Go See Run Eat Drink... done

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The time has come to put this blog to bed.  It’s fulfilled its purpose, and there just isn’t anything more to say on the subject.  Hell, even the prodigal package from Africa has now completed its journey.  Go See Run Eat Drink was always intended to be just what’s in the title: “My year travelling the world – the getting ready, the going, and the coming home.”  So I wrote about getting ready for the trip – researching gear choices, planning the itinerary, and dealing with the anxieties of such a major life upheaval.  And then I was off and I wrote about the trip.  God, did I write – 275 posts in all.  (Aside: Before leaving I told my Dad, a decidedly non-techno type, that I’d figure out how to print out the blog posts and mail them to him periodically. (Of course Karen ended up being the one to do all this… I just emailed her the files.)  I even made up a binder with a nice blog-themed cover and filled it with all the posts up to that date and gave it to him for Christmas 2008.  By the time I finally fetched up on his doorstep again in June of 2010 the blog printouts had swelled out of their original binder and filled TWO more, all three of which were being leant out to other non-techno people in a weird sort of Luddite Valley Post system. But honestly, THREE binders?  I need an editor!)

I wrote about camping with hashers in Scotland, and hangovers in Russia and dead computers in Copenhagen and lost wallets in Barcelona and marathons in Athens and dodgy cab rides in Nairobi… and that was only the first half of the trip.  I wrote about places and people and things (and food!), and also about how I felt about it all, and about when I got cranky or homesick or just tired of living out of a suitcase.  There was also a lot that didn’t make it into the blog, but frankly that stuff is none of your damned business.  If you wanted to get the WHOLE whole story, you should have come with me (like Laurie and Patti!).

Me and Patti.  Oh, and the Taj Mahal.

And then I came home.  There were a few posts after I got back, but essentially that’s where the story ended.  Now my life has, naturally, entered a whole new phase.  I knew when I got back from the trip that I’d end up living in a new city, with a new job, and that the blog would be over, just like the trip.  It all seems like it was a hundred years ago, and now I look back at old blog posts almost as if I’m reading about someone else’s life. 
I hoped that I’d be able to write some kind of grand summing up post to end it all with great insight and clarity.  Clearly that’s not going to happen, so instead we exit with a bit of a whimper.  As for insight and clarity, I’m not sure I can say that I was profoundly changed by my travels.  I’m the same person I was before, except now I’m just a bit more, well, worldly.  I think I’ve got a broader perspective now and I’m definitely more confident and more easy-going.  Travelling around the world, especially (mostly) alone for an extended amount of time requires a level of flexibility that was not a big part of my personality before.  And now people laugh when I claim that I’m basically an introvert.  I mean you just CAN’T be an introvert when you spend a year interacting with strangers all day, every day, so I guess now I’m a recovering introvert. Also, I can sleep almost anywhere, and my hair is longer.  But inside? Still Pam.

Of course that doesn’t mean nothing’s changed.  On the contrary, almost everything has changed.  I’m not just living in a different city, I’m living on a different continent, and that’s something I would never have contemplated if I hadn’t taken the plunge, chucked out my old life, and turned my face to something completely new.  It’s not been a cakewalk so far, this new life, but I think it’s got potential, and I’m glad I’m doing it.  And I’m definitely glad I did the trip.  For all those of you who hear about a trip like mine and say, “Oh, I wish I could do something like that.” I say, “You can.  All you have to do is quit your job and sell your house.”  Easy.  Ok, maybe not easy, but definitely worth it.

Vic Falls
One of the best days of the trip. Or of my life.  Standing in the water at the edge of Victoria Falls. Like I said… worth it.

And that’s all there is to say.  “Go See Run Eat Drink: My year travelling the world – the getting ready, the going and the coming home.”  It did what it said on the tin.  And now it’s done.

Thanks for coming along for the ride.

(Oh, and for those of you who want to read whatever happens to cross my mind these days… click here.)

Never say never

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Cast your mind way back to January, 2010.  There was I, your humble blogger, at the end of a long stint bouncing around Africa in the back of a big orange truck, sick to death of tents, sleeping bags, camp food and the continent in general.  During a short pause in Livingstone, Zambia, my last stop in Africa, I packed up a load of stuff – souvenirs, sleeping bag, a camping mattress, unwanted clothing, gifts and other assorted gack, and sealed it all up in a big cardboard box swathed in an entire roll of saran wrap and packing tape.  Then it was off to the post office in Livingstone where I was charged the usurious sum of 453,000 Zambian Kwacha (a bit better than $100 CAD) and trusted the good people of Zambia Post to see the whole bunch back to Winnipeg.  

Terrence and package 
Fellow overland traveller Terrence, and the package, 12-Jan-2010.

And then there was waiting.  Karen & Steve in Winnipeg, me in a series of other countries you’ve already heard about.  And we waited.  And we waited.  Three months. Six months. Ten months… nothing.  And I’m sorry to say that by about the 6 month mark my faith in Zambia Post was non-existent.  I was quite certain that someone somewhere had helped him or herself to the interesting bits of the package and the rest was tipped into the garbage, never to be seen again.  The most distressing thing was that Laurie had loaned me her much-thicker-more-comfortable therma-rest mattress before she departed in Dar Es Salaam, taking my thin-and-easier-to-pack one home with her.  So that was gone, which naturally made me feel like a bit of a heel.  Also gone was the sleeping bag I’d bought just for the African sojourn, and a black and white painting of zebras and a carved wooden giraffe I’d bought for myself, and some Zanzibar spices and other bits I’d bought for people.

The giraffe carving I bought at Kande Beach, Malawi, and the guy who sold it to me.

But I was philosophical about it all.  Spending a year travelling as I did, with only the contents of one carry-on sized bag, I gained a more relaxed, easy-come-easy-go attitude to physical possessions in general.  Especially ones I’d been parted from for months on end.  So I apologized profusely to Laurie (who refused to let me buy her a new therma-rest), and had a brief period of mourning for my wooden giraffe, and got on with my life.

And now for the bit you’ve already guessed was coming. 

I’d just got back to London from my Christmas break back in Canada, and I mean just.  I’d fetched up at the doorstep - after three flights, two layovers, two airline-sized bottles of Chardonnay, one Gravol, an interminable wait for luggage and an hour long tube-ride from Heathrow - at about 1:00pm on Tuesday, January 3rd.  At 6:15pm the same day, just as I was finishing a jet-lag defying 7km run, I got a text message from Karen: 
“Check your email… now.”
Hmmm… intriguing. 

The email said:
“You will never guess what Canada Post delivered today.”
Yep.  The prodigal package, looking distinctly worse for wear, had finally finished its epic journey.  And it managed to arrive just 30 hours too late for me to greet it myself, in person.  Good timing!

Weird Food Steve received the package, and reported that it had “been through the wars”.  He was also clever enough to takes some pictures!

The package, after 357 days in transit. It looks sort of like I felt in the same circumstances.  In fact, this poor box was on the road for seven days LONGER than I was.  No wonder it looks a bit rough around the edges… literally. (And I notice my return address mysteriously migrated from the top of the box to the side... neat trick.)

Most miraculous of all was the fact that everything that I’d put in the box a year ago in Zambia was still in the box when it arrived in Winnipeg. (Though I use the term “box” loosely, since it would best be described as a “bundle” or “lump” after 357 of RTW travel).  The painting, the giraffe, the therma-rest, the sleeping bag, the gifts… everything.  Even a mouldy baggie of vanilla beans purchased on the cheap at the market in Zanzibar. 

So to Zambia Post, Canada Post, and whatever other postal systems were involved (Albania? Faulkland Islands? Venus?): I apologize for doubting you.  And thanks.  Now how about that other package I sent on the same day… to Calgary?

Pick of Pick of Pics

Monday, January 3, 2011

One other thing… I’ve decided to have a very small number of photos from the trip printed up on stretched canvas.  And I’m finally going to settle in somewhere properly by hanging things on the walls. But as you can imagine picking six photos out of more than 12,000 is a daunting task.  So I’ve narrowed it down a bit – here are my thoughts about good options.  Please let me know what you think.  Or point me back to favourites you might have seen in the Flickr feed that I’ve long ago forgotten about.

In the order in which they were taken:

Woman on the road, Suzdal

The Grand Canal, Venice

View from the Galata Bridge, Istanbul

Old Man in a sunny spot, Jerusalem

Jerusalem Man
Old Man in a sunny spot close up, Jerusalem

The Dead Sea with chairs, Israel

Kampala Kids
Kids, Kampala

Fish market, Stone Town, Zanzibar

Good luck charm, Delhi

Carpet weaver, Agra

Boatman, Varanasi 

Old Man, Bahkatpur

Soldier, Beijing

Monk at work, Luang Prabang

Young monks, Luang Prabang

Tourist maiko, Kyoto

Tatami Mat Man, Takayama

Home for Christmas

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas! Yes. I know it’s been, err… a while, but let’s not get bogged down with that. Oddly, though I am still living in London, I’m writing from my real home – Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Ahhhh… is there anything that says “Home for Christmas” like snow blowing across a highway with nary a turn sight?

Getting here at all, let alone in time for the holidays, was nothing short of a Christmas Miracle given the tragi-comedy that played itself out at Heathrow Airport over the last week. For those of you living under a rock: five inches of wet snow fell in an admittedly short space of time last Saturday morning and paralyzed Heathrow to such an extent that:

  1. Flights were cancelled for days on end and thousands, or more likely tens of thousands of people had their holiday plans ruined.
  2. Every day the newspapers were filled with pictures of people who’d been sleeping on the floor in the airport for two or three or four nights in a row, along with tales of woe about missed weddings and honeymoons, Christmas plans in tatters, and one particularly poignant story about a terminally ill little boy who missed his flight to Lapland to go see real reindeer. (Maybe he should have gone to Covent Garden, where they had real rein deer AND women in elf costumes…)
  3. The Prime Minister offered to send in troops to help clear the runways and get the planes moving.
  4. Colin Matthews, the man who heads up BAA (the company that runs Heathrow) and whose name will, I hope, become synonymous with indefensible and blatant incompetence for years to come, decided it might be politic to give up his yearly bonus for 2010.
  5. And, FIVE DAYS after a moderate snow fall that brought virtually every aspect of the English transport system – air, trains, and roads – to its knees, it was still very very unclear whether my flight would leave on time, or at all. (As an aside – Toronto’s Pearson Airport can apparently clear a runway of snow in FIFTEEN MINUTES. Yes, they get a lot more practice but honestly, Heathrow is one of the busiest, most important airports in the world. They really need to up their game.)

But miraculously, I arrived on Wednesday to find things at Heathrow lurching back towards normality enough that I only had to wait outside the terminal building in a tent for about an hour, and eventually got checked in and boarded and took off almost as if the airport knew what it was about.

Camp Heathrow…. waiting to be let into Terminal 3. They were only allowing people to enter in batches. And only if you had a confirmed flight that was actually scheduled to depart. And only within about two hours of your departure time. Then again, they did give out tea and warm bacon sandwiches and Snickers bars to people waiting. They may not have snow plows, but they have catering.

And so I made it back to Winnipeg, a mere nineteen hours and six times zones after I left the house, and then spent the next day driving for eight hours to Saskatoon, and then went to bed very early feeling every-so-slightly ragged around the edges, and then woke up at three o’clock in the morning, which turns out to be an excellent time to get a lot of Christmas present wrapping done.

And how is life in London? Well, it’s good and bad. I still feel very unsettled – work has turned out to be… challenging (to put it mildly), but I’m on to a second round of interviews for another job which is very good. Home (now in North London) is serviceable but just doesn’t really feel like home, which is not great. But I get to move back to the big, happy house in Brixton in February, which is very great. I’m hashing quite a bit, which is good and fun, but I’m not doing a lot of proper running, which is bad. And you may have noticed I haven’t exactly been blogging my face off. It’s just been very easy to let the effort and weight of simply existing in the city in these dark, damp, cold winter months to consume all my energy. (I was shocked to realize during my long drive over the frozen prairie yesterday, that it gets dark at least an hour earlier in London than it does in Saskatchewan. I leave work at 4:30pm in London, and it’s already pitch black. Charming.)

I guess what I’m saying is that the last few months have been sort of a grind. The weather, the darkness, the job uncertainty, it’s all robbed me of motivation to do much of anything. So I’ve recently come to two conclusions:

  1. I have to get out and run more. I’ve just found a running club that turns out to do a Tuesday evening track workout at a park about ten minutes from my current digs (Hands up everyone who knew there was a 400-metre track and well-appointed clubhouse with changing rooms at Finsbury Park… yeah, me too.). And they do a Wednesday evening group run at Hampstead Heath. So that’s definitely on the agenda, along with a race registration of some kind for the spring. Maybe not a full marathon just yet, but something to get me a bit more focused.
  2. I want to start blogging properly again (pause for delirious cheering and deafening applause….). It was always my intention to blog in London but like I said, the motivation has been lacking. It’s now clear that I simply have to force myself to do it, and I think I’ll feel better for it. There are things I’d like to tell you about life over there – quirky stuff, funny stuff, annoying stuff, interesting stuff, helpful stuff… just… stuff. And it may even be nice to continue to have somewhere to get out the demons that crop up too.

So that’s the plan. Run more, blog more, and just try to wake up a bit. However, having said that, I also don’t think that Go See Run Eat Drink is the place for this new plan. The trip – the planning, the execution, the aftermath – it’s all ancient history already. (I can barely fathom that This Time Last Year I was “celebrating” Christmas in the pouring rain on the Serengeti.) So while I plan for the blogging to continue, it’s not going to be here. I’m going to try and spend some time over the holidays getting a few new posts in the bag, and trying a new space on for size. I can promise you that the blogging won’t be as prolific as it was when I was travelling, (especially near the end, when it seemed I could write two thousand words about lint), but I will give it an honest effort, and you’re welcome to nudge me if I let things slide.

So Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and watch this space for further news…

Festive me, with Rob H’s Longer Hair Experiment still underway…

Pic of Pics: Plymouth

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Me and the fambly, on the water taxi in Plymouth. (To mollify Rob H, and to show everyone that I'm still hanging in there with the Longer Hair Experiment.)

And, for those not plugged into the Twitter feed, I GOT THE JOB. I'm now working full time, and have just finished Day 3. It's good, and busy, and frustrating (already) and yet all feels eerily familiar. If I had time to catch my breath I might be able to blog about it, but I'm suddenly too busy working, searching for a long term flat, and generally trying to remember how to function when 8-10 hours a day is taken up with... work. It's been a looooooong time.