There and back again, the summary and conclusion of my trip.
Written: November 5, 2007
Part 1 - Conclusion
I sometimes still wake up and forget where I am.
For the first few days after I got back home, I relished having nice clean showers with good water temperature and pressure, having my own bed, not having to figure out how to get from one country/town/place to another, feeling safe and my mom's home cooking. It wasn't very hard to get used to all of those luxuries quickly and starting new joiner orientation at my new consulting job 2 days after my arrival also kept me busy all day. Yet sometimes, I still wake up and for 1 second I wonder, "Where am I?"
Toronto, St Charles, Chicago, etc.
I got back to Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson airport on Friday at 1 pm. The flights from La Paz to Toronto via Miami through American Airlines were the most boring ones I’ve ever had. The only reasons they weren’t THE MOST boring ones I’ve ever had was due to my excitement to go home and the news that the Canadian dollar (Loonie) reached parity with the US dollar. I arrived in Canada with a broad smile, picked up my luggage and expected to head out and call for my pick-up. But it wasn’t necessary as my mom and sister were waiting in the arrival area and my sister was holding a massive sign with welcome back messages incorporating play on words of my name (yes, even after 20 years, my sister still thinks ‘Hi Wei/Highway’ is funny). After catching up with the family and a feast that my mom had been preparing for nearly 2 days, I slept the most relaxing sleep I had in several months. The realization that I was truly home didn’t sink in until Saturday night when I had dinner with two of my good. We caught up with what had been happening with each other, how our friends were doing, some of my travel stories and it was while we toasted our delicious Canadian beers (Rickard’s red how I’ve missed you), to my return, that I truly though, “I’m home.”
I’ve been delaying the writing and completion of this blog for a long time. At first I planned on writing it 1-2 weeks after my return for extra perspective. But after passing that landmark, it became sheer procrastination and then pure denial. In a sense, I refused to believe my journey was over. Now, after 45 days, I’ve decided it’s time for some closure.
In this 2-part post, I intend to thoroughly conclude and summarize my trip. The first part will be composed of tying some loose ends and finishing with some parting thoughts. The second part will be loaded with lists and details such as countries visited, best/worst experiences, favourite pictures.
Coming back to Part 1, how do I feel now?
Stable is the key word.
My life is now full of routines that I didn’t have during my trip. Get up, get ready for work, go to work, have lunch with co-workers, work, go home, work/relax sleep, repeat. On one hand, it is reassuring and safe; on the other hand, I am lacking the interaction and missing the dynamic aspect of traveling. What is encouraging though is that my work has somewhat alleviated that. I’ve been meeting really cool new people and been able to travel to Chicago for 2 weeks for training where I met and networked with employees from all over the world. I was also able to meet-up with a friend of mine in Chicago I’d met at Cambridge 4 years ago after my training was over. Although I now have a job and work responsibilities, it will at least be dynamic and keep my life interesting. I will also be able to travel and continually meet new people, to a lesser extent of freedom but still engaging.
How have I changed?
This is still a difficult question to answer.
Other than the large weight loss (which I am steadily gaining back), the answer can be broken down into 2 parts:
1) Discussion of complex political and cultural issues witnessed first hand
2) Greater dissatisfaction with materialism and mundane life
1. While it is normal for anyone to talk about their trip experiences (especially when one is asked so often), I've also had increased discussion about my time in Israel and Palestine, East Africa and South America. To many people, their perception is skewed by the media and when I present a contrasting view, it really gets a reaction. Many people inquire further due to curiosity, but some also due to suspicion. It is hard for some people to accept an experience or view point that is not aligned with the media's position. It is hard to understand certain things that are so foreign and unthinkable unless one is actually there, in the location, talking to the people affected, experiencing the culture and environment first hand.
This was the case when I talked about the suffering of the Palestinian people, the warmth and kindness of Ugandans, the friendliness of conservative Muslims in Zanzibar. My experience has enriched me with a greater understanding of complex political and cultural issues in many parts of the world. Perhaps in speaking about them to those who wish to listen, I can enrich them too.
2. Another major change I experienced is the adjustment to Canadian life again. While I do enjoy numerous aspects of having a stable life, there are also many issues that are even more glaringly irritating to me than before my trip. After surviving with so little for a few months and witnessing so many people in poverty, the consumerism and purposeless of mundane life is like a nauseates me everywhere I go. I am possibly eating 2-3 times more than I used to and while I love food and home cooking, I think I feel less healthy now that I'm eating regularly and in greater portions. I also struggled a bit first when I got back in adjusting to the routines of life. I was disoriented a bit by the complacency and lack of movement and exploration. After submerging myself into this society, I started feeling like I was drowning in the waves of materialism and meaningless fears. It really boggled me how much people cared about material goods and wealth. The obsession with getting promoted and making more money in order to impress some people or afford that new expensive car/house/cellphone/clothes disgusted me. I had a hard time understanding how people could truly be so paralyzed with such trivial fears and superficial goals in life. I'm not sure how I will adjust to this in the long term. I can only hope that I don't get totally sucked into that mindset and forget the the experiences I encountered and lessons learnt as well as my own purposes in life.
While I have gone through many changes, I've also realized things about myself I must change more.
One of them is my lack of risk-taking when it comes to human relationships. I am still too complacent and must be more aggressive especially now that I am no longer in University(thanks for the stories and advice Rhett!) It's funny how I barely consider the dangers of going into areas with numerous travel warnings or hesitate to tackle my fears, but when it comes to taking that leap of faith, my stubbornness makes me falter.
Where do I go from here?
I have to find ways to adapt. In order not to get sick of talking about my travels and people of hearing them, I have to be conscious of what I say and not get drawn into one of my travel stories. This is an incredible hard task but it is one that I must do.
My lower inclination to spend money on material goods except for necessity will be helpful since I need to save as much money as possible to make mortgage payments on the condo I'm moving into. Eating 1/2 ration in order to save on grocery bills will also help me physically and financially (Because it's just impossible for me to go back and live under my parents' roof after being away for 4 years of Uni and backpacking around the world).
My consulting work will also enable me to keep living my nomadic life; travel, meet new people, tackle new challenges. This will ensure that I don't kill myself over routine work. (In fact, I was made an honourary Chicagoion after hanging out with coworkers from the Chicago office during training!)
While the sights of my travels were amazing, it was the people I met along my journey that made it incredible. I want to thank everyone that I've met for their stories and hospitality(Erico, I will be visiting you in Brazil, soon!) In return, if any of you would like to visit Toronto, you'll have a place to stay.
Finally, the best cure to those wanderlust blues is to start planning your next one. Going to the end of the earth (Antartica) by motorcycling to Terra Del Fuego and then taking the ferry is an ambitious plan that I intend to make into reality in a couple of years.
I better start planning.
Part 2 - Summary
Length of travel: 16 weeks and 5 days, 117 days
Number of Continents visited: 6
Number of Countries visited: 26
Number of Flights: 33
Number of Train rides: 5
Number of Buses taken: Innumerable
Number of Car rented: 3
Number of Scooter/Moped/Motorcycle rented: 4
Number of Friends Made: Innumerable
Numbers of Friends met during trip: 9 (Andrew/Dana in Munich, Martin in Munich, Baris in Istanbul, Cath in London, Zab in Ramallah, Thomas in Kampala, Yuki in Tokyo, Jill in Singapore)
Number of items purchased: 7
Number of Photos and Videos taken: 3259, 9.25 GB
Number of Times slept in Airports: 5
Number of Movies Seen: >30
- Istanbul, Turkey
- Queenstown, NZ
- Barcelona, Spain
- Granada, Spain
- Munich, Germany
- Tokyo, Japan
- Singapore, Singapore
Best Activities and Experiences:
- Drinking wine at the campfire under the starry night huddled with two Swedish girls amongst the wildebeests, buffaloes and zebras, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania
- Mopeding around Easter Island, Chile
- Sandboarding the dunes in the Far Far North, NZ
- Hiking on Franz Josef glacier, NZ
- Mopeding Hvar, Croatia
- Exploring Machu Picchu, Peru
- Scuba diving and exploring shipwrecks, off the coast of Zanzibar, Tanzania
- Overnight bus to Buenos Aires with a bus full of Peruvians
- Oasis Backpackers, Granada
- Mate's Palace, Sydney
- YHA Brisbane, Brisbane
- Charlie B's Backpackers, Christchurch
Best Movies Seen: Amazing Grace and The Island
- Fish and Chips, Monganui and Kaikoura, NZ
- Chorripan, Argentina
- Biftek de lomo, Buenos Aires
- Bocadillo con calamares, Madrid
- White Veal sausages, Munich
- Polish dumplings, Krakow
- Grilled kielbasa, Krakow
- $0.25 falafel, Jalezone, Palestine
- Fergbuger, Queenstown, NZ
- Night market foods, Taiwan
- Lobster, king fish, mussels and squid, Forodhani Market by the sea and setting sun, Zanzibar
- $20 Sushi breakfast, Tsukiji Fish Market
- Seafood pasta, Split, Croatia
- Indian buffet, Wellington
Highest number of consecutive overnight buses taken: 3 (Turkey)
Worst Foods: Horse meat jerky, Easter Island
- Turkish space movie
- Littleman (in Turkish)
- Nigerian evil mermaid movie
- Spiderman 3
Worst Hostal: rooftop bed, Backpackers Cozy Corner, Singapore
Worst experiences: (They were terrible at the time, now they're just funny to me)
- Overnight bus breakdown in 38C heat in Parmukale, Turkey
- Freaking out about lost Iron Ring, Brisbane
- Freaking out about kidnap/pirate taxis, Cuzco
- Sketchy overnight train from Prague to Krakow
- Waiting for 3 hours to get through passport control in T4, London Heathrow Airport
- Walking around in 40C heat wearing long black shirt and pants looking for internet, Dubai
- Being hounded by kids asking for money, Matemwe beach, Zanzibar
- Almost falling victim to a pickpocket, Granada, Spain
- Almost dislocating my shoulder snowboarding, Queenstown
- Mysterious periodic intervals of pain in the abdomen for 18 hours, Jerusalem
- Being in the bottom bunk of the sex bed, Granada
Best Pictures: (For complete pictures, see gallery)
Random black cube in front of museum in Hamburg
Diocletian Palace, Split
Shoe memorial, Budapest
Best falafel ever, Jalezone, Palestine
School children at Bunyoniy
The traditional and the modern
Girafe looking at you!
The long road
Road to Kilimanjaro
Public transit Africa style
Dan on the Dune
Homeless man in Tokyo
Ida looking through binoculars It's sanboarding time!
Girl with Alpaca
That is where I slept in Lima Airport between 11PM-5AM
Lake Tekapo, NZ
The At the end of my trip in Machu Picchu!
NOTE: I will be creating a "Walking Around the World" video for release in the future. Also, if you have any feedback or questions, feel free to leave a post or send me a message! I'd love to hear what you think.