|—||Anne McCaffrey (via divineisinyou)|
In the back of my mind I’m asking myself, why not live like this forever?
This year I’ve swam at tropical beaches, trekked through mountains, hiked in the jungle and rafted down rivers. I’ve walked along a million streets in a thousand places, driven through the desert and rode a bicycle through the city. I’ve done a lap of Uluru, two laps of Angkor Wat and three laps of Kathmandu. I’ve had sand at my doorstep and clouds at my window. I’ve fallen asleep to the sound of water, the sound of birds & bugs and the sound of laughter. I’ve learnt to say hello in 6 more languages as well as thank you and goodbye in a few. I’ve touched monkeys, crocodiles, fish, turtles and rabbits from various places in the world and I’ve ridden an elephant. On two occasions. I’ve seen so much. From temples and villages to amazing sunsets and breathtaking landscapes. Not to mention a baby being born. I’ve witnessed heartbreaking poverty as well as extreme wealth and I’ve experienced working in both circumstances. Ive danced on a bar top, sung at an orphanage, driven a motorbike through countryside cambodia, lived in a Tibetan refugee camp and paraglided over Nepal. Ive screamed until I’ve lost my voice and laughed until I’ve cried. I’ve smiled ear to ear for days on end and for the first time, felt my heart truly sing. I’ve felt content in the company of others and I’ve felt content on my own. I’ve eaten curries with flavours I didn’t even know existed and fruits with names I cant pronounce as well as turantula! And I can’t even begin to mention the incredible people I’ve met along the way because I would never stop talking about how wonderful they all are. Let alone the things they’ve achieved, the stories they’ve told and the inspiration they’ve filled me with. I’ve done and seen and smelt and changed and learnt and grown SO much in just 7 months. Imagine the person I’d be if I did this for years on end.
On the other hand, if I were to travel forever I wouldn’t be able to borrow books from the library because I wouldn’t be able to return them. I couldn’t shop online because I wouldn’t have a postal address, let alone room in my backpack and I would never know where I’m from. Someone would ask and I’d say, “well I was born in Sydney but moved to Adelaide then started traveling and since then I’ve lived…..” yadi yadi ya. Even now I don’t really know where home is. I’m going “back” to Adelaide but I don’t know how long for. I may end up visiting like I visited Vietnam or the Philippines. Home to me is where I’m sleeping tonight. Where I can recover from having had all my senses thrashed. If I traveled forever, where would I keep my souvenirs? I’d buy a nice teapot from somewhere exotic for example but never have a house to put it in. I could never go to the coffee shop and ask for my usual and I’d have to lug my guitar around everywhere.
Life on the road is so uncomplicated though. Sure you miss people and places, but they’re not going anywhere. The more places that mesmerize you and the more people you fall in love with, the more reason you have to keep traveling. To see them again. And so it never ends. Only owning what you can carry, leaving before you can get sick of anywhere and not knowing people long enough to have an argument is strangely comforting. You’re forced to live simply and minimalistic and you realise that the things in life that you really need aren’t expensive clothes and big houses. Sure, you need a pair of shoes that don’t give you blisters and some sort of clothing. But what makes you happiest are the experiences and moments and conversations and questions and answers and encounters and company and surroundings. What you really need is an open mind.
I don’t have any savings and I don’t own anything expensive, I’ll admit I’m sick of wearing the same thing all the time but I’m truly content with who I am. I’m in love with life and so appreciative of everything in this world.
And all this is just a sip of the cup I’ve drank this year! If you only take one thing away from it, let it be this; travel.
After what seemed like days of airports (in fact just a 13 hour stop over in Singapore) I finally landed in Bangkok. I jumped into a Thai cab and headed for lebua hotel where the lovely Bridget and Lottie (friends from Adelaide) awaited my arrival and from the moment I pulled up, everyone somehow knew who I was. I walked to reception and without saying anything… “Oh, Miss Cleary! your friends are eating breakfast”. I went to the restaurant. “Oh, you must be Elli Cleary. Your friends are no longer eating, they’re by the pool”. And then all of a sudden there was squeals and runs and jumps and cuddles. It was so exciting seeing these beautiful girls! We didn’t muck around though, we got all our stuff together, the girls checked out and then we were in a taxi on our way to Koh Samet. The 3 hour drive allowed us to catch up and by the time we’d gotten off the speed boat at our incredible holiday destination, we were SO ready to just lay silently in the sun. Oh, the serenity. Our accommodation consisted of separate rooms scattered along the beach, each situated so you could hear the water, smell the salt and step out the door directly into sand. It was perfect. And exactly what I needed after a few months in the desert. The next day, after eating delicious fruit and drinking potent cocktails, we caught a taxi (more like truck) to the busy part of the island where there was loud music and fire-breathers all along the beach. We had dinner and drank more potent cocktails before wandering down the beach a bit. The last thing we remember is seeing a busy bar, running in and being pulled up onto tables. This is the night we refer to as The Hangover III. It was one of the funnest nights we’ve ever had and we still laugh when even a single thought of that night creeps into our mind. After another day on the beach we went back to Bangkok, caught local transport to the forensic science medical museum and then shopped and ate our little hearts out at the famous Khao Sanh tourist district. This is where I’d stayed earlier in the year with my cousin, Brendan. It was so strange being in a foreign country, getting lost and then all of a sudden, knowing exactly where I was. We walked past where I’d gotten off the bus from Cambodia and memories flooded my mind. That whole trip really had happened. That night I stayed in a cheap hostel separate from the girls who were booked into an expensive hotel. Here, I shared a room with a nice Indian man. Only when traveling do you allow yourself to get into these situations. The next morning, I met up with the Bridge and Lot very early and we made tracks for the airport.. Next stop: Nepal!
Darwin was great and made all the better by the company. I was so happy to get off the Ghan and stretch my legs and even happier to be greeted by Saurabh and Marge. I was shown around the city, their apartment and where they both work (where I had a quick cuddle with another friend, Karan). The night turned into Mexican food, Indian desserts, tequila, jagar bombs, kebabs, dancing, laughing and tuk tuks (yes they are in Darwin now)!! The next day, Saurabh and I went photo crazy at Crocosaurus Cove and then again on the Sunset Cruise. Darwin was hot. It was the perfect amount of busy, while still being cruisey and laid back. It was pleasant on the eyes and for the first time in a long time I got to see/hear/smell salt water!!! Darwin was (is) wonderful. As are the friends of mine that live there.
What I recall most from this trip is being incredibly overwhelmed. My mum picked me up from the airport and burst into tears at the sight of me, at the confirmation that I was real, my dad sat back quietly smirking at me all night and my oldest brother kept returning to simply stand next to me, telling me he missed me without having to speak a word. I hadn’t seen these special people in so long and then all of a sudden I was thrown amongst a party with all my aunties and uncles and cousins and grandparents. I didn’t even know what to say! It was so refreshing seeing everyone though and it felt like my batteries had been recharged afterwards. The wedding was absolutely beautiful and the reception was the most fun I’ve ever had with my family. When I got back to Alice Springs I sighed with relief. The visit to Brisbane was exactly what I needed - a taste of city life and shopping and traffic and of coarse, time with my favourite people in the whole wide world! But coming back to my little room and little wardrobe (i.e. backpack), back to a quiet town, back to work and back to my new friends was such a good feeling.