09/05/23 marks one year since I left England. That’s one year on the road baby! One year living out of a backpack, sleeping in a different bed every few nights, always being on the move. I’ve had some of the best experiences of my life. And I’ve had some really tough moments. I’ve been exhausted, frustrated and lonely. Looking at it as a complete picture, the good and the bad, it’s been the most wonderful thing I’ve done in my life. This is just a little post to update the stats, and talk about my favourite and least favourite parts of travel.
Countries visited: 27
Stamps in passport: 50 (the more recent countries have been very stamp heavy!)
Overnight buses/ferries/trains: 19
Distance travelled (according to polarsteps): 24,935 miles
No specific moments here but some overarching themes.
- Feeling like an anthropologist or a journalist, trying to understand the culture of each country by observing every detail, asking questions to locals, noticing patterns. Being rewarded at the end with a strong sense of what that country is like and the mindset people have. Even better than this is noticing the gradual shifts between countries, experiencing how England becomes the Balkans, which becomes India, which becomes Vietnam. There are no unexplained, big leaps. Culture, food, architecture, religion - it all overlaps and slowly melts into the next. The history of human movement and impact is there for you to experience.
- Having moment after moment where you sit and grin, feeling so grateful for the experience you’re currently having. I’ve had this moment watching sunsets and sunrises, looking out at stunning scenery, jumping into cold water on a hot day, cradling a hot drink on a cold day, after the first mouthful of a delicious meal, feeling the adrenaline subside after doing something risky, sitting reading surrounded by others doing the same. Being so very happy so often is wonderful.
- Meeting people who you just click with. You can laugh with them like you’ve been friends for years. You can discuss topics that ignite the energy behind both of your eyes. Also meeting people who expand your outlook on life. People who live in a completely different way to anything you’ve come across, or who are from backgrounds you’ve never encountered, or just with a whole different take on life.
I wouldn’t change any part of travelling. The less fun bits are important, they provide a challenge and give that feeling of a reward. But these are the bits I find less fun:
- The lack of good quality sleep. Getting up really early to catch a bus or watch the sunrise, going to bed really late after socialising, hardly getting any sleep on a night bus, loud people in the dorm room waking you up, uncomfortable beds, snorers… It all leads to permanent minor sleep deprivation.
- Very rarely being able to properly unpack and settle into a space. Living out of a backpack isn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but having to cram everything in whenever you move on isn’t very fun. Also not being able to buy nice souvenirs or items you see, knowing that it will make the zipping-up-the-bag struggle even worse!
- The social exhaustion of meeting new people constantly and often having the exact same conversation, which becomes extremely dull and tiring I can assure you!
- An inconsistent diet leading to serious bowel issues. This is definitely my least favourite part of travel. Your diet changes so much from the usual one at home, and when you’re moving across countries it continues to change every few weeks. Any routine in eating is also out of the window. It’s impossible to eat at the same time each day, or the same size portion of food. I’ve especially struggled with the effects of this. Some of it is self-inflicted. I want to try all of the local food so will mostly only eat this, never going for western options (a part from in Central Asia when I, not to be dramatic, already felt the effects of malnutrition). The local food in most places has lacked the amount of fibre you should have in your diet, contributing to the problem hugely. I also want to save money which lends itself to eating a lot of food infrequently, filling up on free buffet breakfasts or making the most of the whole portion served in a restaurant, meaning I can skip a meal. Stomach issues are one aspect of travel that I wouldn’t mourn the loss of…
A lot of travel is focused on the experience once you’ve arrived somewhere. In homage to the overlooked aspect of actually travelling, here’s a collage of pictures of me on the move, ladled with bags, often exhausted and slightly stressed. They’re in chronological order so enjoy the transition of hot to cold to hot climate, and haircut and growth! The behind the scenes of travelling. The bit people might find less glamorous…
The end date of my trip is beginning to come into sight. I start my job in London at the end of August so will return to England sometime in July to sort myself out. I don’t have an exact date yet, nor an end location. Deciding what to do with my last 2 and a bit months has been a fun but difficult exercise, but I think I have a rough idea now. If you read my Bangkok post you’ll know I regret skipping Myanmar and after considering it further I’ve decided to at least try to visit it overland. My rough plan for now is to finish off northern Vietnam, spend a few weeks in Laos, see northern Thailand, cross into Myanmar and travel down before crossing back into Thailand to do an island in the south, get a ferry to Malaysia and another ferry to Sumatra. Do one last workaway on the little island Nias. Fly home from Singapore or Jakarta. Wish me luck!