The Emotions Of Leaving

For anybody who has ever packed up everything that they own into boxes and disembarked on a life journey with a one way ticket, this is for you. This is my third time doing this. And I must say, that it doesn’t get any easier. If anything, I believe it gets a little harder each time. The pull between the things you want in life gets stronger and stronger and before you realize it you are getting pulled apart in opposite directions. One direction is towards the road, the unknown, adventure, adrenaline and constant challenge, the other is towards the stability, familiarity and safety in the known.

There are positives in each, as there are negatives. I have sat for the last ten months working in my home town to make the cash to head off on the next adventure and it has been an interesting time. It is hard in a small town to feel like there are people to meet that understand who you are and the experiences you have had when you share none of these common experiences.  Making friends here  was so incredibly difficult compared to the ease of making friends on the road. Friends on the road come from a mutual understanding that everybody is in the same boat and everybody has the same needs. They are open to what  is around them. People not travelling have their friends already, They don’t typically need new ones because they have what it is that they need. The effort you have to put into trying to develop friendships with non-travelling people is so incredibly high in comparison and it can take months to feel like you are even cracking the surface of a real friendship with people. It can feel very lonely and isolating. Your amazing friends that you make on the road however eventually go home and take a small piece of you with them. Then you spend your time pining away on Facebook for all of the friends that you miss from every far reaching corner of the planet that you will never have all in one place again.

It is hard to relate to friends from forever ago that all now have husbands, children, mortgages and the rest and they ask you when you are going to settle down and eventually have these things. It is hard to explain that you are not even sure that you want these things in your life. But you do want a partner in crime. Somebody to live and share your adventure and zest for life with. “You will never find somebody unless you stay here in one place” they say, but at the same time, you feel like you will never find somebody in a place that is so insular. You would have to start again somewhere new and filled with more people like you, and if you are going to do that, then you may as well just go on another adventure. You are more likely to meet people like you to find a partner in crime on the road. But then you find an amazing partner in crime on the road and know that they will be around for only a fleeting time because these things on the road never seem to last unless you get really lucky.

You worry about money. Sure I have enough of it to start. But what happens if there is an emergency, I need to get home, I run out too quickly and I am forced to come home. What if I get a work visa for somewhere and I can’t find a job? What if…. what if…. what if…???

You feel bad about the things you miss. The birth of a niece or nephew and watching them grow, a death of a member in the family or old friend, weddings, Christmases, important milestones. I have missed all of these at some point. Before you know it, you are gone for two years and the baby you remembered is now a toddler you barely recognize.

You are unnerved by all of the lectures that you receive from people telling you that you need to settle down. “You are getting older now, you have nothing and will never have anything if you keep living like this” because majority of society place their value in the accumulation of material possessions. They don’t understand the value you place on memories. But they will also tell you that the memories you are making are the wrong ones. Because they don’t involve houses, children and work. Because they aren’t the conventional memories. Because memories of parties and having a good time won’t keep you warm at night when you are eighty. And yet my fondest memories from travel are not of parties at all.

And yet despite all of this you hit the road. You trade your double bed and privacy for a different single bed every night in a room with seven others. You trade your classy wardrobe for clothes with holes in them. You trade a cupboard for a backpack. Trade a house for a tent. Trade a car for a local bus. You quit your job. And you go.

You can’t explain to those who haven’t travelled before the enrichment that you get from going. The constant state of challenge you live in as you navigate new places, new cultures, new languages and new problems. The way your eyes change as they see everything in this world for the first time. The way your heart opens to new people and emotions every single day. The adrenaline. The freedom. So much of me yearns for it. And the biggest problem with living like this, is that I know I won’t be able to live a ‘normal’ life ever again. It has become a part of my being.

As I go, I am smacked with an array of emotions. Loss of what I have here, excitement at the prospect of new things and challenges, numbness in disbelief that anything is actually changing. But the biggest emotion I feel is fear. I am afraid. Afraid to stay. Afraid to go. But at no point in this life have I ever let that stop me before, so why should it stop me now? Fear is my nemesis that I kick in the arse every single day that I am on the road. And yet this is a fear that I am so familiar with that it is almost home. I almost wonder one day whether I will find the courage to face the fear to stay. Who knows…. maybe one day. But that day is not today. And so it is time to go.


Being A Human Pin Cushion

So this is my fifth week as being a human pin cushion. What I mean by this is that whenever you go into a travel doctors office and say ‘I am going to India among other places ‘, expect to be prodded with needles in your arms until you have needles coming out of your eyeballs. The other thing that you can expect is that it will set you back about a whole months worth of travel dollars just to make sure that your health is in good order before you go. But if there is one thing I have learned in this life it is that you can find new love and make more money but if you neglect your health, it might just be the biggest regret of your life.

So I sit in the office about a month ago with a nurse going over what it is that I need for travel given that I will be going for such a long time and trying to decide on what it is that I will need based on where I am going and what I am doing. Prior to this, I have been pretty well vaccinated. When I was a child my mother used to tell us we were going somewhere fun and then we would wind up at the doctors to get immunizations before we would be allowed to go and do that said ‘fun thing’. My previous history being a myriad of tetanus, Hepatitis A and B, measles, mumps and rubella, polio, yellow fever, old meningococcal ABWY and past typhoid, I figured that I would not really have that much to update other than the typhoid which is out of date.

But noooooo…. apparently when you say you are going to India the ball game changes completely. I am sitting in the chair hearing about three course injections for rabies, more typhiod, more tetanus even though my last one was only 4 years ago, cholera, more polio, more meningitis…. I could see needles and dollar signs flying around my head and an understanding came about that I would be spending at least once a week for the next month in this doctors office getting poked with needles. I do not think that people realize just how much this part of travel costs and just how important it is. On top of this they needed to take my blood and do a test to make sure that all of my past injections had taken and that I had high enough levels of immunity or I would be needing to have more of those too. Turns out my measles, mumps and rubella vaccination from a child has lapsed and I had no immunity to this at all anymore…. lucky I had the test.

And this was just the basic level. I then have to organize my drug kit. Drugs for malaria prophylaxis, drugs for stomach infections, giardia, general skin and chest infections, travel sickness, gastrostop. Drugs for altitude sickness, travel sickness, antihistamines…. My mind is in a semi state of explosion. I guess people don’t realize how prepared a person has to be when they are travelling into countries that are not westernized. While it is eye opening in so many ways, it is also eye opening with regards to how lucky we actually are in our westernized home countries to have basic things like clean water and a good health care system so that we don’t have to worry about such diseases. And so I go in well equipped.

On top of my massive list of needles and drugs, I am also equipped with 2 massive cans of Bushman’s hardcore Australian bug spray and permethrin-impregnated everything, so I think I might be ready to go. I spent my weekend a couple of weeks ago on my balcony getting high on the hydrocarbon solvent the permethrin came in whilst soaking all of my clothes and laying them out on plastic in the shade to dry. It took me a good day because of the space that I needed to lay things out but it is all ready and good to go.

My clothes soaking in the poison permethrin to kill off all of those darned mozzies!

So…. a bit over a week to go, I am feeling somewhat prepared. Somewhat healthy and somewhat like a pin cushion. But it is just the pay off for all the fun to come!


Planning My Upcoming Trip

I have long since adopted this philosophy since I met a very wise and drunk Irish friend in New Zealand that there is no plan is a good plan, but instead it should be an outline. One of those hazy wiggly lines with which you can bend about to fit things in without shading in the entire shape to make it solid and inflexible.

So my flexible wiggly outline this time involves a one way ticket to Indonesia, and a booking to hike Everest Base Camp at the end of March. When originally sitting down to plan my way back off to the glorious travel land, I was going to head back to Canada through Hawaii because it is cheaper to go via Hawaii than direct and then I would head to South America to teach English and learn more Spanish.

My friend Bec then messages me one day saying she wants to go on a holiday and how do I feel about Asia somewhere in the school holidays? So after sitting and researching all of the amazing temples in Java, the spectacular volcanoes, komodo dragons, beaches, I set my heart on Indonesia. And then Bec told me she didn’t have enough holidays accrued at work. So I planned other things and figured I would get to Indonesia on my own when I left Australia and then it would be cheaper to go through the Philippenes back to LA and then down to South America…..

One random Friday afternoon after work, Jetstar announced a 4 hour only sale of $99 one way tickets from Melbourne to Bali. And so I messaged Bec, said ‘will you have enough holidays in December?’ she says yes and on a random whim we book cheap tickets. And so ‘planning’ part one had begun.

I also a couple of weeks after this in amongst the height of other friends carrying on about the giant deal and stress of pending 30th birthdays and how old we are all getting and the rest, another friend messages me with this 66% off Groupon to go and hike Everest Base Camp. So I was like, well, I will be in Asia, that is close enough. I can’t think of anything else better to do for my birthday than hide in the Himalayas where I don’t have any internet and don’t have to deal with the fuss of it. Let’s go hike Mount Everest! So in a random spur of the moment event, I booked that.

At this point in time I realize that I am now further away from Hawaii, the Philippenes, South America… all the places I planned on going originally and that this is going to put me at a point where I will be in my last years of potentially having work visas. And so the squeeze of 30 finally sets in. Not because I feel old, but because the governments of specific countries stipulate that over 30 is too old.

So now I sit with the idea that “Well, I am in Nepal, so I may as well go to India and travel there. Then I may as well go get a work visa for either Canada or the UK again. Hell! Why not get both just to keep my options open!?” And so all of a sudden I find myself getting further and further away from the original plan of South America and yet I am still super excited! I know one day South America will happen, but given my flightiness, my need to get as much done with work visas while I still can, and my constant deviations of original ideas, I guess ‘planning’ a trip is one of those things that I am good at and yet not good at. I somehow spontaneously managed to come up with this outline. What I will do when I get there is yet to be determined, but there is an outline nonetheless…. I am sure that that outline will get more contorted somehow, but either way, it is going to be a fun ride! And you can follow along with me to see just how contorted ‘not planning’ can become!

Hunting Rafflesia In The Malaysian Highlands

I got up and put on my skins ready for the big trek. After a fruit and corn flakes breakfast, I piled into the van with the others and we drove for an hour until we reached a village on the side of the road. We pulled over and got out and started to climb up the very muddy road to the waterfall and the rafflesia flowers. The morning sun was hot, the trek was slippery and the hill was steep which made for some arduous work. After much giggling about sliding all over the place and pretending to be chief with a fern hat on my head, we eventually got to the waterfall where we all raced down. Everyone stripped off into their jocks and Anna got changed into her bathers. I decided I couldn’t be bothered taking off my skins so I swam in those and my crop top. The water was freezing but at the same time really refreshing.

Drinking fresh water from a bamboo shoot

After the swim, we continued up the hill further for another half an hour in a more bush like track until we saw these massive flowers. They are the rafflesia. The one that was flowering was about  80cm in diameter and a deep red in colour. On the inside there was a pad with the stamen and heaps of flies extracting the pollen out all over the flower. The inside also was lined with white spots and it is these spots that they use to determine the species of the flower.

Up close and personal… inside the Rafflesia flower

The flowers are parasitic and they grow on other plants. They start out growing like cabbage plants and spend most of the year this way. When in season, they only flower for ten days. By day  seven they are losing their colours and by day ten they look like a pool of tar from the side of the road. They really are quite fascinating plants. They also are used apparently for medicinal purposes. They give them to fat ladies to help them lose weight by improving their circulation.

Me and the Rafflesia… almost as big as me!

From here we walked back to the starting point.  Once we were back, we were walked through the village, shown to the shop to buy some refreshments and seated for the blowpipe exhibition. After getting shown how to load and use the blowpipes and what each size is for, we got to have a turn. It is a damn shame that nobody taught us how to aim the damn things. My shot was in line with the target vertically, but way too high horizontally on the board. We had a mini Olympics with each country representing and lets just say that Australia came last. If I got caught out in the bush I would probably starve to death.

Bamboo shooting at targets… terribly…

From here we got back into the van and drove to the Boh tea plantation. The tea plants lined the mountainous hills the whole way around the winding  roads and I must admit they were not at all what I expected. The bushes were short, somewhat like a bonsai, and had to be trimmed every 3 weeks to keep them from growing into massive trees. We had a tour through the processing factory  where they explained to us that the leaves are soaked and then they are dried, allowed to oxidise which gives it the flavour and then they are sorted through the machine, dried out and sifted.

After the tea appreciation show, we went and had some tea to drink, mine being peppermint due to the upset stomach and some really bad cake. Anna sampled everyone’s cake and said that they were all crap. We left the hanging restaurant and went for a bit of a wander and a shop before heading to the butterfly farm.

Butterfly farm beauties

I must admit that it was not what I expected. A whole lot of insects and not many butterflies. Not many impressive ones anyhow. Before the not so impressive butterfly enclosure, we got to play with some insects. First was the rhino beetle. I was first up for a hold, but I couldn’t get him to let go of the stick. Following the rhino was a gecko, a massive grasshopper which migrated its’ way from my hand to my head, some more beetles and then the finale, two scorpions that were about three inches long. Carsten and I were dubbed equally brave/stupid as we were the only ones that would touch them. They wouldn’t let us play with the spiders.

Just chilling with a camouflaged bug on my head

The last stop for the day was the strawberry farm. We all ordered strawberry shakes and looked around at the hydraponic plants within the greenhouses. Carsten found a machine where you try and pick up the toys out of the machine with the grab arm. He managed to get two prizes out in two goes and then stuck them on the windshield as a tip to the driver.

Holding large scorpions…. not going to eat one like the guy behind me! That is too much!

By the end of the trip I was totally exhausted so I went back to the hotel for a nap. When I woke up I noticed that I have this weird rash on my boobs that is not normal. I took one of Dave’s antihistamines and then went out for Indian for dinner. It was an interesting looking place and trying to get our food was a challenge because they didn’t understand English well and kept forgetting what we ordered. When the meal was eventually served though, everyone agreed that it was awesome food. We scoffed it down quickly and then headed back to the hotel where the others played more king kong, and I passed out from exhaustion into a restless sleep.