Thursday, 18 August 2011

Around the world in 199 days

Note: this will be the last post on this blog so please scroll down to read about Rio de Janerio and Philip´s final thoughts.

Most people travel to find out about themselves, rather than the country they are visiting. I was certainly guilty of that on my last world tour in 2007, so I wanted to do things differently this time and really try my best to learn as much as I could about the country I was in. Therefore I am not going to harp on about how I have changed as a person (also because that is what people expect if you have taken a ´gap-yaaar´) but I will try to come to some conclusions about the five countries we have visited over the past 199 days.

The old cliche ´hindsight is a wonderful thing´ is true when I look back at the route we originally planned for this trip. Going to Japan first was great as it immediately forced us into a diverse and vibrant culture, so different from our own. We had 2 weeks to see as much as we could and we really went all out to experience the ideals, values, people, beliefs and attitudes of Japan. We were thrown head first into travelling and we were also very lucky in that we left Japan a mere few weeks before the devestating earthquake hit. Likewise, Australia and New Zealand worked out well for us as we wanted to travel through Oz during their summer/autumn and be in NZ in the winter for the snow. They both worked well. However, it was a big mistake to think that we could add a trip to South America on to the end of our already large and demanding tour. South America is a huge continent; something we only realised when we started to plan our time here. By that time, with our diminishing budget adding to the pressure of planning, we realised that we had to shorten our trip and go home early. It is only possible to really experience South America properly if you do it in one stand-alone trip. It is not something to be attempted as an afterthought! Despite that, we have enjoyed our short 3 weeks in Argentina and Brazil, but we know that we will have to come back if we really want to get under the skin of all the countries on offer here. We both agreed that we would be very daunted with the prospect of another 3 months travel at this stage. Although we have enjoyed ourselves hugely, we are also tired, in need of routine and our own beds! I never in a million years thought I would say that.

So although I think we got the route/structure of our trip and budget slightly wrong, I firmly believe that we got everything else right. It is quite difficult to compare the countries, and experiences we had in them, against each other as they were all unique and special in their own way. However, for entertainment I will try to follow the lonely planet´s ´blue list´, in which they vote for a winner of any particulaur category. So the marks go to:

People - Australia. You simply cannot beat this bunch of lively, happy, friendly people. They are wonderful.
Scenery - New Zealand. It is stunning.
Food - New Zealand. With more Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir that I could ever ask for, and fresh, organic foods everywhere, it is without a doubt the winner.
Experience - New Zealand. We did loads of adrenaline fuelled activities there and we strived to do something different every day. There was always something on offer.
Challenge - Argentina/Brazil. Travelling in Japan, OZ and NZ was easy. Everyday in South America challenges your mindset, beliefs, attitudes and opinions.
Weather - Australia. Western Australia to be more precise.
Transport - Japan. Mega-efficient, clean and always on time. I can´t forget our 2 wonderful campervans though!
WWOOF host - Uralla wildlife santuary (kangaroos!)

I think that illustrates (in a basic form) what was great about each country. I think my earlier blogs have made it quite clear that New Zealand is a clear winner for me. If I ever have the opportunity to move there, I will be there in a heartbeat.

So..that concludes our fantastic trip around the world. I have learnt a lot about the people, land and culture of every country we have visited, but especially that of Australia and New Zealand as we were there for so long and had the wonderful opportunity to WWOOF with different people. I would recommend the wwoofing scheme to everybody as every host family can teach you so much. How would I have ever learnt about generators, feeding hens and trimming vines before now?

Travel is as much about the journey, and the people you share that journey with, as the destination. We have met fabulous people all over the globe, and I couldn´t have asked for a better, more relaxed travel-mate as Philip. He has calmed me down, made me see things rationally, looked after me and made me laugh for 6 and a half months. I think he deserves a medal!

Thank you for reading my blogs for so long. I hope you have enjoyed them and learnt things, as we have, along our journey. We now have the next part of our adventure ahead of us and will take our experiences with us into the future.

Over and out,

(August 2011)

Final Thoughts...

I´ve decided to make a guest appearance on the blog to share my thoughts on the trip as a whole now that we are at the end.

I´ll make this as brief as possible. Every place we have been to has been an incredible experience for me. The things we have done, places we have seen and people we have met have all been amazing in the true sense of the word. I was hoping this trip would help me work out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and I can safely say it has. It may not be in the way I expected but then I guess these things never turn out that way.

So where was my favorite country? Well they were all great so I´ll have to broaden it to my favorite experience in each country.

Japan: The people in Japan are so friendly, considerate and helpful, I was really blown away by them. My Birthday experience in Japan was a real highlight too: climbing a hill to a viewpoint of Mt. Fuji then staying in a traditional Japanese room (thanks to Hana for that!).

Australia: Again, the people really stood out for me. Not quite in the same way as Japan but everyone you meet instantly becomes your friend and they will happily offer to put you up for a week in their family home after talking to you for 5mins! (true story!). The Kangaroo sanctuary was an amazing experience. Feeding and looking after all the ´roos was something I never thought I would do in my life. Not only that but meeting someone who has sacrificed running hot water, a flushing toilet and electricity to dedicate their life to helping orphaned animals was very humbling. Also, driving 8500km across Australia was pretty cool in itself.

New Zealand: Wow, what a place. I´m getting bored of saying this now but the people there really were brilliant. People will literally stop you in the street and ask if they can help you with anything... A far cry from rioting. The scenery really takes the biscuit here, it is like driving in a postcard. Every corner you turn there is a new vista to take in (about 1500 photos). House sitting in the Coromandel Peninsular was brilliant fun too, and Jae will remain a firm friend of ours in the future.

South America: I´m doing both Argentina and Brazil in one as comparatively we didn´t spend as much time here. Iguazu Falls is one of the most amazing natural wonders I have seen. I don´t know how they did it but the only way you could get closer to the falls would be to swim over them. That stomach dropping feeling looking over the edge into the oblivion is incredable and I would urge anyone to visit Argentina purely for the falls. Brazil is hard to describe as we have only spent time in Rio. The city is interesting and there is always a lot going on. The beaches are nice (but I´ve seen better to be honest), and seeing the favelas, Christ the Redeemer and sugar loaf was certainly worth while.

Well, I guess that´s it. I´ve had the best experiences of my life on this trip and can safely say I wouldn´t (nor couldn´t) have done it with anyone else. Thanks Hana :)

See you all soon
Phil xxx