Reflections (Part I)
Whoa, that went way too quickly. As I unpacked my bags in Melbourne (which I'll call home for a while now), I couldn't help but think back to when I first stuffed clothes into them. Back in March I literally couldn't wait to get my pack full. I had it out on the bed a week in advance "prepacking", figuring out what would fit...and what wouldn't. I spent a week packing that bag, getting giddier with excitement at every item of clothing that went into it. It was brand new, shiny - embodying all the freshness and naivety I'm sure I held as I stepped on to that first plane. That was eight months ago, and while so much has happened since then, it really does feel like yesterday.
Now, we are back to real life. Our global adventure has finally tapered to an end and we have spent the last week easing our way back into the real world. I was expecting a huge crash down to reality, but after travelling for so long it is quite nice to be grounded for a while. It seems fitting to use these last blogs to reflect a little bit; talk about the some of our favourite places and things to do, and dish out a couple of "tips" we have picked up along the way. The other boys are scattered across Aussie and NZ, so these will be mainly my views – they might pipe up in the comments thread if they get the chance. This certainly won't be exhaustive, but everyone please, feel free to contribute – other people's advice helped us out so much on this trip.
I still think the one of the most beautiful beaches I saw on the whole trip was Tulum, Mexico. It is only just starting to get touristy, so currently is somewhat untouched, but still has the comforts you'd expect in a first world country. Further down the way, Nicaragua and in particular San Juan del Sur became my favourite little piece of Central America. Again, tourism is starting to take over, but the landscape is quite gorgeous and the locals are incredibly friendly and helpful.
The surprise of the trip for me was the States. Before leaving I thought I was going to hate America. The Americans I had met hadn't exactly endeared their country to me, and I just saw America as a way to get to Europe. Oh how wrong I was! I have fallen in love with the States. The Americans I met in America were great people. The landscape is hugely varied and often quite breathtaking. Most of all, though, America is one great, big ball of fun. Everything is bigger in Texas, New Orleans does party constantly, and Vegas is as tacky as you would think it is...but that is what makes America so much fun. Eat and drink until you burst in Texas, party all night in New Orleans and be the ultimate cheeseball in Vegas, you will have a ripper of a time. A special mention should go to New York here – it was a big call, but in terms of big cities, I have decided that New York takes the crown for my favourite big city in the world – no other city gets even close to the electric atmosphere the Big Apple holds.
Europe, ohhhh Europe. I don't think I need to say too much here, most people would consider Europe the beacon of first world tourism. All those amazing monuments you have heard about...are just as breathtaking in real life. France, Croatia, Germany, the Netherlands and Slovenia were my favourite countries, but everyone will no doubt have their own preference. Europe is so easy to get around, and the contrasts in landscape and culture will always make it my ultimate destination. If you are younger, check out www.theyachtweek.com – potentially one of the greatest weeks of my life. No matter how old you are, check out the big events as well – Oktoberfest was the crowning glory, but all the festivals, from Running of the Bulls to Le Tour de France, are worth a look.
Which brings me to Southeast Asia. What a finish to the trip that was! Thailand and Vietnam bring incredible value for the traveller on a budget. I will definitely be returning to that part of the world, for the food, the people and the ability to afford more than you would elsewhere. While I love Thai food, and the islands are beautiful off the Thai coast, I really want to explore Vietnam more. It's the old mantra that the younger tourist areas tend to hold a bit more charm. Vietnam has most of what Thailand has, but with a slightly smaller influx of tourists. It seems amazing that not that long ago there was a fairly gruesome war ripping through the country...now, it is simply a stunning country with very friendly locals.
Unfortunately I've been rambling on for a bit too long with this blog, so I'll split it and give you some travel tips tomorrow. Like I said, these will be our last posts, so please comment, and make them a comprehensive list of suggestions.