In general I want to start of by saying what a fucking amazing experience this has been. Obviously there have been highs and lows but the positives have massively outweighed the negatives. The best part of this has been the people I've met along the way. I suppose I expected that the main thing I was wanting to get out of this was a bunch of new experiences and to cross off a few things from the old Bucket list but really the people I've met along the way have been the best part. Not just the fellow travelers either, I've been really lucky to have loads of authentic(ish) experiences with the locals rather than just doing the tourist shit all the time. The tourist trail is centered around all the main places on the tourist route so is completely geared up to cater for the needs (when in actuality it's the desires) of the tourists. So when you follow the 'lonely planet bus' from one place to the next you see all the same western products and tacky souvenirs on display. And that's great, don't get me wrong, but the most authentic experiences I've had have been off the beaten track and doing things on my own.
Ok, some gripes. These aren't major annoyances but just some general observations. The terms 'gap year' and 'find myself' are starting to get a bit cliche. Also everyone (including myself) seems to follow the lonely planet to the word and this tends to create two side effects, firstly if an establishment is mentioned in the LP they sometimes become complacent about their prices or level of service and take advantage of the name they've earned. Secondly it means that if you go to one of these places it often has been totally geared up to suit westerners and so loses it's character and charm. Sometimes by deliberately avoiding LP recommended places you can find real gems like the bar I found in Udaiper, the restaurant in Jaisalmere that had the best thali in the universe or the nightclub in Sanming that I had that incredible night in.
Going back to the people, I want to talk about some of the most memorable people I've met along the way. Firstly Wade, my travel buddy in India is defo my favorite character so far. All the Aussie girls I met in India where great correctors and really nice people. The Group I met in Goa (including Log the welsh nutter!) where hilarious fun and utter piss heads. Also Billy the 60 year old dude from Goa was an absolute hero, I hope to stay in touch with him. Most of the people in the Kungfu camp where great, notably Pierre the nails Shaolin long term-er, Jackson the Aussie motorbiker who was genuinly a really stand up bloke, Dan my ever reliable and lovable room mate and Simon the Doctor who was really funny and easy to talk to. Also special mention to Jack and Samir who where inseparable and although they where only 18 where actually really interesting and mature despite having the roles of entertainers. Also I've been traveling with this Russian Girl called Ulgar and even though she hasn't been functioning at 100% as she's been ill she's still a great person who has a great attitude towards life despite some pretty big knock backs.
As for the Vietnam girl who inspired me to write this reflection chapter, she was probably the most deep and interesting person I've met in my travels. For the life of me I can't remember her name but she had done a shit load of traveling and had some really deep theories on the interconnections between people, the beauty of the world and the greatness of traveling. She really got me to open up about why I'm traveling, what I've experienced so far and what I want to do in the future. She had this theory that the world was one big 'intergalactic soup' and everyone's spirits are connected. She lost me a little bit towards the end but she had some really interesting thoughts on why people travel. I started to talk about my mates back home and how they're all settled into some sort of long term plan, be it career, marriage, mortgage, kids, whatever but they all had something tying them into not being able to travel. She believed (and arguably this is a bit arrogant and self indulgent) that anyone who travels is an eagle and "you can't fly with chickens". Now that may be a little strong but having met a dutch women in her 30's who was traveling with her 4 year old son and doing all the same things and staying in all the same backpacker hostels as us 'youngsters' I kind of think that sometimes the ties that keep people from traveling could be severed if they really went for it. But then again I'm going to return back to England with no money, no possessions and nothing material to show for 15 odd grand I've spent on this trip so maybe I'm the idiot.
I suppose if I'm being completely honest with myself the main reason for traveling was impress and suit Hayley's plans. But the more time I spend traveling the more I can see myself doing this for a long time, maybe for a few years. The current thought is that after I've finished my round the world ticket I'll live and work in Australia for a year then apparently you can extend your visa by an extra year so long as you've done 3 months of agricultural work. Then I'll be 30 so maybe I'll go and work in the middle east for a couple of years to take advantage of the high income and no tax. Or maybe I'll try to get some sort of qualification and work as a scuba instructor in Thailand or teach English in China, who knows, but at the moment I'm not sure I can see myself going back England to spend the rest of my life now that I've tasted what the rest of the world has to offer.
I'm trying to think of things that I miss from back home, the things that immediately spring to mind are my family and friends. Big family get together's at Mum and Cathy's, Macmillan special occasions, weddings/birthdays etc. In terms of day to day things I defo miss Sunday night football at Crowthorne and house piss ups at challs, Rob+Nat's, hobbs house, Debbie+Steve's etc. I also really miss Rob and Lillerz and wish I could somehow magic them onto this adventure with me.
At this stage I love the fact that I have no specific plan but whatever happens I'll be back in October for a while to see everyone and save up enough money for the next adventure. I hope that this section doesn't offend anyone back home I know that everyone has their own drivers in life and traveling isn't everyone's bag. After all, if you'd asked me 3 years ago if I wanted to go traveling I'd probably have told you it was a waste of money and I'm too old for that sort of thing!