One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things. – Henry Miller
If you have seen our initial plan (Part 1) and/or read our travel blog; you will see that, as is normal in longer-term budget adventure travel,… plans change.
Travel is more than the seeing of sites; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living. – Miriam Beard
The Final Route Everyone’s idea of a dream trip is different and so it should be. Each is unique. Yes, we did plan in advance but we were flexible. Some things were put into place months ahead, whilst other decisions occurred on the spur of the moment. This is a map of the route we ended up taking.
As you can see, we covered about 55000km, including Graham’s side trip to New York City and my travels in Northern Wales.
Why did things change?
How confident you are as a traveller has it’s part to play in how much you change your plans. When we were new travellers, we planned more and stuck to the plan more. Now we are more experienced, we succumb to the freedom of the road and revel in it. We originally planned to volunteer more but volunteering with a family in tow was tough.Understandably, most volunteer organisations will happily take on an individual or even a couple but few will even consider a family. Some of the volunteer positions offered were too remote, dangerous or too harsh for our family. We are not believers in Voluntourism and do not support it. Still, we very much recommend persisting with ethical volunteering and will continue to try to volunteer on our future travels. Like all decisions, the reasons for change are a mix of the practical, personal preferences, interests, the opportunities available and the resources at hand. Below is a small glimpse into our thought processes during out travels.
Not Why? But Why Not?
Well the truth is the world amazes us and being in one amazing bit of it is as good as being in another amazing bit. Don’t you agree? Isn’t it enlightening when you are finally on your dream trip and you find a place you love, to be able to say, “Let’s stay another week”. This is part of the true freedom of travel. There is so much of the world to see but time and money are limited. It makes sense to go where circumstances and opportunities lead. Once we left Chiang Mai we were ready for something new. The kids had been eased into their trip through time with Grandma and covering familiar ground. Now it was time to leap into the unknown. We though a few days in Laos would be just the thing and it was easy to access, overland from Northern Thailand where we already were. So we headed out, planning to spend a few days exploring. Who knew that our three day plan would turn into a three month stay? We are glad it happened the way it did and we still see our time in Laos as one of the highlights of our tour. Of course, staying so long in Laos, meant Taiwan couldn’t happen. In a sense our Laos stay replaced our Taiwan plan. We couldn’t keep our pre-arranged host waiting. Timing was a factor. The fact that we had secured volunteer work and we were really enjoying ourselves in Laos, meant Taiwan would happen another trip. (We are sure it will be just as amazing when we get there). Taiwan was also logically going to be a more expensive option. We were mesmerised by Laos. We liked where we were staying and had secured a great long-term deal. We were paying about USD 7 per night to stay in the old town. This was for two attached double bedrooms with private bathroom, free wifi, free bananas, free bottled water and hot drinks. We were allowed to use the kitchen occasionally and soon made friends with the owner, her family and the manager. Most budget meals here cost us about USD 2. Financially we were on a good wicket. We had managed to find some volunteer work in Luang Prabang, which more magical than we could have hoped for. This provided free transport and helped us out here and there. It gave us an opportunity to make firm local friends and to be invited into local villages and homes. This was also priceless. Of course making such a decision came with things to consider. We would have to extend our Laos visa twice (the maximum allowed) as the cheaper alternative of renewing our visa by crossing the border was just too hard on the kids. This would be expensive and bureaucratic. If we wanted to meet our friends in India as planned for Christmas, we wouldn’t have the time to do Japan justice, especially WOOFing as we planned. So this too was shelved for another trip. Time meant we would have to leave southern Laos and Cambodia for another trip too. So to India, where we planned to stay a maximum of six weeks. Not surprising we ended up staying three months and have already sketched out two further trips to the sub-continent. Wonderful India exceeded all our expectations and really challenged us. We loved it. When in India we took a chance to visit Nagpur to volunteer at a cultural festival. We arranged this through the couchsurfing worldwide volunteer group. The chance came up and we went with little prior knowledge or planning. Besides a few problems Prunella had with unwanted male attention – more likely in less touristic locations. We experienced living with unique artists, friendship and great food for free. We felt a part of something, were treated as honoured guests and even got into the newspapers – which was fun. In Mussorie, India we decided not to go to Nepal this time as we thought it may be too hard on the boys. Mainly due to the extreme cold at that time of year and how we were feeling at this point in our travels. Read about our time in Mussorie – Here. India was physically and mentally draining. Although we were experienced travellers it had really challenged us. Towards the end of our three months there, we were weary and needed a change. We originally wanted to get to Samarkand and researched many such options but time and expense curbed the idea. Also we were not ready to take on another difficult destination. That’s when we decided to push on to Turkey. This proved to be ideal for us and as Lucas exclaimed on our first day in Istanbul, “It’s so clean here”. By the time we hit Europe we had stayed longer than we planned in Laos, India and Turkey – we don’t regret this as it was amazing! Still this meant, despite our pre-arranged connections in Poland, this longer stay wouldn’t happen. We wanted to go overland to Belgium (Brugge being one of our original goals) and we needed time to see people and places along the way. We had travelled a long way now and yes, we missed home. We longed to see our friends and relatives in Europe and England, so this was prioritised on this end of our trip. This meant we would re-visit many places we had been before but it was exactly what we needed by this stage.
It is an absolute human certainty that no one can know his own beauty or perceive a sense of his own worth until it has been reflected back to him in the mirror of another loving, caring human being. ― John Joseph Powell.
During this time we also took some opportunities to enjoy some new places and make some new friends. With our heads slowly being turned towards home I think we wanted to be on the move more until we hit England. The luxury of time we had at the beginning of our trip was slowly running out and we felt a new urgency. Graham went to New York solo because it was his 40th year and it has always been a dream of his. He went via Dublin because he had always wanted to visit Ireland too and the airfare was one of the cheapest. We couldn’t all afford to go and we were so close to the US, being in Europe. The opportunity was there and so we again took it. Read about his adventures – Here. Prunella and the boys stay in the gypsy caravan came about after an internet search. Prunella was searching for something unique to do with the boys – a real adventure. Negotiations went well, the price was right and she connected with the owners. Plans were put in place months before and became a reality. The boys loved it! Read about it – Here. It’s impossible to write a formula for a great journey – it’s more like a grandmother’s recipe: in a large mixing bowl take a sense of adventure; add the sketch of a plan; a teaspoon of determination; a dollop of romance; a pinch of courage; a gentle shove; a sprinkle of wonder; a cup of universal love; a twist of danger; a splash of wine and a leap of faith.
Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible. – Tony Robbins
…You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. ― Martin Luther King Jr.