This post will conclude my travelogue (but not the blog), and gives a brief overview about how it has been. I also want to say thank you to all those who have made my travels amazing, so if you are here because you were tagged on facebook (or contacted otherwise), you will find yourself further down in the post.
So it all ends. It's been great, and has been moving me forward in so many ways I can't count. It makes me sad to stop, but there are new challenges waiting somewhere else in my life. I can only recommend anyone to save some money and do something like it. If you skip more expensive countries such as the USA you will spend a lot less than I did. I have not really been holding back, so if you are very frugal, I reckon you could do the same trip for about 1500 £ less.
Countries visited: 10
Miles traveled: 36000 miles
Money spent (including all flights): 7140 British pounds
Facebook friends added: 47
Times couchsurfed: 8
Equator crossed: 4 times
Skills learned: 5 (diving, yoga, knowing which plants to drink from in the Indonesian jungle, making bamboo bracelets, cooking a good Thai curry, Spanish)
Unusual species consumed: 14 (dog, cat, fruit bat, ants, bamboo worms, tarantula, snake, forest rat, jungle grub, sea cucumber, snails, live octopus, goldfish, sea squirts)
Languages learned: 5
Languages forgotten: 4
Cellphone Count: 4 (one stolen, one lost, one destroyed by force of nature)
Items of clothing lost along the way: 8
Items carried around but never used: 14 (thanks, dad!)
Kilos lost since begin of journey: 7
Problems with safety: 0
Since people often ask me about my highlights, I've decided to sort the countries I visited by the overall travel value they have given me. Mind though that a country being at the bottom does not mean I did not like it or I did not enjoy myself. It just means my experience has not been as impressive compared to the other places I have visited.
Highlights: Amazing people, 5000 years of tangible history, amazing sights and landscape
Lows: Bad street food, islamistic dictatorship
Most memorable experiences: being invited in to stay with complete strangers for several days without being able to communicate, being surprised at the boundless history of the country, learning how much propaganda we eat in western news.
Of all the places on my trip, Iran has been the most interesting. Its culture is varied and inspiring, and offers everything from (surprisingly candid) modern art to ancient well-preserved ruins. Food can be good, but is hard to find. What ultimately makes it recommendable is the heart-warming hospitality and charming spirit of its people. Contrary to commonly propagated belief, it's safe and easy to travel. Just don't be an idiot an hike on the Iraq borders or visit disputed islands in the Persian gulf, which is a bad idea in any country. Party life is limited, but existing.
Highlights: Chillout factor, great food, raucous parties
Lows: Tourist spam, over-commercialization, crime
Most memorable experiences: chilling out on Ko Tao, learning the secret to cooking good thai food, my first breath under water, getting invited to an all-Thai temple feast
Well, Thailand is Thailand, and if you are looking for a 'proper holiday' this place will provide. While in tourist areas literally everyone will rip you off, the majority of Thai people are kind and friendly (unless provoked). The slightly more intrepid will find Thailand to be a paradise where time runs slow and life is easy. Island life is very 'international' and addictive and if you don't watch out you will one day turn around and find yourself being five years older and teaching diving to package tourists. Somewhere between a spliff and a beer, that is.
For the sake of your health and reputation I recommend you know how to maintain a level of sobriety that enables you to comprehend that Southeast Asia's biggest beach party full of drunk English guys is not a suitable place to have sex in the shore water. They will not look for the nearest outhouse.
Highlights: Mexicans, good mix of culture, nature and chilling
Lows: Food just okay, social situation
Most memorable experiences: feeling like living in a hippy commune in the Estacion Esperanza hostel in Guanajuato, learning Spanish
While Mexico is very catholic and the Virgin is passionately adored, I have come to the assumption that that's mainly for novelty value...
Highlights: Amazing nature, approachable people, lots of wackiness
Lows: Expensive, not travel friendly, vast distances
Most memorable experiences: climbing atop the Rocky Mountains, being amazed by the constantly changing epic landscape, touring Kink
The USA is a much better travel destination than most people would assume. The nature is awe-inspiring and people are fun and friendly. Unfortunately America weighs heavy on wallet and patience, and is only really fun if you are loaded (by backpacker standards). A camper, or even better an independent car and trailer is probably the travel mode of choice. Note that if you are not wearing cargo pants the native population will assume you are homosexual.
Highlights: Untamed nature, amazing wildlife, island paradises
Lows: Untamed nature, lack of infrastructure, very business-minded population
Most memorable experiences: seeing Manta Rays and Turtles within touching distance, walking into a spider the size of my head, getting stuck with the Dayak in the Borneo jungle, realizing what a lucky person I am to be born in Europe
What I've seen covers only Sulawesi, Borneo and Bali, but for nature freaks this place is great. If you ever wanted to have an island for yourself, this is the place to go. The diving is nothing short of spectacular. When dealing with locals remember that money and friendship are very closely related in Indonesia. If you ever wanted to know what living in the home shopping channel would be like, Bali will be heaven.
Highlights: Food, easy of travel
Lows: maybe not remote enough for some, not as cheap as the rest of asia
Most memorable experiences: Malaysian Laksa, getting fish poisoning in Penang
Malaysia is probably the best southeast asian destination if you want it all in very short and comfortable distance: mountains, beaches and metropolises. Some of the best food mix on the planet.
Highlights: a very asian version of multicultured, great cultural and culinary entertainment
Lows: expensive, very business-minded
Most memorable experiences: Singapore zoo lets you roam free among the animals within touch range
I personally thought Singapore is not half as bad as people tend to make it. The different quarters have flair, food is good and the administration is not as OCD as I have always been told. It's just a bit too small to be more exciting.
Highlights: Good food, Interesting pop culture
Lows: Difficult to outright hostile population, not too many good sights
Most memorable experiences: Korean food (both good and bad), riding a giant concrete penis in Jeju Loveland
When you have visited other asians nations such as Japan and China, Korea feels a bit, well, hackneyed. It's good for a visit within a roundtrip in the area, but I honestly think Seoul (and maybe Jeju Island) will suffice. Explore the amazing cuisine and don't order any obscure seafood platters. Koreans are, even with (mostly young) exceptions, some of the most unapproachable people on the planet and the more foreign you look the more racism you will encounter. The unofficial national symbol is the Penis, which you will encounter with astonishing frequency in museums, parks and temples.
Highlights: See all the things you could do if you had too much money
Lows:See all the things other people can do with too much money
Most memorable experiences: realizing that if you give a goatherd a billion dollars he will still be a goatherd
I understand that you would come to Dubai to earn money. I would not understand if you came to have a good time. If you did, that's cool, probably speaks for your ability to find goodness in even the most adverse conditions. I still recommend that you check it out in case you fly through, just so you can say you have been. People with an ego problem are required to wear red checkered headgear in Dubai, and you should well stay clear of those marked in such a manner.
When you travel, locations are only one part of your experience. The other part is people, and this chapter exists to say thank you to all the great people who have made my trip amazing. There is only one award per person, even if you would fit in several categories. I chose the one I found was the most fitting, so don't be upset if you don't appear in any other. I have used pictures from your public social network profiles assuming you are comfortable with this level of internet privacy. If you want to be removed, however, tell me.
If you feel you deserve an award, but cannot find yourself here, don't sulk! Chances are I have missed you in all the picture clutter or I did not have your details. Just rest assured I do remember you and that that oversight is purely administrative, not personal.
So thank you all, and all the best in your future(s). I hope to see you again some time.
This award is for all the people who have been (visibly) following my travels and pictures, provided little favours in times of need, got me up when I was down or sent me care packages, and all that from home! First and foremost that's my parents and brother, followed by all these lovely people:
Sandra, Alec, Chris, Mille, Jamie, James, Jan, Kieran, Paul, Sanna, Simon, Tim, Nadja , Sara, and Marta.
Your kindness, insight and interest has been pulling me through the hard bits. Thank you!
This prize is for all the people who have been showing me around, explained their culture or otherwise gave me insight into local life. I am many experiences richer because of you people:
Om, Mundo, Anna, plus Aaron's flatmate, and my Indonesian guide Agus.
You made my travels authentic and memorable. Thank you!
What would be traveling without random strangers becoming friends within instants? You received this award because traveling with you was fun, easy and has added immensely to my travels. Good luck to you fellow traveling souls:
Autumn, Cara, Katalin, Rob and Thomas.
Who would have thought that putting up with me could be so much fun? Cheers, guys!
Being a good host requires spontaneity, patience and a big heart. For all those great character traits and putting up with me, this award goes to all you people who went out of their way to give me shelter and a temporary home. Thank you:
Aaron, Alex, Vaness, Samane and Samira, Annie, Donnelly, Harald, Rene, Mimi, Lulu, Tom and Mike.
Additional thanks goes out to all the nice Iranians, Indonesians and Mexicans who have randomly invited me to stuff. Thank you all!
Sometimes people you encounter, something they tell you, or something you share with them opens up a new perspective on your life. You all have done this, but I shall not tell you how. I think you might have an idea or two.
Osiris, Nanny, Karen, Kunal, Mehtab
Passions are a rare gift. Thank you for sharing yours.
Awesome To Hang Out With
Yes, finally there is a reward for being a good chiller, a party animal or simply a socialite. You have earned it for adding to my good times, being part of the expedition team wading through the booze-soaked urban jungles and climbing the lofty party mountains. You are now certified to be good fun. If you want, you can print this out and pin it on your jacket. You'd be the type*.
Beni, Carlos, Celia, Lisa, Danny, Kirsten, Eunan, Robert, Genevieve, Gilles, Harriet, Jen, Jes, Joeri, Johnny, Karin, Lea, Maggie, Margie (harr), Nathan, Youngbin, Rob, Ryan, Siete, Sofia, Thanacha (uhm, spelling?), Tolmie, Violet, Ciani plus many many others without picture or details.
Keep on rocking kids and cheers for a great time!
So again, thank you all for being there. It's been an amazing experience in so many ways. Keep in touch and come visit me some time.
*Originally there was also a 'Manwhore Award', but I figured your already fragile reputation might finally break under the weight of all your conquests, and I am not one to spoil a good man's enjoyment. So instead you find yourself scattered across the awards.You know who you are, anyway. :D