After Cuba, Ayla’s next destination was her starting point–her home Norway.
In this, Ayla’s final post, she looks back on her three-month, three-continent, ten-country journey to look at the highlights, offers advice to those who wish to travel, and answers questions I ask below.
Enjoy Ayla’s finale. She’s enjoyed sharing her global experiences and adventures with us, and we thank her so much for doing so!
I am home! Thank you everyone for following me on this amazing adventure. I’m really quite touched by how many cared about this journey. I’ll be on Ellen before you know it!
What were your favorite countries or experiences?
Haha, my favorites? I have no idea. Is everything an answer? I wouldn’t want to change anything.
What would you recommend to someone thinking of doing what you did?
I would say just do it! It’s not hard. It’s just going on momondo.com (love that website) and buying a ticket. It’s way easier than figuring out which shoes to buy online, trust me! Also, start talking about the trip right away. People know people! I learned in my technology and social studies class that we are only six handshakes from everyone in the world! This is how I got to Tanzania and China.
People were like, “Oh, I know someone who knows someone there. I’ll give them a call!”
Would you do anything different next time?
Next time I’m buying a one-way ticket, making a bucket list, sketching a plan, and then going with the flow. My mom always tells me to make a plan, ’cause you need a plan in order to break a plan. It was good to have everything pre-booked and planned the first time backpacking, but you lose a lot by always following it. Like I was invited to come along with someone to Vietnam, and I wanted to spend more time in Malta. But I couldn’t do either of them, because my tickets where already booked.
How did you pay for all this travel?
I worked for a year to save up money. I saved up 80,000kr working part-time at the bookstore. (Of course wages in Norway are very different than in the US.) This was like $8000 when I traveled. (It’s actually $9900 in today’s currency! I had super bad luck with exchange rates when I left.) It went for tickets, accommodations, food, and spending money. So everything, basically. I came home with 100kr on my account! I did spend a lot, because I knew I had a lot more than I needed. But I didn’t need money once I got home anyway, so why not?
What do you take away from your travels? What were some lessons you learned?
1. There is no correct way of life.
What is right for me doesn’t have to be right for you. In Egypt, their culture was so different than mine. Their ways of life can’t compare most times. I spoke with my Egyptian family about moving out from your parents’ home. When I learned they live with their parents into their late 20s, I first reacted with, “That is soooo strange!”
But I realized it makes total sense if you look at the culture as a whole. And when you think of it, it’s not like any one culture has the best way of doing things. It’s just different. My way fits in my culture; their way fits perfectly in theirs.
2. Trust God.
I felt scared, alone, and lost in Italy, because I had no control over the situation. In the Bahamas I was facing a similar situation but knew by then that I could just relax and rely on the Lord. Throughout my travels I had the knowledge that I didn’t have to worry, because God is going to fix it. He is good at that kinda stuff.
3. Everyone has a story.
You can learn something from the life story of everyone you meet. There is a reason behind every choice a person makes. In Naples, I met Jasmine, a young backpacker who was tired of the life at home with a 9-5 job. So she quit, went to Europe, and traveled around for nine months! Hearing her story was true inspiration.
4. Life is as good as you make it.
Happiness comes from gratitude. To have a positive attitude and be grateful for what you have will make your life so much better. It would have been very easy for me to just give up in Italy. But I chose to think, “Okay what can I learn from this? How can I make this a positive experience?” Of course, I learned a lot and wouldn’t be without the experience now!
5. People are amazing.
You don’t have to be afraid of people. People are interesting, kind, helpful, and passionate. Trust in the good hearts of people, because most of them would never harm you. Mostly they are very eager to get to know you. In Malta I went to an Airbnb with about seven people in it. I was a little scared as I went in, but I discovered seven really interesting individuals. I had so much fun and learned that I can’t go around being afraid of people.
6. Don’t be naive.
But trust your guts. It knows its stuff. If a situation feels dodgy, go away. Now.
7. Don’t let your worries get in your way.
Choose to go with the flow and don’t worry about it. If something unfortunate happens, you probably couldn’t do anything about it anyway. So why spend time worrying about it? Plus, a scared tourist is always an easier target than a confident backpacker.
8. Enjoy the moments.
Moments don’t usually last. And let’s be real, it is possible to watch a sunset without putting it on your blog. Tanzania with no internet and very bad reception was just heaven. To put the rest of the world aside and just enjoy the beautiful Tanzanian countryside was amazing.
9. Always bring snacks and toilet paper.
Just trust me on this one. It comes in handy. What is it with China and no toilet paper in any of the toilets?!? And to have some snacks in my bag saved me sooo many times!
10. Use the toilet when given the chance.
You never know when that bus is going to stop again! Lesson learned. (Thank you, Tanzania. It had never felt so good to go to the toilet.)
11. Ask for help.
People will help you. It’s a matter of instincts. If someone walks up to you and asks for help or directions or anything, your first reaction is to help. (Note: Do not try this in Italy. It’s considered rude to not know things, so they will make up an answer. Then you just end up walking in circles, because everyone gives wrong directions.) The worst thing you can do is look totally lost hoping someone will come and ask you if you need help. Then the situation can be kinda sketchy. Be the one who’s asking, then it’s you who’s in control of the situation. Also, if you are unsure of the stop you are going to on the bus, ask someone on the bus. Then there will be one other person making sure you get off at the right place. <–Top tips from Mom!
12. Old men know English.
Old men have been in wars. They have been sailing the seas. They know a little bit. They have at least a higher chance to know English than any other group of people in a non-English-speaking country like Italy or South Korea.
13. Give a smile to everyone you meet.
This one is sooo non-Norwegian. But people deserve a smile. Always say thank you to the bus driver and to the person in the checkout at the store. I used to work in a bookstore. I know how it just makes your day when someone takes the time to say thanks. Give sincere compliments to people. Do you know how rarely people actually do that? And it makes people so happy!
I wish I could thank everyone who helped me, made an impact, or just was a great friend on this trip. But as I started making a list, I realized there are close to 60 people involved in this trip! So you all know who you are. ️I love you all. Thank you so much for sharing your stories, culture, home, friendship, or just an interesting chat. ️You are the ones who made this trip a memorable one.
Enjoy my final video looking back on my trip, and thank you again for coming along!
Ayla is a 20-year-old Norwegian who loves to learn new things and study new cultures. She’s Christian, and in her more normal life (when not eating donkey sandwiches in China and taking trains across Italy), she does dancing and karate. For any questions for Ayla or about travels, please comment below.
And if you’d like to share your story on The Periphery, please email me at Brandon@ThePeriphery.com. We’d love to hear all about your adventure.