It would seem incomplete to not finish this blog off with a final post with travel musings. Hopefully it won't turn into a 'on my gap yah' load of dribble. We could have offered advice on the places we visited and the experiences we had- but this blog was never about tips for future backpackers. Our intention was to be able to keep all the family and friends updated on activities should they feel inclined to know what was going on. Either we've got more friends than we thought or (extremely likely) some internet spiders have been crawling all over our posts as some got nearly a thousand views. And thats with the fatal combination of (Becky's) dyslexia and typing on a mobile phone. Thanks for putting up with the typos and spelling errors guys. So I'm allowing us this one reflective post which can be interpreted as advice.
So onwards with what we 'discovered' from quitting our jobs and backpacking for 5 months:
1. It's really easy
Becky: It's the classic 'in hindsight' sentence starter. On one of our first days in Bangkok I cried at the MBK food court infront of my hot basil stir fry because it was too hot. Obviously it wasn't the spice that caused the melt down. It was the jet lag/tired/this city is crazy combination. But you just get on with it...
And buy chicken nuggets and chips from the 'Western Food' area.
When we talk about what we have done and where we have been we laugh at both the good and the bad times. How we got between them seems irrelevant. We left England with the first 3 nights booked and first 3 towns in mind. The rest fell into place without too much turbulence with a fair amount of Googling/Trip Advisor as we went.
2. Anyone can do it
Becky: Sometimes we were unpleasantly unsurprised by the people we met on our way (see point further down) but I was awe-inspired by others. On my first day of university I was taken aback that everyone waiting in the art studio was not fresh from sixth form and 18. I mean- one guy was in his 70's. It's the same with backpacking. I had never bothered to question that anyone would be outside of the 18-25 bracket just because myself and travelled friends were in it. You may have already read my thoughts on the elderly couple at Franz Josef Glacier climbing the slippery path with a walking stick. We did a cooking class with a young family in Siem Reap. They travel for two months every year and when they had their first baby at 18 months he simply joined them in St Lucia for 8 weeks. Now with two sons they have travel buggys, cots and take the baby intercom to the pub after bed time. At one campsite we parked next to a couple who strapped thier baby up on a baby bouncer from a Dad installed hook off the boot. At night they slid half their belongings under the van in plastic boxes- including the milk powder.
When questioned they say what all travellers would probably say. They wanted to come so they made it work.
3. Everyone should do it
When people came into the office at work before I left and they heard news of my plans I only ever got two responses:
A. Wow. I always wanted to do that. Have such a great time and be safe. Really, you will be safe won't you?
B. Wow. I did that. It's the best thing I ever did. You'll be fine.
Have you ever seen your home town on the news? It looks different doesn't it? Its same same but different! Somethings missing. It's not the live, 360, 5 senses experience that you have when you're there yourself. If you think some of our photos look amazing then you should try being there yourself.
4. It's not a box ticking exercise
Becky: For the first few weeks I was always whinging to Dan that we should be going here or doing this. Based purely on what I unknowingly felt pressured to do from trip advisor, lonely planet and other people. Sure these things are often great recommendations but I don't need to squeeze everything into a two week holiday. I'm on the road for a while. You can ride and elephant, do a cooking course and a go on a segway tour anywhere in Asia. It doesn't have to be in Chang Mai. (But please whatever you do, don't tell me you went to Tiger Temple. Even if you think that they were not on drugs or beaten into submission. They definitely were. Don't be so foolish. For questions on westerners doing stupid things in Asia that they wouldn't do at home. Please speak to Dan for a full education.)
I now feel confident in allowing myself to want what I want. Not what I think I should be wanting. No I didn't ride and elephant, collect bar tshirts, do a 9hr NZ walking track or eat kangaroo. I didn't want to. It wasn't for me and thats okay.
5. When it's shit. It's shit
Your homesick, hot and sweaty, hangry (hungry and therefore angry), missing oven baked food, in the cheapest/dirtiest/strangest hostel on hostelworld and your fed up of 'insert annoyance here' and feeling low.
Yep. Accept it. Today is going to be a shit one.
6. The world is full of idiots
A couple wearing matching onesies for the flight home from New Zealand.
Dan: It seems we met them all on our trip. From xenophobic, racist Brits who see nothing wrong with living 'in someone else's country' to wealthy Asian tourists who seemingly become overwhelmed the second they leave the safety of their tour group. Shamefully yet unsurprisingly the majority of the idiots we met were fellow countrymen. Many more types of idiots cropped up and I became more and more judgemental as we travelled (as did Becky with my encouragement!). There truly is idiots everywhere and the chances are they're white.
7. You don't have to be a hippie to have an epiphany
Dan: This trip has never been about clichés such as 'finding yourself' or 'living the dream' but spending so much time removed from your normal life breeds unexpected thoughts. Before we left I wanted to be away from home for as long as possible, maybe even find work if I could but over time I realised I didn't want those things. I want escapism but I don't want total abandonment. Becky likes to call one evening in Coromandel, NZ my epiphany - I simply had the realisation than life is fickle, it is painfully short, systems make it easy to fall into a mindless routine and ambition isn't promoted unless it leads to more zeroes on your bank statement. None of this is new information but one night the penny dropped - it was like putting on a pair of glasses and seeing clearly. I ranted endlessly to Becky about these topics. It wasn't until then that I realised how people simply wasted that time period in between birth and death. They say things like 'I always wanted to do that' or 'I wish I could do that'. I am not talking about travel necessarily, but lifestyle and how you are in control of it but relinquish control to societal expectations. Nothing is out of your reach and it is never, ever too late.
My 'epiphany' was that I realised I don't have to take a job for money. I can do something I actually want to do. I want to work with animals. See, I had an epiphany and I don't even have dreadlocks - it can happen.
So so creepy, this photo just had to feature again, Museum of Medicine, Saigon, Vietnam
Becky: We collectively decided and wrote these points during the 48 hour return journey. You know- we had some time to kill! Having been back for 2 weeks now we are struggling, along with the rest of the returned backpackers, with daily ball aches such as; getting jobs, starting careers, insuring cars, living with parents (we love you very much and thank you for having us, but we all know its time to leave) and putting off any suggestions of babies/marriage/mortgages... and its all a big zzzz in comparison to Angkor Wat. I can only describe it as though I switched off a light in October and when I came back in March I simply flicked it back on.
Life in England OFF...5 months of amazingness...Life in England ON.
It was incredible and we are now adequately distraught that it is all over. I'm voting Germany and Dan is voting Texas to ease our itchy feet. Time to start saving again...