The trip is planned. Almost everything is booked. All that’s left is packing and tying up loose ends. Considering I have some time on my hands, I thought I might take a moment and reflect on the things I’m most looking forward to most over the next five months. Here’s what I consider my top ten:
1. The food. The foodie in me is absolutely rejoicing over this trip. I’ll be able to enjoy Pad Thai in Thailand. Pho in Vietnam. Pastries, and really any type of food, in France. Fish and chips in London. Caipirinhas and steak in Brazil. Plus, I’ll be able to explore the cuisines of Cambodia and southern and eastern Africa. My stomach is already gurgling in excitement and anticipation.
2. The sights and activities. Looking at what’s planned so far, it’s like a lifetime of dream trips rolled into one. Consider that I’ll be able to see:
- UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Angkor Wat, Ha Long Bay
- World Class Beaches – Copacabana and Ipanema in Brazil and Phuket in Thailand
- One of the seven wonders of the world – Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro
- Two of the Natural Wonders of the World – Victoria Falls and the Rio de Janeiro Harbor
- One of the great drives in the world – The Garden Route in South Africa
- African Safaris – Including: Kruger National Park and the Kalahari in South Africa, Chobe National Park in Botswana, The Great Rift Valley in Kenya, and The Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania
- What looks like an amazing sea canoe tour in Thailand – Includes exploring sea caves by day and by night (via bio luminescence)
- A hike to the top of Table Top Mountain in Cape Town
- Two European capitals filled to the brim with sights – London and Paris
And that’s just what’s planned, who knows what else I might find along the way.
3. Seeing old friends. As of right now, I’ll be visiting friends in Singapore (one of my roommates when I studied abroad during undergrad and a classmate from grad school) and Indonesia (a fraternity brother from undergrad). There’s also potential to see additional friends from the past in Hanoi, Cape Town, and London. It will be great catching up and talking about old memories. Plus, I’m sure it will be nice to see some familiar faces along the way.
4. Going home to London. Ever since studying abroad there, London has felt like home – I still go back every time I’m in Europe. While I can’t wait to return to the old stomping grounds, I’ll also be pretty excited about finally being able to drink the water.
5. Meeting new people. From staying in dorms and hostels to joining up with tour groups to the locals I’ll be working with during my volunteer assignments, this trip will be ripe with opportunities to meet new people. Just the opportunity alone to learn and experience new cultures through them is exciting and invaluable. Throw in the potential for lasting friendships to form and there might be something special here.
6. Test driving a new career without commitments. Ever since I started my job search earlier this year I’ve identified international economic development as a potential new career path. Besides doing something fun and feel-good, my volunteer activities will also let me find out first hand if this is a one time gig or something I’d enjoy pursuing as a career.
7. Picking up a new language. One of the most daunting challenges of this trip will be breaking through the language barrier (have you ever seen what Thai looks like?). To help, I’ll receive a crash course in Vietnamese when I arrive in Vietnam, and I have the opportunity to take Portuguese classes while in Rio de Janeiro. It’ll be fun taking what I learn in the classroom, applying it to everyday situations, and trying to survive on it. It’ll also be interesting to see what happens when I brush off the four years of French I took in high school and college (especially since I tend to mix up my French with Spanish).
8. The unexpected. Let’s face it. I can plan as much – or as little – of this trip as I want, but at some point something completely unexpected will happen. I have no idea what that something will be or when it will happen (that’s why it’s unexpected), but these events normally provide the best stories and memories. I can’t wait.
9. Relying on me. Even though I’ll be around other people and have a good support network in place, how much I get out of this trip will depend on me. The more I can trust myself and my surroundings the better the experience. Dealing with everything (the language barrier, cultural differences, logistics, etc., etc.) will be nerve wracking at times, and I’m sure there will be times when I just want to stay in bed and take a breather. But, I can’t wait to take on the challenge. The reward on the other end is the knowledge that I can handle just about anything this thing called Life decides to throw at me.
10. Writing this blog. I know, it sounds cheesy. But, I’ve rediscovered my love for writing the past couple years, which means this is going to fun. Plus, sharing my experiences will provide a connection to family and friends back home while providing a cathartic outlet for me. I can’t wait to start traveling and sharing my experiences.