Waking from a dream

Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
Trip End Jun 18, 2011

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Flag of United Kingdom  , Wales,
Thursday, July 28, 2011

(Hey everyone it's Hayley, this is my concluding blog entry but check back soon because Tom is going to write one last blog too)

So as I sit writing this we have been home for exactly three weeks and I just don’t know where the time has gone. Since the second the plane touched the ground in Manchester we haven’t stopped; visiting people, unpacking, catching up with everyone, phone calls, kid’s sports days, sleepovers, BBQs and shopping. It would be lovely to say that we have done nothing but relax since we got home but that wouldn’t be true; we’ve been trying to keep fit and go for long walks etc but there always seems to be something that needs doing at the moment.

This blog entry is intended to round off our travels and to try and make sense of it all. We both expected that when we returned home we would be staring at everything with fresh eyes and walking around in a daze, but funnily enough we have settled back into life here a lot easier than we expected. We still know where the teabags are kept at our parents houses, we still remember how to use the washing machine, we still know how to drive a car. Everything is just how we left it. And in some ways this is actually the hardest part of coming home. In a funny way we wanted it to be difficult to adjust to life back home because that would prove just how important the trip was to us both; we thought that traveling had become our lives and that being here, stationary in one house and in one town, would be really hard. On some days, when I’m really tired, I actually start to doubt that we have ever been away and I find myself asking Tom: "We did really do it, didn’t we? It wasn’t all just a dream?" When we first arrived back and we were both struggling with jet lag there were many mornings when I woke up and for a moment or two I genuinely didn’t know if we had ever been away and I would get upset and start to think I was going crazy. How can we ever have been traveling, how can my life have changed so drastically if I’m now making beans on toast at my mum’s house? In this respect, being home is really difficult. Our lives and experiences traveling now feel like they are contained in a little bubble which I can never gain access to again.

Having been free of responsibility for a whole year we are both feeling the pressures of everyday life a lot more than we normally would; searching for new jobs, updating our CVs, getting to appointments on time. Even being around other people for prolonged amounts of time is hard; we are so used to living in each other’s pockets it is difficult now having to cope with other peoples personalities, stresses, strains and demands.

But having said all this I do feel different since we got home. All I have to do is remind myself of everything we have achieved and I feel myself brimming over with pride. I tell myself: “You made your way down the Mekong River in a slow-boat with no seats while there was a rooster crowing next to your head and a screaming man trying to steal your passport”, “You traveled the entire length of China with only 5 words of Mandarin to your name, a train ticket and a carrier bag full of noodles”, “You survived being dumped in the middle of nowhere by a bus driver in Java, negotiated for a mini bus to take us to the city and then went and had a plate of egg fried rice to celebrate it all”. When I think like that I suddenly remember all those old feelings that I had while traveling; pride, confidence, happiness. And I realize that life here is nothing to worry about. It’s all just a case of putting things into perspective and making sure I never forget everything I have learnt along the way. Because I know that in time I will forget a lot of it, I must have forgotten tons already, but I want to cling onto it all for as long as possible; I much prefer being Dora to being the person I was before I left home. 

Writing the blog has been a bit of a double edged sword. Sometimes it has been really therapeutic and essential to our trip; before we left I had all these big plans that I would write a diary as well as a blog and that I would document everything I saw; the flavours, smells, temperatures, colours. But of course once we starting traveling I realized that if I was to do that I wouldn’t actually end up experiencing anything because I would be too busy writing about it all. So the blog has been my diary and travel journal in one. But sometimes it has been really frustrating. I find that there just aren’t enough words to express what I really want to say, or I become too philosophical about it all and end up wittering on for pages and pages. I want to be able to describe everything just as it happened or just as it felt but I can never do it justice. So when I want to tell everyone how it feels to get a blessing from a Tibetan monk, the sensation of his cold, leathery hands sitting heavily on your head, or the smell of the incense and musk of his scarlet robes, or the way you kneel teetering on the small bench while someone is banging a huge drum behind you, but all I end up saying is: “We got a blessing from a monk, it was really amazing”.

 I also want to use this blog entry to thank all the people we met along the way and everyone back home who has supported us. So thank you to our wonderful families and friends, especially our parents for their love and support. I also need to say a extra special thank you to my elder sister Rachel who has followed this blog fanatically; knowing that you are always reading the blog and thinking of us got us through some of our darkest moments., especially while we were ill. So starting way back at the beginning we would like to say a huge thank you to: Anna and Smiley in New Zealand for the wine and ice cream, Lynda and family for making our time in New Zealand with the campervan so special, Danielle and Mike in Katoomba, Elka in Byron Bay, Gary for his kindness in Hervey Bay, Katrine and Aurore for being our new family in Hervey Bay, the staff onboard the Iceberg in Airlie Beach for one of the best activities of the entire trip, Julia for putting us in contact with her sister in Thailand, Anna, Phil and Marco in Cairns, Michelle, Lenny and all the guests at Tropic Days for a great Christmas and New Year,  Nyomen for an incredible day out in Bali, the staff at Jalan-Jalan guesthouse in Melaka, Carly, Hazel and Carol for sharing our special memories in Nai Yang, all the staff and children especially Eve and Minnoo at the nursery, school and orphanage in Khao Lak for being so welcoming and kind to us, the three funny London guys we met in Bangkok for making us laugh so much, all the people who soaked us and got soaked by us at Songkran in Chiang Mai, Sasi for helping us organize loads of fun activities in Chiang Mai, Peter for looking after us when we caught Dengue Fever in Luang Prabang, the fantastic staff at Sivarin Guesthouse who cared for us when we returned to Bangkok, Mai Kaidee for feeding us some of the best food of our lives, the beautiful Madam An and her staff in Hoi An for giving Tom an unforgettable birthday, all the guests and staff aboard our boat around Halong Bay especially Dwi and Bella, the wonderful staff at Perami Guesthouse in Lijiang for helping with our train tickets, Tony and Jen in Dali and Lijiang for listening and understanding and, last but certainly not least,  Hans, Alexandra and their kids in Lijiang for inspiring us. Thank you to everyone we have met along the way; you have made us laugh and cry, made us excited and annoyed, happy and sad. The trip wouldn’t have been all that it was without you all.

I could sit here all day and keep writing about all this but I don’t think people will want to keep reading my ramblings much longer. The final two things I need to say are both going to sound really soppy. The first thing is a plea. When we first visited Phuket in Thailand and volunteered for ChildTrac I could never have foreseen the huge impact which the following month would have on me. Since we have returned home everyone has asked us what was the best thing we did and we can never decide on an answer. But I can tell you honestly that the month spent in Phuket was one of the hardest of my life; in one month I missed the birth of my new nephew, my mum and sisters birthdays, my little sisters wedding, we had to sit and watch while Christchurch was destroyed by another huge earthquake and then we sat terrified while the Japanese tsunami swept the oceans. We were taken to visit towns ruined by the 2006 tsunami, met children whose parents had been killed, welcomed into a refugee camp and shown more human suffering than I thought I could take. But in the midst of so much poverty, pain and hopelessness I was shown happiness on a scale I never thought possible. Taken to play with the children one afternoon left me speechless. When I thought I couldn’t keep going anymore, when all I wanted to do was go home to my lovely comfortable life of pizzas and dvds, the kids at the nursery and orphanage gave me back my hope and my smile. Since we’ve returned home not a day has gone by that I don’t think of the children we met. So in this final blog entry I’m going to be really cheeky and ask that if you have enjoyed reading our blog over the last year then please show your appreciation by making a small donation to either ChildTrac or the Home & Life Orphanage. Trust me, they really do need every penny you can spare.

And finally I would like to say thank you to Tom for being a wonderful traveling companion, partner-in-crime, fiance and friend. I wouldn’t have been able to do everything I have done without your support, love and encouragement. I know it has been hard at times, but I am so proud of you for completing our journey and overcoming all the problems you faced along the way. South America next time, yeah? :-)

To finish with here are a few statistics from our trip:

-         we travelled through 11 countries in 311 days

          that’s a distance of over 45,178 kilometers or 28,072 miles

          taken 15 flights and clocked up a fair few air miles

         written 141 blogs and taken over 12,000 photos and 149 videos

          had over 7000 visitors to the blogs

         had 31 of our photos selected to be featured on Travelpod’s front page

         swam with dolphins, abseiled into a cave, hiked a glacier, did a bungee jump, went whale watching, sailed a yacht, snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef, drove a motorbike, milked a cow, took part in a Hindu ceremony, sunbathed on tropical beaches, got drunk in Bangkok, zip lined through the jungle, stayed overnight in a hilltribe village, took part in the world’s biggest water fight, meditated with monks at 4am, sailed down the Mekong River, visited Halong Bay, saw Giant Pandas, visited The Terracotta Army and trekked The Great Wall of China 

         and finally…. we were only hospitalised once!!!!

Thanks everyone for reading the blog and showing an interest in our travels.

Who knows maybe we’ll be back on the road again sometime.

But for now, this is Dora and Diego signing off.


http://www.childtrac.org/en/home                  http://www.homelifethailand.net/
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mum k on

Words can never express how proud we are of you both. You met many obstacles, barriers and challenges during your travelling but you determinedly and doggedly overcame them all. You brought enjoyment, laughter and sometimes sadness to us through your blog, but most of all it kept us in touch with you and made us feel you were close to us. You ask us if you have changed. After some consideration, I would say your experiences have made you fearless and unafraid to meet new challenges in life (infact relishing new challenges). Love you both sooooooooooooooo much.

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