364 days living out of a rucksack containing 65 litres of my life. Over 37,000 miles travelled over 9 countries on 12 separate flights and countless bus journeys.
It has been exhausting, scary and thrilling; yet it has been the most fantastic year of my life so far.
To summarise how I feel and my highlights, is like asking me to lick my own ear... it's impossible! Every photo and blog we have documented in this trip is just as memorable as each other. I remember laughing and enjoying each and every moment. When I look back through our photos and blogs, it pushes me to want to make sure it's the best first experience of many. I want to live "several in a lifetime moments", not just once. This travel blog isn't here solely for memories, but as a way of inspiring me to continue travelling, explore other religions, cultures and landcapes. This is only the first chapter of many.
While away I mostly enjoyed the lifestyle attached to travelling. To be able to have a sense of true freedom was both relaxing and comforting. Gone were the pressures of what our society expected of us. I was no longer being held down by any commitments financial or otherwise.
The only thing I would change if I could do it again is to not book my flights before going. Though it was cheaper, it was the only reason we ever felt restricted. I would have liked the entire 12 months to have been like our time in South-East Asia. There, we had the freedom of choice of how long we spent in each country, and were able to travel in any direction with numerous countries to choose from. If we had the money to have done it, I truelly believe we would have attempted to get home to the UK overland. Passing through as many countries as possible between Asia and Western Europe.
During our time away, we saw and experienced many things you could never witness in the UK. We saw dust twisters in the Australian outback, prestine turqoise waters and deserted islands in Fiji. We travelled through earthquakes and volcanoes in New Zealand and through extreme climates that brought terrential rain and intense humidity throughout Asia.
During my year I completed personal challenges which I can be proud of. I was able to raise thousands of dollars for 'Doctors Without Borders', I successfully completed my PADI Open Water course, an 8 hour trek around a snow covered active volcano, a glacier trek, a skydive at -20c and remote jungle treks without a guide in Malaysia. I tought English to Cambodian orphans living in poverty, I met and spoke with Buddhist monks and visited endless numbers of temples, including one of the 'Wonders of the World' (Angkor Wat).
The people we met during our travels made a huge contribution to our adventure. We met fellow travellers on coach journeys, in hostels, in bars etc. But some of the greatest people we met were locals. Through the wonder that is Couchsurfing, we were given opportunities to stay with locals in various countries. With Couchsurfing being relatively new to us, we were amazed with the hospitality we received. The Fijian family we lived with helped us to book our entire Fijian holiday. We were amazed at how welcoming they were and provided us with dinner despite being very poor. Save introduced us to the traditional Fijian Cava ceremony and sang beautiful gospel songs infront of us with his family. Another Couchsurfer who stands out for me is a Maori guy called Terence. We stayed with him in the north island of New Zealand. After only a couple of brief exchanges through online messages he was trusting enough to let us know where the door key would be hidden, as he would not be home from work when we arrived. For 3 hours we were able to make ourselves at home (he had left us instructions to set the TV) even to this day I cannot comprehend how someone can be so trusting of a person before even meeting them. Now that we are hosting Couchsurfers, I am still unable to put that trust in people I don't know; is it a fault in me? Or is it simply the difference between two different cultural societies on opposite sides of the world?
In total we surfed in 10 peoples home in 5 different countries and will certainly increase that tally many times over.
After being home a while now I realise how much I miss travelling. It is rare for a day to go by where I don't wish so hard that I was in some exotic land and Kingdom exploring new sites. I feel that travelling has become my addiction, I need my regular fix. The bug is constantly coursing through my veins - I hate having to go cold turkey.
However, none of my adventures, experiences, highs and lows would have mattered if I didn't have Fay there to share them all with me. We knew that the year away would be a make or break in our relationship, and the fact that we are still happily together goes to prove just how strong we are as a couple. As brave as I might think I am at times, I do not believe that I would have lasted or enjoyed that year away as much as I did if I was with any other person, or alone. Many backbackers choose to go it alone, but I realised how important it was to share those wonderous moments with someone, and to do it with someone you love so much made it a thousand times better.