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Lucy Ruthnum / Contributor

The last three years of solo travel have flown by in a rush of crazy soaring highs and lows I never could have imagined before setting out on the adventure of a lifetime. When I set out, I was the lowest I've ever been. My heart broken and my life turned upside down. I quit my job and hoped to find a path to recovery by focusing on myself and my happiness for once. I wanted to see and do amazing things and I wasn't going to wait for anyone to come with me and hold my hand along the way. My confidence was shot after the events of the previous year, but I put on a brave face and stepped out into the world, determined to fake it until I made it and could finally say I had found happiness again.

"I see a different story. I see the amazing people who were there every step of the way with me."

The road was bumpy and not every experience was the greatest. I was in several bad crashes, the last of which nearly claimed my life as I was thrown through the windscreen of a minibus. Another time I was attacked by a group of thugs and had to watch them beat my friend to a pulp as he did his best to protect us. Life comes with good and bad, and no doubt these were some pretty awful experiences to go through, particularly on your own as a solo female traveler. But all of these experiences could have happened anywhere in the world. I wouldn't give up a second of my travels for any of these bad moments. Because you see, while so many would focus on the fact that I nearly died in that crash, or nearly got beaten to a pulp for no reason. I see a different story. I see the amazing people who were there every step of the way with me. Because deep down I'm not a solo traveler, I'm a soul seeker. I'm the girl who travels the world looking for beautiful souls to share adventures and amazing moments.

In that awful crash in Cambodia, I see the hero of the story, the Australian biker who happened to be passing and pulled me out of the wreckage. I see the Cambodian locals who tended to our wounds, gave support and helped us when we were in need. I see the French nurse who I met in the next city who stopped me freaking out about my wounds getting infected and cleaned them up for me. When I think about those thugs coming after me, I remember the friend who has come to mean the world to me, the gentleman who was more concerned with cleaning his blood off my shoes than his own injuries. I remember the guy who let eight teenagers punch the hell out of him just so that I wouldn't get hurt, the one who flew across the country just to see me for 10 hours.

"It's the souls that set your world alight and break your heart when you part ways."

So you see, this is why travel means the world to me. It's not seeing the sun rise over Angkor Wat, or biking through the mountains in Thailand, it's not raving on a beach at a Full Moon Party, snorkeling with sea turtles or road tripping around Tasmania camping in the wilderness. Of course, all these things are what we dream about when we plan our travels and don't get me wrong, I'm the luckiest girl in the world for experiencing them. But to me, three years down the line, travel is the hearts you collect and the memories you make with people. It's the souls that set your world alight and break your heart when you part ways. Even though you know, it's not goodbye, it's just see you later.

For me travel is my world because it has made my world a smaller place. It's become totally normal for my best friends and family to be on the other side of the globe but for that not to matter, for those relationships to still be amazing. Travel is my world because a passing annoyance on a boat in Thailand became two of my best traveling friends through Laos, Cambodia and all across Australia. The kind of friends who would fly across the country to see you for one last night before you fly home. Travel is my world because two random girls you meet on the east coast through other friends become your best traveling friends and give you a home on the other side of the world to come back to time and time again. Travel is my world because a group you spent just a week with in Thailand, became your chance for reunions all across the globe in the U.S., Australia, Bulgaria, Germany and the Netherlands!

The kindness and openness of all these amazing traveling people has helped me to grow back into myself, I'm finally once again the confident, happy young woman I once was. In fact, I'm even more confident and happier than I've ever been in myself and it's all down to the life-changing experiences I've shared with incredible people. It's so easy to realize immediately the ones who mean the world to you and the difference is that when you're traveling all over the world, if you really want to see them again you will make it happen.

"It just shows you, traveling solo can bring more love into your life than you ever could have dreamed."

By leaving my unhappiness behind and going at it alone, I've opened myself up to a whole world of amazing friendships and a traveling family who I know will be in my life for a very long time. Even when we can't be together in person, I know that they would be there in a flash if I were in trouble or needed them. Likewise, I know I could turn up on their doorstep at any time of day or night and I would be welcomed with open arms. It just shows you, traveling solo can bring more love into your life than you ever could dream. It's no surprise travelers reach a point where they can't imagine a life outside of full-time traveling. This lifestyle has become my world.

You can follow Lucy's adventures on Facebook, TwitterInstagram and www.absolutelylucy.com.

June 19, 2017