PREPARING TO LEAVE LONDON

PREPARING TO LEAVE LONDON

Disclaimer #1: Although as a teacher I write on a daily basis, I find writing about my/ourselves in a non-pretentious-sounding way really difficult. Present me with thirty literacy long-writes and I will (grudgingly) have a good go at it, churning out meaningful praise and astute ‘moving on’ comments in language a Year 3 child can understand. But a blank WordPress edit screen and an intimidating cursor blinking patiently at me, make me realise suddenly that I, infact, am very unsuited to personal writing. The only types of writing I have done in the past ten years or so would be classed in the curriculum as ‘writing for purpose’, i.e. university essay writing, or whipping up a short story for a seven-year-old to spot the adverbial openers. Any self-reflection comes solely in the form of those reccurring night-thoughts about something I said eight years ago, which is proof, if only I needed it, that I am a terrible human being. It is definitely not written, unless you count witty, self-deprecating WhatsApp messages to group chats. I don’t even keep a private diary any longer, since my Jacqueline Wilson journal ran out of space when I was eleven. (I lie. It did not ‘run out of space’. I ‘ran out of being bothered’).

Online published diary entries, which are fundamentally what blogging is, seem essentially self-indulgent and totally at odds with my perception of my own character. Indeed I am acutely embarrassed by the manner in which many b/vloggers gauchely exhibit every boring, sordid, gory or grievous element of their lives on the Internet (have you been on YouTube recently?). Along with my closest friends, I am concerned, or rather intrigued, about how commonplace and even expected this exhibitionist behaviour has become.

But I suppose we (I) must embrace the zeitgeist and DO A BLOG, as this is apparently mandatory when you arrogantly decide to pack in your job and ponce around the globe for a while. It’s also what you do when you don’t want to bombard everyone else on social media with your annoying holiday photos, just your friends and family. Who knows, it may even remind me that somewhere inside me there is a ‘creative’ person, (the same ‘creative’ person who wandered off around the time my photography degree tutor decided that the project I had poured my soul into warranted a ‘D’ because it ‘just wasn’t deep enough’. I’d like to see the look on that smug cow’s face if she knew I would go on to become an Art Co-ordinator – I knew where ALL the paintbrushes were in my school!) So here I go, channelling Alan Bennet. See, I already sound pretentious. 

Dislaimer 2: As a fairly flighty, and essentially lazy person (see Jacquline Wilson episode), I more than likely won’t be updating this blog on a regular basis. I can imagine it being just a little too much effort after a day sipping Mai Tais by the pool in Bali.

SUNDAY 22ND JANUARY 2017

If you know us, you will know that we have been talking about going on a round-the-world trip for quite some time. Buried fairly deeply beneath the myriad banal day-to-day thoughts which compete for our attention from morn til evening (or afternoon til early morning for Dan), the notion of leaving the stresses of working in London, and lying on a golden beach in Ko Samui was the one tiny spark which has kept us going (to work at least!) for the past five years or so. We always knew we were going to do it, we just didn’t know when (although our internal monologues screamed “Before you turn 30!”). Breaking point for me was taking my school laptop on holiday during a half term break, so that I could plan for next term. Trying to create a slideshow on the different uses of the indefinate articles ‘a’ and ‘an’, tears dropping onto the keyboard in the frustration that I simply had to get it done before we travelled back on Sunday night and that everyone else was at the bar already, was the exact moment I took a step back and realised how ridiclous my working life had become. And that was two years ago! It took that long to escape the jaws of the British education system, even when I’d decided enough was enough.

But nobody tells you that to prepare adequately for a year of travel abroad takes approximately one year. At this point I am grateful for the foresight I had to give up full-time work last July. Our potential enjoyment of the trip itself has already been somewhat diminished by dint of the hundreds of hours of gruelling Google-work (on my part anyhow); ‘non-ugly women’s walking sandals’ and ‘coral-proof swim socks’ being featured in my actual search history. In fact, I think my search history for this trip alone could warrant a whole other blog. The relentless Googling comes second in effort only to actually purchasing, trying and returning most of these goods. So, at this pre-departure point our enjoyment is already in negative equity, and according to my calculations, I only anticipate us balancing the books around week five of the trip.

I exaggerate though. Truly I am one of those irritating people who revels in organising everything to the nth degree (“Fail to prepare..!”), and my potential for over-organisation struck me when today I watched a 13-minute video by a seasoned traveller entitled ’20 things you MUST do before leaving to go travelling!!!’, and I realised that not only had I completed the entire list of my own accord, but I could give the girl a few tips.

So what are these endless bobs and bits which must be done before we leave? A select few which have taken up most of our free time since last summer:

  • Buy everything I am going to pack so can guesstimate how big a backpack I need
  • Buy backpack and pack it
  • Dan to pack said backpack and see if big enough for him
  • Dan to realise he hasn’t bought everything he needs to take, and have to buy all of that stuff to be able to pack said bag and realise he needs bigger backpack
  • Buy bigger backpack
  • Worry about time it will take for backpack to come
  • Write our wills (narrow mountain roads, bad bus drivers etc.)
  • Sort out all life admin in London, e.g. tax returns, using up almost-expired vouchers, telling bank we are leaving, checking protection plan for dishwasher definitely won’t renew whilst we are away, and so on, and so on, and so on, and so on, and so on…
  • Applying for credit card with excellent non-sterling-transaction fee (harder than anticipated, as technically I no longer have a job)
  • Repeat “Yes, we are still going away. It will be sometime in late January/early February. No, we haven’t booked it yet.” until we are frankly embarrassed to show up to any social event
  • Have around 129 different vaccinations over a period of six months at a total cost of £350,000 per person
  • Renew passports so we can…
  • BUY TICKETS! so we know which dates for which we can…
  • Get visas and international driving licences
  • Organise leaving drinks
  • Start blog

So here we are, exhausted from all the effort it has taken to be able to embark on a very white, very privileged middle class adventure. And, yes, we have finally booked it, leaving on 9.2.17. So where are we going? Well, four hours with a lovely lady from STA and a terrifying amount of money later, we have our basic itinerary (all the dashes are flights):

  • London – Cairns
  • Down to Melbourne in campervan
  • Melbourne – Auckland
  • Bus tour of New Zealand
  • New Zealand – Bali
  • Take three months to mosey up through SE Asia to Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong – New York
  • Drive across the States to LA
  • LA – Mexico City
  • Work our way down to Bogotá for a month or so
  • Bogotá – Rio
  • CHRISTMAS IN BRAZIL ARRRIBA!
  • South America (we’re talking nearly a year ahead here, details are sketchy)
  • Sao-Paolo to London early Feb 18 (the flights aren’t even scheduled yet)

I mean, its modest we know.

As we are a little older than the average backpacker (me 27 years and 10 months and Dan 27 years and 11 months), our experience will be different to our 18- and 19-year old counterparts. Life experience dictates that we are (probably) not going to buy a gold ring from a gypsy who happened to find it next to us on the street, and is offering to sell it for a good price. We will practically be Saga clientele to the nose-ringed, hair-braided adolescents who we will inevitably encounter along the way. I have never felt so old as one hot night in a Ko Phi Phi beach bar in the summer of 2015, surrounded by hundreds of Day-Glo-tattooed youngsters drinking Day-Glo mixers out of buckets, raving and snogging to deadmau5 (them not me!), and thinking ‘Bed. Bed. Bed.’ at 11:30pm. And back then I was still only 26! I have since come to accept that perhaps my sense of fun has moved on from getting so pissed you think pooing in the sea is a good idea à la Kevin and Perry Go Large (not that I ever did this – in fact I don’t think I ever had the same sense of fun younger millenials seem to now – ‘Meg 18 going on 80’ was my nickname at my first proper job).

This will be a totally new experience for me, who has only left Europe once. Less so for Dan who has visited the USA and India before. My lack of travel outside of Europe has probably somewhat heightened my packing anxiety. We continually get told by veteran travellers to halve what we have packed, but that is a lesson I stubbornly refuse to learn until we are three months in, and I am Fed-Exing my fourth pair of shoes back to London.

Overall we are packing lightly, but our one luxury-yet-cumbersome item we have ‘ummed’ and ‘ahhed’ over, and eventually decided to pack is our Minolta 35mm SLR. We do infact have two of these cameras, which is how precious they are to us. Taking a film camera on a year-long globetrotting trip in 2017 sounds like a plan contrived by the criminally insane for the following reasons:

  1. The camera itself is very heavy by today’s standards
  2. The lens cap is not attached and will definitely get lost
  3. Buying film there is unlikely, so we will have to carry the majority of it with us
  4. You cannot delete photos, therefore run the risk of ugly selfies
  5. Does not fit on selfie stick (no, we don’t really have one)
  6. Airport scanners are rumoured to void film
  7. We will have to post the films back to the U.K. at great expense
  8. We will have to pay an extortionate amount to get the photos developed upon our return
  9. If the camera goes wrong there is little we can do about it, and we may not discover this until we develop said films
  10. None of these photos will be able to go onto this blog, obviously

The reason we have, against all logic decided to bring this camera (on the proviso that Dan carries it everywhere) is this:

  1. The pictures.

That camera (or one of the two) has documented many moments in the past eight years together, and there is a special quality to the photos it produces. The lens’ f1.8 aperture brings such sharp focus to the subject that the rest is given a dreamy softness, which an Instagram filter cannot recreate. ‘Bokeh’, it’s called by arty farty types. It’s fast too – good for the light of the equatorial countries we are heading to.  My dad took many of the childhood photos I cherish with this same camera. There is a photo of him taking a photo of me in a buggy with it, somewhere on holiday in Wales or Yorkshire, which I really love (ironically it was taken with a point-and-shoot). We aren’t taking any GoPros or MacBooks or any other expensive junk to worry about, but I have a niggling feeling that bringing this 80s behemoth might turn out to be an extremely bad decision, although we’ll risk it for that unique very warm fuzzy yet slightly nervous feeling you get from developing holiday photos that no 18-year-old Full-Moon-Partier has ever had.

Worries

  • Gigantic spiders and/or snakes during the campervan part of our Aussie adventure
  • No toilet on said campervan
  • Having to put up with annoying younger travellers
  • Getting ripped off more than once
  • Having to use Spanish in Spanish-speaking countries, or all the money I spent on Spanish lessons being an embarrassing waste of money
  • Having said that, not being able to visit Cuba
  • Missing friends, family and home comforts. Like our favourite Thai restaurant in Streatham (joking obviously. Although, it is fabulous)
  • Having to make it clear that I REALLY HATE CORIANDER in several different languages (got it nailed in Spanish though)
  • Trump

Excitement

Everything else, including in particular:

  • FOOD! (especially in SE Asia)
  • Getting away from this godawful coldness and into the sun
  • Seeing relatives and friends who are far away. Meeting new additions to the family
  • Waking up and thinking ‘What shall we do today?’
  • Incredible beaches
  • Trekking waterfalls and mountains
  • Wildlife in Costa Rica
  • MORE FOOD!
  • Find-puke-ing-puke-our-puke-selves-puke

Well this has turned out to be a very long first blog post. Perhaps I am better at this than I thought, I’ve actually really enjoyed writing it, inbetween making and eating a pasta bake. Thanks must go to thesaurus.com for the prodigous synonyms. Thanks to you too, for bothering to read this lengthy stream of consciousness. I hope you enjoyed it and don’t consider me to be too pretentious or ungrateful for this incredible opportunity we are lucky enough to have. Tune in next time when we will be Down Under! I promise there will be some actual content about travelling.

Meg