At any given point in time there are millions of people travelling around the world. Some are on fully-paid luxury business trips, checking out their host cities between catered meetings and long lunches; some are on organised bus tours having the travel experience handed to them according to a timetable; some are with their families, staying in the best two-and-a-half star hotels they can afford, ordering in restaurants to a budget, and ticking things off a list of “must see” attractions; some are on working holidays, interacting through employment; some are roughing it in budget backpackers’ and soaking up the local atmosphere, often in backpackers’ pubs, surrounded by other local atmosphere-soakers of similar non-local origin.
While it’s natural to feel that one’s travel experience is unique and special, chances are it’s very similar to the experience of many, many people who have done it before or who are doing it at the same time. But travel is a personal thing, and even twenty people who take the same bus tour, see the same sights, buy the same souvenirs, and eat the same food, will arrive home with twenty different personal experiences due to their unique perspectives, circumstances and contexts. So for this reason, each travel experience could still be said to be unique and special — at least on one level.
When I was 22-years-old, back in 2000, I arrived in London to start the same working holiday experience that has been enjoyed by millions of Australians over the years, and that was being simultaneously enjoyed by tens of thousands of other Australians. Over the course of the next two years I had an utterly non-unique but utterly awesome travel experience. I lived in London and Edinburgh, I travelled to over twenty countries across continental Europe, Asia and northern Africa, and I snowboarded for 50 days straight in a small Austrian village — all of it along with all the other backpackers who were doing the same sorts of things at the same time.
During this time, not only did I have — literally — the time of my life so far, I came to an important realisation about how cocky, naive, immature and unworldly I really was (and still am, really.) I didn’t exactly “find myself”, as the horrible cliche goes, but I certainly learned some honest and useful lessons about myself (and have since happily ignored most of them.) However, there is one lesson that I’ve embraced wholeheartedly: that I can’t really think of much in life I enjoy more than travel.
Nothing beats the emotions and sensations that overwhelm you while facing the challenges of travelling through a strange place — the emotions and sensations that combine to make you feel totally, completely and absolutely alive. The adrenaline rush of negotiating a taxi ride with a pack of drivers in a crowded and dusty village square; the wonder of sitting on a hillside watching the sun rise over an ancient cityscape; the fun of meeting new people who are either fascinating, intriguing, dull or repulsive, or somewhere in between all of those; the total sensory overload of being surrounded by unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells. Sure, there are frequent stretches of boredom, frustration, mundanity and repetition, but the contrast between the positive and the negative makes the total experience all the better.
In five days I am leaving Australia to travel through India, the Middle East and northern Africa for about twelve months, give or take a bit. My partner (the beautiful Lisa, generally referred to as “Spykey”) and I have quit our jobs, put our stuff in storage, and bought one-way tickets. While I’m excited beyond belief and I reckon my trip is going to be a thousand kinds of awesome, I’m highly aware that I’m not blazing any sort of trail; there are millions of people who’ve already been to the places I’m going and done the things I’m doing, and millions others who have done the job quitting and stuff storing thing.
Given how many people are travelling right at this moment, and how the vast majority of travel experiences aren’t in any practical sense original, who’d want to read the travel blog of some guy from Melbourne they’ve never met? Trust me, I’ve thought about this, and I’m not going to be at all offended if you shrug your shoulders and sigh a hearty “who cares?” But this is a blog, and blogs are about a conversation rather than a monologue; while I’ll be the one writing the posts about my own experiences, I’m writing this up as a blog in order to interact — to hear your travel stories and anecdotes, share mine with you, discuss slightly more meaty topics such as the politics, media and culture of the places I’m visiting, and generally share this trip of mine with you. I’d love it if you decided to come along on this journey with me.
It goes without saying that I’ll be taking a veritable shitload of photos, and you’ll be able to browse them all in the photo gallery. I’ll also be regularly updating a map of our trip, along with our dynamic and organic itinerary.
Here we go, then.