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'I don’t even recognise the person I am on holidays.'

I was sitting in a tiny, dark bar in Opelousas, Louisiana, drinking Bud and chatting to a couple of Vietnam veterans. Why? Because I was on holidays, that’s why.

Back home in Sydney I probably wouldn’t have been having a conversation with some random strangers sitting near me in a bar. I definitely wouldn’t have been drinking a watery American beer. But that’s holidays for you.

Something happens when you step off the plane into a foreign country. You’re choosing to leave your comfort zone behind, and it changes you. Instead of seeking familiarity, you seek difference. You want to try new things. You want to talk to everyone. You want to eat food you’ve never eaten before.

"You’re choosing to leave your comfort zone behind, and it changes you." Image via @thetravelinglight

At home in Australia, I cook mostly the same few pastas and salads, and get takeaway from the same chicken shop every few weeks. On holidays I eat anything, the weirder the better. In Tokyo, I would order food in a restaurant by pointing to a plate on display, without being quite sure of what it was.

In Slovakia I tasted wild boar (yes, I felt like Asterix). In Vanuatu I ate a delicious dish made with Spam. On a road trip around America, I bought a meal from each of the different fast-food franchises (White Castle was the best). I also ate fried alligator, which tasted like...well, crocodile.

At home, I have certain things I like to do in my spare time, mostly involving dinners with friends and good conversation. When I’m on holidays, I’m up for anything, no matter how cheesy. In Japan, I went for a cruise on a replica pirate ship. In Scotland, I went in search of the Loch Ness monster. In Kentucky, I visited a Biblical-themed mini-golf course. I also stayed in a motel where all the rooms were giant concrete teepees.

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“I don’t even recognise the person I am on holidays. I'll try anything." Image via Instagram @thetravellinglight

In Australia, I tend to keep to myself. I talk to the people I need to talk to, but I don’t often get into conversations with strangers on public transport or people behind the counter in shops. When I’m on holidays, I can’t help it.

People hear an Australian accent and start chatting to me. They’re keen to get the inside information on kangaroos and Keith Urban. Suddenly, I’m exotic. I want to know about them, too – to get a little window into what life is like in Milwaukee or rural Normandy or Singapore. Maybe it’s not all that different from life in Sydney, but it always seems so much more interesting.

Overseas, I find myself forming friendships, suddenly, intensely, in a way I haven’t since I was a teenager. It might be with another traveller. It might be with a distant relative or a friend of a friend, who I’ve called when I’ve arrived in a new city. We might just go out for one night together, but somehow it always ends up being an epic night. We end up laughing about something, in the early hours of the morning, on the unfamiliar streets of a foreign city. I might never see them again, but we’ll always have the blurry photos.

When I’m on holidays I’m more open and more adventurous and more fun. I’m making the most of every moment. I guess I’m aware that I’m making memories to look back on when I’m back at home, back at work, back to being my quieter, more reserved, more serious self.

Who do you become on holidays?

Looking for inspiration? Here are some Instagram traveller @thetravellinglight's best holiday shots: