Published: December 25th 2010December 20th 2010 Our year of travel is over and it's back to "real life", here are some reflection we wanted to share about this past year. Merry Christmas everyone and best wishes for a wonderful 2011.
Before the big climb to the hill temple
So the trip is finished – it's hard to believe. When we set off in February it felt like we would be away forever. It's too hard to wind all the threads of our trip together in some sort of way that makes sense in a few words: People everywhere are different. People everywhere are the same. The world is large. The world is small. But a few general thoughts are below. Country we enjoyed visiting most:
Not taking into account visiting friends and family, I would have to say Jordan. I found the country so fascinating right from the beginning, being so completely different to Australia and NZ. I don't like big travel generalisations from those who rave that “the people were amaaaaazing”, but it's hard to describe the Jordanians we met in any other way. With very few exceptions the hospitality was incomparable and we met some very interesting people who provided a lot of insights into Arabic and Bedouin culture.
The best vantage point in Halong Bay
We had a great place to base ourselves in Amman and visiting Petra and Wadi Rum were two of the highlights of the whole trip. The Dead Sea was highly memorable too. Food:
Before we left for the trip Alex said “what happens if we just get sick of new places, sights and the hassle of travel?” The answer was “food”. This proved to be the case, though it's too hard to pick a best meal or anything like that (there are many contenders). I have resolved from the trip to try to learn to cook sweet and savoury food with lime (like in South East Asia) and make dishes with eggplant/ aubergine (like in South East Asia, Middle East and Mediterranean). I think French pastries and Thai curries will always be beyond me. Worst cuisine, despite a couple of good exceptions, was constipation-inducing Croatian stodge. Especially the stodgy bread which would probably be more useful as wall insulation than for consumption by human beings. Hats lost:
At one stage we were thinking of starting a 'provide a hat for a small child for just $5 per week' charitable fund. This was in the Middle East where a
That time when Phoebe got her shoe mangled in the escalator
hat was essential, and Miss Phoebe didn't seem able to hold onto one for more than a week. Then again, Alex left one of Phoebe's in a bus and I lost my beloved Singha beer cap which I'd picked up on a previous trip to Thailand. Maybe we were just hopeless? Constant source of frustration:
Visas! Frickin' visas. Whether it was fretting about getting China visas on time to avoid overstaying in Vietnam, paying $100 each at the Syrian border or the eventual not-going-to-India debacle, we just didn't manage to negotiate this bureaucratic jungle very well. It seems to be written into our brains than we should just be able to show up at a country and they'll let us in without any questions. How rude that they do not. We tell ourselves that it wouldn't have made much difference if we'd gone through the highly tedious process of researching each country before we left, as we didn't know what dates we'd be in various countries. In reality it would certainly have helped, and we'd recommend that for anyone else doing any travelling! Phoebe's journal:
Believe it or not, Phoebe has a journal page for every day of
Camel Trekking in Wadi Rum
the ten month trip. Some of them are 'today I read Harry Potter and then I had spaghetti bolognaise for dinner' but a lot of the others are really good, with some hilarious pictures. There is even a scheme to turn the journal, via some serious editing, rewriting and summarising, into a kids book that might even be publishable. We shall see. Country to be hopeful about?:
Cambodia is recovering from a terrible past and there's no doubt a lot has improved in the country. But the youthful, hopeful atmosphere contrasts with the extreme corruption and nepotism shown by many of the rulers and officials. A recent study ranked it as the (equal) 16th most corrupt country in the world. We spent four weeks there, had a fantastic time and felt like we got to know the country better than many others we visited, but heard some awful stories about the vicious cynicism of powerful people. Very fast development was a common theme of many countries we visited, but in Cambodia, especially beachside Sihanoukville, it seemed to be less planned, lower-quality, less sustainable and more likely to attract the least desirable tourists than anywhere else we went. All this
On top of the old Arabic Castle, with views over the the Roman ruins of Palmyra
and yet the pervasive atmosphere seems to be one of hope and optimism. We hope that things improve. Most useful things we took:
Sleeping bag liners and pocketknives were brilliant. The silk sleeping bag liners in particular saved us from many an unclean, dirty, possibly infested hostel bed without being too hot, and didn't take up much bag space either. And of course this netbook computer was excellent. It may have led to us being obsessed with finding free wi-fi
and being annoyed when we couldn't get it (like in Italy). But it totally changed the way we went about finding accommodation and transport and was even better for keeping in touch with friends and family via email and skype. Ready to go back to normal life?:
Yes. I think I've been ready for a wee while – I was getting all too comfortable in other people's houses in UK/ Europe (sorry Andrew and Alex) and progressively less inclined to go and see 'attractions' etc. Both backpacking and camper-vanning were fantastic, but at the same time they were also stressful and fraught with numerous logistical problems, which became exhausting after a while. We did get ourselves psyched up
The cousins in Wales
for the four weeks of backpacking in India which didn't eventuate, but that was because we were particularly looking forward to it. So now it's time to go back home and put our minds to building the sort of life we want. I'm looking forward to it. Was it worthwhile?:
Absolutely, I would do it all again. I won't lie; seeing other peoples' nice houses and facing the prospect of renting cheaply for the next few years as a result of this trip induces a feeling of longing at times. But it's just a year out of the forty or so we have to work and we can earn that money again, while this year will remain in our memories forever. Spending time in the Middle East was an eye-opener, China an eye-widener and Europe eye-wateringly expensive. Meeting family in the UK and seeing where our families come from was priceless and we've made some great friends. We wanted to see a bit of what is 'out there' and now we have.
PHOEBE Favourite country:
I liked the UK the most because there were lot's and lot's of kids there that were my relatives, and I
UK - Surrey
Andrew, Alex, Niamh and Carrig with Phoebe
liked the climate, it was cold. I liked it when I went down the swirly tube at the swimming pools with Grandma Janet. Least favourite country:
My least favourite country was Malaysia. We stayed at a nice place but then we also stayed at a smelly place. It had rats in the ceiling, the sheets weren't washed and there were terrible smells coming from the bathroom that smelt like bad food, and we couldn't close the window. Favourite food:
One of my favourite meals was in the campervan. We had pasta with tuna and cheese which I love. Mango lassis were also my favourite, they stop spicy food stinging your tongue. I had mango lassis around the world, as Indian restaurants are everywhere. Least favourite food:
I ate spicy coconut soup but we asked for it with no spice, so instead it was waaaaay too sweet and I couldn't bear to take another mouthful. I also did not like salted Apricots in Vietnam. I spent most of my toothfairy pocket money to buy them and I thought they'd be nice and sweet but instead they were salted! Favourite attraction:
My favourite attraction was BMW World, you
After a stint of organic gardening with the O'Connor family
could do lot's of experiments on cars. There was a really cool kids world where they asked you questions and you had to choose an answer, it was fun. I also loved ice-skating; it's feels like sliding on water. Taking a year off school:
Brilliant!! I learnt as I went around the world. I had some school books; the Hong Kong maths book was a bit too advanced for me, but then I got used to it. The only problem was that I did miss being around lot's of other kids, and doing a journal everyday was tiresome.
Nick has summed things up beautifully me thinks, and I second all of the above! It IS amazing to think that we are now well and truly finished this travelling business, it seemed like it was going to go on forever.
I remember before we left a friend asked “So, what do you think you're going to get out of this?” and I must admit it was pretty hard to answer. Surprisingly no one else had asked the question and it was the first time I found myself verbalising WHY we were doing what we were
With my Mum at Stirling Castle
doing. There was no one simple answer I could give her other than I knew it would be a great thing to do. Now I have the luxury of looking back and being able to say exactly why it was a great thing to do. So here's a brief summary, I'll try to keep it short and (hopefully) cliché free! Seeing a little bit more of the world:
We certainly haven't covered all continents but we've made a dent. The landscapes, the man made structures of amazing proportions, the cities so much bigger than I've ever seen, the quiet villages etc. etc. We've seen it now, we've been there, and I'm so proud to say we made it. Also, experiencing the way different places produce different foods, cultures and, next one on the list.... The People:
so many different people, so many different stories, so many different walks of life. Meeting local people, meeting people from other countries travelling, meeting our relatives! The people we met MADE this year for me, and the strongest memories I have largely feature people we've met. Spending time together:
this was always going to be one of the highlights of our
Phoebe in front of her much beloved Eiffel Tower
time away. We had such busy lives before we left, we worked and Phoebe went to school. This year we spent all day, every day together. Added to that, we took responsibility for Phoebe's education. The experience has left me with a new found respect for the two incredible people I share my life with.
And lastly.......well, I thought I'd avoid cliches but maybe I was wrong. I'm sure you've all heard the expression ''Carpe Diem' or 'Seize the Day'. It's a phrase that's haunted me for many years; what does it really mean? To me? Am I seizing the day....everyday? Well I think I've worked it out, and the answer might surprise you. It's not about taking a year off, travelling the world and having a fantastic time, because even that can get mundane at times believe it or not. It is simply to enjoy life, do what you do to the best of your ability; to make your contribution worthwhile, whatever it is. To have no regrets, to not live in fear, to use what you have available to you and make the most of it. To love deeply, to forgive with no reservations. So forget inspirational
Hanging out with Birgit and Lukas in Klagenfurt
images or racy sports pictures that usually accompany that overused phrase. Just live your life the way it should be lived.
As it turns out, more pedantic Latin scholars will tell you that the phrase in its entirety translates to something more like “While we're talking, envious time is fleeing: pluck the day, put no trust in the future”. And this is where the phrase and I part, because I do put MUCH trust in the future, simply because it is so promising. I have a wonderful, beautiful, clever little girl and I highly anticipate the future life she will lead, and look forward to seeing her blossom into a (very worldly!) wonderful, young woman. I also, after this year, have a handsome, kind and very loving fiance, my future husband, Nick Redwood. The future holds such promise and I look forward to many happy years. May this past year be just one of many adventures we will have together.
Oh, and by the way, it rates a mention: Nick wore one pair of sandals the WHOLE 10 months! Yes, that's right, beaching in Asia, trekking through Petra, going out to dinner in Europe, walking the muddy paths
Phoebe's favourite attraction....'BMW Welt' in Munich
in Scotland. Phoebe meanwhile topped the list at 5 pairs of shoes for the 10 months.
And one more thing.....thank you to all of you at home and around the world who have been reading our blogs. I know they weren't always kept up to date exactly but they were done eventually! Knowing that friends, family and even strangers were in a sense, coming along for the ride was a great thrill. We hope we've entertained you and kept you informed as to our whereabouts.