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Must Do's On Your World Trip!

According to Jacquie.... Lloyd's 'Improvements' to Follow....

sunny 15 °C

Post trip, the most common question is inevitably: "what was your favourite place?" And while there is no short answer, the following is today's attempt at my personal Favourite Experiences during the trip. Lloyd will post separately on how his list would differ (I know, for example, that he certainly wouldn't agree with my Top Pick!), but this - and the forthcoming additional 'list' type entries - will also give us the excuse to post some more photos that haven't previously featured on the site. Enjoy!

10 - Qingzang Railway (Beijing to Lhasa)

No doubt, the novelty factor (with parts of the track having been opened for less than a year at our time of travel) is part of the reason that a 48 hour train journey makes the list! Compared to the Trans Siberian, the journey to Lhasa was extraordinarily comfortable - with brand new carriages, well designed common areas and edible food! So we were able to experience the world's highest railway track (up to 5300 metres!) in considerable comfort. The scenery, though, was the most memorable element of the journey. Read more here.

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On the left, staff being checked for adverse effects of altitude in the restaurant car - at least two passengers have died while travelling on the train; and on the right, stations may have been unmanned, but they certainly weren't unobserved: we counted at least four cameras on this mast seemingly in the middle of nowhere!

9 - Leaping off a Bridge in New Zealand

Proof - if it were ever needed - that travel liberates the mind. This is something I said I'd never do, and - looking back - I still can't quite believe I did it. If you're physically up to it (and be cautious of the sales folk who will try and sell you on it even if you roll in on a wheelchair), I'd recommend it. Stupid though it may sound, I feel bolder as a result. Read more here.

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Waiting on Karawau Bridge for the big moment. The second photo shows my focus on getting the job done (either that, or sheer terror judging by the hand grip!).

8 - Cambodia

I was utterly fascinated by Cambodia and it would feature very highly on my list of places to return to. Angkor Wat is, of course, impressive to visit, but far more appealing is the opportunity to see a country still relatively undeveloped. Cambodia's people are easily the most welcoming we came across, and with a simply fascinating - if appalling - recent history, I could have spent as many weeks here as we did days. Read about our visit to one of Cambodia's famous Killing Fields here.

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This young lady is condensing palm milk to make palm candy, which is a lot like scottish tablet (a very sugary treat).

7 - Motorbiking around Hanoi

Where else in the world would you get on the back of some random motorbike - without a helmet - and allow yourself to be thrust through crazy streets simply thronging with thousands of pedestrians and other bike riders seemingly each with a death wish? Of course, it's totally the right thing that as of December 2007 (i.e. after our visit), motorcyclists are now required by law to wear helmets, but I have to confess that the whole experience might be somewhat less exhilerating as a result.... Read more about our motorbike tour around Hanoi here.

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6 - Mongolian horses

It wasn't planned this way, although perhaps it was inevitable, but the common theme in Mongolia definitely turned out to be horses! I loved our overnight homestay in a ger despite our comical 'guides' and the ride through Teralj National Park is something I'll never forget. A few days earlier we chanced upon a spectacular display of horsemanship at a recreation of a Gengis Khan battle involving 500 horses! Read more about our ger stay here, and more about the Gengis Khan re-enactment here.

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During our horse trek, we left our guide (in the left hand picutre) for an hour while we climbed up to a local monastery. When we returned, we couldn't stir him from this pose... I guess taking us out for an afternoon trek was a welcome break from the more arduous tasks waiting for him back at camp! On the right, the most incredible spectacle I've ever seen involving hundreds of horses!

5 - Varanasi pilgrimage

Older than even Delhi, Varanasi is nothing less than an assault on all the senses and is an absolute must-see on any Indian itinerary in my view. We were blessed to be taken in by an Indian family that had travelled from southern India for days to undertake their pilgrimage to the great Ganga, turning our experience into something that was far more spiritual and touching than either of us was expecting. Read more here.

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OK, so you've seen this picture before, but we felt intrusive taking pictures of what was a very personal experience for these ladies, so we didn't take too many!

4 - Cycling Yanghsuo China

The spectacular karst scenery of Guilin, perfectly framed by the Li River, was a destination that did not disappoint. In contrast to our urban Chinese experiences, we found the farming communities to be far more interesting and friendly, and we loved cycling through tiny villages on our way to the famous Moon Hill. Read more here.

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Another reason easily makes the Fav list.... my good buddy Martin came along too!

3 - On Safari in Kenya's Masai Mara

We did this way back in July and it easily turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences ever. While the timing was great (we were there right at the start of the Great Migration), we kind of wished we'd saved it for the end as it was a long time into the trip before anything came close to impacting us the same way. Read more about our safari - including our close encounter with mating lions! here.

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2 - Bathing the Elephants at Chiang Rai in Thailand

Easily the most expensive thing we did on the trip, we'd nonetheless recommend the Four Seasons Tented Camp as a once-in-a-lifetime decadence. The organized elephant interactions were less contrived than we were expecting, but it was the early morning bathing sessions that offered a far more intimate experience that we will never forget. Read more here.

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We were as glad of the shower as the elephants after bathing in poo-infested waters!

1 - Heli-Hike on Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand

Perhaps one of the more normal things we did on our trip, so I'm surprising myself a little putting it right up top. This was my first experience anywhere near a glacier, nevermind on one, and I was absolutely stunned by the scale, power and beauty of this ancient beast. Read more about how we almost didn't make it onto the glacier at all here.

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Posted by jacquiedro 17:19 Archived in USA Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Adjusting to 'Real' Life: An Update

Reality Bites

overcast 12 °C

Six months on the road seemed like a blessed eternity. With so many new experiences each and every day, I have to say that the six months actually felt like a really long time. We extracted as many hours as we could out of every day, and seized every opportunity. In short, I think we squeezed in a lifetime of travel in a compressed period of time.

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Our change of address card highlighted just a few of the many places we'd been...

Back in California, our first month has just flown by, with the whole of January feeling like about three days on the "trip" clock. And, of course, it can't be a surprise that it's felt a whole lot less fulfilling than any of our last six months when we averaged 10,000 miles and four countries a month, each with innumerable unforgettable experiences. Half of me is left thinking that six months wasn't long enough. But the other half warns that the adjustment would be correspondingly more difficult if we had stayed out longer.

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Who's this guy? Lloyd tells me that shoes are kind of hard to get used to again...

It might be marginally easier for Lloyd who has thrown himself back into work 110%. For me (and Lloyd kindly labels me an 'uber'-type-A), I'm doing my best to feel fulfilled by a combination of home-building, job search and CFA study, but world travel is a pretty compelling option when it's up against the best job in the world, never mind unemployment. I'm chomping at the bit to get back into the corporate world, and the 'adjustment' phase will likely endure until I'm settled in my new role. Watch this space....

Talking of home-building, we spend the first few weeks back looking at furnished homes for short-term let in the Bay Area. Ironically, we came closest to renting from a couple heading out for their own six month adventure (!), but our final walk through exposed the couple as massively uptight, with an almost obsessive compulsive disorder with regards to their home, despite the pet bird that was allowed to fly freely around the place. I guess there are cat people, and bird people. We don't understand the latter.

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New apartment: moving in.

Since the bird people put us off renting furnished entirely, we quickly found an unfurnished apartment to rent in San Jose. Bearing in mind that we sold every stick of furniture with our house last May, we moved into a very sparse apartment on the 19th of January, and headed to the nearest IKEA to furnish the place. And so it is that we find ourselves living in what could easily pass as an IKEA showroom. I guess we could blame my new sister-in-law for the Swedish influence!

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Anyway, look for some Trip Statistics, and Top Ten Lists in the coming days. It's a great excuse for us to relive our very happy memories.

Posted by jacquiedro 16:18 Archived in USA Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

The End of the Road

Arriving Back in San Francisco

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After more than six months on the road, we left London on the 3rd of January headed "home" to San Francisco. We were excited to be headed back, but it could hardly be called "home" given that we were returning to no more than a five foot by eight foot storage unit with all our worldy belongings and a PO Box crammed full of unsolicited credit card offers.

We were convinced, however, that forces were conspiring to keep us in London. First, our taxi didn't show up to take us to Heathrow, resulting in a frantic dash across - or should I say under - London. On the bright side, we were too stressed to be sad about the end of our trip, but arriving at Heathrow with forty minutes ahead of an international flight isn't to be recommended. Suffice to say I almost concluded the trip by getting arrested for being a little too enthusiastic with my 'encouragement' for progress in the security line. But the real tragedy was that I didn't have any time for a final English Breakfast or to stock up on the British chocolates and biccies that will prove all too elusive back in the US.

Having made it to the gate in time (just), the conspiracy to keep us on the road just seemed to deepen when our 747 was grounded for almost two hours pending technical faults. Frankly, this plane seemed to have so many faults, we thought twice about staying on it - but in the event our 11 hour flight passed without incident.

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Final Destination: San Francisco

I couldn't help but smile when we stepped back onto American soil. Excited about what lay ahead? Of course. Pleased that we'd soon find ourselves in the same bed for more than two nights? Definitely. Content about having to worry less about tap water, ice and ice cream? Yup. Delirious about the prospect of being reunited with my cat? Absolutely!

Lloyd's good friend, Dave, who has supported us in innumerable ways during our exodus was generous with his time - once again - and met us at the airport. If you have to return to the real world after an adventure like ours, then it's definitely better if you have a friendly face to console you in the arrival lounge.

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For too many kindnesses to mention: thanks, Dave!

The weather wasn't quite as friendly and it quickly became clear that we were lucky to have landed in San Francisco at all - indeed, later flights were diverted as a ferocious storm moved through the entire Bay Area. Not quite the California sunshine we had been looking forward to! Smarter souls would stay indoors on a day like today, but Dave braved the storm to drive us the hour or so down to our until-last-June-home-town of Los Gatos.

Before I could be reunited with my cat, Lloyd had to be reunited with his baby. Would she reject him after being abandoned for six months? Would she hold it against him that he hadn't so much as let her stretch her legs during all that time? Nope! She purred right into action, with only one low tyre to show for six months in solitary confinement.

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Lloyd reunited with his baby, on the left. On the right, checking to see if our worldly belongings survived...

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And reunited with my baby.

So - what's next for us? Well, Lloyd goes immediately back to work, and I start looking for my next opportunity. In the meantime, we need to find somewhere to live and - most importantly - settle back into real life. It'll be interesting to see how smooth - or otherwise - this adjustment is. We'll keep posting from time to time to let you know! And now the work begins of reviewing all the photos and videos of the trip, so you can expect some lists of favourite and least favourite things too.

Posted by jacquiedro 16:49 Archived in USA Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

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