Today, it’s been 100 days since we’ve left The Netherlands. We’ve traveled 25.862km overland, slept in 37 different places, crossed 11 borders and have spent 272 hours on the train. I guess you could say we’re no longer ‘world travel rookies’, but it is only the beginning and our minds are still having a hard time to grasp what we are doing. Letting go of all you own and get out there in the great wide world. All we can say, it is an amazing feeling. 100 days on the road. Let’s take a moment to reflect…
After two months of high-speed traveling, with breathtaking views, interesting cultures and many impressions, it was time to slow down in Vietnam. It was quite a struggle but by the time we reached Central Vietnam we not only slowed down, we stopped moving at all. Most days were all about wake up, breakfast, swimming pool, lunch, hang out, dinner and go back to bed. Being satisfied with doing not much is quite an achievement for us. It felt good in the end. It was simply needed to rest and digest the last three months.
The nature we’ve seen has been magnificent. From endless woods in Russia, empty plains in Mongolia, rugged landscapes in Tibet to the green jungle in Vietnam. Green jungle. Finally! Serious, after all the deserts and bare mountains, even the first weed you see is beautiful. The moment we spotted the first palm tree in Southern China – (@Robert, sorry we are not counting the fake one in the center of Warsaw) – we were excited as kids.
We got a glimpse of the different cultures. We liked the Eastern Europeans, the Russians, were impressed by the Mongolian way of living, the Chinese are the Chinese and Tibet was a complete different world. We are still trying to figure out Vietnam. Traveling overland is a special experience. It was fascinating to see how the faces of people gradually changed from Europeans to Asians. Ignoring country borders. The most notable change, when crossing a border, are the things built by man. Borders… it’s all made up by man.
We’ve deepened us in the history of each country. In some cases, it has been an eye opener to read and hear it from a local perspective. We may not have paid attention during each history class when we were young, but we think some things should have gone through. Like a few Americans we met during a tour in the DMZ (demilitarize zone). They learned about the back ground of the Vietnamese war (or according to the Vietnamese, the American war) for the first time…, nothing they heard at school. It’s interesting. We learned so much more about the wars, communism, politics, foreign occupations and in particular the impact on the countries and people. This side of the world has a different viewpoint than we have been taught.
We love the traveling itself: going from A to B and adopt to a new place ‘to live’. Upfront we wondered how it would be to give up the comfort of an own home, with an own bed, shower, toilet and not to forget a well-stocked wardrobe for a long period of time. So far it becomes us well and apparently, it’s something you set yourself up to. For short stays, a bed is a bed and it is what it is. For longer stays we look for the nice affordable places and we are getting the hang of it to find these spots. The key is to accept a good place and stop searching for even better, it is often a waste of time. Living out of a back pack for a long time is surprisingly easy. You know what to wear in no time, to tidy up you need a minute or two and you have all you need close by for any season. We do need to improve to run our ‘house hold’. We are in particular terrible in managing admin stuff, something we managed pretty well more than 100 days ago. It’s as if the lack of it, stops you from doing anything.
Do we miss home? We obviously miss family and friends and in particular special moments (I’m going to be an aunt! :). Luckily, with free WiFi everywhere it’s easy to stay connected. It’s also good to improve our patience. Free WiFi still does not always mean fast WiFi… Anyway, it’s still better than standing on the side of the road with coins and a finger in one ear, while trying to make an oversee call in a phone booth. The good old travel days.
But do we miss ‘ons eigen stekkie’ (own place)? No, not really. Which is pretty easy as practically we no longer have a home… The funny thing is that every place we’ve stayed at, we called home. Ok, maybe not every place. Some of the dump places and in particular the bed bug place in Vinh was far from being home. But in essence home is where we are. Both of us and not to forget our two back packs.
It’s a strange sensation how attached we are to our belongings. One day I forgot to pack my socks. A few phone calls later our Tibetan guide arranged someone to bring it to the police station we would pass a few days later. It’s crazy. I mean, a policy station who cares about my socks and me being so happy to have my socks returned. Socks, which you can buy on every market for nothing. If you don’t own a lot, apparently you care a lot more about the stuff you do own. Like Wouter, he was serious down when he saw his orange shampoo travel bottle disappearing in a Chinese shower pit. It’s just a plastic thing! And when the police took over our multi-purpose knife when leaving Tibet, it felt like a burglary. Getting into trouble with the Chinese police sounded like a worse scenario, so the next morning we had no other options to make our ‘broodje pindakaas’ (sandwich peanut butter) with a chopstick. As easy as we’ve put away our stuff before our travels, as hard we find it to lose something during our travels. A new experience.
We also get questions if we miss work? Not yet. Although, after our ‘doing not much’ experience in Vietnam, we do start to get ready to wreck our brains again. Well, slowly we are getting ready… Luckily, there is more than enough on our list of ‘things to learn’. If we would do it all, we will be busy again! Maybe tomorrow ;).
Without moving at all in Vietnam, we got close to our visa expire date without being close to a border. Visas and seasons has been, so far, one of the most problematic things to manage during our trip (a lovely problem to have!). It’s impossible to be everywhere at the right time or stay as long as we like. But the beauty of traveling is also the freedom. Last time it brought us to Vietnam instead of Nepal. This time we squeezed out for a while of the overland traveling direction and went surfing in Phuket. Just because we can.