Here at the end of all things
It's over! Finito. Es todo. Sayonara. As I write this, it's now two weeks to the day since I landed back home in Sydney (this is the first entry in a while that's actually dated when it was written — been playing catch-up for a while). And I still can't believe that I'm actually home again, and that I'm not jumping on a long-distance bus tomorrow, and carting myself and my oversized rucksack to yet another new and exotic city. I'm back, and — for now, at least — I'm here to stay. And while on the one hand I still feel like I'm in backpacker mode, on the other hand the entire trip is already starting to feel like a wild and concocted dream. It seems impossible that anything that fun and marvellous ever could have happened at all, now that I'm firmly re-established in the daily grind of my old life. But it did happen — after all, I have this blog and all my photos (and videos) to prove it, to myself if to nobody else.
I've already done ten gazillion wrapups and reflections, so I'm not going to repeat all that here. In this space, all I want to mention is that the trip had a rough plan from the onset; and that amazingly, I managed to follow through on that plan almost to the letter.
I'm the kind of person that likes to make a plan, and to follow it through, and to not deviate from the plan without a good reason. Well, as it turned out, I didn't have any "good reasons" during the course of the trip — and this can be thought of as both a good thing and a bad thing. It's a good thing, because nothing terrible occurred to make a change of plans necessary: no injuries; no crises back home; no natural disasters (the August earthquake in Peru was a close call); and no seriously traumatising experiences. But it's also a bad thing, because nothing occurred that was so amazing that it more than justified a change of plans: no finding true enlightenment; no discovering my purpose in life; and no falling in love (although wouldn't you just love to know about every time I came close :P).
Since we are indeed (sad as it is to admit) here at the end of all things, it's time to finally reflect on the blog itself. I originally intended this blog merely as a brief and intermittent record of my adventures, which would serve as a nice way to occasionally update the folks back home, and which would be a schwanky souvenir to finish with. But it turned out to be an awful lot more than that. In fact, looking back on it now, I honestly don't know what's been bigger: the trip, or the blog! This blog has become nothing less than a chronic addiction — I mean, look at me, I've been home for two weeks now, and I'm still writing on it! (I'm gonna quit tomorrow, I promise.)
I've been completely blown away by the number of people that have talked to me or contacted me since my return, and who have told me that they've been reading this blog, and that they were very impressed with it. Talk about flattery! I had no idea how many of you have actually followed these endless ramblings of mine (despite the risks to your personal health and sanity), and I'm honoured that you found them worth a squiz. For your information — as various people have asked — no, I don't have any plans to publish this as a book, or to sell it to Lonely Planet (although I have some other joint ventures coming up with LP, so stay tuned on GreenAsh), or to do anything else with it. "What happens to the blog now?" some have asked. Errr... nothing! It's finished, it's signed and sealed, and it will be available here in all its unadulterated entirety, hopefully forever (or at least until the end of cyber-time, may that day never come).
I admit, I have written far too much on this blog, and it's way more than any sane person could or should ever read completely. I've also invested ludicrous amounts of time in this blog, not to mention a small fortune in Internet café fees. But what can I say? I've always been a prolific writer (and reader), and it was inevitable that something like this would turn me into an incurable blog junkie. Hopefully none of you take me seriously, anyway — hell, for all you know, this entire shenanigan could have been a giant con job, designed to subliminally brainwash you into joining my new secret cult. Call me mad if you want, but I believe that this blog has developed a personality and an autonomy all of its own. This blog has become my best friend: it's always been around to keep me company; and it's the only thing that's stayed with me for the complete duration of my travels. There have been many occasions when, had I been without it, I would have felt completely and utterly alone.
In an effort to avoid repeating the same answers over and over again, I'm writing here the questions that people have most commonly asked me over the past several weeks, and the answers that I've generally given.
Where did you go, and how long did you spend in each place?
Mexico 1 month. San Francisco 1 week. Vancouver 1 week. Peru 2 months. Bolivia 1 month. Northern Chile 1 week. Peru 1 month more. Ecuador 3 weeks. Central Chile 1 week. Argentina 3 weeks. Brazil 1 week. Boston 2 weeks. England 1 week. Italy 1 month. Switzerland 1 week. Germany 2 days. Belgium 3 days. Amsterdam 2 days. Germany 1 week. Austria 2 weeks. Spain 1 week. London 2 days. Thailand 5 weeks.
Which country did you like the most?
Did you do anything else, apart from just backpacking?
4 weeks of Spanish school and homestay in Cusco, Peru. 2 weeks of volunteer work (making the Hampy web site), also in Cusco, Peru. Other than that, pretty much all backpacking.
Did you travel alone the whole time?
Most of the time. But I travelled for 2 months straight (relatively unplanned) with my mate Chris. Plus, I travelled briefly with various other people (1 week with Patrick, 1 week with Oly, a few days with Marie and Claire, 1 week with Alex and Caroline). I also saw plenty of people at the Drupal event in March; I stayed with Genna and family in Vancouver; I stayed with my Dad and my cousins in Boston (in October); and I stayed with my uncle and aunt in Switzerland (in December).
Did you score? I didn't see any blogging about it.
I didn't blog about it, because it's NONE OF YOUR F$#%ING BUSINESS! Next question.
So did anything bad happen to you while you were away?
Yes — mainly theft. I had two cameras stolen; I got pickpocketed of cash (and a second time — which was unsuccessful); and on one occasion, I was robbed of my money belt and of numerous important valuables (including my passport, my ATM card, and a fair bit of cash). But at the end of the day, theft is the least serious of problems you can encounter, and I'm lucky that I never faced anything worse than it. I was never attacked, beaten, stabbed or held at gunpoint during my travels; nor was I ever seriously injured, or seriously ill to the point of requiring hospital or airlifting.
Isn't it lonely, travelling by yourself?
No! Hostels are the friendliest places in the world, and it's pretty much impossible to not meet people when you stay in them. There are also numerous other ways and places to meet people when travelling: e.g. on tours, in bars, and on buses. I've found that travelling alone is actually more social than travelling in a group, as a group tends to become insular and to stick to itself, whereas solo travellers are forced to constantly reach out and to connect with new people.
Where did you get the money for this trip? And did you work at all while travelling?
I saved up money for about three years, before embarking on the trip. Saving up was fairly easy for me, as I was on a scholarship at university, as I was working part-time for good money, and as I was living at home with my parents. Plus, I entered the Google Summer of Code in 2006; and I worked full-time for about three months just before I left. Latin America and Thailand are both reasonably cheap places, where you can stay a long time and not spend that much money. Hence, I managed to avoid working. Europe was expensive, but I was only there for 2½ months.
Since the trip is over and I'm back home, you ask, what will I do now? Well, for this year at least, it's pretty much back to the same old stuff that I was doing before I left. I'm back to UTS this year, to study IT Honours full-time. So uni is my main occupation once more. I've also once again donned my Drupal consulting hat, and I'm already quite busy with new clients, and with exciting new projects that involve spending all night coding like mad on my shiny new laptop.
I'm living with my parents for the time being, but I'm furiously trying to move out, by searching for a shared house or unit that I can live at instead. I'm hoping to get back into the Sydney cycling-as-means-of-transport scene, but that's pending (a) the current s$#%ty weather improving, and (b) me buying a new bike (as I sold my old one before I left). That's about all I've got planned for now, although who knows what the year after this one holds in store for me? I still need to decide what I'll do with my life post-Honours: and at the moment, it's looking to be a choice between accepting full-time work with a big evil company, that will pay me gazillions and suck the life and soul out of me; or going full-time into Drupal consulting, and accepting that monetary profit won't be entirely guaranteed, but that my job satisfaction absolutely will be.
Finally, I must mention that although this blog does indeed conclude right here and now (or at least, very soon hereafter), you'll still be able to catch me posting my thoughts on GreenAsh, which I've been publishing for the past three years, and which I'll continue to write and to publish well into the foreseeable future. As always, that blog will continue to maintain nothing but the highest standards of irrelevancy, unfounded assumption, poorly researched fact, blatant hypocrisy, and downright randomness.