In the fall of 2010, I decided I wanted to set out on a big travel adventure. At the time I had become a bit bored of life in Chilliwack, and wanted to take advantage of the fact that I can work anywhere with an internet connection and actually see some of the world. I sold most of my furniture at the time and put the rest into a storage locker. And almost exactly a year ago, I boarded a plane and headed to South America.
I spent approximately eight months of this past year living out of a suitcase, bouncing between apartments and hostels, working from little remote coffee shops, and taking in as many experiences as possible. Without a doubt, it was an amazing year, filled with breathtaking scenery, amazing natural wonders, and great people.
Coming back home has been a bittersweet experience for me, especially pulling my items out of storage. I liken it to the feeling you get when you turn the last page on a really amazing book. Sure, you had a great time reading the book, but now that experience is over, and re-reading it just won’t be the same. I know there will be other books, and with it other important characters that will come and go. But for now, there’s just the transient emptiness that comes from turning the last page.
One of the hardest aspects of travel this last year were the periods of loneliness that come from time to time when you travel by yourself. I remember the first few weeks in Argentina when I first arrived where I couldn’t understand very much Spanish, I couldn’t find any english speaking TV channels, and I didn’t have any real friends. Without many options, I spent a lot of my free time just walking around the city listening to music on my iPod or reading a book at home.
But like many hard aspects of travel, they eventually get easier. I made a few great friends, found a few expat bars, learned a little spanish, and eventually had a little group of people to hang out with whenever I got bored.
In terms of being able to work as I travelled, for the most part it wasn’t an issue. I had a shoddy internet connection a few times on the journey, and lost about two days in Thailand when my laptop refused to turn on. But for the most part it just worked – internet is pretty ubiquitous these days, and I was able to get online, even in remote parts of the world.
And of course, I was fortunate enough to see many amazing parts of the world. Like all journeys, there are high points and low points.
Here’s a short list of some my better memories from 2011:
- Buenos Aires, Argentina – Buenos Aires is a special place, unlike anywhere I’ve ever been before. Between the people, the lifestyle, the language and the architecture, it’s one of the few places I’ve been that feels amazingly unique. I really enjoyed my time in Argentina and the people I met there. I’m really hoping to go back again for another visit this year, and to see some parts of Argentina I wasn’t able to last time.
- Ushuaia, Argentina – Ushuaia was a bit of a touristy town, but it was exactly what I was looking for when I arrived. I spent that weekend hanging out at a cool hostel, eating crab, and of course, walking with penguins for an afternoon.
- Edinburgh, Scotland – Edinburgh had this really great mashup of the old and the new. You could walk down the street and find a Gap store or a McDonalds, or you could hunker down in a little pub in the back of some castle and have a beer. I even managed to have a beer there that was brewed in my great grandfather’s home town in England.
- Galway, Ireland – I had fun all over Ireland, but the highlight for me was a little town called Galway. My friend Andy and I spent most of our time there just bouncing around the various pubs, but it was a cool little town.
- Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur is one of those places that could have just been a typical experience, but thanks to an amazing group of travellers I met in the Raggae Mansion hostel, I was never bored and always had something to do. It’s probably the best experience I had in a hostel this last year, and I hope I manage to see some of the same people in other places in the world this next year.
- Thailand – I could break down Thailand into a pile of different experiences, but for the most part I enjoyed the entire trip to Thailand. From the legendary full moon party in Koh Phangnan, the beaches of Koh Phi Phi, and partying with a bunch of elephant trainers in Chiang Mai, Thailand was just two months of awesome.
- Matamata, New Zealand – There are many great things about New Zealand, but the highlight for me was visiting the filming location of Hobbiton in Matamata. I first read the Lord of the Rings when I was around 12 years old I think, and the story has always stuck with me over the years. I first saw Fellowship of the Ring in Ottawa with a group of friends, and the New Zealand geography really blew me away. Given that the set of Hobbiton is the only set that’s accessible for tourists, it’s always been on my bucket list to see. Plus, because they are filming The Hobbit right now, the entire set was rebuilt and exists as it did during the filming of the Lord of the Rings.
A question I often get asked is if I’m any different than when I left. In some ways, I feel exactly the same. But I’m definitely a more seasoned traveler at this point. When I think back to all the struggles I had in South America with the language and some of the routine daily activities, they almost seem laughable after dealing with those types of situations off and on for the entire year.
All in all I managed to visit (in order) Argentina, Uruguay, New York City, Ireland, Scotland, Hawaii, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and New Zealand this past year.
I owe a big thank you to everyone who helped make this journey memorable this past year: my family and my business partner for their support, the friends back home who encouraged me to see new places, and all the great people featured in this post (and all the other ones that I didn’t have any good photos of) for being a part of the big adventure.
This next year I hope to be able to see Las Vegas, South Africa, Brazil, Peru, and hopefully Spain and Italy. But for now I’m back home, recuperating, restocking the bank account, and as always, dreaming of far off lands and all the great people I’ll get to meet this next year.