Yes! I finally have my new passport! (ok not the one in the image, I know…)
9 weeks since I booked the appointment at my consulate – this is standard waiting time apparently – I am now ready to go again :-)
With less than six months to the expiry date and hardly any blank pages left, the old passport had become largely useless. And to be honest, 2015 has been such a strange year that my travel addiction had dwindled a bit.
But now I am staring at my new “toy” with renewed excitement! Browsing the internet for potential destinations and airfares, checking out TripAdvisor, downloading Kindle versions of travel guidebooks, day dreaming about hitting the road again and escaping the daily grind for a couple of weeks :-)
On my last trip I was “on the road” for just over two months (9 weeks, or to be precise 64 days), the longest ever for me. Mostly travelling on my own. Nothing compared to what a lot of people do but enough for me to encourage some reflections.
I loved it, I totally loved it. But it was also challenging at times.
#Being constantly on the move takes a toll on you.
Moving from place to place every few days and trying to cram too many things on your schedule can get tiring. You may soon realise that you need rest days every few activity days. In my case even a trip to the hairdresser’s around the corner did the trick! Staying more than 2-3 days in each town also helps: not only this is a way to slow down but it also offers great opportunities to get to know a place and the local people better.
#Feeling unwell when on the road and on your own is tough. Getting ill does happen. And all you want to do is to curl up in bed and cry yourself to sleep until it all goes away. Then when you are well again all negative feelings go away too and your travels become your best friend again. In my last trip I was lucky and I didn’t really get ill: no health issues ever lasted more than a day. But things could have been different (as I experienced in the past…).
#Everything is new and unfamiliar.
From how to move around by public transport to buying a local SIM card to booking a half day tour via a random agency. Not to mention any language barriers that you are bound to encounter at some point.
You have never been in that place before. You may have read lots of information online or received advice from other travellers, but you need to learn quickly. Because now it’s you, and only you, there. A build-up of daily challenges can get stressful.
#You may miss your friends back home.
Meeting new people and making new friends is great, a lot of amazing friendships have been born on the road and this is one of the best things about travelling. But we all have moments when we miss hanging out with our long-term friends, the ones who know us best.
#We all need a lil’ bit of “Westernisation” around us. At least I do! As much as I am excited about discovering new cultures and habits, I am and will always remain a Westerner. Having some familiar culture around us can be comforting and reassuring. Being able to buy food and general items in a westernised supermarket or a visit to a well known coffee chain every now and then is often sufficient.
So there are challenges in “long-term” solo travelling.
But then nothing beats the excitement of arriving in a new town in a foreign country, dropping your bags in your new room and going out to discover what’s there! Eyes and mind well open. Camera always at hand to record moments, places and people.
And then you sit on your bed in your guesthouse/hotel/hostel in the evening, sorting out photos, absorbing the events of the day, planning the next day, deciding where to go next, booking transport and accommodation.
Taking it all in.
This is the biggest reward.
This is what I love about travelling!
“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” (Jack Kerouac)
Airports and boarding gates: my favourite places!
This is where all the preparation, the planning and the excitement become real!
Today after a quick bag drop I got stuck in security for what it felt like an eternity. Not the one to miss out on an opportunity for a good argument, I got into a heated conversation with two overzealous security ladies who decided to go through every item in my handbag and backpack. With the highest point being: “Mascara is a liquid, listen to it when you shake the bottle! You should have put it in the little plastic bag”. Yes m’am. Now let me proceed to my gate please.
So here I am now, staring at the screen displaying my flight number.
We are not ready to board yet so I entertain myself with some people watching. I wonder where everyone else is going. I wonder how many of my fellow passengers will join me on the second leg of this journey. Will I be again the only non-Russian on the second flight, like the last time?
I scan the waiting area to check how many (potentially screaming) babies/children will be on board. Is the flight full? Probably, the seating chart when I checked in online yesterday didn’t seem too promising. Will I be lucky enough to have empty seats around me? At this point I doubt. Are there any interesting characters around?
Why is everyone standing up now?! Uh the screen is flashing, they are calling my flight. Time to board!
Burn it all down and start again. Everything that I have worked towards in the past few years is now gone. Clean sheet ahead. It’s bloody scary. And exciting! Mixed overwhelming emotions are taking over.
I am not new to this. I have done it before (kind of). I will be fine, I keep telling myself.
Yesterday at 5pm I walked out of my office for the very last time after almost 6 years, the longest I have ever been into anything. I struggled to hold back the tears when I said goodbye.
Today I am packing the rest of my belongings to go into storage tomorrow.
“You are very brave” I have been told. “I am completely insane” is my comment back.
Three working days to go, before I leave my office for the very last time.
A few more boxes to pack, before I move all my belongings into storage on Sunday.
Jabs all done. Visa sorted. Camera equipment (almost) sorted too. Key flights booked, with a couple of accommodation bookings thrown in as well.
Suitcase still overflowing with lots of probably-not-so-useful-but-I-may-need-them-at-some-point items. Time for some re-assessment here….
To-do-list getting ticked off quickly at the moment, but some logistics still need to be organised.
Despite the amount of time spent planning and working around issues/challenges over the past 1.5 months (mainly at night!), I feel like there’s still so much to do…
Adrenalin kicking in!