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Embracing the Journey: How Southeast Asia Shaped My Identity

The popular notion that “travelling changes you” is a phrase I was definitely skeptical about. I didn’t understand how this was possible until I embarked on my own journey. Writing this today, I am reminded of the profound impact it has had on shaping the person I now am. Beyond the stunning beaches and iconic landmarks, Southeast Asia served as a crucible for personal growth, igniting a transformative process that forever altered my perspective on life, relationships, and the world as a whole.

Life Before Travelling

Growing up, I lived my life by the books. I went straight from high school to sixth form and then straight to university, where I studied English and Linguistics for 3 years. My time at university was one of the hardest, yet most amazing periods of my life! I met the most amazing people and learnt so many valuable lessons, and I even ended up leaving with a high 2:1 degree. However, I just wasn’t ready to enter the working world yet. I had been in education all my life; did I really want to commit to a full-time job just yet? Definitely not. My best friend Holly and I (inseparable since meeting in first year) had a chat and 2 hours later our flight to Bangkok was booked. I was off travelling!


Thailand is probably the most amazing place I have ever visited. From the white sandy beaches (Maldives vibes) to the gorgeous temples and culture, there was so much to explore. We visited Bangkok, Koh Samui, Koh Phi Phi, and Phuket and each place blew our minds with how incredible they all were. Most importantly, were the amazing people living in these amazing places. The Thai community were so incredibly welcoming, and some of the life stories we learned will stay with me forever. many of the people we met, didn’t have the opportunities to earn a good salary, but what astounded me was how committed they were to work and earning a life for themselves and how they kept an infectious positive attitude to life. It really opened my eyes to how lucky I have been growing up, I will never take anything for granted again.

Swimming with Sharks

Anyone that knows me, knows my love of the ocean and the creatures that live in it. At 5 years old I was collecting shark teeth and reading ocean encyclopaedias (Matilda is that you?) and that love never faded. So, when the opportunity to snorkel with sharks arose, I jumped at the chance! Hol and I signed up to a sunrise boat trip around the Phi Phi islands which started at 5 am and saw so many amazing sights, including Maya Bay where The Beach was filmed with Leonardo DiCaprio. When we finally arrived at Shark Point, I couldn’t wait to get into the water with these amazing beings. We swam with lots of baby reef sharks, and I even got to see a 2-metre mummy reef shark, what an incredible experience!


Our final stop was Bali, where we truly embraced the Balinese life. We visited many temples, ate incredible food, and learnt a lot about the Hindu and Buddhist cultures. This was an extremely intimate time for me, as I was able to reconnect with my grandad who sadly passed away 2 years ago. He moved over to the U.K. from Sri Lanka when he was 17 and fell madly in love with my grandma. My grandad’s culture was Hinduism, so embracing and really connecting with the beliefs and values Hinduism holds was an amazing opportunity to be closer to this amazing man.

I returned home with a bucket full of memories, but most importantly I brought home different values, morals, and outlooks on life. Life is a beautiful thing and should be embraced to the fullest, and that is what I will always do. Oh, and if this blog wasn’t clear enough, go travelling and see the world! You won’t regret it.

Tia Wilkinson, Cohort 39, Digital Marketing Apprentice at Fresh Digital


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