Nobody likes those well traveled douche-bags who post pictures of themselves lazing on a beach, sipping piña coladas from a mother effing coconut, and I like to think I wasn’t one.
Possibly because Instagram wasn’t invented yet, possibly because I was rocking a Nokia C3 at the time or quite possibly because the copious amounts of pad thai consumed had a somewhat adverse affect on my ‘bikini body’.
Regardless, I wanted to mark the 5 years since my departure from Gatwick airport, all alone but for my cliched, ill-fitting straw trilby, with a post documenting the highs and lows of each country visited, in order… I think.
+ Having spent just over 3 months in Thailand, I am struggling to string a sentence together to explain just how much I loved it, so I hope this will suffice:
– Bangkok: The smell of soy sauce combined with human excrement is one you can never acclimatise to.
+ Tubing: Where else in the world would you voluntarily don head to toe neon, swim from riverside bar to bar accepting rice whiskey shots from strangers before performing death defying stunts from a rope swing into the literally unknown depths of the Mekong? All before lunch.
– Tubing: Read above.
+ An Education: I learnt more about the history of Cambodia, communism and the Khmer Rouge in one day than in 5 years of GCSE history. Such a devastating period of relatively recent history deserves, at the very least, a mention.
– The Culture Shock: Being a naive early-twenty-something, just a few weeks into my travels, I wasn’t quite prepared for the extreme poverty, disrepair, physical and emotional wounds of the country and its people.
+ Exploring: I met an English girl at baggage claim and spent the next 8 hours on a whistle stop tour of possibly the cleanest city I’ve ever seen, before our onward flight that evening.
– Money: Following 25 cent beers in Cambodia, Singapore was a veritable money pit.
+ Habitat HQ, St Kilda, Melbourne – The hostel I called home for 3 months and made some of the best memories, to date.
– The inability to source a reasonably (or unreasonably) priced apartment in Sydney.
+ The people: Some of the friendliest, well meaning folks you’ll ever come across.
– The Hitchhiking: This seemed to be the only method of getting from A to B on the mainland, not recommended if travelling alone.
+ The Hollywood sign is pretty cool, I guess.
– That homeless guy that pissed himself whist walking directly in front of me.
+ Machu Picchu: Not so much the landmark itself, but the treacherous, blister-inducing, 4 day journey to get there prompted a lot of self reflection and realisation. Also, I lost a stone in weight, so… y’know.
– The food: Ordinarily I’m all for double carbing, but chips, rice AND pasta – that aint right.
+ Staying on the 4th floor of a hotel directly adjacent to San Pedro prison, boasting views of the inmates unique living conditions.
– It’s a toss up between being driven into a verge of scavenging spider monkeys and eaten half to death by blood thirsty mosquitoes in the Amazon or travelling death road via bike the day after a tourist from another group flew straight off the edge… And being constantly reminded of this fact throughout my descent.
Special mention to the people of New York who get such a hard time for being angry, busy and uninterested in anybody but themselves. In my experience,this couldn’t be less true. I couldn’t walk 50 yards with my laminated map of Manhattan without being stopped by a local to find out if I needed directions.
The t-shirts should read: I ❤ NYers.
– All of the things I didn’t have time to do and see.
Five years ago I had a round the world ticket and the beginnings of a plan. I boarded that plane, filled with excitement and nerves and a voice in the back of my head screaming at me to turn back.
I had dropped out of university a year and a half prior and filled the gap working in a glorified call centre. I knew I needed to do something and there isn’t a day that goes by that I regret my decision.