The end of the trip is nigh (day 366)

Last night on holiday tonight. Tomorrow my status changing to ‘looking for work’. On 12 April 2001 I set off. Today seemed like a long way away.

But I guess I have packed a lot into my year. 13 different countries (although I would be the first to admit that some (like New Zealand) I had seen before, and some (like Thailand) I hardly saw at all).

More kilometres than I care to mention in going from New Zealand to Hong Kong, to New Zealand to Hong Kong to London to New Zealand to London. I guess that is twice the distance from New Zealand to London plus twice the distance from Hong Kong to New Zealand. Lots.

Days in trains, buses, cars, boats and planes. Nights in hostels, tents, hotels, trains – and train stations. No lost tickets, no lost money (apart from the confidence tricksters in Yekaterinburg), and I managed to keep hold of my passport, my credit card and my sanity.

What I have done is different from what I have learned, of course. And travelling is one of those things that often gives me both time and a state of mind conducive to reflecting on things. So I think I have learned quite a lot.

If I were anally retentive (can i write that on a public website?) i would provide links to all the stories where these things are proven. But i am not. Well, at least not that anal.

* Happiness is not a place in the world.

* People travel for different reasons. Some people don’t like it. Many people don’t know why they travel. I don’t. I just enjoy it. Like icecream, chocolate, and the smell of rain on hot asphalt.

* Jumping into cold water is like slipping between silk sheets (although I did far more of the former than the latter on my travels).

* Travel is not something that I run out of enthusiasm for (although it is nice to come home from time to time, and necessary sometimes to stay some places for a while in order not to have to repack the backpack too often). I think I could travel for a long, long time. This does not mean I can not be enthusiastic about other things. Like work, for example, which I am quite looking forward to. Not that I am looking forward to the process of finding it.

* I am happy alone, but often overjoyed to be able to hang out with nice people who don’t mind if I want to not hang out with them for a bit. At the same time, after long periods without speaking English, I am at serious risk of stalking the first English-speaking person I meet just to get some conversation.

* Reading is good. No matter where you are, your imagination can take you someplace else.

* Being happy with where you are is much more difficult than finding somewhere else to go.

* I like people who are not concerned about drinking too much. Not that I drink to excess, or have (m)any alcoholic friends. But there is just something about the state of mind that people who like to drink have that I like. Carefree, insouciant (if that is a word), with a healthy lack of regard for consequences, and an appealing lack of common sense perhaps.

* Sometimes all you can do is shrug.

* People are mostly really nice. But sometimes they are not. And often there is nothing you can do about it. People are sometimes nasty for no reason at all.

* It is worth being open to what fate has in store. Don’t plan too much. Trust people you meet just slightly more than you think you should. They will surprise you.

* Tick-based travel (where you go to see the highlights of a place and then say ‘tick’ as you cross each one off your list) is all very well for tickers. For more, mostly travel is about personalising the experience. I remember getting drenched with fish water at the Berlin zoo (not on this trip) after going too close to the performing seals. I don’t remember anything else about the Berlin zoo. I remember racing down from the top of Rheims Cathedral so that my travel companion could find a toilet (ditto). I don’t remember lots of other cathedrals that I have seen, and taken photos of. People are more important than places.

* Falling out of love can take you by surprise.

Holy. So as I sit here, sipping Limoncello (basically lemons, alcohol and sugar), looking back across the year that was my holiday, I think, I must do this again. But not now. Now I need to find some work. Really the logic goes travel therefore money, lack of credit therefore work, I guess.

A year goes by so much quicker than you would think. Even only one second at a time.