Blog no 54, the final chapter! How the hell I sum up this last year, I have no idea, but here goes…………but firstly the trip stats!
So, that's it, after 11 months & 2 weeks, 3 rucksacks, 1 pair of skates, 3 pairs of flip flops, 14 countries, 28 flights, 105ish buses, 11 boats, 10 long distance trains, 11,000 photos, 200+ people I've met, 5 tour groups, 3 journals, 54 blogs, a budget that was blown to bits only 5 months in, and, 1 massive tattoo, l'm coming home! The bird from Billericay is finally Essex bound.......
So you lucky lot, this is the final instalment, one girl, 3 rucksacks and a pair of skates are sitting in JFK airport waiting to board my BA flight.
Well……..This is where it began, one late night at work, it suddenly came to me, I had always wanted to travel but couldn't because of a mortgage, problem solved, we were selling the house and I needed a change at work after 10 years at the same place. So the decision was made, I told my brother, he was a bit nervous as to what mum and dad would say, as was I. I ventured round to the parents nervously one Sunday afternoon, offered to make a cuppa and suggested they sat down as I had news. Not sure what bombshell they thought I was about to drop, but the reaction to my planned years worth of travel was met with complete support, the response being fantastic, but, lets not talk about the airport yet. So, 15 months ago I handed in my resignation and started working my 3 month notice period, the end of a 10 yr chapter at the same firm, and said goodbye to my home for the last 7 years - the two things someone in their 30s is 'supposed' to have or be working towards and I had just chucked both in, some people thought I was nuts, my response, I was bored, stuck in a massive rut and wanted to do something different. And that was it plane tickets bought……….11 months, 2 weeks ago I said an apprehensive goodbye to the Olds, Matt, Laura and a 5 week old gorgeous, very special nephew, Jasper and raised a glass to Nana and Grandpa at Heathrow with a very large G&T and then boarded my Qantas flight. I had no idea how this year was going to pan out, whether I'd love it, hate it, could I deal with being away from family and friends for a year……….all I will say is 5 pints of lager later in a Bangkok Irish bar it all looked a little less daunting. And yes i do still drink pints! To say I freaked out when I hit Koh San Road would be a small understatement. This was not to be the only time I freaked out throughout my trip. But these little freak outs, generally only occurred when I rocked up in a new country, and were far outweighed by the fabulous things I've done and seen and the amazing people i've met, many of whom will remain friends for life I hope. Its been the best experience of my life, its been scarey at times, there's been tears, homesickness, throwing the toys out of the pram (generally rucksack related), tears of laughter, lots and lots of smiles and hilarity, character building days, testing of my patience, testing of my bottle to jump off and out of stuff and well my skates have been very loyal, still the same set of wheels and bearings from when I set off. Every bit of it has been fantastic!!!
I'm now coming home to start all over again, but this time with a very different attitude to things! This year has really opened my eyes, I've said it before and I will say it again, you very quickly realise how flipping lucky you are seeing what some people have to deal with and how they live, yes the UK isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination and has its fair share of issues, but seeing how some people have to live and work in areas within south east asia and south america makes you really really very thankful. I would like to think that I won't moan about the stupid things that use to wind me up massively before I left. I don't to ramble on too much (not that it has stopped be before, but….)
James, thank you for being nearly the same age as me and one of the first people I met doing a similar thing to me, this helped massively knowing you don't just have to be between 18 and 21 or on a gap year or gap yah (sorry Matt, I had to borrow this as it was so funny in NZ) to b***** off round the world and hostel it with just a rucksack in tow. The first G trip was awesome, and the people were great and hearing Phil our CEO comment on how well organised I was and thatI had my head screwed on travelling wise, at least, filled me with some confidence that I well and truly needed at the start of the trip. Once the first month had passed that was it i was on my own, it did take a bit of getting used to but it was brilliant, i had found my travelling feet by the time I hit Malaysia, although failed to get to Mayalsias biggest skating rink as it was shut.
And that was it really I was off, I suppose the only thing I had massively cocked up on was my initial budget! If anyone tells you what their backpacking budget is for OZ or NZ tell them to double or triple it. Luckily I have been able to keep going, poor old mum and dad though will be stuck with me living with them for a bit longer as a result of me not cutting my trip short. I did seriously consider coming back early, but I hadn't finished what I wanted to do this year so didn't, and it was the right decision, a tough one but the right one. I wasn't even due to go to South Americia, until a drunken night in the pub in Queenstown I decided and then announced to Eva that I was in fact going to South America, she laughed at me, quite rightly as I threw red wine all over myself. It was booked 2 weeks later! Best decision I made and the best possible way to nearly finish my trip.
I know everyone will ask, what was my favourite bit, and you know what its so hard to say, each country has its own vey special bit and some of the skates I have been on won't be topped, I know that. But some of the places that have massively stood out for me for one reason or another are, in no particular order are:
New Years Eve with Bex and Mike in Bangkok
Kayaking in Laos even though I had to do most of the rowing (mentioning no names……..James!!!!)
Skating the Singapore F1 track (well, part of it)
The long boat to Laos
Snorkelling the great barrier reef
Byron Bay lighthouse
All the outback
Flying over the 12 apostles
Ankor Wat at sunrise
Sky dive and canyon swing in Queenstown
The Salt Flats
Mum and Dads holiday
Vegas with the Billericay birds - way way toooo much fun!
Skating in St Kilda
Skating in Santa Monica & Venice beach
The tongarrio crossing x2 (although it nearly killed me)
Eng v All Blacks
My tattoo (sorry mum)
The arches in Lapa in Rio
All the sunsets
The 3 Gadventure groups
The Contiki crew (my liver still hasn't forgiven you lovely lot :) )
The Kiwi bus gang
And all the individuals I have met along the way outside of the tours.
To be fair the list could go on and on, but I am going to stop there.
And a massive thank you to Elia, Sam & Sophie & Jack (who was a small bump when I was there) and to Esther and John for giving me a lovely home in Sydney and Melbourne, it was so nice to see you all xxx
I have to say, the people I have met along the way have been truly truly amazing, people who were strangers the day before are like your best mate in 2 days, its bloody awesome, never would you walk up to a random in a pub and start a conversation - that is exactly what you do in a hostel and its the best thing ever, after you get over that initial shyness. And i have to say that is probably the biggest thing that has changed about me personally since I left, i probably would just walk up to a random in a pub and start a conversation……….shy, I don't do shy anymore! I won't miss the bunk beds and the massive dorms but I will hugely miss the backpacker friendliness, banter, camaraderie and friendship and just a willingness to help each other out, that is something you rarely get from strangers at home. You lot rock!
I would like to say a thank you to you lovely lot who have been messaging me, its been lovely to hear from you all, and helped massively when I was feeling a bit rubbish and homesick. I look forward to catching up with you all. I am going to borrow the contiki strapline, no regrets, and the only thing that makes you richer is travel (its something like that anyway)……..and its so true! I already have a list of where I would like to go next, but need to get a job, and quick…….
And on that note (selfless employment plug actually) if anyone knows of any travel writing/blog jobs please let me know, as much as sometimes writing these has been a bit of a chore, its usually due to time restrictions and crap wifi, I've really enjoyed doing these, I hope you've enjoyed reading them too :)
Over and out before my mac is covered in my tears!
One girl, (now) 3 rucksacks, and duffel bag and a pair of skates xxxxxxx