Death of My Youth

Or, Tops (and a few Flops) of 16 Weeks of Travel

I’ve been asked what my favourite place was from my trip, and it’s a hard question to answer because there are so many! So when I started giving this question some more thought, I started to ugly cry a bit over it, because the realization that the trip was over also led to a more disturbing thought – my youth was also over!

But then I remembered that I look like I’m about 10 years younger than I actually am, so I still have my fake-youth to hang on to and exploit. And hopefully I’ll travel again someday (soon) and continue to put off the responsibilities that society (and by that, I mean women’s magazines which are clearly authoritative on the subject) tells me that I should be hankering for. Suck it, society, I’m not ready to fully abandon my youth just yet!

So yes, back to that question – I can’t pinpoint one specific place as my favourite. I pretty openly bashed Australia but the truth is, I had some great experiences. And while I was horribly ill in Laos, I still loved the country. So every place holds special memories for me that are somewhat hard to explain, but they were all pieces in my mad-dash puzzle that spread across three continents in four months.

And so, in no particular order, here are some of those pieces:

The Highs

Watching the Sunrise on Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia – I’d been up all night with bad heartburn (which my paranoid side interpreted as a heart attack, and Google at 4 a.m. didn’t help diffuse that theory much) and was feeling miserable and a bit homesick. Watching the sun burst out of the horizon and the smooth moves of surfers catching a wave before work recharged my batteries.

Flying Across Five Lanes of Traffic on the 405 Freeway in Santa Monica, California – In all my years of travelling to California I’ve never driven on a freeway in LA on my own out of fear (both self-doubt on my part and my travel buddy’s insistence that my driving would be a terrible idea). Channeling the courage to aggressively tackle that freeway set the tone for much of my trip, I think. Also singing the Mexican Hat Dance to lane-change helped.

Completing the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand – Doing an alpine crossing was obviously a physical challenge. I walked like I was a character from a western film for days afterwards. But hot damn, I climbed a mountain y’all!

Finally Understanding the Local Language in Italy– I never quite grasped Dutch and German. But I was pleased as punch when I asked an Italian cab driver how much a destination would cost and understood the answer. Ditto for purchasing train tickets in Nice and not needing to resort to English.

Being an Elephant Keeper in Chiang Mai, Thailand – No explanation necessary, really. I fed elephants, and not at a zoo!

Drinking Wine Under the Eiffel Tower in Paris – I drank a lot on this trip, let’s be honest. I came close to ordering wine with breakfast on more than one occasion. There are many boozy moments I could have selected here (guzzling a giant pitcher of gin and tonic just for a t-shirt in Cambodia comes to mind). But there was something very summery and inexplicably French about drinking chardonnay from the bottle underneath the Eiffel Tower.

Sea Kayaking in Halong Bay, Vietnam – The only part of Vietnam that wasn’t psychotic, Halong Bay was freezing. Can you think of a better time to strip down to my short-shorts and blind my fellow kayakers with my pale legs? Neither could I. I didn’t get wet, so I guess that decision paid off. I was also a useful safety beacon when dusk fell.

The Lows

Getting Sick Off the Medication That Was Supposed to Ensure I Didn’t Get Sick in Laos – The psychedelic dreams were bad enough. But the fear that ensued when I thought I had some sort of deadly infection was the real nightmare. Followed closely by the fear of actually getting malaria once I went off the medication.

The Christchurch Earthquake – Terrifying for many reasons. Unpleasant for many more. Heartbreaking most of all, though, when a volunteer at the temporary shelter I was staying at told me that her house was gone, and then asked if I needed another pillow.

Eating My Weight in Mayo in Amsterdam – This is just a personal low. So much mayo on the fries.

Rooming With a 75-Year-Old-Woman for 29 Days – The experience provided endless comedic fodder for anyone reading this blog. Not so much for me. Time will tell, I’m sure I’ll laugh about the experiences in a few decades.

Wandering Florence High on Thai Cold Medication – I went on a 10-minute tangent about how much I hated some hip-hop artist (Flo Rida?) and proceeded to dissect the song line-by-line to Megan’s amusement and slight fear. I felt like I was having a heart attack and/or a bizarre dream. I’d think that I’d imagined the whole thing, except I have numerous photos of myself looking like I’m about to bust through this shop window to get at the desserts. Those who know me know this probably was not at all motivated by the medication.


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