The lowdown

One of my resolutions for the New Year was to blog more often, and write even more. I’ve been doing quick, usually daily Facebook posts but as you can see, nothing on this site yet this year. Until now. For me, I’ll take this as a big challenge to recount a bit of where I am, where I’m going, and where I’ve been; what I’ve felt and what’s lifted my spirits; the not-so-glamorous things about travel, especially solo travel, and especially long-term solo travel; and really most profoundly, why I continue to travel and my reasons and motivations behind it.

Many have asked me about this trip, so let me just lay down the essentials in this post:

Who: Me! And the friends and family I’m meeting up with. And the people with whom I’ve yet to interact that will leave a lasting impact on me, and some that I’ll come to call as friends.

What: A trip around the world! In paper at least, I’ve left North America for the Pacific Rim of Asia, and will be making my way to points in South and Southeast Asia before making my way to Europe and arriving back in North America.

Where: Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Nepal for sure. Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Hong Kong in semi-planning stages. In Europe, I’m supposed to land in Romania, but have also set my sights on Bulgaria, Greece, Albania, Kosovo, Moldova, Ukraine, the Netherlands, Ireland, Spain, and Italy. At this point, the European leg of this journey is quite undefined and will be content to focus on just a few of these countries.

When: From the second week of January currently until the first week of October, 2014! That’ll be almost 9 months of travelling! In reality, that’s just the dates on my airfare that I’m somewhat willing to change, really depending on money and future motivation.

How: Planes, trains, buses, walking, ???

Why: Before setting out last May for Europe, I’d gone through a tough time of challenges, internal debates, and difficult decisions that were tempered with occasional personal triumphs and achievements. At the time, I was working full-time without a high prospect of longer-term travel which was what I had increasingly aspired to in the years prior. Simply put, travel invigorates and inspires me like nothing else. It’s the unbeatable combination of being in a foreign land, not knowing exactly where you are or how to get where you’re going but with a resigned confidence that all will work out in the end, interacting with people in this world that you would otherwise not meet in your daily routine back home, arriving at spectacular landscapes, feeling serenity during a hike, going somewhere you’ve never heard of and being amidst indescribable beauty, and the unique realization that not everything in this world is generic and you don’t have to live your life within the perceived confines of societal norms if you don’t want to.

So there you have it. Or some of it, at least! I’m currently in Japan, on just the 8th day of my journey. Follow me, or better yet, join me somewhere!

Travel updates

Looks like I haven’t posted anything in two and a half months!  It’s not for lack of anything to write, that’s for sure.  Initially, I wanted to take some time out while on the Camino de Santiago, and then I didn’t know where to begin blogging again once I had finished my pilgrimage.  And from there, it was just one place after another, with me overwhelmed about doing my experiences justice by putting into words everything that I lived and sensed and immersed myself in.  This post is a humble attempt to summarize where I’ve been the past few months and where I’m going the next few.

The past that has passed

My trip through France was leading me from the centre of the country down to the southwest to St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port, the starting point of the Camino de Santiago (Camino Frances, Way of St. James).  It was a great ten days exploring different cities in a country that I’d wanted to visit for so long, especially learning French throughout school.

The Camino de Santiago was an intense, unrelenting, unforgettable journey of the spirit that took my body from the Pyrenees all across northern Spain, walking on average between 20-30 kilometers a day with a rucksack on my back through rain, shine, and wind over all sorts of terrain.  I very much hope to write more about this experience because I believe that it has been the most significant thing that I have done with my life, and these mere words right now cannot possibly explain everything that my body, mind, and soul encountered during this blessed time.

I spent a few days in Santiago de Compostela, afforded with the luxury of sleeping in the same bed for more than one night and walking the same streets daily, even having a cafe that I frequented.  After moving around every day for the past month, it was a welcome change!  Then, I headed into northern Portugal for six days.  Portugal is a country that will always be on my list of places I want to return because of the friendliness and sincerity of the people.  Of course, there’s also the food, the port, the cities, the landscape, the Mediterranean way of life…

From Portugal, I flew to Morocco where I spent thirteen days.  Morocco is an explosion for the senses where everything hits you unapologetically and makes you feel more alive!  Everything from the exquisite food, the calls of the vendors in the souqs and its related hustle and bustle, the oppressive desert heat – it’s overwhelming and intoxicating, but somehow leaves you wanting more… DSC00669

After Morocco, it was back to Europe where I relaxed for a couple days in Madrid, then a few hours exploring Zurich and a few days in Budapest, Hungary where I did a few things that I hadn’t done during previous visits, like ride a railway line run by kids!  The conductor, of course, was an adult, but the selling and validating of the tickets were undertaken by kids 10-14 years old…

From Budapest, I took a train to Vienna where I didn’t do nearly as much as I would’ve liked due to an illness that unfortunately had me staying at hostels more often than seeing the city.  After moving on to Salzburg, however, I got my groove back and did plenty of hiking, including a 1400-metre ascent up the Untersberg mountain (part of the Alps), the accomplishment of which highly lifted my spirits!DSC01957

And now, I write this post on a couch in the common room of a hostel in Bled, Slovenia, where I have spent the past four nights.  Bled and the surrounding area is a haven for nature and adventure enthusiasts, and I’ve thorougly enjoyed the past few days strolling around Lakes Bled and Bohinj, taking a dip in pristine waters, appreciating a lazy boat ride, and of course, hiking – to waterfalls, through gorges, through quaint, picturesque towns…

Foreseeable future

There’s just under three months left of travel for me, and I do have at least a rough idea of where I’m going.  I’ll be heading to Ljubljana in a couple days, then southeast to Bosnia and Herzegovina (possibly with a short stop in Croatia), down to Montenegro and the wonderful
Adriatic Sea, then up to Serbia where I’ll catch a flight in Belgrade to London.

I’ll spend a few days in England with family and friends, then fly into Dusseldorf where I’ll meet up with a friend for a couple days before going to Brussels to meet up with another friend.  From there, I’ll fly to Tbilisi, Georgia – the beginning of a one month itinerary in the Caucasus which will also include visits to Armenia, and hopefully Azerbaijan, if I can secure a visa.

After this month, I’ll fly back to Belgrade from Tbilisi, and from there, round out the Balkans with forays into Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Bulgaria before heading into Turkey where I’ll spend my last week or two before heading home!

Anyone care to join me?