I stepped off a plane on February 6th, 2003, and everything changed. Big time… Since then, February 6th is a special date in my head. It’s not like anything extraordinary happens on this day, but I get a repeat of that flashbulb memory first shocker of arriving in a completely up-side-down place, the feeling of not knowing W.T.F. is going on, having to struggle for everything, and feeling tremendous sense of accomplishment over the silliest, smallest things that go right.
It’s fun stuff!
I made a slide-show of a tiny fraction of photos from the different places, taken by me, or by my friends (when I wasn’t looking). The slide show was not about the AWESOME sights, because plenty of people have that covered, just google the stuff. My photography is actually quite mediocre. The slideshow was about the experience, the weird, the sad, the painful, the fun, the happy, the awesome. If it wasn’t for the 40,000+ photos, I would actually have forgotten about three-quarters of the weird shit that happened in these past few years, because, frankly, it all sounds just about made up.
When done right, there is a heap of learning in backpacking. We get bombarded by new stuff at such a high rate, one month on the road is like one year back home. All the novel experiences end up raising a tonne of questions in your head, and if you have the will, the time, access to books or the net, then every evening you have an opportunity to answer all these questions, and generate new ones. It’s wonderful.
A great highlight of traveling is meeting all the new people. To be honest, I am not one to get all excited about meeting the locals, because for the most part the cultural and linguistic barriers keep us well separated; but running into other backpackers, each with their own weird story, own lesson, own fun… That is pure gold. Most are just passing through your life, never to be seen again. Some later become Facebook friends. Some are just plain weirdos, that you hope not to see again. And some become long term friends that you run into again, and again, and again.
Finally, it’s the adventure. It’s everywhere. It is in adversity, it is in victory. Sometimes you arrange for it to happen, sometimes it arranges itself. Sometimes it is too much, often not enough. Even the most annoying flight delay which results in 2 days of camping at an airport becomes a hilarious story, and the most horribly infected wound a lesson about health. And overall the lesson is that the world is not as scary as the TV tells you it is, that you can overcome a surprising amont of crap, and that in the end, if you keep calm, things work themselves out. Or you die. But you try not to.
My only regret is that I didn’t start the whole backpacking bit much earlier…