I’ve read tales of people returning from long trips and finding it very tough to return to normality. I should reserve judgement, but I doubt that will be the case with Alice and me, especially as our life will be quite different post-travel.
As I think back over the past 9 months, I have a huge number of great memories. I have learned on this trip that I have a strong tendency to remember the positives of travel and forget the negatives. Just this morning I was fondly thinking back to jogging around Brisbane, fondly remembering the sense of space and the freedom to run about cities with no time limit or commitments. At the time, I was pretty bored of Australia.
As I’ve written before, I don’t regret one day of our three months in NZ and I feel that we’ve had the right amount of time in Patagonia too. A key lesson is not to rush a country. In retrospect I would have learned some Bahasa and spent all of the first two months in Indonesia; this isn’t to say that I don’t have amazing memories of snorkelling in the Philippines, a country I found rather unpleasant at times, or Vietnam, which had food that I loved but made me sick(!)
Overall though, I have scratched just 6 new countries off the map that my Highgate colleagues bought me when I left London. It can be very tempting, especially for someone with my slightly aspergic personality, to see the map as a target and plan accordingly. I’m glad we generally didn’t fall into that trap (ok, two days in Uruguay was indulgent). This is my number one piece of advice: don’t try to visit too many countries. Instead, think carefully about which countries you really want to visit and why.
So apart from a shaky start, I feel that our overall plan was pretty good, but even so, Alice and I both missed home (partly friends and family, but partly just the comfort and stability of not moving around all the time) quite a lot at different times. In future, I doubt we’ll ever travel for 9 solid months again; instead, we would prefer three 3 months stints, with some time at home to relax in between. If you’re planning a year of travel and you can afford this approach (and I don’t think it would cost much more than ours), I would seriously consider it.
I almost don’t want to write this because it sounds snooty, but when I think back over the 9 months, I feel a sense of privilege. To have been born in a country and at a time where world travel is so easy and affordable is very lucky. For even my parents’ generation to have undertaken such a journey would have been much more adventurous and arduous.
But just to be able to take nine months off work is a luxury that so few people in history have been able to afford. On top of seeing a lot of new places, I’ve read books, listened to hundreds of podcasts and spoken to an even greater number of people in foreign languages, learned to appreciate my family more, improved my empathy and ability to compromise (a bit!), made friends who I hope to stay in touch with for life, and written this blog. It’s been great.