After nearly 20 years of absence, the time felt right to revisit Greece. Oh how I’d love to sail around the Cyclades, taking pitstops in Santorini and Naxos. But this trip was travelling to Athens on a budget, in peak season! Yeah… didn’t think that one through. The plan was to head to Athens as a base camp, with a little island time on top.
There was just one question…
Misty seascapes against a mountainous backdrop, a haunting ambience and a sea steeped in history, all situated in one of the most warred over regions on our planet. We tumbled off the bus, straight into the humid, humid air. We are travellers in search of The Dead Sea, the holy grail of ‘the gram’. Or the mystical body of water that spans the contentious borders of Israel, Palestine and Jordan.
If you venture down to the lowest point on the planet, to Earth’s saltiest sea, you expect weirdness right? The Dead Sea does not disappoint. Humans from around the world flock here. Some come to Instagram their floating prowess in a sea that doesn’t allow you to sink – ‘we all float down here’. Whilst others seem more keen to lather on the gloopy mud and walk like zombies arms outstretched baking it on in the Middle Eastern sun.
We all had life plans, once upon a time.
Whether they were life-consuming ambitions, hopes we never shared, or pictures of our future – the way we knew it would be.
Sometimes it’s hard to dig that deep into our memory banks, or to admit to because our current lives are so far removed from the path we envisaged.
Many of us have lives off-kilter with our plans. Even when our plans come good, we get everything we’ve ever dreamed of there’s often still something missing.
When I look around my peers, I’m amazed we’re not all Premier League footballers and we never got spotted in Top Shop, becoming the next supermodel (it was more sexist in the 90s).
Some dreams are more humble. A nice family, home and a job that paid the bills. Even these basic wishes can escape us, or in reality aren’t enough.
My life has been thrown off course many times, but this year was my apocalypse! So these are my post-apocalyptic musings about ‘life plans’, where we are and where we thought we’d be.
In early March I jumped the UK ship and set sail to Spain. To live carefree in my favourite country before the Brexiteers bash down my door and steal my lovely burgundy beacon of hope, my pride and joy, my EU friendly passport. I exaggerate… I hope!
The rough plan was to see more of the country whose natural beauty and culture makes me feel alive. So I spent Spring (primavera) living, working, learning and exploring Spain. Because… why not?
You’re about to set sail into unknown lands where life will change so dramatically that it’s incomprehensible. You’re on that ledge looking into the horizon but the view is misty, your new life is just out of sight. How can you possibly know what lies ahead and where will you find your travel tribe?
For what feels like the hundredth time you hoist the brand-spanking new (and insanely heavy) backpack onto your back… just to test. It’s filled with unfamiliar objects for all the unfamiliar places. Those shiny new hiking boots, that you probably should have worn-in but haven’t had time and some bamboo travel socks that you were persuaded to buy two pairs of.
Normal life is about to change forever and although the thrill of what lies ahead is consuming, there are some doubts snaking around your brain.
I travel because I can. I’m lucky. I am privileged. There is no ban for me (yet). I was born in the ‘right’ country, with a useful passport, no persecuted religion to identify with, no war. Total freedom to roam.
Swirling mist circled the Buddhist monastery, high up on Mount Koya. Exploring Japan had led me here. The icy air an easy victory for the paper walls. Yes actual paper walls! The paper door has a ferocious tiger print on it, in the grrr pose, similar to those old-school tattoos. Just the paper tiger blocking me from the outside world. A kimono lay neatly folded, waiting for me to brave the ice-air. I’d had a demo in the art of kimono-wearing. Absolutely no cleavage, but the neck (the sexiest part of a woman’s body in Japan) revealed. Screw that! Absolutely nothing should be revealed in the fear of hypothermia.
‘They call me Satan’s Mistress’, she cackled. Her beautiful worldly green eyes shone and her jet black hair glistened. I was instantly in awe of this solo female traveller.
I met Jean in Osaka, Japan. Traveller introductions are nearly always an insight into the most inspiring people you’ll ever meet but this globetrotter stood out. She talks in a calm, thoughtful southern US drawl. Alert and interested, Jean isn’t over-powering in her presence but when it’s her turn to take centre stage you stop and enjoy the show.
Travellers say many things about Cambodia: the people are wonderful, the begging is extreme and that everything is super-cheap even by South East Asia standards. Spoiler: only one of these things is true!
I’m going to take you on a little journey, one that took us just over two weeks to cover from North to South Cambodia. From city living to island life, ‘bum guns’, insect munching, pimped up homes, a dark past and smiley prosperous future. Kicking off with the journey to Cambodia via Delhi and Bangkok and our Cambodian starting point, Siem Reap.