Thank you

Where do I even begin to describe my life since 1 May 2013? How do I even begin to express my gratitude? A mere “thank you” is the greatest understatement I could possibly make. But here goes…

When I was in Turkey at the end of my 6 months in Europe last year, I said that I felt like a writer who had found his pen. Well, I’ve been writing with that pen a lot this year, most often just in personal memos in my notebook, laptop, or phone in raw scribbles that may never be revealed. Writing has been a therapeutic tool and the times that I’ve shared my experiences with you all, I’ve been overwhelmed at the responses I’ve received from my posts and blogs. Please know that I value every “like” or “comment” from each posting, and I feel blessed that you’ve taken the time to read what I have shared, and that you have extended so much support, enthusiasm, and goodwill to me.

But even having found this pen, I am struggling to put into words something that would do justice for the gratitude and love in my heart for everything I have experienced (and yes, that includes the good, the bad, and the horrible) during all this travelling.

At the very least, I must start with a thank you to each one of you, for being part of my incredible journey in one form or another. I’ve met some of you while on these travels (some only after sharing a conversation before exchanging contact info), some of you during past travels; some of you are my family, some of you are my friends back home or in another part of the globe. You’ve all supported me in your unique way and I wouldn’t be where I am without the irreplaceable interactions I’ve had with each one of you. Thank you for sharing my love of travel, exploration, and discovery.

Thank you for giving me the most wonderful memories a guy could have. These memories are my treasure; they shine more brightly than silver or gold and to me, are worth infinitely more.

Making mochi in Tokyo; spending quality time with family in the Philippines; being treated like a king in Sri Lanka; trekking through mountains in Nepal; exploring Thailand on (the back of) a motorbike; interacting with the beautiful people of Myanmar; biking to the ruins of Angkor in Cambodia; eating my way through the Balkans; the singular exception that is Albania; catching up with friends I’d made during previous points in my life in Japan, Nepal, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Albania, Czech Republic, Germany, and the Netherlands…

I could go on and on and on. But you’d probably stop reading at some point (if you’re still reading these words!). So I will just say one more time, from the depths of my soul, THANK YOU!

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Into the harbour to seek shelter

It’s a common tradition in Japan to receive a fortune after making a small offering when visiting a temple. I did just that at the Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion) in Kyoto back in January this year, less than a week into my Asian adventures. This is what it read:

“In the autumn evening when the wind is blowing hard, a sailing boat is coming into the harbour to shelter for the night.”

I enjoyed contemplating on these words at the time, and carefully tucked away the folded paper into my passport holder. Numerous months later, I came across the fortune in Amsterdam during a show-and-tell session on the passport holder’s contents (passport, random currencies, entrance tickets). I unfolded the paper and found it so appropriate to be reading the same words knowing that I’d soon be returning home after all these months.

The boat has been at sea for almost 9 months since it was last in the harbour, and has been away for most of the last 17 months. It has sailed around the world through both rough and calm waters, docking at some magnificent locations. At times, the boat has been solitary while navigating the waters, while other times the boat has shared the journey with a formidable convoy. The boat has been damaged by natural and man-made calamities and has been repaired on multiple occasions. Throughout the voyage, I believe the captain has weathered it all with a lot of dignity and enough command, but the captain needs a rest.

There’s two more nights left until that autumn evening arrives. I’m coming into the harbour and seeking shelter. I’m coming home.

passenger ferry boat to Ometepe Island, Nicaragua

passenger ferry boat to Ometepe Island, Nicaragua

The last weeks…

This past year in Asia, I was attempting to be more flexible with my travel plans, to see where the world would take me depending on who I met or how I was feeling or what I had heard about. The effort brought me to some amazing places on this Earth and in my heart.

The past three weeks, I’ve made more concrete plans to be in certain cities during certain times to stay with friends that I’ve met during the last year or so of travelling. I dare say, things couldn’t have turned out any better. Nothing in this world is perfect, but I couldn’t have imagined or conjured up a better way to end all these months of travelling.

It’s been such a welcome change to spend time with people who have come to matter to me, and not just do the hostel thing and exchange the obligatory pleasantries and travel questions (e.g., where are you from? how long are you travelling? where have you been? where are you going? how was [this city]? how was [that country]? oh yeah, what’s your name?)

Sean, who I met in Armenia, and later again in Georgia and Japan – dekuji for hosting me in Brno! Sally, who I met in Georgia, and later again in Armenia and Turkey – shukran for hosting me in Hamburg! Bernard, who I met in Nicaragua – bedankt for hosting me in Amsterdam! Philipp, who I met in Thailand – danke schön for hosting me here in Berlin!

It’s been my pleasure to have all those whimsical conversations with you where others would think I’m crazy, it’s been my privilege to see and reconnect with you again, it’s been a blessing to share more meals with you, and it’s an honour to call you my friends. ☮