completely spent. That trip taught me that it is okay (and it is important) to set aside time for you to recharge. And no one can define how much time that needs to be but you; but you owe it to yourself to find your way to recharge.  Maybe it is reading, maybe it is catching up with your friends for a movie, or maybe it is just going for a walk and spending some time alone. Appreciate your own time.

3. You discover new hobbies, do ridiculous things and step out of your comfort zone. We came up with so many ways to entertain ourselves whist we were busing across the North and South Island. We would play card games; we would play Psych! on our phones til all hours of the morning; we would discuss the different ways that we say things in different countries. We went horseriding (Greatest. Day. Of. My. Life.), canoeing, and hiking. I stood barefoot in a glacial lake in the middle of winter because why not. We dressed up, we reenacted scenes from the movies where they were shot and we opened ourselves up to people we had just met, listening to their stories and becoming close friends. I discovered a real passion for photography. It’s not something I ever intend to make a living out of. I don’t even care if anyone else likes the photos I take. I take photos because I enjoy it; because it relaxes me; because it is a creative outlet for me to express myself.


4. Not having cell phone reception was amazing. I know I spend way too much time on my phone. In the first day or two, I struggled to stay off my phone for periods of time but then we ended up in places where there was no cell reception, and it was wonderful. Because once I got off it, once I broke through the addiction of always being on my phone and living in the universe in my hand, I was able to appreciate what was surrounding me. And it was glorious. Nothing virtual will ever beat the raw beauty of what surrounds us.


5. The world is beautiful. Being outside, surrounded by nature is one of the most awe-inspiring feelings. Not to mention that New Zealand is snake and spider free – it’s great! I remember standing on the Canterbury Plains feeling dwarfed by the ginormous snow capped mountains that were creating the most breathtaking, untouched back drop you could ever imagine. It literally took my breath away (and not just because I was unfit and out of breath from climbing a mountain...). Appreciating that there are places on this earth untouched by humanity that are beyond description is enough to make you want to run away and just travel so you can soak up as much of this planet as possible.




I know that it is pricey to travel. I know that it can also be dangerous to travel. But the greatest choice I have made for myself was going on my holiday this year. You don’t have to go overseas to appreciate the beauty this planet has to offer or to spend some time working out who you are. You don’t even have to leave your state.


Save your money. Explore your surroundings. Be safe; be sensible; but be brave. Don’t let fear of the great big unknown stop you from exploring, from following your passions, or from doing something you really want to do.


Hot tip: if you really want something: write it down. Last year I wrote down in my journal (not thinking much of it), “I am going to travel to New Zealand and go to all the Lord of the Rings locations. I am going to meet people from different countries and have friends across the globe.” I found that journal entry 2 months after I got back from my trip.


So, if you are a nerd like me; if you are the Hermione Granger of your friendship group (bookworm-y type) or you like going dressing up and going to ComicCon - don’t be ashamed of that. You are cool. If you like reading, you are cool. I’ll have a conversation with you about any book you have read or movie you have seen any time you like! If you want to talk about how much you love Star Wars - I’m there. Please don’t hide away your passion for things.


Go travelling. Take the leap. Travelling opens your eyes. It gives you perspective. For me, travelling helped me find out who I am and what makes me happy. For you, maybe it will give you a chance to explore and discover things about yourself that you might not discover when you are in the comfort of your home.


Be brave. I can’t wait to hear your travel adventures! x


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