Or “Of new endings and old beginnings”
Time is like sand, there seems to be so much of it, vast deserts filled with as much sand as the time it takes to cross them. 325 days ago all I could see was that desert, its vastness spreading all the way into the horizon and beyond it. I thought that just like that desert, time would never end, that we had all the time in the world ahead of us. Who can really understand what it means to travel for almost a year? How can one grasp the meaning of leaving everything you know, everything that you thought defined you, shaped you, made you the person you thought you were...leaving all of that behind and strap on a backpack? When we’d set foot on that plane 325 days ago we had no idea what to expect, all we knew was that we had to leave behind the life we lived and do something else, something so foreign and alien to us that we would need to redefine ourselves in the process. Us, whose longest vacation was 2 weeks, who had never known what a backpack was, whose idea of nature was watching National Geographic on TV. Maybe it helped that we were naive, that the information on the internet makes this sort of travelling as glamorous and adventurous, hiding the hardships it harbours, the difficulties on the way.
If someone had told me a few years ago that I would travel with my best friend, my better half, around the world I would have laughed out loud. All I wanted was 10 days in the Maldives, doing absolutely nothing except sip cocktails and change my sunbathing position. Backpacking was for the young, for the penny-less kids fresh out of college who knew nothing of life and then got stuck mid-travel without any money. Backpacking wasn’t me, wasn’t us, it just didn’t fit the picture. Yet here we are, 325 days after, my back strained from strapping my entire home on it, my feet aching from walking hundreds of miles over these past months, my hair and beard grown to that of a caveman. And still, I find myself smiling as I remember these last few months, fondly looking back at the many highlights we had had, at the incredible places we saw, the people we met.
It’s weird to write this blog today, knowing that it is the last. Tomorrow there will be no need to search for the next hostel, no need to arrive in a new city, green behind the ears, unsure of where to go and what to do, yet excited nonetheless that another adventure awaits you. There will be no more packing everything into a backpack that seemed to have shrunken since the last time you unpacked, no more bus schedules to be triple checked, no more getting lost in a strange city and loving it. This is the time for the New to end, and for the Old to begin. A time to return to the life we had before, yet define it differently. To take what we have seen along the way and shape a better life for us, to realize that life can only be lived once and that there is no refund on wasted time.
324 days ago I thought that we had all the time in the world, yet here we are, watching the sun set over the Gulf of Thailand, feeling the last grain of time seeping through our fingers, thousands of miles away from the place it all started.
I know that we haven’t even begun to process all of what happened. That will take time. And a lot of pictures to look at :-) A time will come when all of this will start to seem like a dream, as if it happened to someone else, or in a different life. Memories will merge, places will become fuzzy, but I hope that the overall feeling of what we have accomplished will remain with us for a very long time.
During our travels we have waded through white deserts, gazed upon lands that seemed to have been taken straight out of a dinosaur world, our feet touched beaches so remote and beautiful that even the skies could only blink back in harmony, too many stars to count above us. We have had the great fortune to watch a green turtles intimate moment, seals bask themselves in the sun, penguins waddle their mating dance as the male returned from sea, bruised elephants heal themselves in the sanctuary of the jungle. We faced unpredicted snowstorms, evacuated tropical islands just before hurricanes hit, stood bravely as the forces of wind and rain pushed against us in Patagonia.
There are some places that stand out, of course, mostly due to the images I had in mind from before; if it is Machu Pichu in all its glory, the chaotic wonders of Vegas, the eternal tranquilly of the Moai on Easter Island or the hustle and bustle of the markets in Hong Kong & Taipei. But there are many more, smaller, more intimate moments that caught us by surprise, where we suddenly found ourselves smiling for no reason other than realizing where we were and what that meant. It is these small moments that we’ll remember fondly in the future, as they are only ours, something personal we are taking away from the last months.
This journey hasn’t been easy. It was born out of pain and sweat and it wouldn’t have been our trip if there weren’t moments of pain and sweat during. When our stuff got stolen in Chile we were very close to throwing in the towel and returning home. It’s not easy to come back from a blow like that, your trust in people gone, your faith in the dream shattered and all you are left with being “what the f*%k am I doing here??” But it is also in these moments that you discover two things: 1) there are some very kind and loving people out there who will help a stranger for no other reason but to be kind to them in a time of need 2) the strength you need to keep going makes the time after the decision even sweeter as we came to cherish it more.
We found on our travels that although there are many differences in cultures, in habits and appearance, at the base of it all we are all just...people. Some friendly, others not, some genuinely warm and hospitable, others greedy and fake. It doesn’t matter where you are, one cannot label the people of one country as a whole. Yet sating that there were two countries, where, as a whole, we found people to be the friendliest – Peru and Taiwan. We also found that, at least for us, the people in Cambodia were the least friendly and we just couldn’t connect with them. Not just because of the poverty, which although Cambodia was the poorest of our countries, Peru suffers from as well. It was from their way of life, their laziness and wish to get things handed to them just because they are poor. In contrast, the people in Peru were proud to work, willing to pull themselves out of the hole their country is in and make every foreigner feel a certain kind of special.
But I can’t write this entry without mentioning Taiwan – a country that was added only last minute and turned out to be maybe the best country of them all. The warmth and friendliness of the people, the delicious food, the craziness of Taipei and its markets, the astonishing beauty of their nature; all of that and more made us stay a full three weeks longer than we had planned.
I think I have said all that needed to be said. I thank all of you readers who have been a part of our journey. Hope you had as much fun these last 325 days as we did :-)
It is now time to say goodbye and who knows, maybe in a few years we will do all of this again, God knows we have already so many countries we want to visit that another journey is just begging to be started! And if nothing else, I did finish my novel, which will now need some editing, of course, but with the right amount of luck and determination, who knows, maybe that will be the new direction of our small family that is Ronni and me.
So here, for one last time, this has been our trip-
Oh, and by the way, I set out as a normal human being and returned a caveman :-)
And let's not forget the two main characters...