Imminent Departure

When we wrote the Do Over post, I fully intended to write several more posts over the succeeding months to document progress in preparing for our Big Trip. However it turned out that, between being very busy at work and the logistics of getting rid of most of our belongings and storing the rest, I haven’t had sufficient time or motivation to write anything.

So it may be a bit of a surprise to read this and discover that we fly to Brazil on Tuesday!

south_america_pAfter our layover in Rio though, the next few weeks are going to be fairly quiet on the travel-blogging front, so I will put together a few more detailed posts about our itinerary plans (such as the are!) and our packing lists, to give you an idea of what we are doing.

As a very short summary, though, over the last few months we have managed to substantially downsize our belongings, leave the remainder with my parents for safe-keeping and rent out our flat for the year. We’ve just got the farewell parties with work, friends and family to go this weekend and then we board a British Airways aircraft bound for Rio de Janeiro.

We have two nights (one full day) there before we fly on to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, which is where we are spending two weeks decompressing at a hostel on the coast before really doing anything. Towards the end of October, we will move on to begin our adventures proper, probably in Argentina. That said, so far, nothing is set in stone; we want the flexibility to travel at our own pace and be spontaneous.

So, watch this space. Even while we are chilling in Uruguay, I am going to try to post a photo to Instagram each day and there will probably be shorter informal updates posted directly to our Facebook page from time to time.

Do Over

I started this blog a little over four years ago. At the time, we planned to become digital nomads and travel the world. Before we were able to make it happen though, various “stuff” happened in our lives and we never actually committed to doing it. We kept the blog going though and documented our holidays and other trips when we could; Kilimanjaro, Cambodia, Rome, China.

Four years later, things have changed again. Our “stars” have aligned and we are finally in a position to set off for a year of exploring the diverse beauty of planet Earth: I have agreed a sabbatical from my job starting in October and Brett is moving to contract work, so he will have a lighter schedule. We are currently selling off our surplus belongings so that we can rent our flat out while we are gone.

We will be practicing “slow travel”, staying long enough to get to know each place beyond the usual tourist sights. We are starting in South America; Uruguay will be our first stop. Beyond that, though, we aren’t carving anything in stone. One of the key features of this trip will be going with the flow and not setting ourselves (and so becoming a slave to) any kind of demanding schedule.

As for the blog, since we created it the travel blogging and digital nomad space has been well filled with experience and advice; living with only what you can carry in a backpack is not so unusual anymore and certainly no longer the preserve of gap-year students. As a result, the blog is probably going to be more about me practicing my travel writing.

There will surely be enough jealousy-inducing posts of Brett and I living the dream. There will likely be some of the more practical “10 Things You Should Do…” type posts. Mostly though, it will document my thoughts and impressions of what I see and what I learn. Think, “Eat, Pray, Love,” without the messy divorce and written by a jaded middle-aged corporate exec, sometime open-minded, sometime highly-opinionated, keen photographer and aspiring global citizen. It will be a personal, real-time account of my dreams as they collide with reality.

How does that book end? Nobody knows yet.

So, sign up for the ride! Put your email address in the Subscribe box to the right and check out our social media bases at the top of the page. (We are counting down the last hundred days on Instagram!) Constructive comments and advice are always welcomed.

Thank you.

China – Reflections

Having been home for a few weeks now, I thought I would share some reflections on our trip.

Before we departed, I had a pretty disjointed mental image of what China would be.  On the one hand, I envisioned an agrarian countryside; paddy fields worked by blue-overalled farmers in coolie hats. Simultaneously, I recognised China as a massive, quickly growing economy; almost all of my technology and clothes are marked, “Made In China,” so there has to be some degree of industrialisation. These were two, fairly distinct, mental pictures though, with pretty much no overlap.

In reality there was, of course, lots of overlap. From the windows of the trains we took, the countryside looks much like the UK; lots of fields (not so much of the rice around here), towns and villages and rural housing with regular industrial areas and manufacturing sites, all frequently under the shadow of power station cooling towers, or the many, many sets of apartment blocks under construction everywhere we went. Continue reading

The Summer Palace

Tags

,

After breakfast in the backpacker bar we’d visited last night, and the second set of farewells to remaining group members, we headed off to find the subway to visit the Summer Palace. We ended up walking for about fifteen minutes through the hutong area north of our hotel and it reminded me a lot of the spots I’d visited on my last trip here. The hutongs around Houhai, that we’d visited earlier in the trip, seem to have been gentrified. They are certainly on the cleaner, better-maintained end of the spectrum. Here, everything was more run down, but also felt like more of a community rather than a showpiece. We had to navigate around a large boarded-off area, bordering the main road to the north though, which had clearly been recently demolished and was being redeveloped.

Ceiling and cross-beam decoration in the Summer Palace

Ceiling and cross-beam decoration in the Summer Palace

The Summer Palace complex, to which the imperial court would decamp in the heat of summer, is set around the edges of a large lake to the northwest of the city and is a beautiful place to explore. Like the Forbidden City, a lot of the murals and ceiling decorations have been beautifully restored – no mean feat given how many there are around the palace; literally every few feet along a corridor, there will be another cross-beam with a scene painted on it. There are miles of corridor here. Continue reading

Tiananmen and the Imperial Palace Museum

Tags

,

For breakfast this morning, we stepped out into the hutong and bought whatever caught our eye from the street vendors. I had some lovely pork steamed buns.

The inevitable shot of Tiananmen

The inevitable shot of Tiananmen

Then we were onto a public bus to take us down to Tiananmen Square. In the aftermath of Thursday’s parade some of the subways underneath the eight lanes of traffic separating the square from the Tiananmen Gate were still closed. As a result there was some confusion and delay getting onto the square.

Once there, it was crowded with visitors come to see the remaining displays from the parade; two big floral affairs, one for 1945 and one for 2015, facing the stands still in place across Chang’an Avenue. As a result, the view north to Tiananmen was obscured and the space between that and Mao’s Mausoleum was occupied. I missed the sense of vastness I’d had when I visited the same – but emptier – space in 1996. Continue reading