Megan Hayes recently dropped everything and went on a 'Soul Trip' to get back her zest for life after finding herself living in her home town, working a 9-to-5, and went on a two month journey to California via NYC. She made her choice to change her life up a bit, in true inspiring Megan fashion.
So why a soul trip?
As she answers on her blog:: "Because there's nothing like a break-up, followed by a five month stint in a dead-end job, to leave your mojo running a little dry. So this is my medicine. It's a trip to feed my imagination and light me back up."
What made you choose New York in particular? Do you have friends there? Did something in particular attract you there now, or has visiting the city been a long standing dream?
I visited both NYC and San Francisco – also with a foray through Boulder, Colorado. Originally I’d wanted to spend more time in SF, but after flying into NYC and spending a few days there, SF just didn’t light my fire in the same way. So I hot-footed it back to the Big Apple! It has always been a city I wanted to visit – for the buzz, the creativity of the people, the cafe culture, the writing culture – and it really exceeded all my expectations! I didn’t know anybody there, but I’m a big advocate of www.CouchSurfing.org for instant friendship group potential!
Did you always plan to go alone, if so why?
I didn’t plan to go alone, but I planned to go. I found myself alone so I went alone!
How did your friends and family react to your plans? Were they excited for you, confused, jealous?
My family just thought ‘typical Megan’ – I’ve taken a few solo adventures over the years. The general reaction from friends was ‘I wish I could do that!’ to which I tended to reply, ‘do it then!’
How did you start planning for your big trip?
I booked the flights. Once the flights are booked you have to get everything else organised so it’s a great incentive.
As the queen of budgeting, what changes did you make in your lifestyle to make things possible?
The queen of budgeting threw caution to the wind... I used my savings to go, knowing it would leave me with nothing on my return. At this time in my life, however, it was totally worth it! For complete transparency I’m now edging into my overdraft – but it is interest free. I hope to return to work and ‘repay’ myself quick-smart!
You’ve always championed having a niche wardrobe that all fits together like a puzzle, how did you choose what to pack? (Can we have a packing list sneak peek?)
The packing list basically amounted to ‘whatever fits in my backpack’. I took a 20l bag and that was all. I thought it would be tough but I tend to let my style go a bit when travelling and so not having much to choose from actually made day-to-day dressing easier... terrible, I know! But I’m all about the experiences when on my adventures, not the fashion statement! I just worked the euro-girl-in-the-states look which was, namely: skinny jeans, loafers or Birkenstock sandals, and an array of t-shirts varying from plain to pretty. Plus some pretty scarves and jewellery to add pizzazz!
How nervous were you upon leaving the UK?
Weirdly, I wasn’t at all nervous, you can read about it here.
What were the emotional highs and lows of your trip?
What was really special about this trip in particular was that I spent 99% of it in absolute glee. When I’m at home I tend to have a couple of down days a month – particularly around *that* time – but not so in the US. Also when I travel I often get emotional, but not this time. I think the universe was telling me something.
How did you combat loneliness, (if you even got lonely that is) and being away from home?
I am naturally a very independent person. I love my family to pieces but I can easily go weeks without talking to them. I also find I am very comfortable in my own company, and with the aid of meeting people through Couch Surfing as I mentioned, I didn’t get lonely... ever. It’s not the kind of trip to do if you aren’t pretty comfortable hanging out alone and putting yourself ‘out there’ in order to meet people.
What’s the one thing about America that you wish you could have brought home to the UK with you?
I think America is good as America and Great Britain as Great Britain. I would say that I’d bring some of the friends I made back with me, but really I’d rather be there with them!
What was the most inspiring thing/person you saw/met?
Inspiring... Hmm. Well I saw/met a muchness of amazing things/people, but the things I was particularly inspired by were perhaps attending ChrisGuillebeau’s book launch (with free cupcakes!) and the streets of the East Village which always had me snapping away with my Nikon.
Did you buy yourself any keepsakes from your trip, if so, what were they?
I didn’t, I was too broke! Although I do like to take postcards from places I visit, so of course I did that. I also keep things like tickets and receipts and business cards as little mementos. I did buy myself a turquoise ring just before the trip, however, as I like having pieces of jewellery serving as reminders of a certain concept I want to carry with me, and this acted as a symbol of my independence in taking the trip. It’s nice because you glimpse a ring many times a day so are always reminded of the reason behind wearing it!
New York probably has so so much to offer a visitor. How selective were you on what you saw? Did you have a schedule of fun-filled days, or did you find some down time and just take opportunities as they came at you?
There was so much I didn’t do. I actually got intensely stressed in the final week at having done NONE of the typical tourist stuff. But then I realised that meant I wasn’t a typical tourist, which I quite liked! I tried to treat the experience like living there – feeling settled in one spot, meeting locals etc. which meant I didn’t get to do a lot of the ‘city break’ stuff. Down time and taking opportunities as they came was most definitely the order of the day.
I’m not going to insist that you kiss&tell, but is your holiday romance just that, or do you think it’ll follow you back to the UK?
Ha! It might follow me... Or I might follow it... that’s all I’m saying!
What was the biggest culture shock you experienced in America?
I’d been to America before so not much really shocked me culturally on this trip. However, in NYC I was shocked by the enormity of everything; the buildings that block out the sunlight (!), the crowds etc.
Do you have a favourite memory/favourite place/favourite person you met from your travels?
My favourite memory from SF is probably getting invited to the redwood forest with a group of brand new friends, ending up in the most beautiful ranch overlooking the trees, and listening to Fleetwood Mac on the deck! Yosemite was also mind-blowing.
From NY it’s trickier... there were so many! I just loved the sunny strolls on the city streets, the blossoms in the park, my friend’s rooftop view, drinking $8 pitchers of Bud Light and dancing all night, torso-length slices of pizza for $2, writing in New York Public Library, the vintage shops... I could go on!
Did you feel that your trip was successful in giving yourself a break and some renewed creativity?
I did. It was also something I needed to get out of my system; I had wondered about it for a long time. It was something I’d spoken about doing with my ex, though he was never very keen, and I felt like doing it alone would really be the final assertion of my independence from that relationship. And it worked like a charm!
What’s your plan of action now that you’ve returned? Are you thinking about moving abroad permanently, going back to work there, planning another trip elsewhere or are you just glad to be home?
Golly. In many ways I am quite lost at the moment, so don’t envy me! But it is an exciting kind of lost. Although I found a new part of myself whilst in the US, it has only served to perplex me more in terms of where I’m headed! I have studies starting up again from September in the UK, otherwise I would be incredibly tempted to move straight over there – I’m definitely not done with New York. For now I need to get my bank balance back in order! But you can rest assured the next trip is already being planned...
Also, please explain – how your bathroom and kitchen were the same room? This perplexes me greatly.
To clarify: the building where I was subletting was an old tenement block that had been updated in only a very basic manner! The toilet was in a separate room – basically a cupboard – but the bathtub had a kind of lid that transformed it into a kitchen counter. Needless to say washing was rather an experience. Please know that NYC on a budget is not at all glam!
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do this kind of trip themselves?
You will definitely spend more money than you think you will. You should double, if not triple, your budget, or have insane will-power (which I do not possess!) Just do it for the love of it. Do it because you can’t not do it. Try throwing caution to the wind just this once... Join Couch Surfing! But be sensible, always sensible!
Any questions for Megan? Are you planning your own 'soul trip' or have you now been inspired to do so? Comment!
You can find Megan in the following places!