Once upon a time in a land far, far away, there lived a dragon.
That land in question is known to most as Wales and that dragon, for the purpose of this tale, is me, Rhiannon. Hi!
Now, this dragon came from what was once a thriving mining community in the middle of the South Wales Valleys. Back in the day, the Valleys contributed heavily to the supply of coal being shipped out from what was then one of the biggest coal exporters in the whole wide world. When you think about it, that’s a pretty big deal. We shipped coal out left, right and centre to fuel the fires of households and factories all over the globe.
Then along came the closing of the mines, the halt on coal production and a bunch of other, more political aspects we won’t go into here (cough, Margaret Thatcher, cough) and a lot of people lost their jobs. Then some other stuff happened, but I wasn’t alive for it and didn’t study it in school so let’s just skip right over that.
We make Peter’s pies and some bloody fantastic ice cream.
Coal and pies aside, the Valleys are a decent enough place to live. Especially for a dragon. There’s a lot of greenery, mountains to hide in, and an absolute ton of coal still hiding about to fuel dragons’ breath and what-not.
Growing up, I loved it. But I always knew that there was a lot more out there; a whole world to explore. And I was itching to spread my dragon-y wings and fly!
Which is why, as soon as I was old enough to think for myself in the eyes of the law, I sent away for my passport and began setting the wheels in motion for a lifetime of adventure and llama encounters.
In celebration of the end of compulsory education, instead of hot-footing it down to the local Thomas Cook branch to book a 2-week boozy holiday to Ibiza, I signed up for a 6-week voluntourism trip to the other side of the world in the Sacred Valley of Peru.
I figured it’d be a great way to a) calm my itchy feet and b) brush up on my Spanish before heading to Uni the following September.
What I didn’t realise at the time is that trip was just the beginning…
What happened next can best be described in four words:
A monster was born.
You’ll come to learn that I can be a wee bit over-dramatic with my words and descriptions…
But seriously, I became obsessed with the idea of travel, of exploration, of discovering new places and faces and collecting as many stamps as my passport could hold.
Since making that rather impulsive and not exactly well thought-out purchase of a flight ticket to Peru way back in 2011, I’ve set foot on four continents (soon to be five: New Zealand, I’m coming for ya!), visited some of the most dangerous cities in the world, jumped out of planes, trains and moving jet-skis, and, to top it all have done most of it completely on my tod!
Et voila! Here I am six years and 37 countries later, tapping away at my keyboard while unashamedly listening to the Moana soundtrack on repeat and dreaming of my next destination (India, in case you’re wondering).
Why such an unquenchable thirst for adventure?
I’ve grown up knowing that life isn’t a given. You can be here one minute, gone the next, and I’m all too aware of that fact, which is why to me, it’s absolutely imperative to enjoy the time we’ve got, follow our dreams and, cliché as it sounds, do whatever makes us happy.
And what makes me happy is travel. I love to travel, it’s as simple as that. I love to explore new cultures, meet new people, taste new flavours and occasionally jump off really high bridges while attached to a rope, screaming for mercy and praying my ankle doesn’t snap.
From quite a young age my dream was to visit all of the New Seven Wonders of the World before I turned 30. And in August 2016, at the age of 23, I set foot on the Great Wall of China (seven for seven!) and have never felt such an incredible sense of elation in my life!
Honestly, I doubt even the birth of my first child will come close to the feeling I had while making a virtual stranger take my photo in about 9 million different poses (one for every bicycle in Beijing) on that wall.
I’m under no illusion that travel is accessible to everyone, so I’m not here to tell you that “you too can travel, it’s as easy as A-B-C“. I won’t teach you how to travel the world for free (because lol, that’s not possible). I’m not here to inspire you, or to encourage you to quit your 9-5 and buy an Osprey 60 and a one-way ticket to Bangkok.
So why am I here?
Because after 6 years, 37 countries and countless close encounters of the crazy taxi driver kind, I have a list of stories that would stretch the length of the Pacific Ocean that I want to tell. I’ve learned a thing or two that, in hindsight, I can’t help but think “If only I’d known…”
So I’m simply here to share what I’ve learned, what I’m yet to learn and to recount my tales of adventure. And hey, if I happen to inspire anybody along the way? Ten points to Gryffindor!