Eight Months, Seven Countries

24 Aug

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As Z and I enter our eighth month of continuous travel, here’s one amazing thing we’ve done in each month of the year.

January: Making the Leap!
I’d been a home owner for almost a decade when we left in January. Working constantly for longer than that. Between us, Z and I had accumulated piles upon piles of, well, crap. Sifting through it was like sifting through past lives, wondering what this next phase would bring, what would happen when we stepped off the plane with packs on our backs, an odd mixture of anticipation, excitement and, yes, I guess, grieving, too.

Giant tree roots grow down over the ancient monastery of Ta Prohm, near Angkor Wat, Cambodia.
February: Exploring Angkor Wat
The largest religious building on earth, with a myriad sites surrounding it, Angkor Wat, Cambodia, is one of the most beautiful, yet dark, places on earth. Constructed, like the pyramids, on the blood of tens of thousands of workers, the scale gobsmacks you. Both it and the surrounding sites — including Ta Prohm, where Tombraider was filmed — are full of child hawkers. And our encounters with the children and their Fagin made this, at times, a very intense experience.

March: Holding Dinosaur Bones
We showed up at a provincial museum in Savannakhet, Laos, to check out their dinosaur exhibits. And the curator took us into his lab, gave us dinosaur bones and meteorites to hold, and showed us finds from a dig earlier that year, still encased in rock. Holding something so many tens of millions years old in your hands is awe-inspiring. It’s the sort of magical experience that happens only when you’re travelling slowly enough to have the time to be spontaneous, mooch around…

April: Turning 36 Up a Live Volcano
As a feminist, I’d like to pretend I’ve come to terms with ageing, with lines, with bits that sag. Truth is, I haven’t. And I can’t slay the green-eyed monster of ambition, either, the coulda, woulda, shoulda… Though I’m killing it slowly, I guess, as we journey. When I turned 36, my parents were out with us. Z, they and I climbed the little volcano of Taal in the Philippines, and Z made me a piece of shell art saying “I [heart] U”. Very tranquil. Very beautiful. And, yeah, it’s worth the wrinkles.

May: Diving World War II Wrecks in the Philippines
There honestly isn’t a lot that compares to emerging from a dark, narrow companionway, in the ruins of a ship where tens of sailors died, a hundred feet below the water, to see shoals of fish suspended in mid air, steel girders making giant ladders into the void, coral growing across an abandoned crane. So diving Japanese wrecks off Coron, the Philippines, was pretty extraordinary for me. Z wasn’t diving at that point. But we snorkelled a gunboat together.

June: Volunteering in Chiang Mai
I’m dubious about volunteering. Both the concept and, in particular, the industry — the guys who make thousands and thousands of pounds out of charities by taking rich kids’ money to enable them to earn CV points. I was REALLY dubious about whether Z, being only nine, could make a meaningful contribution to any volunteering effort, rather than just getting in the way. When we helped out at an orphanage in Chiang Mai, I realised how wrong I was.

James Brooke's palace, the Astana, illuminated at night and reflected in the river. Kuching, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia.
July: In the Footsteps of James Brooke
James Brooke, the adventurer who became rajah of Sarawak, in Borneo, is one of my all-time Victorian heroes, along with Alfred Russel Wallace, and I’ve longed to visit Sarawak for many years. Landing in Kuching, the capital of Sarawak, where one of my heroes had ruled and the other stayed while on the journey that led him to his very own theory of evolution was a real wow! moment for me.

Sunrise on the summit of Mount Kinabalu, bursting from behind a peak in shining rays. Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia.August: Sunrise on Mount Kinabalu
Waking up before 2am to start the starlit climb to the summit of Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea, and seeing the sun rise over this lunar landscape and the jungle below us was incredible. It was a physically very tough climb, and I’m super-proud of Z for achieving it: a lot of fit, healthy adults couldn’t make the summit, and he did it. It was his first sunrise, too, so I hope he’ll remember it for the rest of his life.

Fingers crossed, we’ll be back from Pulau Derawan in the next day or two, with some gorgeous underwater photos to share. Until then…

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11 Responses to “Eight Months, Seven Countries”

  1. megan August 24, 2010 at 5:33 am #

    I’m in awe! You two have done so many amazing things together. I bet January already feels like a lifetime ago?

    • MummyT August 26, 2010 at 6:18 pm #

      Yes, and more. LIke yesterday but a decade ago at the same time…

  2. Snap August 24, 2010 at 6:42 am #

    Stray and I certaingly don’t have your itinerary ahead of us…but it’s frustrating to still be in the ‘cleaning out the crap’ stage.

    So much achieved in such a short time and so much more to come! Kudos to you and Z.

    • MummyT August 26, 2010 at 6:18 pm #

      Thank you! You must have EVEN more crap than we did…

      • Snap August 27, 2010 at 6:04 am #

        ONE of us has 25 years worth of the stuff he now has to get rid of, a dream come true for me!

  3. nicole curry August 24, 2010 at 7:07 am #

    Can’t wait to see what Sept. brings….

  4. Nick August 25, 2010 at 3:40 am #

    Well done. What achievements. I am more than a little jealous. Lots of love…

    • MummyT August 26, 2010 at 6:19 pm #

      And to you…. How is lovely Barcelona? xxx

  5. Amy @ The Q Family August 27, 2010 at 8:26 pm #

    What an amazing journey you guys have embarked so far! Such an inspiration.

    • MummyT August 29, 2010 at 10:43 am #

      Ah!!!! Thank you!

  6. Anna September 8, 2010 at 3:07 am #

    Looks like a great trip and I love your photos!

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