A most rewarding investment

Trip Start Aug 06, 2008
Trip End Dec 04, 2008

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Flag of Netherlands  , Noord-Holland,
Monday, December 8, 2008

Wow, this trip has come to its end. I'm back in Amsterdam now (back to the 'real world', according to some :-) , which means I've gone full circle around the globe. This journey has certainly been amazing, and at times, downright mind-blowing!

With a tear (end of my fabulous trip) and a cheer (excitement about heading home), I left Buenos Aires on Wednesday afternoon. The flight with British Airways, via Sao Paulo, to London took about 15 hours. The Club World window seat I was booked on faced the back of the plane and that was a new experience for me. Actually, it was very comfortable, and I was not at all bothered by the fact that I was facing the back while the plane moved forwards, not even during the take-off (though the magazine on my lap did slide off). I much prefer these seats to the rather claustrophobic, diagonally-facing seats on Cathay Pacific. Along the way, we were treated to a fantastic sunset over the Amazon. The wines served during the flight were great but the food was mediocre. British Airways can certainly learn a thing or two from Qantas if they ever hook up! Two movies, lots of champagne and wine ;-) , several hours of sleep and a drab English breakfast later, I arrived in the circus that is London's Heathrow airport. The brand new Terminal Five is huge and shiny but to me, it really resembles a massive state-of-the-art cattle station. OMG factor: 1. There were queues in zig-zag patterns everywhere. Everyone is ushered into a series of long queues: first, the flight transfer check, then another to get up the escalator that leads to the departure area, and another through the security check. It was absolutely mind-boggling. This terminal was only recently opened and it's already bursting at its seams! As I was flying Business, I could utilise the Fast Track lanes but I don't think it made much of a difference: one desk serving a hundred Business Class passengers is the same as five serving several hundred Economy passengers! I made it to my connecting flight to Amsterdam with loads of time to spare as it was delayed by twenty minutes. When everyone was seated, the captain came on the speakerphone and said that there was a technical problem with the aircraft and we would not be flying in that plane today!!?!?! The bankers grabbed their laptops and Blackberries and were out of there in no time (I'm all too familiar with this logic: 'I'm not going to waste my time waiting for this plane to depart, instead, I'll make a beeline back to the office where I can at least get some work done and reschedule my trip for another day'. Time is indeed very precious). I must commend British Airways because they arranged a new aircraft, parked it at the adjacent gate, and moved everyone (who still wanted to fly that day), the luggage and the meals from one plane to the other in one hour and fifteen minutes! We were up in the sky within an hour-and-a-half of the captain's announcement. I arrived in a snowy Amsterdam a little bit past noon. Gosh, stepping into Amsterdam's Schiphol airport was like a breath of fresh air! After the chaos of Heathrow, or the disarray of cities in Chile and Argentina over the past two months for that matter, I was happy to be back in this Legoland I call home (Holland has always been like a Legoland to me: highly-organised and neat).

I left Amsterdam four months ago with various intentions: obviously to see the world (or parts of it I've always dreamed of seeing), experience new cultures, catch up with relatives and friends some of whom I've not seen in many years, but most importantly, I wanted to use this time to reflect on myself and my life, and to get back in touch with the real me. In a certain sense, I considered this trip an 'investment'... an investment of time and resources in myself. And what have the returns on this investment been? I can tell you this much: this 'investment' has certainly broadened my horizons (such as identifying and confronting old fears, opening my eyes and ears to the fears, challenges and joys of others, and making me more aware of the intricacies of relationships between individuals and among different groups in our society in general) and it has changed how I think of people. It has provided me with invaluable insights into my person and my relationships with those around me. And it has made me a more positive, more balanced individual than the person who stepped on that plane in Amsterdam bound for Hong Kong four months ago. Haha.. yes, I've been working hard.... on myself.

Moreover, this 'investment' has allowed me to see the most stunning sights imaginable, from the magnificent Angkor Wat to the brilliant lagoon of Bora Bora and the awe-inspiring peaks of the Andes; meet the most interesting and remarkable people (my favourite is the 82-year-old couple that went zip-lining through the trees in the Andes); do things I would never have dreamt of doing such as swimming with sharks in Lang Tengah and Bora Bora, and trekking across the desert in San Pedro de Atacama; and experience the sights and sounds of some fascinating cultures (that hot-air lantern in Krabi and that tango evening in Buenos Aires were truly unforgettable).

I flew with nine airlines (Qantas, Cathay Pacific and Lan Chile were the best, in that order) and accumulated a large amount of frequent flyer miles; drank some of the best wines (Montes Alpha's Merlot tops the lot); had the most amazing tuna sashimi (on Easter island), scallops (Punta Arenas and Valparaiso), leg of lamb (Puerto Varas), steak (Mendoza), oysters (Fremantle), salmon sorrentinis (Buenos Aires)... and so much more; had this travel blog chosen as one of TravelPod.com's top picks; but most of all, I got to do what I've always dreamed of doing: travelling around the world and writing about it. I had an absolutely memorable journey and I hope my readers (all 8,000+ and counting) enjoyed reading about my adventures.

I feel very fortunate that I was given the opportunity to make this trip - it truly was a once-in-a-lifetime chance. To anyone out there, if you ever get a similar opportunity, grab it with both hands! It will be a hugely rewarding experience, the memories of which will certainly last a lifetime.

As for me, I'll be looking for a new job in the months ahead. The business environment is getting worse by the day so if any one of my readers has a brilliant idea, my ears are open. Wish me luck! Travelling will always remain a huge passion of mine so who knows, you might be reading about more of my travels in the future.

Take care.

Goodbye, adios, adieu, tot ziens!
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