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

The Great Wall of China

Tags

, ,

For some reason I was wide awake more than an hour before I needed to be, so I got dressed, grabbed my camera and went for a stroll around the village. At first I headed back along the street towards the main road we’d arrived on. At the junction were a couple of bronze scenes flanking the entrance, one of which described it as the “Gubeikou Scenic and Cultural Heritage Tourism,” which made a few things click into place in my head; this wasn’t an old village making a new path as a tourist stop, it was a new-build.

Later, I walked on up a nearby hill – which turned out to have been part of the Great Wall, but had not been restored – and saw Gubeikou Village proper; a small town a hundred yards further along the main road, which looked a lot like the villages and towns we’d passed through on our journeys. We were staying in a romanticised recreation of village life, rather than the less attractive, modern actuality. Either way, I supposed we were contributing to the local economy of the village, so didn’t mind too much that this fact had been glossed over for us.

The overnight heavy rain had abated, but there was still a drizzle going on and, from the top of the hill outside the village, there were some lovely views of mist-shrouded hills in the distance. Along the line of hills to my left were a series of decaying watchtowers linked by what could just be made out as a wall. Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 76 other followers