I write this on an aeroplane exactly half way through our round-the-world trip. It seems like a fitting point to stop, reflect, look ahead to the rest of our adventure, and, scarily, contemplate what might come after that.
It’s something that no traveller wants to think about, and for the first few weeks of a year away, you don’t have to. It feels like you’re cruising through excitement and exploration that will never end, days blending into days blending into days.
But then it begins to hit you, round about the six-week mark. “I can’t believe it’s been that long already”… all travellers will know this feeling. The novelty wears off and being on the road just becomes a way of living, but it’s still the best time of your life.
Our friends Matt and Kelly (check out their blog here) set off on their one-year travel nine months before us, and I remember thinking “bloody hell, that’s gone quickly” when they were one month, then three months, then half way through. It’s going to be the same for us, I said to myself, and here we are with time disappearing like dust.
Until very recently I’ve refused to give much thought to what life after travelling might look like. Back in the days (well, years) of saving, when you’re putting so damn much into fulfilling something that is bang at the top of your life goals list, whatever lies beyond it is not important – it’s just a void, a dark abyss that you would rather ignore. But the closer it creeps, the less it can be ignored.
So now I am going to confront it a little. The good thing is that travelling the world has been nothing short of the transformative experience I expected, and every day I’m hit with new ideas about how that inspiration could be carried back into ‘normal life’. One thing I know is that when I get back home, I will not stop being a traveller – I will just go about it in a different, albeit more restricted way.
Here are a few things I have in mind.
Become a couchsurfing host
Whoever had the idea for Couchsurfing is a certified genius. Man, I love this. For those who don’t know, Couchsurfing is a worldwide community of people who offer to accommodate travellers on their sofa or spare bed, free of charge. The general spirit is that if you use it, you should be willing to accommodate others in the same way.
Couchsurfing has so far saved us four nights’ accommodation costs (with more to come), but even better, it’s helped us to meet new people, learn about the places we’ve visited, practice our language, and have an all-round more immersive travel experience.
After trying it once, Lisa and I immediately made the decision that when we get back to London, we will become super-awesome Couchsurfing hosts. We might even get a two-bedroom rather than a one-bedroom flat just so we can do it. If you stay with us, we’ll show you a great time in London, cook food with you, take you out for a drink in our favourite places, show you the sights… yeah, come stay with us.
While incredibly fulfilling in its own right, this will also give us a means to stay in touch with the travelling community and continue to hear the amazing stories that people on the road have to tell.
Start a podcast
I’ve really enjoyed writing this blog so far, and I have wondered what will become of it once our travels end. There’s no doubt that I want to do more with it.
Couchsurfing will provide one outlet – I’m sure I’ll get plenty of inspiration for material from travellers who come and stay with us.
But I think the next stage will be to try out some audio content. I’ve listened to all sorts of podcasts on those many wearisome overnight buses and long-haul flights, and I’ve always found it intriguing to hear what other travellers have done with their time. So to begin with, I’ll try and give something back – perhaps by recapping our travel itinerary as a year-ago flashback with weekly instalments. I guess I’ll just see where that goes.
Do more travelling, of course
Any thoughts of having enough money for a deposit on a house when we get back have been mightily scuppered by the pound nose-diving in the last 18 months (thanks, Brexit). But even if we did return flush with cash, would that be the natural next step? It’s supposed to be, isn’t it, and maybe one day – but it’s going to take quite some time to be ready for that, if at all.
In the meantime, there is so much more of the world to see! Depending on which list you use, by the end of our trip I will have visited anything between 44 and 48 countries (whether the UK is one or four countries, or whether you count places like the Isle of Man as countries – I know you’ll be reading this Michael, but apologies, I don’t).
I am going to set a casual target to visit 100 countries by the time I’m 50. Sounds plausible, but a friend of mine in her late 40s who has spent most of the last 25 years travelling has only made it to 70 or so.
There are some obvious quick wins – easy-to-get-to countries that I haven’t been to yet. I put Portugal, Turkey, Norway and Croatia on this list. Then there are the further-away places that are high on my hit list – the likes of India, Japan, South Africa and Russia.
And ultimately, everyone who does a year of travelling thinks about where they might go if they get the chance to do it again. Mostly we’ve regretted leaving out Colombia and Ecuador. We’ve got a fantasy trip in the making that involves starting in Canada visiting our friends from the Inca Trail, driving down the US west coast, zig-zagging around Central America and the Caribbean, and finishing up in those South American countries we missed out this time around.
Get a job?
Yeah, I should probably do that. Kind of a necessity, huh.
I make it sound like a burden, but actually I am lucky enough to love the work I do. I quit my job to go travelling, but the door might be open for me to go back. If it doesn’t work out, I will find something else I can be passionate about. Perhaps I’ll find a way to work in the travel industry. That would be sweet, right?
And then there’s the dream of opening and running a hostel. Everyone who travels has an opinion on how they would do that…
Give everyone a massive hug
I may be frightened about this adventure ending, but jiminy fricking jillickers am I looking forward to seeing everyone when we get back. We have such great family and friends who are so important to us, and it’s hard to describe how difficult it has been to be separated from them all for so long.
Not having those simple things in life makes you realise how great they are. I can’t wait for a beer with my dad and step-mum, a walk on the beach in Cornwall with my mum, a catch-up with Gareth in Glasgow and Lee in Newark, those Manchester reunions with Steph and Lindsay (and Fil if you can make it!), a jam and a sesh with Dave, those sushi weekends with Kate, Scott, Lou and Jason, and everything else that awaits at home.
Two weeks from now we get to see Lisa’s parents in Sydney as they are coming out to stay with us over Christmas and New Year, and our friend Dani will be there too – we’re so excited about that. The festive season would’ve be the same on our own.
Well, this has been a bit of an outpouring. Sometimes it’s good to get thoughts like this down on paper. I am now on a beach in Fiji with a beer in my hand. I suppose I better get on with enjoying it… see you next time.