Home! I’ve had my Dutch milk & peanut butter sandwich and have complained bitterly about the cold, so I feel pretty reintegrated again. This post will attempt to recap my entire trip as well as show you some of my favorite photos (out of the 10,150 I took in total). It’ll alternate between topic and photo and it’ll be long, so let’s see how far we get.
Best Year Ever? Yes! Definitely. A lifetime’s worth of impressions. A treasure chest of memories. And hopefully, on a personal level, a milestone year.
Thank You For Reading. If visits to the blog had tailed off during my trip I probably wouldn’t have bothered to keep it up. But as it stands there are as many readers in April as there were in May. 2,168 visits in total, from 60 countries. And a modern bunch too: 40% using a Mac, only 17% with Internet Explorer. But I think some of you came to the wrong place. Search results that brought visits included ‘buy alpaca meat in england’, ‘is tasmania as boring as adelaide’, and ‘smelly bastards’.
Journey vs Destination. There are a lot of ways from A to B. Plane, train, tuktuk, rickshaw, camel, elephant, in a bus and on a bus, ferry, speedboat, junk, tube, bus, van, jeep, pick-up or ute, bicycle, scooter, motorcycle, cable car, tram, subway. And a lot, a lot of walking.
Where Next? It’s impossible to do a trip like this without eventually catching the travel bug. Places I’d like to explore in the future are Nepal & Kashmir, Chile, Bolivia’s jungle and Brazil, India’s southern states, and Marseille/Barcelona.
Hindsight is 20/20. I had no backpacking experience when I embarked on this trip, and as such had to learn everything on the go. If I could have given myself some advice then, it would be to not plan too much. Get my feet on the ground and find my way from there. The most valuable advice never comes out of a guide or a website, but from other travelers.
The Things I Can Leave Behind. As soon as I’m home, I don’t want to hear another David Guetta song again. His tracks have haunted me through four continents and while they’re good fun there’s only so much of I Got A Feeling one man can handle. Also, I now have an incredible aversion to toast. You would only burn bread if it tastes like crap to begin with, so why even bother? I want my bread soft and never again crispy. Also, squat toilets. Bah. And finally, people taking jumping photos. They’ve been lame for years and it’s just getting worse.
Should You Do It? I think that this trip has been incredible, and it’s definitely something that everything can do. Even with no experience or major aspirations or dreams. As long as you can think on your feet, stay relaxed, and keep an open mind, it’s a surprisingly easy, comfortable, and of course tremendously rewarding experience. A year, though, is a long time. I’m not sure if it was too long, I have no frame of reference for it, but it certainly was an incredibly long time to be away from a lot of people and places.
The Top Three. Colombia, India, Laos. In that order, if you will. These three countries struck me the most, in being so fascinating, wonderful, welcoming, pleasant, and unvaryingly amazing. It’s impossible to make a similar list with individual places and sights because I’ve been to so many incomparably unique places, but my favorite place to be on this whole trip was probably Bamboo Island (see photo above) – pure paradise.
Inverse Insomnia. I had a hard time getting to sleep the other night because my room was too quiet. It was unnerving. I’ve gotten used to nodding off in just about any impossible situation. On a plane taking off, a high-speed busride across a dirt track, overnight on the airport carpet, with Indians outside celebrate their cricket team’s World Cup victory, standing up on a mountaintop in freezing temperatures, on the concrete floor of a rooftop – and all of these while sober.
The World Is A Dirty, Dirty Place. I’ll never get used to squat toilets and fully intend to never acquaint myself with one again. And while India was the epitome of filth, the rest of the world is none too clean either. While traveling it’s essential to find a comfort level of dirty, and accept that things like a hot shower, flushing toilet, or clean sheets are a luxury. But I never had bed bugs, so I count myself lucky.
No Emergency, No Panic. While traveling you encounter your fair share of people who’ve had some bad luck (or bad people) on their trip. I was lucky enough never to have anything stolen from me, also because you start taking ‘security measures’ for granted – locking my bag, chaining it to something when I sleep, having the most important things on my person, not carrying a wallet, using lockers. And, I guess, there are nowhere near as many people praying on innocent backpackers as you might expect.
The Costs of a Quarter-Life Crisis. €17,154 – give or take a few euros.
Wordle. 23,709 words is the total wordcount of the blog. Some words got used more than others, and after removing the most common ones, here’s what remained as the most frequently recurring words:
More Words, By Others. On a trip like this you have a lot of downtime, and as such I’ve read a ton of books. 32 in total, probably more than in the last ten year combined. They were (in chronological order): The Corner (David Simon), The Razor’s Edge (Somerset Maughm), Where The Blues Began (Alan Lomax), Dune (Frank Herbert), Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt), Brida (Paulo Coelho), Full Circle (Michael Palin), Film World (Ivor Montagu), Welcome To The Monkey House (Kurt Vonnegut), No Country For Old Men (Cormac McCarthy), The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho), Juliet, Naked (Nick Hornsby), Nine Stories (JD Salinger), Fear and Loathing in America (Hunter S Thompson), Atonement (Ian McEwan), A Sort Of Homecoming (Robert Cremins), The Plot Against America (Philip Roth), Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy: And Another Thing (Eoin Colfer), The Man Who Would Be King (Rudyard Kipling), The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini), The History Of Love (Nicole Krauss), Life Of Pi (Yann Martel), Slaughterhouse Five (Kurt Vonnegut), Catch-22 (Joseph Heller), American Psycho (Bret Easton Ellis), A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini), A Walk In The Woods (Bill Bryson), The Man In The High Castle (Philip K Dick), Mansfield Park (Jane Austen), The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time (Mark Haddon), Crime & Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevski), Midnight’s Children (Salman Rushdie).
In Conclusion. It’s the sense of adventure that made this trip worthwhile – not knowing from day to day where I’d end up, who I’d meet, what I’d do. And I’ve come to appreciate that the larger the challenge of traveling the greater the reward. In Peru I saw a slogan on a hostel’s wall that read ‘Backpacking: a champagne lifestyle on a lemonade budget’. It’s rung true this entire time. You don’t need a lot of money to travel. You also don’t need a lot of time. And you don’t need to be looking to find yourself, either. The only you need is the openness to explore, to accept that there will be setbacks, hairy moments, frustrations, and then to not let those distract you from all the amazing things that are happening around and with you. It’s one thing to fulfill the dream you’ve always had, but it’s another to fulfill the one you never knew about. I’ve been lucky enough to do this, and it’s a year I will always carry close to me.