The Final Blog
Trip Start Aug 24, 2010
116Trip End Aug 23, 2011
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Like all great things, this trip has finally come to an end. I've visited 20 countries, taking 14 flights, over 100 buses, countless taxis, 24 boat rides, 15 trains and one really uncomfortable camel ride. I've seen some truly amazing things and have memories that will last a lifetime. It's great to be able to look back on the year now and review the different experiences that I've enjoyed so much. Seeing iconic landmarks such as Angkor Wat, Taj Mahal, Petronas Towers, Sydney Opera House, Christ the Redeemer and Machu Picchu have only been only a tiny portion of the wonderful life that I've lived over the last 12 months.
Some of the scenery has been breathtaking and such diverse landscapes have ensured that it's never become boring. Volcanic lakes, mountain ranges, desert environments, gorgeous beaches, jungle, delta regions and huge canyons have all been amazing to see and have added to the variety. Some famous sights like Halong Bay, Salar de Uyuni and Iguazu Falls are a few natural wonders that I can now cross off the list of things to see in my life.
The trip has not only been about seeing different places but very much about trying new things. I've scuba dived on the Great Barrier Reef, swam with wild dolphins in New Zealand, trekked in huge mountain ranges, walked on a glacier, climbed an active volcano, learnt to surf in Australia, camped overnight in a desert, and cruised down a fjord - none of which I'd experienced before coming away this year.
I've made the trip as adrenaline filled as possible by jumping out of a plane at 14,000 feet, bungee jumping from 134m and generally saying yes to anything else that will get the heart beating faster. Whether it's been falling backwards from a 109m high platform whilst strapped to a chair, jumping off a 98m high bridge wearing just my underpants, rolling down a hill in a giant hamster ball, white water rafting, abseiling down a canyon, sandboarding or cycling down 'The World's Most Dangerous Road', I've definitely been up for it!
It's not been all fun and games as there has been trouble along the way. My shoulder popped out of it's socket in India, which at the time I thought was quite painful but was actually nothing compared to the agony I would feel when the diet of three curries a day eventualy caught up with me. I've never been that ill before and being unable to make it to the toilet on time at the age of 24 is really not cool. The second time I fell ill in India was even worse, resulting in me being admitted to hospital as soon as I arrived in Bangkok - and all that in just the first month of traveling! My foot was burnt at some hot springs in Indonesia, I was unable to walk on my ankle in Vietnam (for some reason), I've been involved in 2 car accidents, I've had encounters with leeches and I received 238 bed bug bites in one night. My iPod was stolen just before Christmas along with some money in a card from my Mum - my only Christmas present that year! I was stung by a jelllyfish in Australia and I experienced a second robbery of the trip when I had my wallet and camera stolen in Ecuador.
That list suggests that I've been quite unlucky but things could have obviously been a lot worse. We missed the earthquake in Christchurch by just a few days. There was flooding in Thailand and Vietnam when we were around the area, though we never seemed to be hit by the worst of it. Apparently there was a cyclone in Nha Trang, Vietnam about a week after we left. We were a week or so away from being in Indonesia when the country was hit by a big earthquake. Loads of people were crushed to death in Cambodia a couple of days after we left the country and there was the volcano that erupted in Chile, though again we had already left the area. The only thing we really got caught up in was the flooding in Brisbane, where we each grabbed a spade and offered to lend a hand by filling up sandbags.
Some things have been absolutely priceless, that no guide book or tour company could offer on an organised trip. Playing football with Vietnamese policeman whilst stranded on the side of the road was a matter of circumstance and would not happen if we did the trip again. Attending a Cambodian wedding and being accepted like a long lost relative is one of my favourite experiences of the trip and something that I will never forget. Likewise in Rio just a few days before we returned to England, we were invited to a party by absolute strangers and treated like family.
Though I've worked hard to save up enough money to fund a trip like this, I've certainly been helped out along the way. Various people have contributed to keeping the costs down. My Mum and Paul treated us to a fine meal in Bangkok, Jamie gave us a place to stay in Singapore, Slater's family in Australia put us up for a little over a week, Darren offered us his house and car for the time we spent in Melbourne and the Salesians in Chile took us out for a barbecue. We've also helped ourselves out a little by thinking of ways to save money. Offering ourselves as 'models' in exchange for a free haircut and dressing up as girls to get free drinks turned out to be successful business ventures.
Saving the pennies has been a constant task and I'll apologise now if I've become an absolute tight arse as a result. One of Jimmy's favourite stories from the trip is from Pune, India, at 6 o'clock in the morning when we were on the last minute to catch a train. I was haggling with a rickshaw driver over the price to take us to the station and he was trying to charge us too much - we'd paid less the day before so I knew what it should have cost. In the end I said,"It's ok, we'll walk", even though I knew we wouldn't make it to the train station on time. Then as we started to walk off, he came racing behind in his little rickshaw and said, "Ok, my friend". As we sat in the back on the way to the station, Jimmy worked out the amount I was arguing over and said, "Mate, that's only 7p each! What would we have done if he didn't come after us?! We would've missed our train!" I said, "Yeah, but he did, didn't he?". Haggling was part of everyday life in India and I'd like to think we've tried our best to fully take in the culture of each country we've visited. There's probably no finer example of this than an Indian hand wipe after a visit to the loo. Another way we've immersed ourselves in foreign culture is to sample some of the local delicacies. I'm normally a fussy eater but I'm proud to say I've tried a lot of new things, including snake, cockroach and spider. Jimmy has been keeping a list of the new beers that we've sampled - the final total is 67!
I've seen some of the poorest people in the world and have felt humbled at times. The standard of living in Dharavi slum, for example, was unbelievable without witnessing it first hand. Even though that is an extreme case, I've come to realise that even people considered 'comfortable' in most parts of the world are still a lot less fortunate than I am and have not had the same opportunities in life. An Argentinian woman was asking about my trip once and after I'd told her the places I'd visited so far, she told me that she'd been married to her husband for over 30 years and neither of them had ever left the country. I've visited 6 continents by the age of 24 and although it sounds quite nice to write it now, it was not something that I was particularly proud of at that moment in time.
One great thing about traveling the world has been the people we've met, fellow backpackers and locals alike. Though a lot of the people we've come across have either been smelly hippies or the posh 'gap yah' type, we've also met some really cool people and it would be great to meet up with them at some point in the future.
A lot of the people we've met have commented on how funny we are together (of course) and some have suggested that we should even form our own boy band - I suppose we have sang karaoke all across the globe so international experience would be no problem. These pictures are potential album covers...
I've stayed in 110 different hotels in the last year so it's safe to say that I'm ready for my own bed. 12 months is a long time to be away from home and spending Christmas and my birthday in a different country was something I'd never done before. I'm not sure how difficult it will be to adjust to life back in England after a year away. Maybe I will wonder why nobody wants to take my photo, perhaps I will find myself haggling for things in Asda. I've had the time of my life but I understand that it cannot last forever. My clothes are starting to fall apart, my bank balance is near zero and I have no more space left in my passport. So I will sign off for the final time with a few random photos from the last year of my life.