Organising a trip of such length is hard. Working all the hours under the sun to save for a trip is hard. Moving out of your home, putting your life into boxes and saying goodbye to family and friends is hard. All of this was expected, and of course worth it. However, no one tells you, nor perhaps even understands that the hardest part of travelling is coming home.
A real toilet, a clean and constantly warm shower, food that you recognise, non-suspicious water, a lack of Mosquitos, being able to walk down the street without the humidity causing you to already need another shower, language you understand; the things that we had craved on many occasions and all now in our grasp. So why as the plane began its decent into London did James and I suddenly feel not only sadness, but also fear? We wanted nothing more than to turn the jet around and head off back into the unknown, where everyday posed a new adventure. Of course we didn’t want to face a return to bland reality, work, cold weather and English accents, but more than that, we both felt a change in ourselves that would be near impossible to explain to anyone else. Whilst life had gone on for many as normal, for us everything had changed. Our views, our goals and the things that were most important to us were all different now to when we landed in Beijing 9 months before. How could we explain that to somebody? And how could we best answer “How was your trip?”?
Our trip was hiking through the early morning fog along The Great Wall of China, the wind so cold on my cheeks I felt it might cut right through me. It was meeting locals and creating connections we never dreamt of. It was our first experience of Asian roads on the back of a scooter, without a care in the world.
Our trip was visiting temples and better understanding beliefs and religion. It was being taken in and offered Malaysian curry and sweet juices by worshippers at Thaipusam festival in Penang who couldn’t even afford to put shoes on their feet. It was witnessing people with nothing yet so devoted to giving everything to others in the name of their God.
Our trip was being brought to tears by a Cambodian man that slept only 4 hours a day as he wanted to work more hours in order to buy his daughter a bicycle. It was giving all the money on our person, which to us was pittance, and seeing faces beam in gratitude and disbelief. It was forever wishing there was more we could do, and a way that we could change fortunes.
Our trip was plunging into icy Kaikoura waters despite panic running through me. It was the feeling of sudden calm smothering me as wild dolphins danced and sung and played merely feet away. It was not giving a care for anything other than the very moment you were living in.
Our trip was sitting with our feet dangling over a sailboat in the Whitsunday Islands, toes lapping at the Coral Sea on our way to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef. It was drinking rum and playing UNO but feeling more free and joyful than you could have ever imagined. It was not taking as many photos as I should, for I was too busy capturing the beauty with my eye, and the happiness in my heart.
Our trip was learning to trust and take chances by riding helmetless on the back of a helpful strangers motorbike in Bangkok. It was learning that more often than not, people were kind. It was wanting to share new found faith with those that crossed our paths. It was opening your heart and mind in a way modern society disagrees with.
Our trip was having never felt so exhausted yet accomplished after spending 10 hours scaling Mount Teranaki. It was eating cold tinned beans for energy. It was slipping and sliding down the sheer rock face. It was having people twice our age overtake us with great ease. It was having our head above the clouds and feeling so alive.
Our trip was loving street dogs in Songkhla that had never felt wanted. It was getting lost cycling through rice fields in Hoi An and shouting hello at children frantically waving with excitement at seeing foreigners in their small wooden village. It was falling in love with places most only dream of.
Our trip wasn’t always glamorous. It was tough, sweaty, tear provoking and argument inducing. It was often frustrating and sometimes lonely. It was more 7/11 runs than we could count. It was days spent on buses, planes or trains. It was more days spent ill or exhausted in bed. It was wishing that we weren’t missing out on important events and milestones at home, yet always longing these days would last forever.
Our trip was an array of feelings and emotions that neither of us had any idea how to portray to another. It was making friendships across the globe with people we knew we may never see again. It was valuing each other in a way that we hadn’t known we could.
So when someone simply asks “How was your trip?”, it’s a much more complicated question than it first seems. You want to know about the places but we want to tell you about the lessons we have learnt, the people who have changed our lives, the way we have grown. We want to share each magical moment we were so fortunate to experience, each sunrise and sunset against a thousand different backdrops. We want to tell you about the horrors we have seen, the pain we have felt but about the gratitude we feel in our hearts.
No explanation nor amount of photo sharing will ever suffice. Nevertheless, I am convinced that unlike our tans, the wisdom we have been gifted will not fade. Instead, the way that we view the world and the opportunities that lay before us will be forever more beautiful as a result of the most wonderful and crazy adventure.
“How was your trip?” – In short, it was full of the best days of our lives.