The end is nigh.
People are walking about wearing sandwich boards, handing me leaflets.
It really is almost over.
It’s impossible to describe this trip in a few glib words. How can I even begin to describe a year spent living my dream?
It’s maybe worth going back to why I wanted to travel in the first place.
Around the age of 18 I started to develop a serious case of wanderlust, but for various reasons, didn’t indulge my itchy feet. By my mid-twenties I had shelved the idea and filed it away as an impossible dream. Then things changed and I began to realise that little is impossible. There are only things we choose not to do; dreams we choose not to chase.
At some point I decided this one was worth chasing. At some point I began to make plans instead of dreaming. At some point my plans took shape and I had a ticket. I was going.
Often while I’ve been travelling I’ve met people who’ve told me I’m brave travelling on my own for a year. Most of the time, I haven’t felt brave. Most of the time, it’s been relatively straightforward. You decide to go somewhere. You find out how to get there. You buy a ticket. You go there. You find somewhere to stay. You explore. You move on somewhere else. It’s really just getting on and off buses.
But is it truly as simple as this to make a dream to come true? Because that’s what I’ve done.
I feel proud, I feel privileged, I feel fulfilled, I feel a huge sense of achievement.
Would I feel that way simply getting on and off buses?
There have certainly been some challenges this year. There have been times when I’ve missed my family and friends badly. Those times were tough. There have been times where I’ve been travelling in a place I didn’t like much, or around people I didn’t like. At these times I felt confused and would sometimes question how I could change what I did to try and get the most from the situation. I was a bit hard on myself because some of these places just weren’t that good and some of the people weren’t worth making an effort with. As my trip progressed, I got a lot better at spotting this early and moving on.
But all in, these challenging times add up to perhaps 3 weeks out of a year. Most of the time, I have been living the dream; on tropical islands, diving beautiful coral reefs, exploring vibrant and interesting cities, climbing mountains, trekking, awestruck by nature’s marvels. I’ve discovered the beauty of the world and the beauty of the world’s people. My horizons have broadened, my knowledge and understanding has expanded, my opinions have changed and my sense of what’s really important has solidified. I feel truly privileged to have learned as much as I have. I feel privileged to have met so many great travelling friends, some of whom I hope to keep in touch with and perhaps meet again somewhere in the world. But even if I don’t, the time we spent together was special and the magic of our brief interaction has contributed to the joy I feel when I think back across this, my year of travelling and adventure.
I’ve worked out some stuff for fun and chosen some moments that stand out for me. Hope you enjoy them…
• 1 year and 1 week
• 10 countries
• 22 flights
• 13 inter-city train journeys
• 18 ferry journeys
• 43 inter-city bus journeys
• 2 hire cars driven 5000km+
• 29000 hits on my blog.
Things lost to the travel fairies
• Several items of clothing, the most mourned being one favourite shirt hanging on the back of a chair in Laos, an angora wool hat left in a restaurant in Dunedin and a cosy fleece lying on a bench in Auckland.
• 4 pairs of sunglasses
• 2 sets of iPod headphones
• 1 swiss army knife
• 2 torches
• 1 mobile phone
• 1 camera
New skills I’ve learned
• Scuba diving
• Thai massage
• Thai cooking
• About 35 Chinese words
• How to use a squat toilet on a moving train without touching the walls.
• 3 successive ear infections that almost put a stop to my diving.
• Scalding my face with boiling water in Singapore.
• A broken tooth from an excessively crusty bagel in Kashgar, China.
• Falling off the edge of a rice terrace in Banaue, Philippines.
• The bitter cold of Guilin, China, when I couldn’t get warm anywhere.
• The couple who had sex in my dorm – while I was there!
• 3 bouts of homesickness.
• Cockroach and spider-infested rooms, and filthy bed linen.
• Toilets in China. They must be the worst in the world.
Random Amazing Things and Wonderful Moments (there are so many it’s almost impossible to choose!)
• Hiking the Great Wall of China and seeing the Terracotta Warriors.
• Visiting Everest Base Camp.
• Drinking brandy and gazing at the Himalayas from the Best Pub In The World.
• Travelling on the highest train in the world (Tibet) and the fastest train in the world (Shanghai).
• Travelling on the Champasak ‘car ferry’ and the Battambang Norry.
• Riding around on the back of motorbikes across Asia, watching families of five travelling on the bike beside me.
• Exploring Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the largest religious building in the world.
• Facilitation in flip flops in Phnom Penh.
• Diving the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
• Swimming with sharks for the first time in Thailand.
• Winter trekking in New Zealand.
• Dancing in the sea at New Year in the Philippines.
• Kayaking, Scottish country dancing, travelling by local bus and eating deep fried insects in Laos.
• Being interviewed on camera by the BBC at Karakul Lake.
• Getting my hair cut by a Cambodian lady-boy diva hairdresser.
• All those fabulous, tasty meals – Asian food is the best in the world.
Above all, meeting so many wonderful new friends, so many brave and inspiring people, having so many incredible experiences, in so many beautiful places around the world.9 comments