So we are obviously behind in the blog but I wanted to mark this occasion with a little interlude of reflection. Or something like that. A year ago today I got on a fully loaded touring bike for the first time pedalled out of Lewis Street. After literally years of planning my mood was mixed that morning: happiness, sadness, excitement and anticipation, combined with an overwhelming feeling of numbness. It was hard to take in. Today I find myself in Vientiane, Laos, after having cycled through parts of Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam (and then back to Laos). What have I learnt and how do I feel about my now not so new life on the road? Many things, really. I will try and reflect on at least a few. My biggest surprise? Probably that I have not been as devastatingly homesick as I anticipated. Of course I miss family and friends, but even when I am teary and listening to Liz Stringer croon about Mansfield, I don’t really want to go home. This life helps you live in the moment. I also feel like my mindset has gone a long way to providing the peace I feel. And the meditation. The two years leading up to our departure mentally prepared me for life on the road and the meditation has built on that. I feel like anywhere can be my home now, a tent, a guesthouse or couchsurfer’s home. The slightly ridged view I had of my life has also been somewhat altered. Endless possibilities stretch out before us: we could work in China as bike tour guides, or in the UK as Paramedics, travel to the States, India or Iceland after we reach our “destination” of Scotland. Or maybe cycle the west coast of Australia? This adventure is an amazing opportunity and I don’t necessarily feel like we need to come home quite as quickly as I may have first thought. In the same breath I am going to say ‘who knows how we will feel when we get to Scotland’. The great thing is, it doesn’t matter. We could go on, we could come home, neither choice is any better or worse than the other. As well as broadening my mind travel has also reconfirmed some important things regarding family, friends and community. For the last 8 months we have essentially been living on the outside of cultures. Sure, humanity is more the same than it is different, but without a common language, friends or family you always remain somewhat on the outer. This has reiterated the importance of being surrounded by people I love and that love me. Isn’t that what we all want anyway? To belong? I want to sit by the fire in my mum and dad’s living room and listen to the music I grew up with. Hang with my sister in Coburg, drinking cheap red wine and then cycle home along the Upfield bike path. See my friend’s kids grow up, hug my horse, spend time at my friend’s bar, go to dinner parties, birthdays and maybe even weddings. Grow vegetables and cook. And yes, probably even get back in an ambulance. These are the things that make me feel connected, give me a sense of belonging (I know Astrid feels similar). These are the reasons that we will return. Another thing, this adventure is more about cycling then I first gave it credit for. I love cycling and without it I don’t think I would last long. Backpacking is mostly ruined for me now. Not only does cycling give you a purpose, keeps you fit and allows you to eat EVERYTHING, it also allows us to live a two fold existence. It allows you to see the parts in between. The small villages and towns where few westerners ever go and no one speaks English. There are no guesthouses, you eat what you get served, or buy your own food from the market. You camp in villages, banana plantations, or occasionally local hotels. Children shout and people stare but everyone is really friendly. Eventually you do make it back to the more touristy towns, and I do admit I like this too. It’s nice to find good coffee, have a choice of food, speak to other travellers and use wifi. Only I don’t think I would like this if it was the only experience. It’s the contrast that keeps it interesting. I have learnt too that my ideal cycling/traveling experience is more about nature then people. The simplicity of how we lived when we were cycling in Australia has imprinted itself in my consciousness and is what I long for. Pedalling, camping, cooking, swimming; witnessing the change in seasons and climate. Perhaps it’s because Australia is my home and I feel more connected to the land? I don’t know. Asia has been very a very different experience. A lot has to do with a much higher population density. It’s certainly a lot more about culture and people than it is about solitude and nature and I have certainly loved this too. The contrast between the two has made a fantastic year on the road. Lastly I will leave with a few things I have learnt and observed, both about myself and the surrounding environment (mostly in Asia). Some of it is embarrassing: I have a fondness for sweet squishy bread and don’t really mind condensed milk anymore. All beers in Asia taste basically the same, except Chang, which taste’s worse. Sometimes I find myself appreciating globalisation – pizza in Laos, American icecream in Thailand, latte’s in Indonesia. Things should always be triple wrapped in plastic, preferably involving styrofoam as well. When in doubt, add sugar. Sometimes I find myself comforted by the sight of other westerners, I kind of enjoyed the Seven Eleven’s in Thailand, even though they are evil. If you ask for ‘no sugar’ you will still get sugar syrup and sweetened condensed milk, just not the actual sugar. Backpackers sometimes shit me. It’s okay for dogs to wear jumpers, in fact it’s actively encouraged. I hate taking my bike on boats, trains, planes or buses, shouting ‘hello’ and waving at kids for hours can get annoying, Vietnam has the worst drivers in SE Asia. The biggest vehicle rules the road, and it’s best to overtake on a corner, up a hill while talking on you mobile. The cows are cuter in Laos. Albino buffalos go a peachy pink from sunburn. I may have seen enough temple’s, rice noodles give me no energy for cycling, everything can and should be fried. So that’s a year on the road in reflection. In a few hours my sister arrives (who I haven’t seen for just under a year) and I think some celebrations will be in order. Take care Jude.