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Published: November 25th 2008
Phase 1: Western Europe
Backpacking in the Swiss Alps
I've been in Laos a week now, and to be sure I am a few blogs behind on the experiences I have been having in this fantastic chilled out country, However I think this entry comes first...
I had intended to use the 5 or 6 hour slow-boat journey from Nong Kiao to Luang Prabang yesterday to catch up on my travel journal, instead though I was suddenly inspired to look back and read the beginning of my black book of memories. Its Volume #2 since I left the UK and this one starts on the 17th of January, 2008. The first entry was written while I had a 17 hour wait in LAX airport in Los Angeles, California, awaiting my return to Beijing. I ended up reading the whole bloody thing, mostly because I realise that I am entering a very different phase of my travels, and of this trip. As an aspiring writer, half-baked intellectual, proactive personality, and ambitious traveler I recognise the importance of one consistently looking back at one's past, assessing the ways in which they and the world have changed, and considering how one's character and views have been affected by a lifestyle best decribed
Phase 2: Eastern Europe
Waiting for a Train in Transylvania, Romania
I have been travelling for 14 months now (well, in 4 days it will be 14 months) which is a pretty bloody long time by anyone's standards. Dated back in late January I wrote an entry entitled "Acute Traveller's Boredom and the need for Intellectual Stimulation" written during an emotional valley and describing in detail the biggest challenges facing a solo traveller. It describes both a very strange sort of boredom as well as general disorientation as two of the major issues. I suggest to myself a variety of solutions to deal with these problems and one of the tools I suggest is to mentally break your travels up into phases. I have foudn that this helps me keep things in perspective.
Up to this point in time, my travels have had seven phases, based mainly upon geography, and I am now entering the 8th. They are:
3)The Trans-Siberian (Finland, Russia, Mongolia, Beijing)
4)West Coast of the United States
5)Introduction to China (northern China)
6)Living in Shanghai
7)Return to the Road (Southern and Western China and Qingdao)
and now number 8 which will likely be:
8)South East Asia (Finally!)(Laos, Thailand,
Phase 3: Trans-Siberian/Mongolian
Walking across the tracks in Irkutsk on a cold Siberian Morning after just getting off a 75 hour train ride.
Cambodia, and Vietnam)
Each of these phases have been extremely and uniquely diferrent from the other in ways that have gone far beyond my wildest expectations. However, thinking and reading back, I have come to believe that the one aspect of my travels that have changed and varied the most from one phase to the other is not the weather (-30C to +30C), not the culture (Germany to Laos), not the terrain (Swiss alps to Chinese Rice terraces), not even the price of beer (13Euros/l to 0.45Euros/l). Rather, the biggest change that I can see is: Me. It is striking to read back about the kid let off the plane in Beijing, wandering about in the cold eating crappy street food and wondering what he is doing with his life. Even more striking is to look back at the near-toddler getting wasted in Berlin and almost not finding his way back to his hostel. If you aren't travelling, consider how much you might of changed in the past year of your life... now apply that to the life of a traveller.
The point I am trying to make (the long way around) is that one begins to recognise
Phase 4: West Coast of the USA
Hiking around the Golden Gate Bridge while visiting firends in San Franciso
very clearly a pattern of progression. A pattern that if you step back far enough, seems to be ultimately be heading in one direction. That is it seems to be leading somewhere... We all travel for a reason, though some of us (myself included) do not even know for sure why we keep going. The reasons are there though, and so logic implies that at some point in time these reasons will either cease to exist, or some mystic purpose will be acheived and the traveler will one day be packing his backpack and say to himself, "I think I'm done now".
So as my travels continue, I have taken some time out (while looking at temples in Laos) for some "restive contemplation" in order to consider where this new phase of my travels might be taking me. In a sort of joyful, melancholic pondering, I can not help but feel that this "big trip", the one with no set time limit and no destination, is now on the downhill stretch towards its metaphysical finish line. There are a variety of factors that feed into this theory (financial factors being a very large one) but the main factor once
Phase 5: China Part 1: Northern China
Frozen pigs for sale on the streets of Datong, China.
again is: Me.
Don't worry though, by no means am I close to the end! I have at least another 3 forseeable months ahead of me and then who knows what is next! But life goes on... and I realise now that there will come a point in the not-so-distant future when I will have to make to decision to either end my travels to get on with life, or else discover the elusive cipher that will allow me to make my life be
I realise now that I have never written about my future travel plans. Here is the basic summary of Phase 8 of my travels:
Laos 2 weeks,
Thailand 1 month,
Cambodia 2 weeks,
Vietnam 1 month with the girlfriend.
This takes me up to Mid Febuary 2009. After this things remain pretty unclear. I have loads of ideas but no idea which will be the actual next step.
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