You’re about to set sail into unknown lands where life will change so dramatically that it’s incomprehensible. You’re on that ledge looking into the horizon but the view is misty, your new life is just out of sight. How can you possibly know what lies ahead.

For what feels like the hundredth time you hoist the brand-spanking new (and insanely heavy) backpack onto your back… just to test. It’s filled with unfamiliar objects for all the unfamiliar places. Those shiny new hiking boots, that you probably should have worn-in but haven’t had time and some bamboo travel socks that you were persuaded to buy two pairs of.

Normal life is about to change forever and although the thrill of what lies ahead is consuming, there are some doubts snaking around your brain.

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I travel because I can. I’m lucky. I am privileged. There is no ban for me (yet). I was born in the ‘right’ country, with a useful passport, no persecuted religion to identify with, no war. Total freedom to roam.

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Swirling mist circled the Buddhist monastery, high up on Mount Koya. Exploring Japan had led me here. The icy air an easy victory for the paper walls. Yes actual paper walls! The paper door has a ferocious tiger print on it, in the grrr pose, similar to those old-school tattoos. Just the paper tiger blocking me from the outside world. A kimono lay neatly folded, waiting for me to brave the ice-air. I’d had a demo in the art of kimono-wearing. Absolutely no cleavage, but the neck (the sexiest part of a woman’s body in Japan) revealed. Screw that! Absolutely nothing should be revealed in the fear of hypothermia.

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‘They call me Satan’s Mistress’, she cackled. Her beautiful worldly green eyes shone and her jet black hair glistened. I was instantly in awe of this solo female traveller.

I met Jean in Osaka, Japan. Traveller introductions are nearly always an insight into the most inspiring people you’ll ever meet but this globetrotter stood out. She talks in a calm, thoughtful southern US drawl. Alert and interested, Jean isn’t over-powering in her presence but when it’s her turn to take centre stage you stop and enjoy the show.

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