The last time I ‘travelled’ (holidayed) for this long I was aged 18, 12 years ago. We booked our plane tickets through a specialist South American travel agent landing into Santiago, Chile, and then out of Caracas, Venezuela, six months later. I didn’t plan on taking a Gap Yah but decided, sat on my own on a plane, still pissed, on my way back from Tenerife that I didn’t really feel like going to Uni in September. I also decided I wanted to see piranhas in the Amazon and managed to find someone that wanted to do the same… got myself a temp job at Network Rail, and saved.
Aside from the BA travel clinics list of jabs and pills I needed, buying a shoestring guide to South America, a couple of rolls of film, and making six mix tapes, I pretty much planned and prepared nothing. Shoved my backpack full of ‘travellers’ clothes that I would never normally wear outside the house; a Tintin in Tibet t-shirt and hot pink yoga pants spring to mind, not realising I should have packed things I like to wear…
But it was easy. My parents still lived in Hong Kong so I’d already said my goodbyes at Christmas months before and I just turned up to meet my travel buddy at the airport on my own via the now defunct A2 bus from Queensway.
This time: Forget the full time job of eight years to wrap up, or needing to put all my belongings in boxes for storage, but the effort of preparing what to take and booking where to stay. The internet existed when I was in South America, but no one pre booked anything. We turned up in Cusco to hike the Inca trail the day before setting off, and with our student card booked the four day hike for less than U$100. (I do actually believe the present restrictions are better… But glad I did it before. Hypocrisy hey?) Some of the preplanning was necessary just due to my first month having pretty tight time schedules with Suzy joining me for the first two weeks, the DRPK tour and getting to NZ in time for Christmas without costing my entire trips budget.
This time, my preparation involved;
Getting a kindle (in the end borrowed off my fabulous dad) and spending hours and hours deciding what books to out on kindle.
Deciding what tablet to buy to keep in touch with everyone… And then spending ages working out how to use it and downloading apps on it.
Buying a new iPod and filling up new iPod with 6 months worth of music. YouTube hardcore and country mixes no longer available to me. (Stretching the truth on this one, I was waiting to finish work to do this as the kind folks were giving me one as a leaving present… I hoped.)
I bought a spare camera battery and lens cap only to decide that after 15 years of owning a pretty decent SLR (film and then digital) and always meaning to ‘learn how to use it’ I clearly wasn’t going to. Why bring the extra bulk? I also didn’t want to be one of those shit but takes awesome(ish) pictures because I got an expensive camera photographers and to be honest, feel like a bit of a wanker for parading round with one and knowing nothing about it. Time now spent buying new small compact camera.
Changed my phone contract to pay as you go (more of a pain than it sounds, because, you know, they didn’t do anything they were supposed to, a few times.)
Got to love getting away from all the hassle and technology… Still, of course all the stress, packing up, and preparation was worth it. Just some of my thoughts whilst I’m sat waiting in Mandalay airport on my 31st Birthday, my third visit here in five days due to our plane diverting after one of the engines failed and the other one started overheating…