Ending my travels after three years - this time for real (Darjeeling, West Bengal, India)

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Asia » India » West Bengal » Darjeeling
March 31st 2011
Published: May 22nd 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

(Day 1091 on the road) OK, I know that I have “ended” my trip before and that I have already written the “final” blog of my journey back in October 2010, before returning to the road for a few more months. But I promise that this time it is really over. Safe from a possible Highlight-Blog in a few months' time, this will be my last entry. It is a sentimental feeling to know that this time it really is the end, but there is no way around it really. Three years of travel, albeit with a two-months break in between, have gone by, and I feel this is somehow the right time to end it all.

And what better place to look back on nearly 36 months of traveling than at the foot of the mighty Himalayas, in the quintessential hill station Darjeeling, within sight of Kanchenjunga, the world's little known third highest mountain after Everest and K2? Or at least in theory that is, for in the six days that I was to spend in Darjeeling, the mist and the fog never lifted once, barring me from even glimpsing this mighty mountain. But I was told it is right there…

Darjeeling, with its houses perched precariously on its hilly slopes and who takes its name - Queen of the Hills - from one of the many monasteries up here, had a wonderful feel to it, as isolated mountain villages the world over often do. The people looked much less Indian but more of a mixture of Tibetan and Chinese, and the primary language spoken up here is indeed not Hindi but Nepalese. The food is also heavily influenced by its northern neighbour. I was especially happy to discover that food stalls all over town sold momos, a Chinese-type filled dumpling that I had come to appreciate very much during my travels in China in 2008.

In general, the pace of life is decidedly slower here than in other parts of India, and people mostly leave you alone and in peace, meaning that one can actually enjoy strolling around town without being harassed all the time. This was very much to my liking, since I have been struggling considerably with the chaotic frenzy and in-your-face mentality of many people in other parts of this huge country.

Getting to Darjeeling had been a bit of an ordeal. From Hyderabad, where I had heavy-heartedly parted with Jasmin and Luc, I found myself on a straight 41-hour journey, only broken by a few hours in Rourkela (Orissa) to pick up some stuff I had left behind there back in January. It was a long and exhausting journey, and when I finally put my backpack down in my cozy hotel room in Darjeeling with a great view of the valley, I was well ready to enjoy the last week of my travels.

Before arriving here I had been full of energy, boasting with ideas of what I wanted to do during my final days, ranging from multi-day treks to paragliding. However, once I had settled down and adjusted to the pace of life in sleepy Darjeeling, these grand plans quickly evaporated. The cold climate, which I was completely unprepared for (close to zero degrees at night, quite a change from the heat of lowland India), also took its toll on my adventurous spirits I guess. So instead I took it very easy and took my time exploring the city and its surroundings:

Strolling around town, finding the best spots to eat, drink tea and watch life go by. Exploring the Happy Valley Tea Estate (which produces its tea exclusively for Harrods in London). Enjoying the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and the nearby Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoo with its white snow leopards and red pandas. Being stunned by the amount of rubbish everywhere in these pretty mountains. Watching a fair number of protest marches for an independent Ghorkaland. Marveling at the great many colonial architectural buildings and churches. Watching the religious Sunday ceremonies in the temple of Observatory Hill. And of course enjoying the steam-driven ride on the Unesco-listed Darjeeling Himalayan Railway to the town of Ghum, India's highest railway station.

And then, after what felt like much too short a time to spend in the beautiful Himalayan mountains, it was time to catch my final train back to Kolkata, from where I was to fly back to Germany that same evening. After three years on the road, my travels were inevitably coming to an end. But as I said during the intro of this entry, it does feel like the right time to go home somehow. I have no regrets. And why would I?

The past three years have been the best three years of my life, and I enjoyed every single moment of it. With hindsight, the decision to leave my old life behind in 2008 was the right decision at the right time. My journey took me across parts of Eastern Europe, Russia, Asia, Oceania, Central America and now India, and it truly was a trip of a life-time. Regardless of what life has in store for me now, my travels were worth it all. The memories will stay with me forever.

What lies behind me? More than I could have ever imagined. What’s up next? I have no idea. At this point, only one thing is certain:

The journey is now over.

Next and final stop: Home (Germany). Also have a look at my pictures at .

PS. And for all of you statistic-lovers out there, here are some from my journey:

• Months on the road: 36 (minus 1 months at home in-between)
• Days on the road: 1091 (minus 30 days at home in-between)
• Countries visited: 35
• Kilometers travelled: 127.715 (major stops connected in a straight line, much more if looking at my actual route!)
• Blogs posts written: 184 (with 177.967 words)
• Pictures taken:
• Pictures uploaded to Travelblog.org: 888
• Planes taken: 26 (about 90% were tiny hops
in South-East-Asia)
• Money spent (in total): 28.000 €
• Money spent (average per month): 845 €
• Money spent (average per day): 28 €
• Hits on my blog entries: About 150.000 viewers (June 2012)


22nd May 2011

Ben, I have really enjoyed your blogs and following your adventures and will certainly miss these, Here's to you and where ever your life will lead now, may it be full of joy and success.
22nd May 2011

Really enjoyed following you. Hope it wont be long before we get another update. Enjoy whatever's next!
22nd May 2011

End of journey Hopefully not end of blog
23rd May 2011

surely this "this time for real" is just for this 3yr journey. i guess, there'll always be a future 2yr, 3yr or however-long world trip in store for you, and we'll always be glad if you find time to share it with us, your readers. have a great "vacation"!
23rd May 2011

Nice ending!
Well written, and good luck on wherever this new paths of life leads you. I have enjoyed your blogs. And somehow I think that we will be hearing more from you somewhere in the future. You know what they say, once a traveller, always a traveller
23rd May 2011

Hi, Ben, though you said your journey is finally ended, I have my doubts.;-) I reckon maybe travelling is already becoming part of your lifestyle and way of living. as long as I hear some updates from you that you are settled somewhere, I pretty much look forward to your telling of new adventures.
23rd May 2011

big thanks!
Hi Ben, Thanks for sharing your stories and impressions via your blog and photostream! It's clear that you enjoyed your trip(s) and I want you to know that as a reader I did enjoy it as well, I'm sure your blog will be an important source of inspiration/information to many world travellers in the future (hopefully including me). And I would be glad if you wouldn't stop writing, because even after coming back I guess the adventure isn't over completely? Must be sort of a "new life"... and maybe you have some more advices and experiences about things you learnt during your travels to share. (I as a german especially wonder about the bureaucracy stuff, Arbeitsamt, gesetzliche KV, Bank, blah blah) So, thanks again and all the best for your future, be it in Germany or somewhere else - and like the other commentors I'm quite confident that it's not "the end" but just a vacation, the travel bug will definitely bite again :-) Felix
24th May 2011

It's been a pleasure reading your blogs.........hopefully this won't be the end, just another break!
24th May 2011

These photos are beautiful!! Love the steam engine~
24th May 2011

sadness time
Dear Ben, It's so sad to know that this is you last "report". But however, thanks much for sharing your wonderful and magical trips. No body else is like you, Ben. Have a nice "home life" and God bless you forever.
24th May 2011

Was macht du denn jetzt?
Hi Ben, mensch das ist ja ne Ewigkeit her!!! Wie geht es dir denn wieder mit festem Boden unter den Füßen? Wäre schön mal wieder was von dir zu hören. Grüße Jens
31st May 2011

All the best to you, Ben.
What can I say? I bid you good luck, as I am reminded of how I "journeyed" as an armchair traveler with you . Those memories will stick, and serve you well in the future. It may be the end of the journey, for now, but I am sure there would be chances even for short trips in the future. Now, that would be a completely different perspective for a RTW long-term traveler like you. Drop us a line from time to time when you do. [:)]
5th June 2011

Home= back home in Germany?!?
Bist Du wieder da?? -wenn ja, fühlt sich das bestimmt schrecklich an, oder?
5th June 2011

Welcome back!
Hey, sieh's mal so: Es wird grad voll fett Frühling :-)
5th June 2011

Puh, das muss sich verrueckt anfuehlen. Habe jetzt keinen blog mehr zum Lesen. Sorry, dass ich so langsam war, sehe das gerade erst jetzt, dass Du zurueck bist.
14th June 2011

Darjeeling 782 engine photo's on flickr
Dear Sir, I have taken a good look through your Darjeeling photo's on flickr and in particular the ones taken in March this year of engine number 782 'Mountaineer'. I am currently constructing a large scale model of this engine along with another two engines from this railway. My question is, would it be possible to get access to these photo's in order to use for detail? I have been reading through your blog and wish I had done the trip many years ago. I do hope you can help and you have been very lucky to have been able to see the engines in the flesh. Kindest regards, Steve
1st July 2011

Hello, I just ran across your blog and wanted to let you know that I will be reading it in depth over the next few weeks. Congratulations on being brave enough to LIVE your dreams! My boyfriend and I had a similar, much shorter (8 months)adventure in Central and South America and plan to do something similar in Asia in the future. Your blog will surely serve as an inspiration to us.
21st July 2011

Congratulations for living your dream, and thank you for sharing your journey. The stories on Japan are well written and I would like to return to read the rest of them.
4th October 2011

Ending it On a.........
That is an awesome trip and enjoyed reading it! I\'ve been to some of the places you went to and enjoyed another persons perspective on them. I hope you do travel more in the near future loved reading about it!! Until next time.......
25th April 2013

I was Inspired
Hi Ben After just entering a current blog myself, (April 2013) I somehow got linked to yours which is quite strange really as I followed your blog for ages over the last year of working before I set of with my husband on our own adventure in 2010 - we are still travelling and enjoying every moment - hope that wherever you are you are enjoying life to the full.
11th July 2013

I used to follow you and enjoy your travels a few years ago. Just curious as to what you have been up to. Tschuss

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