Time undoubtedly flies when you’re having fun. Nine months in (technically ten and a half as I write, as I continue to master the art of procrastination) it’s all starting to become a blur. These three months went by faster than the first six, which I attribute to having moved around a bit more. They also proved easier, since I spent most of my time in Europe, specifically places I had already been and was more familiar with. The end of June to the end of September involved some work travel, visits with old friends, a bit more city life and a tiny bit of scuba diving.
Here are the places I visited in months 6 to 9:
Continents: 2 (Europe, Asia)
Countries: 13 (Scotland, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Italy, Vatican City, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Indonesia)
Cities: 24 (Edinburgh, Geneva, Zurich, Freiburg, Munich, Oberammergau, Deggendorf, Nuremberg, Budapest, Ljubljana, Bled, Trieste, Zagreb, Split, Dubrovnik, Neum, Rome, Vatican, Colombo, Galle, Singapore, Seminyak, Ubud, Magelang)
Airport route: EDI-GVA, DVB-FCO-CMB-SIN-DPS-JOG-DPS-SIN
Animal close encounters: Scottish sheep, German cows, Austrian ducks, Indonesian fish, sting rays, turtles, crabs, octopuses
Here’s what I got up to:
Most of my time was spent in Europe, visiting work colleagues in Switzerland and Germany, friends and family in various parts of Bavaria as well as in Hungary and Rome, and working during it all.
This three-month period started off on a sad note, as I had to leave Scotland. As I probably made clear here, Scotland was one of my favorite parts of the trip and was up there with Cape Town as one of the places I was genuinely sad to leave. Both Edinburgh and the highlands felt like home to me.
The rest of my time in Europe was full of visits to/from colleagues and friends, which makes me a happy traveler. Loneliness, a genuine problem for a lot of long-term travelers, has not been as issue for me, so I consider myself very lucky. Each friend and colleague visited deserves their own mention, so I’ll go into these visits in more detail as I catch up on the blog and report on Geneva, Zurich, Freiburg, Munich, Deggendorf and Rome. You can read about my visit with the Gergelys and my travels with friends Molly and Justin in Hungary here.
After Europe I flew to Singapore, where I found the airport to be far more interesting than the city. More to come on that soon as well.
I then caught a flight down to Bali, which it turns out is every bit as charming, beautiful and moving as its reputation suggests – provided that you visit the right parts. Luckily a friend warned me to stay away from Kuta, which is swarming with drunk Australian backpackers to an uncomfortable degree. Not that I have anything against Australians, quite the contrary, but I had heard that Kuta for the Ozzies is Ibiza to the Brits, Mallorca to the Germans and Cancun to the ‘Muricans. So no thank you.
But I did find other parts of Bali beautiful and pleasantly charming.
Chris and I also checked out one of the Gili Islands, and LOVED the fact that no cars are permitted. We got around on foot, bike and horse carriage. It was a relaxing few days with nothing but scuba diving, fruity cocktails and a cooking class. Laughing at Chris as he tried to walk over the rocky coral beaches was especially entertaining.
After Chris left, I took a quick flight over to the island of Java to see Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple in the world. I may not be a Buddhist, but I do love the peaceful mindset it promotes and I have a fascination with Buddha statues. So I guess I was in the right place. As for the rest of what I saw in Java, I could do without (although in fairness I didn’t have time to visit Yogyakarta, which I was told is great).
Some of the highlights of the third three months:
Visiting colleagues in Switzerland and Germany. I’m lucky enough to work with some great people, but not lucky enough to see them very often.
Visiting old friends (who are practically family) in Bavaria, and introducing Chris to that part of my life. Germany is like home to me, so every trip back is a cherished one.
Being in Germany when they won the World Cup. Don’t tell my American friends, but I actually cheer for Germany over my own home country. It has nothing to do with who has the better chance of winning. It more goes back to my memories from having lived in Munich in 2006, when Germany hosted the World Cup, and seeing a country not known for collective joy celebrate to the point of elation after every game. Most Americans I know, on the other hand, barely even notice when there’s a World Cup on.
Dirndl and Lederhose-shopping with Chris. We decided to go all out, which means we’ll need to return to Bavaria very soon so we have somewhere to wear them.
My rented apartment in Budapest. I absolutely loved the unique and cozy design of the place.
Wandering the streets of Ljubljana with Molly, Justin and Chris (Molly was thrilled to be seeing one of her top bucket-list spots), and canyoning in Slovenia. I didn’t think it would be nearly as much fun as it was.
Getting a tour of Rome from a native, my friend Pasquale, and flying in his plane.
Beach time in the south of Sri Lanka.
Walking through the monkey forest in Ubud, Indonesia with Chris. It was hilarious (we witnessed two monkeys getting it on and a third, disapproving monkey break up the love-fest) and terrifying (we don’t have rabies vaccinations) all at the same time.
And some of the memorable moments in a less enjoyable sense:
Having to leave Scotland. Like Cape Town, this was one of those places I could see myself living in.
Having to work on my birthday, then eating dinner alone. This is what happens when you grow up, I guess!
Feeling like I missed out on a lot of Budapest due to having to work a lot. But hey, without all the work flowing in, this trip wouldn’t be possible, so I’m okay with it.
Croatia in August. Granted, the place is beautiful. But it’s WAY too crowded (I even had a near-confrontation with a tourist after she stomped on my foot and shoved me) and insanely overpriced (think 2-star hotel 12 km outside of town for US$ 70 a night).
Neum, Bosnia-Herzegovina. In a word: yuk. Chris and I thought it might be fun to stop and have lunch here since we were passing through anyway, but the town itself was kitschy and uninspiring. One of these days we will have to do a tour of the country’s nicer spots (and I’m thinking of adding a Balkans tour – Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia (just maybe not in August), Montenegro, and possibly adding on Romania and Bulgaria as well.
Nearly dying in Sri Lanka – twice. I figured it’s best to make it out of Asia before my ever-worrying mother hears about that. Stay tuned.
Dealing with taxi drivers in Indonesia. By my count, 98.5% of them are total jerks. The rest of the Indonesians I came into contact with? Wonderful, friendly, charming people.
– Find more time for blogging.
Baahahaha. Nope. Still about 4 months behind. I guess it’ll give me something to do when I return to the US next year.
– Call mom more often.
Also a nope. Don’t hate me, Mom. I was mostly in Europe, where she worries about me less.
– Run three times a week.
I’m starting to see a poor track record on the goals I set during my travels. I did run in Budapest, but it dropped off once I got to Asia. I have a good excuse here – the latter is nasty hot and nasty humid. Not so ideal for running.
– Learn to cook one dish in every new region.
I actually did try on this one. I attempted to find a cooking class in Sri Lanka but was unsuccessful. Then I tried finding a place in Singapore and was successful, but the classes with good reviews were all sold out and my time there was limited. I did, however, manage cooking lessons in Hungary and Indonesia (and I had already mastered the art of German specialties like Spätzle).
Get back to running, especially in Australia and New Zealand since the weather will be better for it.
Cut back on time spent staring at my phone. I like that Facebook keeps me connected to friends and family back home, but I find myself hooked on staring at my phone, even at times when there’s nothing more to stare at. I don’t want to finish this trip thinking I wasn’t properly in the moment.
Curb my spending. This is a tough one since I’m at the most expensive part of the trip (with the exception of Antarctica). Australia, New Zealand and Tahiti are going to break me.
I’d love to hear ideas of what goals to set during the last few months of a long-term trip…