Returning home – Reflections

Reflections
London, United Kingdom

London, United Kingdom


It’s now all over. I’m home and no longer living out of (several) backpacks. My time away seems so long, yet so short.

Some numbers for this trip:

– number of countries visited – 23

– number of towns visited – 90

– number of flights taken – 56 (whoops)

– number of days I’ve been away – 502

– number of hours spent underwater – 650

– luggage returned home with – 40kg

– blog entries – 134. I will miss writing this

Planning for my trip began years ago. Ideas and notes floating around with no real plan or timescale for fulfilment. Just dreams and places and photos and routes. Countries and cities and towns and the ocean. Places that I would think about, but never thought I would go.

I never meant to be away for nearly 18 months. 5 months was the original plan. That was soon extended. And extended. And extended. Living on Mabul island in Malaysia, days turned very quickly into weeks and into months and suddenly it was Christmas. I had a routine and loved my island life. At times it was hard, I was ill and I missed ‘normal’ things. I missed chocolate and yoghurt, having shops around and working Internet. But now that I am gone, I miss the sunshine, the water, the tropical trees, brushing my teeth on the sand and sleeping in my lovely wooden hut. I’ve never been to a more beautiful place. And I miss it everyday.

Being in new countries brings new illnesses and diseases. And I’ve had a few! In Africa I was stung by a Nairobi fly, leaving a large burn mark on my arm. But Malaysia was the worst; ringworm from playing with cats. Bladder infections, ear infections, various skin diseases and yeast infections from being in dirty water. Bad cuts from falling through a jetty. Dengue, from a mosquito bite while in Burma. Wisdom tooth pain, which I subsequently had taken out in Malaysia. And of course, the standard traveller stomach.

I could not have enjoyed my time more. I went to so many places, I have lost count. Cities, villages and islands. A huge variety of cultures, religions and landscapes. I’ve explored the oceans, watched wild lions playing in the grass, seen monks on their morning alms, trekked through jungle, laid on beaches, dodged traffic through cities, visited mosques and temples – too many to remember and showered under waterfalls. On this trip I’ve watched the sun rise and fall from 23 different countries across the globe in temperatures ranging from 0 to 45 degrees.

I’ve met so many different people from so many different countries along my journey. My trip would not have been the same without them and has largely influenced by the people I have met. I have made some friends for life.

Travel itself can take many forms. Of course there is the usual – the planes, cars, buses and trains. But also the unusual – horse and cart, tuk tuks, toboggan, camel back, camel cart and mircolight. I’ve had a go at them all!

The world speaks English. Maybe this is what makes English people so lazy in learning other languages. I have moved around without language barrier and (usually) getting where and what I want. Obviously living in a country makes it a lot easier to speak the local language and I spent a long time learning to speak Malay. I love being able to speak a new language, especially being rather unusual!

The world is full of natural wonders. Some have made the lists – the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, the Egyptian pyramids, the Roman Colosseum, Puerto Princesa underground river, Halong Bay, the Great Barrier Reef, the Amazon, Komodo, Victoria falls, Stonehenge, Hagia Sofia. Places I am lucky enough to have explored.

Food varies dramatically throughout the world. The curries of India. Noodle soups of Vietnam. Spices of Thailand. Rotis and nasi in Malaysia. Steamed buns and dim sum in China. Pizza in Italy. But there are always the standards too – coca cola is ubiquitous and saved many a hot day. Crisps, of some form are everywhere (the best, oddly being in Indonesia and India!). And Oreos – hardly a country I have been where these little black discs are not sold.

And all the amazing animals. From big to small. Land to ocean. The African safari ‘Big Five’ – lions, rhinos, leopard, elephant and buffalo – and the others; cheetah, zebra, hippo, giraffe and a multitude of cool birds! The underwater animals – mola mola (!), thresher, white tips and grey reef sharks, eagles rays, marbled rays, manta rays, blue ringed octopus, frogfish, flamboyant cuttlefish and I could go on and on. And of course the wandering cows of India!

Of course, by visiting one place, you hear about new adventures and the list of new places to explore is added to. I may have seen a lot of the world, but there is much more out there still to go and I’m not fed up yet!

I left England white as a ghost, dark haired and a bit chubby. I return with blonde, sun bleached hair, a tan from months of being in the sun and a bit thinner.

This adventure may be over. But the next is just beginning.

The End.

Some favourites:

– best food – India

– favouite markets – Cambodia

– nicest people – Indonesia

– best scenery – Philippines

– favourite airport – Singapore

– favourite diving – Mabul, Malaysia

– favourite towns – Luang Prabang (Laos), Pushkar (India) and Semporna (Malaysia) I couldn’t choose!

– most unusual place – Burma

– overall favourites – Malaysia and India


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