Somewhere in Nepal, I decided that I needed to go back to the US. It’s hard to describe why, but something just clicked inside and I knew it was time to start on my next phase/adventure/whatever-you-want-to-call-it (plus, after spending so much quality time with Ben, I wanted to see my family and friends again). I wasn’t exactly going to be flying back the very next day, but I did begin to turn my thoughts toward moving in that direction.
When I set out on this little jaunt (I left my then home in San Francisco on May 1st of 2012 and drove to my hometown of San Diego) I had the following vague goals: 1) Stay out of the US for at least one year, and 2) I must see and experience Ibiza, Ethiopia and Nepal. Otherwise, I was just going to put up a sail and see where the wind sent me. After Nepal, I didn’t have any more “must dos”. It was like that point late in the evening of a great party… everything has been spectacular, you’re still having a good time, but you just know that it’s over. You’ll linger for a bit longer, but you know you’re going home soon. That’s exactly what happened; I just knew that this trip was over and it was time to go. Now, here I am… back in the US.
I’ll spare you more some more boring introspection. For the curious out there, I’ll give you my answers to the 5 questions I’ve been asked the most about this trip since I got back:
1) What was your favorite place? Way too hard to answer as there are too many great places to pick just one. However, I will say that my favorite single experience was walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. The magic of undertaking and completing such an epic journey, the metaphor of the camino for life itself (it’s the journey not the destination) and getting to share the whole experience with one particularly wonderful person (as well as the other characters you meet along the way) made the camino a very special experience for me.
2) Did you come back because you ran out of money? No, I came back because I wanted to come back (see above).
3) What was your favorite food? Indian… by far and away. The spices, the different regional styles, the breads, the yogurt, eating with your hands, free refills (sometimes), the tea, the coffee, the lassis, the prices (India was the cheapest place I traveled… yes, it’s cheaper than sub-Saharan Africa), the lime sodas… I liked Indian food so much that I sought it out in Thailand, Taiwan and Hong Kong (all places which are known for great food).
4) Did you get sick? Yes, several times (all food poisoning). However, often it was my own fault, forgetting to wash my hands, or eating something I knew I shouldn’t (generally so as not offend people you’re with), or thinking I’m invincible (in general, I have a pretty iron stomach, but some places will put that thought to the test). Ironically, out of all the developing countries I visited, the place I got the sickest was Spain. Conveniently, in most countries one can buy antibiotics over the counter at any pharmacy (because the locals get sick sometimes as well, and the prices are a lot lower than in the US). However, in Spain, for antibiotics, I needed to get a prescription. So it took me much longer to get over it than it did anywhere else. Also, I generally tried to avoid antibiotics unless I knew it was going to be bad, so once or twice I had some low-grade lingering issues for weeks at a time. But I also didn’t necessarily take the greatest care of myself during these times either (late nights, partying, etc.).
5) Did you ever feel unsafe? Rarely. Now, it helps that I am a bigger than average male, but, honestly, the vast majority of places one would travel to are as safe as can be (you’ll often feel more comfortable walking around in many places in the world than you will in many places in the US… sad, but true). Here’s an interesting article, focus on numbers 6 and 7 for the purposes of this question as I found the answers to be spot on. Now, I did get robbed in Goa, but it was a room break-in where I was away from my room (an inside job I thought), and I did get sucker-punched in a bar in Addis Ababa (crazy dude who promptly got the shyte beat out of him by the bouncers before I even got up off the floor), but those are the only two “incidents” that happened. Occasionally, I would get the hair standing up on the back of my neck feeling, but that was mostly me putting myself in a dumb situation (taxi ride alone through a kidnapping prone region of the Sinai, having to walk a mile or so along a pitch dark beach in Goa at 4 AM, or walking around certain crappy parts of Cairo and Addis alone at night), things that could have honestly been avoided. But again, these feelings happened very, very rarely.
By The Numbers
Some tabulating for the future version of myself. Here’s a timeline breakdown of this adventure, which I’ll count as being book-ended by me being in San Diego:
New York: 5/10/12 – 5/16: 7 days
London: 5/17 – 5/20: 4 days
Spain/Portugal: 5/21 – 8/29: 102 days
Amman, Jordan (transit): 8/30: 1 day
Egypt: 8/31 – 9/16: 17 days
Ethiopia: 9/17 – 11/15: 60 days
Kenya: 11/16 – 11/20: 5 days
Tanzania: 11/21 – 12/10: 20 days
India (1st time round): 12/11/12 – 2/7/13: 58 days
Thailand: 2/8 – 3/2: 23 days (spent night in Colombo airport in transit to India).
India (2nd time around): 3/3 – 4/6: 35 days
Nepal: 4/7 – 6/4: 59 days (had dinner in Kuala Lumpur in transit to Taiwan).
Taiwan: 6/5 – 6-24: 20 days
Hong Kong: 6/25: 1 day
Tokyo (transit): 6/26: 1 day
New York: 6/26 – 7/13 (re-lived the 26th due to the international dateline): 18 days
Total Time Gone: 431 days
I also added up/estimated about how far (distance-wise) I ended up going (not counting intra-city transit or anything I forgot of course):
Flights: 39,481 miles.
Driving (myself): 1,563 miles.
Bus: 1,252 miles.
Car/Taxi: 2,510 miles.
Train: 3,281 miles.
Walking: 948 miles.
India Overland: 4,880 miles (don’t worry, no double counting with the above).
Total: 53,915 miles. For the record, the earth is 24,901 around. So adding up my total mileage means I could have circumnavigated the globe twice.
Even though I’m back, I still will have some more posts coming out, so don’t go away just yet.