Day 134: All Over Red Rover
I fly back to San Francisco today, completing my circumnavigation of the northern hemisphere which began way in June. Looking back over the past several months, at all I’ve seen and experienced, I do have mixed thoughts. Of course there’s a definite feeling of accomplishing something pretty damn special in traversing the ancient Silk Road from one end to the other. And apart from “cheating” a little by jetting across the two oceans and a couple of other short hops by plane, I’ve done it all by road and rail. It’s what I setout to do and I succeeded, which feels really good.
Throughout the trip I’ve had the great fortune to see some places way off the beaten track that few people have had the chance to experience, and I’ve learnt a lot about the world around me. I’ve seen the seasons and the terrains change, I’ve watched farmers go from planting crops in the spring to harvesting them in autumn, and I’ve noticed people’s features and their cultures vary in gentle shades from decidedly European to full-blooded Asian. It’s been a real once-in-a-lifetime eye-opener. If only more people could see the things I’ve seen, and meet the people I’ve met, I can’t help think that our world would be a better place…
I’m relieved that I made it here in one piece (without a major illness, drama or emergency to deal with!) but I’m exhausted right now – I’m looking forward to putting my feet up at Mum and Dad’s next week! I didn’t pick the easiest places to travel through and it certainly took its toll on me. I didn’t ever plan to fly the Silk Road solo, and traveling alone added a greater burden: I couldn’t ever drop my guard or be complacent, I always had to stay aware and alert for danger, and of course I also had to keep a constant 24/7 eye on my stuff. I’d also have to say it was one of the lonelier experiences of my life, and as my friend Nevyn commented, I’ve probably spent waaaay too long alone with my thoughts. There were some pretty shitty days and depressing times in there, and I sometimes went for weeks without talking a word in English. It wasn’t all doom and gloom of course but it certainly wasn’t all easy peasy either.
Somewhere along the way I lost the excitement of traveling as well, and reckon it might finally be time to hang up my boots and call it a day – God forbid, but I think my travel bug might have died. But looking back, the bug certainly had a good and prosperous life! Since I moved overseas way back in 1998 it’s been an amazing adventure. I’ve lived and worked in four countries on three continents, I’ve traveled through something like 70 countries, and I’ve achieved so much of what I set out to accomplish with my life. It’s been an incredible rollercoaster ride and I’m a better man for it, but I think I’ve had my fill. It’s time to let the kiddies have a turn.
Satisfying my wanderlust and chasing my dreams has come at a pretty heavy cost as well, and I’ve lost a lot that’s important to me along the way. Some friends have sadly drifted away with time, relationships have suffered, and moving from country to country to begin a new life has been tough work at times. Regrets? Many. I’ve had to make sacrifices too. While I reckon I’ve done a decent job getting back to Australia for most of the really important events, there are others I’m disappointed I missed (my sister Sally giving birth to my niece Zoe and my other sister Marnie’s 21st birthday to name a few). On a personal level I had to give up my rugby career to move to the US for grad school – it might sound wank but that was a tougher choice than you’d think!
On this trip, more than ever before, I’ve come to realize that I’m just marking time while everyone else around me has been moving on with their lives. Has everything I’ve done simply been a self-indulgent waste of time? I dunno, but I’m asking myself right now whether it was worth it. I do definitely feel like it’s time to unpack my bags (literally and figuratively) and get on with my life too. I have a new and exciting career to get stuck into at Bain & Co., and I’m looking forward to calling San Francisco home for a while sometime soon. I’ve already worked out where I’m going to live (North Beach/Russian Hill) and which rugby club to play for (Olympic). I just have one final element of this “Grand Tour” to complete first – learn Spanish in Buenos Aires and climb in the Patagonian Andes with my mate Mark McCarthy, plus if I have time squeeze in some volunteer work too – and then I’m good to go. After that my traveling days are over, at least for now.
This feels like a farewell of sorts so some thanks are in order. Thanks so much to all of you for your support of me over these years, in all your different ways. To my awesome family, your unfailing support of everything I choose to do has been a great comfort to me. To my friends back in Oz, and to those of you in Switzerland and in the USA, I miss all of you. And to those of you I met on the road, my fellow wanderers, you’ve enriched my travels enormously. You were and are the lasting highlight. Please always keep in touch.
This blog’s been a fair bit of work to put together and keep up-to-date while I’ve been traveling, but I hope you’ve enjoyed perusing it as much as I’ve enjoyed putting it together. I’m going to rest my pen and disappear for a while, but you can always find me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Keep living life! Signing off for now, Paul.