More than a picture

2 August 2016

Ishkashim, Tajikistan (with Eshkashem, Afghanistan lying on the other side of the Panj River)

It’s incredible how a single picture can trigger so many detailed, vivid memories. While a picture may be worth a thousand words, here’s some things this picture couldn’t tell you.

Obviously there’s the sunset, but unless I told you, you’d never know that I had stopped at this town for the night because I thought (incorrectly) that it would have internet access. Having been travelling in the Wakhan Valley for the past few days and not having internet at all, I kind of hoped that there would be a chance to go online.

You’d never know that I had to register myself at the local military office and show the additional GBAO permit in my passport that allowed me to be in this part of Tajikistan.

You’d never know that I had just taken a stroll around town with fellow travellers David from Austria, who I had been travelling with we met in Sary Tash in Kyrgyzstan, and Charles from Québec, who we had met at our guesthouse in Ishkashim.

You’d never know that Fato and his kids Horod, Amir, and Yosomin, local Pamiris, were walking along the river bank where they encountered us. Fato talked to us travellers for a bit while the kids played around with carefree abandon, and all the while we enjoyed the cool breeze on another hot summer day.

You’d never know how much I pondered what life was like beyond the river, so close and yet seemingly still so far away, in a land that has been terrorized by war and invasion for centuries, in a land that I’ve heard about countless times in news headlines; it was surreal that I was separated from that land by only dozens of metres.

You’d never know that we cut through a field on the way back to our guesthouse and unwittingly trespassed through someone’s property.

You’d never know that we ended up at the house of an old woman who began yelling at us, resulting in my embarrassment for thinking that we made her angry, only to be surprised when she was just offering us tons of freshly-harvested fruits from her garden and invited us inside for tea.

You’d never know how much this day made me love travelling even more than I already did …

All of that I remembered from simply looking at this picture 🙂

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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!