Around the world in 412 days

Exactly four years ago today, my husband and I boarded a plane bound for Marrakech, the first stop on a fourteen month journey around the other side of the world. I can’t believe it was that long ago – we had such an amazing time (laughs, excitement, adrenaline, slight panic, elephants…) and made good friends along the way. I thought I’d share some of our memories with you; it sounds a bit cheesy but it really was a once in a lifetime experience.

Below are some pics from our time away, as well as an explanation of how we ended up shoving our lives into a backpack and trekking through South East Asia, Australasia and the US.  And if I’ve rambled on too much and you’d rather just look at our blog from the trip to see more pics and hear about our adventures, you can scroll down to the link near the bottom!

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Left to right: A helpful sign on Ko Phi Phi, Thailand; getting ready to jump out of a plane in New Zealand; in Beijing for Chinese New Year; Flinders Street station in Melbourne; giving an elephant a bath in Luang Prubang, Laos; visiting a minefield in Cambodia; the beautiful landscape in New Zealand; climbing a glacier in Franz Josef, New Zealand; sitting in ‘Central Perk’, LA. 

Simon had always wanted to go travelling and I had thought about it a few times, but life sort of took over as it has a habit of doing.  I’d spent three years at university as a mature student taking my teaching degree and we’d also got married so we both thought we’d probably missed our opportunity.  Our change of heart happened during my first year of teaching; my school was a difficult one and it became quite apparent that twelve hour days and working over the weekend was going to be the norm.  I loved my job but I believe really strongly in having a decent life outside work and I had to make an important decision about whether or not to continue in education (those of you who know me well will know that I did go back, after our trip.  It seems that education is something I’m really passionate about and it’s hard to escape!) So, fairly early on in that school year we said “sod it” and decided to go.  I needed to finish my year at school, and then we had to start saving.

We’d spent over a year saving like mad, doing two jobs at a time as well as any other freelance work that came up (this is how I ended up working in theatre), and not going out much.  Everything had been so crazy in the final few weeks before our departure as we had to pack up all of our stuff and store it, organise mobile phone contracts etc, and we both worked right up until a day or two before we left.  That first day, we were both exhausted but really excited about what the coming months would bring.

We’d spent plenty of time perusing our Lonely Planet books (we have quite a collection of them) deciding where we were going to go – it was a bit like being a kid in a sweet shop; the world was pretty much our oyster and we had no restrictions on what we could do.  We also had no time limit – we would keep going until our money ran out! Some countries were ruled out by their restrictive entry regulations – I seem to remember that for us to visit Nigeria we would have to prove to them that we had several thousand pounds in the bank, and a letter from someone living in the country to vouch for us to stay where we said we we going to.  It all sounded a bit too much like hard work and with so many places to go, we decided that anywhere that made it hard for us to go wasn’t going to be that high on our list.

So, we’d made a rough plan of the countries we wanted to see and a (very) rough itinerary, but the only thing we’d booked before we left was our flights to Marrakech and a couple of nights’ accommodation in a Riyadh.  The rest of it we’d figure out once we got there – and this way meant we had a lot more freedom about where we went and how long we wanted to stay in each place.  It turned out that this was the best way to do it – we had so much freedom (which was partly what the whole travelling lark was about) and on many occasions during our trip we just decided in the morning where we were going next and booked it there and then (thank heavens for the internet!)

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Right at the beginning when we were very pale and pretty ‘green’…

Marrakech was a bit of a culture shock (it was November, we were very pale and were carrying enormous backpacks – it wasn’t until a month or so later that we began to look like seasoned travellers) but after our first day there we began to become a little more confident. We only stayed for a few days in the end, before deciding that what we really needed was a week of relaxing on a beach somewhere to wind down from our crazy year.  After that, the real travelling could commence!

In our fourteen months away, we did some incredible things, visited eighteen different countries (Thailand several times, Australia and China twice), jumped out of an aeroplane, rode elephants, climbed the Great Wall of China, saw the Beach Boys in concert in Manila, climbed a glacier, blagged our way into a red carpet film premier in LA and much more besides.  Oh, and we’ve also visited every Disneyland on the planet!

I could write pages and pages about our trip but I think the best way to tell you all about it is for you to read our blog – head on over to http://bigadventure.simoncrowley.com and take a look for yourself…

In which we went up (quite a lot) and a three hour walk turned into a nine hour walk

Yesterday was our second day in Italy and we decided to take a walk up one of the mountains here in Belagio.  We were pretty well organised and had a shed load of water with us, a packed lunch and we’d covered ourselves in sunscreen.  The scenery here is beautiful and we chose a three-hour mapped walk up through the forest to the top of one of the mountains.  The ‘up’ started like this:

IMG_1017And there was plenty more of it – it was a beautiful walk (hard work, especially when you’re a little unfit like I am) but after about an hour we were halfway and reached a great panorama where we stopped to take pictures (and get our breath back), then continued on for another couple of hours.  The Italian path markers are a little scatty and the timings are  not quite as accurate as they might be, and so it took us longer than expected to reach the top but when we finally go there, the view was worth it:

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Our original plan was to take a bus back down into Belagio but the bus stop wasn’t immediately obvious and we were feeling brave so we decided to follow the path signs (“2 hours 10” – this turned out not to be entirely true) but we lost the path, marked by red and white slashes of paint on trees and rocks along the way, so we went on a detour through the forest until we found the path again.  Along the way we stumbled through a farm which was part of the pathway and made friends with some horses.

Once we found the correct path again, we found another beautiful vista at about 900m above sea-level, then worked our way back down through the forest.  The first part was so steep (and close to the sheer drop) that I climbed down almost on my hands and knees.  We descended 600m in about an hour so that gives you an idea of how steep the path through the forest was, but it was brilliant!  It got a little bit hairy when the sun started to set and we were still amongst the trees, but we made it out while the sky was still pink and with aching knees, ankles and hips (we’re not twenty-one any more…) we headed back to the apartment, showered and strolled – quite slowly and gingerly – to the local ristorante for a delicious meal and an Italian beer.  We tried out our Italian (“grazie mille”) and discovered that the owner of the restaurant had lived in Southend for twenty-one years so his English was perfect but he helped us with our Italian pronunciation before we said our buona nottes and strolled (less gingerly this time for the beer had worked some magic) up the hill to our apartment and into bed.

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Day eleven of the 30 day photography challenge – something blue

Blue is one of my favourite colours and so there are a lot of things in our flat which are blue, so I had a lot to choose from: a blue frangipani necklace which I bought in Queensland Australia, my iPhone cover, a beautiful blown-glass vase which we bought in New Zealand, a pair of silk hand-made shoes which we picked up in Hoi-An, Vietnam… Looking at these things made me think of our travels when we backpacked around the world in 2009 and 2010 and so I decided on something which Simon bought me a little while before we left:

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