“working” from home today, and i have fallen into a deep well of travel blogs and rtw sites. the more i read the further away i seem to get from knowing where i want to go. i think that in order to figure out exactly what i want to get from this trip, i need to revisit the beginnings.

the roots go back to early 2002 – i was dating this guy (who, for anonymity purposes, we shall call here “p.”) who was headed on a trip to mount kilimanjaro (via london) for a month. i was incredibly jealous (and also, for reasons i can only chalk up to temporary insanity, rather attached at that point). i was missing him, and trying to pretend i wasn’t, so in a stroke of inspiration i started keeping a fictional round the world blog that i emailed to him daily. i spent hours at my work desk every day researching and writing, and scouring photographs, trying to make it as realistic as possible. i did white water rafting in the grand canyon. i went canoeing down the amazon to see the pink porpoises and trek through the rainforest. i hiked the inca trail to machu picchu. i climbed active volcanoes in hawaii. i dove in the waters of the galapagos islands and saw the worlds most ancient tortoise. i went to an elephant sanctuary in the himalayas. i went ballooning over the namib desert at sunrise. i saw the fjiords of norway, and the aurora borealis. not much *paid* work got done, but i was far too busy constructing my adventures to wallow in self-pity.

of course, i should’ve known the relationship would end in disaster when, after receiving my lovingly and painstakingly crafted project, his first comment was on how it seemed to be written from a very post-colonial point of view. and that, my friends, was the point at which he became known as “waste of space”.

however – i put so much time and effort into this little creative project that the idea of a round the world trip took deep root. but it wasn’t the kind of thing i thought could ever happen without the miracle of winning the lottery. not to mention the whole mindset is different – people in the u.s. don’t just drop out of society to go travelling. hell, people rarely take more than their allotted 2 weeks vacation to do anything. but coming over here, being surrounded by people whose raison d’etre is adventure, whose only purpose for living in london is to finance their travels… well, it’s an eye opener. these people work and save… and take off. and then work and save some more, to travel even further. suddenly, a round the world trip didn’t seem like such an impossibly difficult thing to accomplish. and meeting j… that’s when it all started to come together.

so i guess part of the purpose for this trip is to see some places before they change too irrevocably. places like cambodia and china and bolivia are quickly becoming hotspots. places like thailand and peru have already been “ruined” to some extent with the influx of western tourism. i’m not saying they’re not worth seeing – just that i believe it’s becoming impossible to view these places without the filter of the permanent influence of travellers. observing something fundamentally changes the nature of it, but add a dependence on foreign investment, and suddenly it is no longer “what it is”, but has become “what you want it to be”. you are no longer viewing that country’s native culture, but rather that country’s native culture in saleable form. globalisation is not, in and of itself, a purely evil or wonderful thing – there are both benefits and problems. but it does change things.

and the other part of this trip is to get in touch with that piece of myself that always identified with being a traveller. my first real travelling experience was as an exchange student to paraguay at 16. i knew almost nothing about the country before i arrived, and after the summer was over, i came back thinking very clearly “oh, okay, well that’s it then – i’m going to spend my life travelling.” i was certain that i would go into international development, and become a lifelong wanderer. my parents knew people who were career travellers – people who devoted their lives to the peace corps or missionary work. i thought for sure that i would finish university, do a stint in development, and then become a part of an ngo organisation that would send me to all kinds of places. it was so clear in my head that that’s how my life would be.

but alas, at first i took a liking to psychology, and then a new york boy, and “the plan” just kind of derailed from there. and in the meantime, real life has a way of intervening, and tying you down to things you never thought you’d need, but now would have a hard time doing without. but this is my chance to see the lifestyle and places i always thought i would be intimately familiar with – the adventures, the spontaneity, the languages. very few people can/choose to live that way, and this is my chance to catch a glimpse of it.

so i suppose that’s important to keep in mind as i plow through all this information, as fascinating as it is. while my trip will certainly not be complete without seeing the angkor wat, or the three toed sloths of south america, as ursula le guin once said, “it’s good to have an end to journey towards. but it’s the journey that matters, in the end.”

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