Published: February 27th 2012October 2nd 2011
It's raining outside and I'm sitting next to the living room window with only the dim natural light (I really should clean my windows again) and the laptop screen for light. I've a burnt tongue from the horrible gluten free macaroni and cheese I ate (I don't get Americans' obsession with the stuff). I'm sneezing and my nose is stuffed - the walk in the rain in Brooklyn last night may have something to do with that (and the fact that I walked us about 4 blocks in the wrong direction before I realised). Katy Perry's Firework is on 103.5 KTU's station that I have playing on my laptop.
So far, I know I don't have an audience, which makes writing this even odder. But when - or if - I eventually do, you'll probably realise I'm very good at rambling and going off on tangents and forgetting the original story. I say that because that's how my spoken conversations go, so I assume written conversations are going to be similar.
I've travelled a lot compared to some people, and hardly anywhere to others. To date, I've been to 45 countries/territories and all seven continents. I'll hopefully eventually get around to writing about at least some of them. When I think that there's over 200 countries (actually 196 or thereabouts, of which 192 are members of the United Nations. Thanks Google!), I feel like I've barely scrapped the surface. Note that although I know England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales fall under the umbrella that is United Kingdom, I chose to count them separately. I'm yet to visit Wales. Included in that number is also four territories but although they are under another country's rule, they each have a unique feel to them. Or I think so and here, what I think, goes.
Okay, focus focus. It's taken a while to get this far. I've played Words with Friends on FB, checked a recipe, stared out my window and sent text messages.
See how I ramble?
The purpose of this blog will eventually be to document my travels next year. So let's start from The Beginning. Many years ago in what feels like another life, I lived in Kfar Shmaryahu in Israel for 23 amazing months (I highly recommend Israel; it's like nowhere else on earth for so many more reasons than you think you know or see on the news) and I stumbled across a travel company called Truck Africa. I don't know how I got my hands on the brochure but I was hooked. London to Cairo via much of the African continent for the better part of a year! I still have the original brochure and all the lists and budgets and notes I wrote out. I'm sure I had every intention of doing it but then ... well, you know how it goes: life gets in the way. I met a guy and some months later, left Israel for Ireland. Although the brochure came with me and was looked at often, it was put on the back burner.
That was about ten years ago. Ten years. I went overseas for 6 months and I've been gone almost 13 years.
So fast forward to late 2010. I've been in New York roughly 4.5 years (a record for me, other than Melbourne!) and I'm starting to lose my love for the city. It's been a long time coming and I realise I need out. But I have a job I enjoy, live in a great apartment in Chelsea, friends I love, I'm able to travel and most importantly, I have no idea what I want to do next.
I found the brochure. Flicked through it, stared at pictures of animals I'd only ever seen in zoos, natural wonders I'd only ever seen in books (or nowadays, on the internet) and the people partaking in a trip of a lifetime and I started thinking that now would be a good time to decide: am I going to get it together and do it or am I going to bin the brochure forever with no regrets and get on with it? I knew this time I had the money to do it as well as enough leftover so that employment wouldn't be a major issue the day after the trip ended. I went looking for them online and after much searching, found they had merged with another company, African Trails. The trip was even longer; London to Istanbul, via Africa. 43 weeks, 42,000 km, almost 30 countries.The mind boggles. The seed had been planted.
February this year I went to Antarctica (another amazing, amazing experience for another time) and began talking to people about the trip. Everyone was very positive - but then the kind of people that go to Antarctica would be, wouldn't they! And then in what felt like the blink of an eye, it was over and I was back in New York, completely bummed to have left Ushuaia and the fresh air and friendly people - and the gateway to Antarctica! - and promptly told my boss I was quitting. She had already known. You don't work in another person's shadow for almost five years and not notice something's up.
I spent June, July and August in Israel and Europe and found it even more difficult to come back to the city. The noise outside my apartment building made me want to cover my ears. The amount of traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian, made me somewhat anxious. In my head, I was already out of here. I still feel like I'm not 100% acclimatised a month later.
I think it was in Norway with friends that I decided I very much wanted to do the trip. Along with several other wise and wonderful friends, they reasoned that I'd been talking about it for so long and really, what was holding me back? The seed grew a little more.
Then a couple weeks ago in September I put the deposit on the trip and started writing up new notes. Vaccine dates and locations (London and Melbourne), a new passport (I'm applying for a concurrent passport so I can carry one on the trip while they send the other one for visas en route), clothing lists, equipment lists, optional extra lists, photography equipment lists and of course, some sort of a budget.
And this is all secondary for some time yet. It's October 1st today. My flight to London leaves December 2nd. Oh God. Panic panic panic. I've an apartment to pack up, a suitcase for Oz to pack, one for Europe (where I'll be spending January and February) as well as one for Africa. And seriously, if you saw the stress of packing for three months in Europe, a place where I know I can buy anything and everything I could have forgotten... well, you don't want to see me pack for 43 weeks when I've been warned of cold showers, long days of nothing but road, malaria-riddled mosquitoes, putting up tents in the rain ... wild gorillas, Timbuktu, Victoria Falls, cheetahs, baobab trees, lions, the Zambezi river, voodoo temples, rhinos, Okavango Delta, Serengeti National Park & Ngorongoro Crater, giraffe, waterfalls, Gallipoli, sunrises, sunsets and of course, the people.
I can't wait to see what next year will bring...