“This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” – Winston Churchill
So… now after four flights… 12 time zones… three days… and TOO many airplane movies and meals, I’ve arrived back on Canuck soil. I survived Thai customs with little grief. They saw that I overstayed, took me to a “special” room, I paid 600B, they stamped my passport and I was on my way. Slick. I got to London at about 10 a.m. local time, and quickly discovered Maryann had forgotten to leave me a key, so I sat on her porch for most the afternoon, playing guitar, drinking OJ and eating American chocolate chip cookies. Eventually I got bored and headed to Morden to pick up my stuff and say farewell to the Kirklands. It wasn’t long before I was back in S. Kensington and going for dinner with Maryann (who took sympathy on my lack of funds and treated me!) at a local pub. With my last couple proper pints consumed, we headed home to go through photos. The following day I met her at the airport for a quick goodbye lunch, which very nearly left me without my ride. I miss judged the amount of time it would take me to get to my terminal and I got there after the gate had officially closed – but meh… me and my guitar got onboard without hassle.
I arrived at Boston Wednesday afternoon and was force fed CNN in the waiting area. Not having watched or read much news in the past 5 months the whole thing made me want to vomit. I couldn’t escape it and it was all so terrible. I contemplated begging to be put back on a plane to Bangkok, but CNN advised me that a couple tonnes of fertilizer had disappeared in Southern Thailand, so perhaps things weren’t safe. Sigh. Welcome to America. Home Of The Afraid.
Dana, Vanessa and Brad met me in Bufallo and gave a very tired and disoriented me a ride to my new (but old) home. And so here I am. I keep standing up as if to go somewhere, but then realize I’ve really no place else to go. I could go see my mom I guess, or watch some TV, or unpack, or look for a job, or, or… but yeah… basically I think I’ll just sorta sit here in limbo for a couple days and figure out what’s next. I feel like I’ve just finished a ride on a rollercoast and I’ve come to that sudden jarring stop at the end. Heart still racing, adreniline rushing, smile on my face … but with the slow realization that the ride is over. Sure, I can get off, get back in line and wait again for my turn… but, it’ll be different. Maybe exciting in lots of the same, and maybe new ways, but different still.
I knew this post-trip depression would arrive, and I’m just as sure that it will leave again, but it’s a bit of a pain to live through, what with all the other complicated things that require my attention now that I’m home (repaying debts, finding a job, worrying about bills…). The irony is that these were the familiar things at the start of my trip that I was comfortable with, and nervous about leaving. Now, somehow, dealing with foreign cultures, having to worry about not having food, getting robbed and generally just not having money, as well as planning where to go next seems simple to these things.
I’ve been trying for three days to finish writing this, the last of my entries for this trip, and it has proven exceedingly difficult. I mean, this is it. Now I join the masses of people who seem to have nothing to say. Well… not yet.
So, some things I’ve learned:
- As much as I’d love to just completely “go with the flow,” I am much more comfortable with some amount of knowledge and planning behind me.
- Though packing a video camera has allowed me to save many memories for years to come, I’ll not be bringing it again – and I only hope I can actually make something exciting with all its random uses in the editing process.
- Travelling alone is not only doable, but quite easy. At first I was afraid (as anyone contemplating travelling alone is I think) that I would have to tackle every situation on my own, and what if one of those situations was a dangerous one. Now I realize that backpackers can only be compared to a world-wide commune. We share stories, tips, experiences, toiletries, food, wine!, clothes, whatever someone needs there is someone that doesn’t and it all seems to work out.
- I’m Gregarious. I’ve always known that I have this “quality”, but when Jim, my ex-boss, called me it I quickly looked it up out of fear he might have been insulting me. Basically it means, “Seeking and enjoying the company of others.” I feel there is no better quality to have when travelling. If you enjoy sitting in your basement by yourself contemplating the carbon deterioration of concrete – travelling may not be for you. Every day you meet new people, hear new stories, form new friendships – and this is my element.
- Greece sucks in January – but I promise to give it a second chance, avoiding Athens as much as possible.
- When you think your backpack couldn’t possibly hold one more thing – it can still fit at least another T-shirt, a baguette, a couple cans of tuna, a bottle of wine and perhaps the towel that always seems to forget to pack itself.
- For a man with an admittedly weak memory (ok let’s face it, I have just a crap time remembering anything, and if it wasn’t for the flag on my pack, I’d likely forget what country it was that I was trying to return to), I’ve lost a remarkably small number of things. Just a towel I left hanging on my bunk in Rome (and now one I left at Maryann’s in London) and a pair of sunglasses in a Burmese immigration office, which was ironic because I had noticed that morning that they were scratched and I was going to look for a new pair that day anyway.
- It is surprisingly easy to get used to less-than-sanitary conditions. I have always been a bit of a priss when it comes to dirt and sweat, never mind bugs. However, in Thailand I was soaked in sweat the majority of time I was there, got used to eating with hands saturated in the next human consuming bacteria and become somewhat accustom to having to share both my bed and my food with a number of Gaea’s small creatures. But, avoid the red ants – these ill-tempered little bastards sting like an SOB and require no provocation other than you aren’t incredibly small, red and operating on six legs (sorta like East-Wellanders).
- Romance and travel do not go hand-in-hand. In fact, it’s a right pain in the ass and should be avoided at all costs.
- My biggest fear in coming to Thailand was that the food would not be up to the Salha Thai standards that I had grown used to, as much as this may sound pretty stupid – when you realize that a restaurant has a chef who has studied the culinary arts, it did give me reason to wonder. But, it is better, easier and cheaper than I thought possible, and now I can cook it myself (though Salha Thai is still on my “once I’ve arrived home” itinerary).
- If you want to meet Australian’s, visit the UK; Swedes, Koh Pha Ngan; Canadians, Chiang Mai and Thais, well.. Thailand, I mean why would they leave – they have paradise at their doorstep and the food to go with it.
- Of all the museums I visited, the Tate Modern will always stand out as the most artistic, entertaining, interesting, relaxing (lying on a cool floor staring into a fake sunset can be relaxing) and stupidest places I’ve ever been. But the doors… oh the doors.
- Postcards are a pain in the ass and if I hadn’t promised a bunch of people I was going to send them one, I would not have sent a single one at all. They are too small to write anything worth while and don’t usually give an accurate picture of the location.
- Thai women are as beautiful as rumours would suggest – but if searching for Thai ladies is your goal, two important phrases to memorize are (1) Thao Rai Krup and (2) Khun Phuu Ying Mai? But when asked, reverse the order of the questions.
- As much as we tangle ourselves into the weave of society by subjecting ourselves to the pablum producing mass media and all they have to say about the world, we don’t need news to be in tune with things, or to feel intelligent. In fact I think the only purpose news serves is to give power to those that want to create the horrible things they go on and on about.
- Melbourne is 16,284.127 km from Toronto.
- And the biggest thing I’ve been blessed with the education of since departing Canada in early November? Travelling is easy. Honestly, in revisiting London on my journey home, it gave me a chance to revisit my first stop and reflect on those first few days. I’ll admit, I had a bit of the fear of god in me (thanks to everyone that kept reminding me about statistics of theft, random acts of violence and tourists in prison). In my revisit I realized how naive and foolish my fears were. Sure, fear is a good way to keep you out of trouble and danger, it is also a perfect way to keep you out of life. And I’m not talking about the fear of bungie-jumping or skydiving… I’m just talking about a general fear to step outside the clearly defined path that is in front of us all.
A Bangkok billboard asked me the other day: “Do your dreams come true?” (like many ads in Thailand, there is no reason given for the question). I thought about it for a moment and realized I no longer have dreams, I have goals. If this trip has shown me anything it’s that we all use dreams as something to hide behind, because they’re not real. But you can’t hide from goals, the term itself inspires action. You can spend your entire life “dreaming” about something and when it doesn’t happen, well, no surprise or big deal, it was only a dream anyway. But if you spend your time instead striving to reach your goals, I think that perhaps not all, but many “dreams” would come to fruition. I’ve met so many people who say, “I’m so jealous. I wish I could travel like you and see amazing things.” Well… stop saying “I wish” and start saying “I want”. If I can do it, anyone can do it – I contain no hidden abilities, all the same fears, just as little experience and even less money. So, if travelling is something you’ve always wanted to do, but isn’t part of the current five-year plan … seriously reconsider your five-year plan (alright, PLEASE just chuck the frigin’ five-year plan out the window of a fast moving car…). Tomorrow you’ll learn you have cancer, or your legs will be broken for non-payment of gambling debts, or you’ll discover you have Latexiophobia and can’t even make your exciting weekly trip to Wal-mart.
Many of you said you didn’t e-mail me while I was travelling because you’re day-to-day life seemed boring by comparison. Now please, I know that this final entry has gotten a little self-righteous sounding, but please think about this: If you couldn’t think of one exciting thing in five months to write me about, what does that say about how you are living? Stop contemplating the concrete and start giving me something to read in an e-mail or a (gasp!) postcard.
My trip offered me an incredible opportunity to see some amazing things, but equally on par with the things I saw where the people I met. I’d like to take a moment to say a quick thanks to all the people that helped make my trip most excellent. And if I forget anyone, please forgive me, as I’m still not even sure what time zone I’m in.
In no particular order (but as close to chronologically as I can make it):
- The Kirklands: For picking this disoriented and jetlagged Canadian up from Heathrow and housing him for his first few days.
- Maryann (+ Shev and Lauren): You started as my first Globalfreeloaders experience and have become a really great friend. There is no question that you will always be my first stop in London (and not just for Shevonne’s cooking or random Aussie girls you may have staying there!).
- Sue & Sarah Joy: Thanks for showing me the beauty of rainy South-East England.
- Dani, Barbara, Simon, Tori, Amelie and Francesca & Gianluca: You guys made my trip in Europe and the UK, not just by giving me a place to stay, but sharing your lives with me for that short time. It was great to meet all of you and I hope to return the favour, not just to repay my debt to you, but to have the chance to see you all again!
- Carol: Where do I start? You spoiled me rotten, treated me like kin and took me to see Meat Loaf! Though not as soon as I had originally thought, I cannot wait to come to Belfast and see ya again! So keep the tea on, the telly tuned to BBC 4 and I’ll be back before you know it!
- Julie & Gerard: New Year’s was awesome, even if it was remarkably similar to the other time we went to the bar – but really, if you’re not in Dublin to get pished, then what are you there for? To see the giant needle? Thanks so much guys.
- Joey: Man alive… we had good times and shall again in the future – complete with 20 Questions, bottles and bottles of wine, pints and pints of Guinness and a noticable lack of loud, obnoxious Australian guys that like my leg and to drink ashtrays.
- Cathy: Ciao Bella! Thanks for Italy and you didn’t miss anything in Greece.
- Eric & Jen: You may have been the reason I only saw Barcelona on what was supposed to be a quick tour around Spain, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Hola Barcelona! How else would I know JUST what 20 Euros would get me?
- Cass: 16,000 km isn’t really THAT far… You showed me that three days is too little time to “know” someone, but enough time to miss them every day since. Distance is only distance, and time only time, both can be connected by a line – I’ll see you in Melbourne.
- Rieng, Tee, Ree and Khak: You rescued me from the horrors of Khao San Road and after visiting Thailand for two months, are still the only reason I will visit Bangkok. Your kindness may be a quality common in many Thai people, but you set it to such a standard I doubt many can compete. You truely are my Thai family and I can’t wait to be able to cook for you all again (Mai phet for you Rieng!).
- Naomi & Ooh: Thanks for the use of the garden and all the wonderful cooking Ooh! Also, thank your dad for bringing me to Chi Gong and the orphanage.
- Nong: It was great to meet you and you’re on for that movie the next time I visit Chiang Mai!
- Jin: You’re awesome. Thanks for making my guitar a piece of art, oh and for making me a piece of art too! I can’t wait for our paths to cross again.
- Jurgen: Hope Shanghi and India were awesome – and I can’t wait to see the movie.
- Martin: Full Moon wouldn’t have been the same without you. Thanks for watching out for me and helping me out in all sorts of ways. I have not forgotten that I owe you one man and I cannot wait to repay my debt. Oh, and thanks for the meteorite, I’ve yet found the courage to eat it – but the day is young!
- Rafie, Beni, David, Sharon, Paul and Adi: I may have brought us all together by a random chance guitar-playing-at-sunset, but all of you made it nearly impossible to leave Mae Haad. Thanks for the awesome memories.
- Pim: Thanks for helping me with my Thai and just generally being naa rak. You made the most beautiful islands I’ve ever seen even more lovely.
And a special thanks to all my friends and family who follow me around the world via this site and gave me reason to come home. Thanks to Dana, Vanessa and Brad for picking me up; Cory for giving me a place to lay my head; and my Dad, Mom and Uncle, who all kept me from finding out what sleeping outside and eating garbage is like by lending me money just in time.
Alright, now for some numbers – I didn’t keep any real exact records, so there are some “best-guesses” here:
Trains: 23 (not total trains, total complete trips)
Busses: 15 (not including city bus)
Money (this part is a bit give and take):
Flight to London: $530
Flight to Bangkok: $1,100
UK/Ireland/Europe Leg: About $2,000
Thailand Leg: About $1,000
Total Cost for 5 Months of Travel: $4,630
Total Credit Card Debt Upon Returning: NONE!!!! OH YEAH!! CAN YOU FEEL IT? CAN—YOU—FEEL—IT!!!???!!!
To put the costs into perspective – I was spending about $1,000-1,500 per month on living expenses before I left, multiplied by five months and that is $5,000-$7,500 – so anyone that says they cannot afford to travel, well… it’s cheaper than just living.
Thanks for reading.
With peace, love and respect,