A Leap of Faith
It was a typical Monday morning at work. Phones were ringing and co-workers were exchanging drunken Saturday night stories. The potent smell of instant coffee was permeating the open plan office. All was normal, cialis sale except for me. I was the account executive perspiring excessively at the corner computer. Today was the day I would hand in my notice. Since graduating I had spent 18 months in a good job, for sale on a good salary, until I decided that I’d had enough of post-college grown-up life. I was going to trade in paperwork and meetings for a rucksack and guidebook and travel the world for six months, taking in South America, India and South East Asia.
Two weeks later I was sitting on a Boeing 747 alongside three of my friends, all newly unemployed, buzzing with caffeine and the prospect of adventure. We had just boarded a flight to Rio de Janeiro. Our trip of a lifetime had begun! As budget conscious travellers our first point of order was loading up on free booze which sparked discussions about our choice of mind-broadening films on the in-flight entertainment system. Hours later we glimpsed the wide-spread arms of Christ the Redeemer as we descended into the city famous for its epic Carnival street parties. We spent five blissful days in Brazil. First, we lay on the famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, then we witnessed world-class twerking at a rave-party in the Favelas and finally we took advantage of some Kodak moments in the hip Santa Teresa district. Our first hurdle arrived when we learnt a crucial point of information about South America – it is actually pretty big. In our small-island minds, we had thought it completely achievable to make it from Rio to Bogota in seven weeks. That is until our first bus journey which was scheduled for twenty-six hours dissolved into chaos – three breakdowns, two thunderstorms, no on-board food or toilets. Thirty-six hours later we reached our destination of Iguazu Falls in Argentina. Back to the drawing-board.
Although we had adjusted our itinerary, we still managed to take in magnificent steak and wine in Buenos Aires, the serene Salt Flats in Bolivia and a mosquito ridden three days sleeping in stilted huts in the Amazon, fishing for piranhas and swimming with pink dolphins. Unfortunately, our plans were disrupted yet again when I returned from the latter trip with food poisoning and ended up spending three days in a Bolivian hospital (big shout out to the staff at VHI Assist). Nonetheless, within a week of my release from hospital we had succeeded in getting up and down Machu Picchu in one piece before reluctantly forking out €500 for an obligatory flight from Peru to Colombia. The land described so vividly by Marquez was worth every cent. We bathed in a mud mountain, slept in hammocks on Playa Blanca – a tiny Caribbean beach with glittering white sand, true to its name. We enjoyed a lock-in in Cartagena and finally we spent a day cliff diving and snorkelling on a booze cruise off the the shores of Tayrona National Park.
After a brief stopover in Dublin which involved an obligatory fry-up, pints in town and many catch-up coffees, we were airborne, en- route to Mumbai. Finding ourselves on an almost empty flight, we tried to convince the handsome BA steward that it would be in his interest to boost us up to first class. Despite our best efforts, we had forgotten to “dress for upgrade.” Apparently gringo pants and hoodies do not a frequent flyer make. It was not completely fruitless though as we were offered unlimited complimentary wine and the steward gave us a recommendation for a restaurant in Bangkok called Cabbages and Condoms. Intriguing. Cabbages and Condoms supports birth control and sexual health in Thai villages and was worth it if only to check out the giant blossom tree sculpture in the reception made entirely of johnnies. You don’t get travel tips like that in first class – I’ll tell you that for nothing.
India was a colourful collage of spice, smiles and smells. We had a chance meeting with author Gregory David Roberts while people watching in the Taj Mahal Hotel, floated down the Keralan Backwaters on a traditional houseboat and tried not to melt in 42 degrees heat (Wicked Witch of the West style), while visiting the Amber Fort in Jaipur. There were also many, many unidentifiable and delicious meals and flavours to enjoy. After our Indian adventure, our first week in Southeast Asia was a happy blur. In our last stop, Delhi, we followed sage cultural advice to avoid unwanted attention, keeping all of our skin covered, despite the intense heat. In a complete reversal we now fixed our eyes unashamedly at the girls strolling down Khao San Road in hot-pants and tank tops. Luckily we soon acclimatized to being back in the society of young, reckless travellers. We drank buckets at the full moon party, visited elephant sanctuaries and took a cooking class in Chiang Mai, where we learnt that the level of spice in your cooking equates directly to how sexy you are – basically, the hotter the better. We flew to Hanoi and savoured Vietnamese street food and spent two days kayaking and rock climbing on a privately owned party island in Halong Bay. I visited generation emigration friends living in Singapore and Hong Kong, climbed volcanoes in Indonesia, biked through rice paddies in Bali, and spent a week road tripping across the national parks in the Northern Territory of Australia. I tried to ignore the reality that my trip was coming to an end. I was running out of time and blank passport pages.
Of course it’s easy to remember the good times and brush over out the bad times. Believe me, there were bad times. If I had a rupee for every instance of Delhi belly that may have been omitted from my most recent status update, well I’d rather be poor. There were missed flights, fake money scams, dodgy taxi drivers, even dodgier bus journeys and worst of all, a plethora of what a friend had coined ‘****head travellers’ or ‘DTs’ for code purposes. DTs are perennial wanderers who claim to be the sole individuals who have had the ‘true’ traveller experience. They will boast about having trained a parrot to rap the entire Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme tune while running an underground bar in Cambodia, nick your bunk bed while you’re out partying and try to avoid your rath by insisting they live in an aboriginal commune which rejects materialism. If in doubt, DTs can be identified by the lack of any visible forearm due to an infinite number of beaded, leather and woven bracelets that look like they are carrying strains of e-Coli or rabies. However, all this is part of the package. Some of the best stories I heard were most definitely to be taken with a pinch of salt, but that is the beauty of travelling. You have to have faith – faith in the tuk-tuk drivers weaving through rush hour traffic, faith in the new friends who promise to mind your rucksack while you urgently run to the bathroom and faith in your ability to communicate the need for ‘water’ without a word of the local language.
Writing this article has brought back a feeling of warmth equal only to lying on the beach on Koh Tao, sipping a mango smoothie and wondering if anyone remembers that at one stage the night before you introduced yourself as Molly Malone. So I offer you this advice: dig out your passport, book the flights, call your bank and download the Shazam app. You’ll want a playlist of those tunes to remind you of how good you had it when you’re sitting down to write your masters dissertation in the library. So really my advice to you is this, if you have ever had even the tiniest desire to see the world, take a leap of faith. You can figure the rest out once you touch down in Bali.