Highs and Lows of an Epic Adventure…

Highs and Lows of an Epic Adventure…

When Richard and I first decided to go travelling we didn’t know quite what to expect. Having never been on anything more adventurous than a two week holiday to Spain, we were inevitably apprehensive about what we would encounter on our trip across the world.

Whilst we imagined exotic beaches, vast landscapes, iconic landmarks and lots of beer; nothing could have quite prepared us for the roller coaster ride that our 11 months on the road would become. Hand on hearts, we can honestly say that despite our doubts and fears about what we would or wouldn’t be able to cope with, going on this adventure really was the best decision we have ever made.

11 months and 25 countries later, we have had a multitude of adventures and life changing experiences. These have altered the way we think and feel about ourselves and everything around us forever. Returning to ‘normal life’ can all too often cause you to start forgetting about all of the highs and lows and lessons learned from travelling, so we wanted to try and capture them ‘on paper’ in the hope that a) we will never forget them and b) that we can inspire you to get out there and make some memories of your own!

Let’s start off with some highs, some lows and some regrets…

The Highs…

Well, where do we start? Throughout our trip and during the months since we returned home, people have been asking us “What was your favourite place?” or “What were your highlights?” and each time we end up saying different things! Here are just a few that keep on coming to mind…

Hiking the Great Wall of China – the Jinshanling section is largely un-restored and our visit here gave us one of our most epic ‘wow’ moments.

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Sleeping on a Junk boat in Ha Long Bay – This fulfilled a lifelong dream for Rich who has always wanted to go there and it was just as stunning as we had imagined.

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Jumping off the 400 ft high Nevis Bungee in Queenstown, New Zealand – a personal triumph for me with my (previous) fear of heights!

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Exploring Don Khon Island, Laos – this gorgeous fairytale island was the perfect introduction to Laos where we encountered both beautiful people and beautiful sunsets.

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Getting a lesson in Kung Fu by a real Shaolin Monk – in the foothills of majestic Chinese mountains no less! A memory that the sound of Chinese music will forever keep bringing back!

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Road tripping around NZ – in Fred, our trusty 21 year old camper van (how we miss you Fred and your sheer determination to get up those Kiwi hills!)

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Camping in the Outback – in particular our first slightly scary night of ‘swagging it’ under the stars when I awoke at 4am to find a wallaby watching us sleep.

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The fantastic people we met – not just on Oz Bus (Hello Leighton, Tomas, Chris, Ross, Mark & co) but the random strangers who gave us lifts in Pakistan, the giggling kids in Laos and the fellow travellers we partied with in Nha Trang!

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The Lows…

It’s impossible to have done as much travelling as we did without encountering a few low points. And yes, there were moments when we felt like giving up and jumping on the next plane home, but we have come to realise that those times when you are feeling your lowest, are often the defining moments of your trip. It’s very easy to forget the nice meal you had in a restaurant but you’ll always remember the un-nerving experience you had eating mutton in a street cafe in Pakistan whilst praying that the rats didn’t run over your feet while you ate!

Some of our lowest points…

Being robbed on the street in Vietnam – I’ll never forget the feeling of sheer desperation and panic that I felt when I was robbed of my necklace in Saigon. A horrible end to an amazing trip through Vietnam left me with a sour memory of what was one of our favourite countries.

Not being able to make ourselves understood – this happened on many occasions in China and other places where English is not very widely spoken. The simple task of ordering food or trying to get the answer to a question became the most stressful thing in the world and often tipped us over the edge.

Almost being crushed in Tibet – this was the only time during our trip that I ever felt real fear for my life. Even Richard was scared! Trying to get into the train station in Lhasa along with at least a hundred Tibetans all surging and pushing towards the single entrance was definitely one of the most frightening experiences ever!

Sleeping 10 carriages apart on a sleeper train to Beijing – despite booking tickets together Rich ended up in carriage 13 and I ended up in carriage 3. Sleeping with 5 strangers who don’t speak the same language as you is pretty daunting, but luckily, there were no axe murderers in sight!

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Placing yourself way out of your comfort zone can inevitably lead to home sickness and while we can’t quite recall an exact moment where we missed home, we do remember yearning to talk to people who could understand us and wishing we could eat something ‘normal’ once in a while!

The Regrets…

Despite all of the amazing things we have seen and done over the last year, we still regret missing out on experiences such as flying around Mount Everest or witnessing the Pakistan-India Border Ceremony. We were just very unlucky on these occasions – time and the weather were against us and there was nothing we could do, but some of our biggest regrets revolve around things that were completely within our control…

Being so tight fisted – travelling non-stop makes you very conscious of ‘watching the pennies’ and whilst this is something that is necessary on a long trip we do regret the way it made us act. We used to argue with tuk tuk drivers, bus companies, tax drivers and street vendors over the smallest amounts of money!

One incident that we feel sort of ashamed about now is the screaming match we had in the middle of Delhi with our tuk tuk driver – his price progressively went up and we couldn’t get over the fact that our ‘tourist’ price was considerably higher than the price he had on his meter. We flatly refused to pay him anything extra and after about 15 minutes of yelling he got back into the tuk tuk drove off. At the time we felt so proud of ourselves for not getting ‘robbed’ of our hard earned cash. We didn’t feel so proud however when we worked out that all he wanted was the equivalent of £1.20p.

Being too suspicious – before we went travelling we’d heard loads of stories about local people around the world inviting travellers into their homes for tea and that this was one of the best ways to experience a country. However, being the suspicious Westerners that we were, we couldn’t quite allow ourselves to do this. We met a guy in a supermarket in Pakistan who invited us to come to his house and offered to show us around – we still couldn’t get our heads around this sort of generosity and declined, but I can’t help but feel that we may have missed out.

These regrets have taught us valuable life lessons which, in our next post, we’d like to share with you. We’ll also relive our memories of the places that affected us the most and talk about how travel has changed us, so please check back soon for the next installment

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