Home again, home again, tiddlyumph
Trip Start May 08, 2006
48Trip End May 06, 2007
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So first things first, you already know what I've been doing unless you've cheated and jumped straight to the back, in which case read the middle damn you. I've come to the conclusion that rather than summarise everything like one of those pointless paragraphs you always had to write at the end of every science experiment at school, I should enlist the help of a typical Englishman to draw out my thoughts. Take it away old boy...
GENERIC ENGLISHMAN: Thanks Bob. So what does it feel like to be back home?
ME: Imagine a piece of string that represents time. Put a bit of superglue on the day I left, go along the string for, ooh, a good 363 days and then stick the 363rd day to the one with the superglue on it. That's how it feels.
GE: Oh so it's kind of like you never left.
ME: Not exactly, more like I left, and then re-entered at the same point.
GE: Isn't that like, the same thing?
GE: O...K. So you're bored, trapped, and you want to leave the country.
ME: Not exactly. It's great to see everyone again and I'm looking forward to going to London to get a bit of money under my belt.
GE: Glad to hear you're actually gonna get a proper job you bum.
ME: Yeah yeah.
GE: So what was the best country you went to?
ME: Hmm, depends what we're going on. If we're talking about good times then it would probably have to be New Zealand. I met the best bunch of people in Auckland that I could ever hope to meet in one hostel and they became my family for a couple of months.
GE: Nice. Best city?
ME: A toss-up between LA and Chicago I think. They're both amazing for entirely opposite reasons. I love all the weirdos, freaks and the fakeness of LA, but Chicago is clean, beautiful, grungy, cool, and pretty much the personification of 'western culture'.
GE: What about Melbourne?
ME: Yeah Melbourne's pretty amazing as well. I think the difference is that I could happily live in Melbourne, but Chicago and LA were just spectacles - extremes of architecture and culture to be looked at and taken in from a wider perspective.
GE: Erm... Right. So is Melbourne in your top three or not?
ME: Yeah I guess.
GE: Well just say that next time then ok?
GE: Of all the towns and cities that you visited - without staying for any great length of time. So not Sydney or Melb...
ME: Yeah yeah I know.
GE: Ok. Of all those places, where did you have the best time?
ME: Queenstown... Without a shadow of a doubt.
GE: You sure about that?
ME: Queenstown has everything you could ever want in a travel destination - breathtaking surroundings, amazing hostels, amazing people, free soup, fantastic nightlife, no animosity, bungee jumping, skydiving, snowboarding, waterskiing, and pretty much any extreme sport you can name. It is quite simply, one of the best places I have ever been.
GE: Do they have extreme ironing?
GE: No seriously it's a real sport I saw it on TV once.
GE: Ok so would you live there?
ME: In a heartbeat.
GE: So if I said I had a plane ticket and a great job lined up for you there right now you'd say...?
ME: Put me on the plane
GE: Even if you had to go as you are - this very second without packing?
ME: Can I brush my teeth?
GE: Yeah I suppose.
ME: Then yeah, as long as I have a wardrobe of new clothes waiting for me over there.
GE: No you don't.
ME: Well that's just stupid.
GE: How much do you wanna go?
ME: Can I at least have some money to buy some clothes when I get there?
GE: You can have £5.
ME: Shut up.
GE: No really you can buy some nice boxers for £5.
ME: What's the next question?
GE: Hehe. Ok... How many times did you get jiggy...
ME: Next question.
GE: Oh come on.
ME (to Producer): Look, can I have a new host please? This one's starting to irritate me.
Producer: We've only got Bob Holness from Blockbusters.
ME: What? The 'What W is a word to describe Generic Englishman' guy?
GE: Oh that's lame.
Producer: That's him.
ME: Forget it.
GE: I'll behave.
ME: You better.
GE: Alright alright. How many Kangaroos did you see?
ME: I saw a redback spider.
GE: Cooool. Did it bite you?
ME: Yeah, I nearly died.
GE: Ho ho. So you went to Australia but you didn't see anything cool?
ME: Look, you know I only went to Sydney and Melbourne. Crocodiles aren't exactly prolific there.
GE: Do you wish you could have travelled 'straya a bit more?
ME: Definately. My original intention was to travel up the East Coast after Sydney but I never managed to save any money in the 4 months I was there.
GE: Pissed it up the wall?
ME: One too many Eggs Benedict.
GE: Yeah right. What was the single greatest thing you did in your whole year off.
ME: Wow. Erm... But I did so many great things.
GE: Maybe, but you're only allowed to choose one.
ME: Ok ok. The skydive.
GE: Good choice.
GE: And finally... What did you get out of travelling?
ME: That's a bit vague isn't it? I'd have to write about it properly.
GE: Why can't you just tell me?
ME: Because this interview format is taking up too much space, and you'd just pick my answers to pieces anyway.
GE: Fair point. Ok well thanks for taking the time to answer my questions and delighting my readers with your heartfelt comments.
ME: You mean my readers.
I think that a lot of people go away with this preconceived notion that if you go travelling for any length of time you will 'find yourself'. It's not until you're out there that you realise that you're not exactly sure what this means. I mean, it's not as if you're lost before you go. You're more likely to get lost while you're out there aren't you? "Don't be so stupid Bobby" I hear you say, "It's not meant to be taken literally." A lot of people would say that it's about finding your purpose in life, becoming an adult, opening your eyes or some other spiritual/philosophical nonsense, but really I think that 'finding yourself' is a terrible phrase to describe what actually happens to you.
Travelling gives you time-out to think, plan, ponder and discuss what you're ultimately going to do with yourself. At least in the immediate future. Most people who travel are more or less in the same boat - they want to escape work. We're all just bone-idle. That aside, we all reluctantly agree that we will eventually have to work, and travelling gives you time to think about - and come to terms with - what you have to do. After we've done the usual conversational niceties...
"What's your name?"
"What do you do?"
"I'm a Siamese monk"
"Where have you been?"
"Where are you going?"
...we all have something in common apart from travelling (i.e. our reason for leaving), and if you actually get to know someone properly you can both talk about your hopes and dreams, find a connection, and end up with some of the best friends you've ever had. And other potentially over-earnest things.
Travelling gave me more confidence in myself and in other people, it made me learn to give respect where it was due and it made me much less predjudiced. With the amount of interesting and alternative people that you meet day-in, day-out, it's impossible to keep relying on predjudices and stereotypes lest you become a social recluse. I certainly didn't 'find myself', although I now have a sense of direction and freedom that I never had before.
It's not until you go away for any length of time that you realise how easy it is to go anywhere you want. You can move to a new place, get a new job and find a place to stay without too much issue. If you get itchy feet, you can move onto the next place. If you meet some fantastic people you can stay a little longer. It's a life, which that famous all-encompassing Aussie phrase 'no worries mate' was created for, and a life from which I will have trouble letting go.
So people ask me what it's like to be back, but it's a question that you can't just answer in a couple of sentences.
GE: So you have to go and write a bloody 20 page essay about it.
Well, quite. You can't compare travelling the world with being at home. When you're gallavanting around 7 countries in a year, the only real worry you have is how much money you have left. And then if you run out you can just get a job in your host country. Ok so things go wrong here and there but a traveller's life is primarily about where you're going to go next, what you're going to do there, and how many cool new people you're going to meet. And that's it. The whole kaboodle right there.
So. My final thoughts. What is it all about? What is the single, greatest, bestest thing about travelling? And what is it that gives you the 'bug'?
Travelling is about people. You can see all the wonders of the world, sail the seven seas, go from pole-to-pole and climb Everest, but none of it matters even an ounce if you have no-one to share it with. The guys and girls I met along the way are the single most important thing of my whole trip, and if you're not a people-person when you leave, then you will be by the time you come back. Else you won't catch the bug.
So was this the single, most incredible year of my entire life? Well, it was rather nice.
Thanks to all the people who have followed my travels on this site. I've enjoyed writing it, I hope you've all enjoyed reading it, and I hope it inspires a few people to get up and go.
Until next time,