It really didn’t make any sense.
We only had 12 days in Namibia, and our itinerary was already looking ambitious. It’s a big, spread-out country with terrible roads, and there was already a lot of driving in our future when Lauren suggested a detour to Kolmanskop. A 1500km detour, mostly on gravel, to check out an old mining town. It just didn’t sound like it would be worth the effort.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.Continue Reading →
Namibia’s one of those countries that, despite bordering a relatively popular destination like South Africa, doesn’t get much love from tourists. In fact, when I mentioned we were heading there for a couple of weeks, most of my friends didn’t really know where it was, and certainly couldn’t name any of its attractions.
The country is one of the most sparsely inhabited on earth, hot and arid for most of the year. It’s an ancient land, home to the world’s oldest desert, and rock paintings and carvings dating back many thousands of years. Enormous dunes crowd all the way to the ocean, while the sand slowly reclaims an abandoned mining town, reminding us just how precarious human civilization can be.
It’s not just about desolate landscapes, however. Vast herds of wildlife dot Etosha’s large salt pan, there’s incredible seafood to be found along the coast, and thrill-seekers can go quad biking, sandboarding, ballooning and more.
We had a little under two weeks in the country, and crammed in as much as we possibly could. Thousands of miles later, we returned to the airport, dusty, tired and exhilarated. It had easily been one of the best trips we’d ever taken, blowing away every single expectation we’d had.Continue Reading →
It’s official. I’m no longer a full-time traveller.
I’ve got a year lease, and a gym membership, and Portuguese bank account. Last week I went to the municipal offices here in Lisbon, and officially registered as a resident.
I have a desk, and a chair, and a monitor, and more clothes than can fit in my backpack. My fridge is full of food, and my calendar is full of social events.
For the first time in nearly five years, when someone asks where I’ll be in a few months, I can answer their question with certainty.
I’ll be at home.Continue Reading →
Seven months ago I walked down a beach and into the Atlantic Ocean. That wouldn’t have been very exciting, had I not walked 865km across northern Spain to get there. That beach, in the small town of Finisterre, was where the road and my Camino ended. It’s taken this long to process the experience, and put fingers to keyboard to explain what it meant to me.
Unlike many who walk the Camino de Santiago, I wasn’t looking for an epiphany. I wasn’t recovering from a messy divorce, had a health scare or sudden death in the family. I wasn’t suffering from a crisis of faith, or a midlife one, and I hadn’t just been laid off from my job. Instead, my thought process was much simpler than that. I’m turning 40. I want a challenge. I’m in Spain. Let’s walk.
There’s a saying amongst pilgrims, though. The Camino provides. It gives you what you need, whether you know it or not. Sometimes that need is physical — food when you’re hungry, drink when you’re thirsty, a bed when you’re tired — but sometimes it’s more than that.
It also gives you time, and space. Spending six, eight, ten hours a day moving slowly across an enormous landscape, week after week, gets the brain working in unfamiliar ways. The Camino provided me the opportunity to think, to reflect, to meditate, free of distractions and complications beyond my immediate needs.
I didn’t have many expectations from my walk, and wanted to just let the experience turn out as it would.
So how did it turn out?Continue Reading →
Back in September, I completed one of the most challenging and satisfying experiences of my life. In a little over a month I walked from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, a small French town at the base of the Pyrenees, to Santiago de Compostela and onward to Finisterre on Spain’s Atlantic coast. These routes, the Camino Frances and Camino Finisterre, are part of a vast network of medieval pilgrim paths across Europe collectively known as the Camino de Santiago.
I’ll write plenty more about the experience in the future, but wanted to devote one post solely to the gear I took — exactly what I chose to take and leave behind, and how well those choices worked over the course of my five week walk.Continue Reading →
I turn 40 next month.
Forty years on this big ball of rock. It’s been a hell of a ride so far.
In my early twenties, I thought I knew exactly what life had in store for me. Of course, I didn’t have a clue back then — and I still don’t. Approaching my fifth decade, I have little more certainty about anything than I did in my second. Some people would struggle with that, but oddly, I find it comforting. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, and I don’t want to.
My current ideas for next April, for instance, see me simultaneously in New Zealand, Guatemala and Portugal. 2016 could see me settling in Spain, or wandering from beach to beach around Central America, or something else entirely. Hell, just today Lauren and I talked about visiting the Maldives, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India or Myanmar later this year, and as usual, ended up making no decision at all.
Right now, there’s really only one thing I know for sure.
A little under a month from now, early in the morning, my alarm is going to go off in a little French town at the base of the Pyrenees. I’ll get dressed in a hurry, throw my backpack over my shoulders, and quietly let myself out the door. Looking up at the mountains, I’ll pause for a moment, take a deep breath, and slowly start walking down the road to Spain.
And I won’t stop until October.Continue Reading →
I’d had no plans to go to Taiwan.
It’s not like I had anything against the country. It’s just that, like most other Westerners, I knew little about it. As a tech geek, I was aware many of my gadgets were made there — but even for me, a tour of the Asus factory didn’t seem a compelling reason to visit. If it wasn’t for Lauren, I probably wouldn’t have gone there at all.
She’d spent five weeks there a couple of years earlier, and just couldn’t shut up about the place. As in, every time someone asked what her favourite country was, the reply was instant and vocal. “TAIWAN!!!”, she’d shout. I could almost see the exclamation marks, hanging there in the air with a faint hint of accusation that not only had I never been, the country wasn’t even on my radar.
So, when a direct flight from Yangon showed up as we were figuring out where to go after Myanmar, I couldn’t resist.It was time to swap rickety buses for shiny metro stations, mohinga for dumplings and glacial Wi-Fi for some of the fastest speeds I’ve ever seen.
First stop: Taipei.Continue Reading →
The fog was finally starting to burn off as we rolled into Shwe Nyaung, scrunched up in a minibus without another foreigner in sight. Colourful woven blankets had kept the chill out for everyone else, but we’d had to opt instead for every item of clothing we owned. All the way down from Kalaw, the cold mountain air barely got a chance to heat up before the door was thrown open to let someone else out, or pluck a small family from the side of the road. I got very familiar with the sight of my own breath.
At least a dozen backpackers had got out of our bus from Bagan a few days earlier, but none had joined us on the van ride to Inle Lake. A three day trek was the preferred method, but with Lauren still fighting bouts of mono, we’d opted for the motorised option instead. A few dollars had got us to the intersection with the main road, some light-hearted negotiation and a few more notes got us the rest of the way to Nyuang Shwe in a taxi. We could have saved a bit by waiting for a shared pickup to fill up, but with just one night in town before we headed back to Yangon, time mattered in a way it hadn’t during the rest of our time in Myanmar. We needed to get moving — and the first item on the agenda was breakfast.Continue Reading →