So the old cliche goes that the reason you go travelling is to ‘find yourself’ or ‘discover meaning’ or some such other variety on the theme. I’m not sure Hels and I ever had a particular notion as to why we decided to travel, we certainly haven’t been searching for anything as such, but that’s not to say that we haven’t learned a few things along the way.
In no particular order then, here’s a short summary of stuff we’ve found out, noticed, or discovered thus far.
1 – Helena’s a secret birdwatcher. Whenever we’re in the jungle, or by the sea, or anywhere were there are trees and sky, you can often hear the refrain of, ‘Oh, wow. Look, look! It’s so pretty!’ Ok, so I may be being a little facetious in my description, but she (and yes, admittedly, I too) have realised that birds are amazing and great to spot, particularly in the wild.
2 – We love the ocean. Further to the point above about bird life, ocean life is also incredible, especially in the tropics of course. Turtles are our absolute favourite but we’ve also recently got into sharks, rays and other various large mammals. We’re still yet to find dolphins or whale sharks, but we’d love to swim with them. Also, the wide variety of corals and fish in the big blue will keep us coming back to the ocean over and over again in years to come.
3 – Bus rides in developing countries can be more fun than roller coasters. All stemming from a breathtaking 4am blast through Southern India on a ‘super fast’ bus that left our knuckles white for days, we have subsequently experienced numerous journeys that provide that unique blend of an old bus, bumpy roads, and pure speed; leaving you shaking, stunned to be alive, and with adrenaline seeping out of your pores.
4 – We may have to purchase a camper van. And maybe even a scooter. Some of our best experiences have been those where we have our own wheels: Bali, Australia, America. It doesn’t even have to be fancy – probably better if it isn’t. Just enough space to sleep, some handy little places to store luggage, and a little stove. Simple pleasures. Oh, I want an orange one though …
5 – People are pretty friendly. This is a bit of a generalisation, I know, but we have found that the more you open up to people, cultures and the experiences that present themselves to you, the more likely you are to understand what is going on around you. No matter who you are meeting, or where you are meeting them, most people want to chat, want to learn a little bit of your story, maybe want to tell you a little bit of theirs. Quite often, people just want to know what you think of their country!
6 – It’s better to say ‘yes’. Not all of the time, obviously. In fact, when you know you’re getting hustled for a taxi when a bus will be along in two minutes, it would be foolhardy to say yes. When you are invited to get involved, though, or do something that seems a little out of the ordinary, you will gain much more by having a go than shying away. A couple of times in Fiji, I ended up in a volleyball game with locals because I walked over and they said, ‘Do you want to play?’ ‘Yes’. I was invited to drink kava with the staff at a resort, ‘yes’. We were given a chance to visit a rugby tournament that happened to be on while we were there, ‘yes’. These are the experiences that we value the most.
7 – India is still the most challenging but rewarding country we have visited. People often ask about India with a kind of, ‘Oooohhh, India… How was it?’ Each time we try to answer, we struggle. It’s a place that divides opinion, that takes a certain energy and enthusiasm to travel around. But it’s one place that will affect you, one way or another. Love it or hate it, one emotion you will not experience in India is apathy.
That’s it for now. It’s just a thought I’ve rattled off on a bumpy bus ride in Belize! I’m sure more will present themselves as we make our way through Central and South America, so this post may well have a part II…