Monday, May 24, 2010

The Trouble with Travel

Oh, don't worry, I'm not going to have another bad-tempered rant.  It's safe to keep reading.  But thanks for listening to the previous one, I needed to vent a little and it's nice to have a sympathetic ear.  Er, eyes, or whatever.  This one's just a lot of ruminating about life and travel and stuff ... it helps me to write it all down.

The trouble with travel is that there are just too many options.  And unless you have unlimited time, and unlimited money, picking some of those options has to come at the expense of the rest -- you can't do it all.  I've met a lot of people here who have the luxury of time, but not money; they can spend a long time travelling, but they can't do things like go to Antarctica or Easter Island without severely cutting short their travel.  They have all the time in the world (being fresh out of university, or unemployed either because they've quit their jobs outright or been laid off), so they intend to keep going as long as they can make their money last.

I've realized that I'm in a different position:  first, I probably have more than enough money to last me the year (even with the odd splurge thrown in), but I don't have unlimited time.  Seven months, in fact, since May is just about over; there's a limit to how much of the world I can see in that time, particularly if I'm travelling in more difficult places where it takes more time to get around.  (Case in point:  Argentina is relatively easy, and I'm still here at the end of May!)

Second, I realized that I don't actually want to spend years on the road, even though I could, if I chose, quit my job and stretch my savings much longer than a year in cheap parts of the world.  I like having a home base and a challenging job and the same people in my life for longer than a day or two. And I like being able to buy expensive shoes.  So I'm not planning, at this point, to just quit my job outright and keep travelling as long as I can.

I wasn't planning to worry about any of this today.  I did my best to just relax, and spent most of today doing not much more than sitting in the sun and reading (finished one novel and started another).  Eventually, thought, I started to feel like I *should* be doing something more useful (I have workaholic tendencies, even when not actually working) so I started doing some more research about travel options for the next trip.  After I get home from South America, have a bit of time to chill out in Toronto (and possibly in Newfoundland) and hit the road again ... but to where, is the big question.

You`ve heard my original thoughts on the second half of the year.  London for a visit, overland from Istanbul to Kathmandu along the old hippie trail, down through southeast Asia and back home through Australia or New Zealand and a South Pacific island or two.  Well, it started to dawn on me, as I`ve been travelling for the last (almost) 3 months, that trying to cram in all of that was sheer madness for four or five months.  It could be done, but I wouldn`t be able to stop anywhere for long or see very much of any one place.  And is it really worth it, to cover all that ground if you just end up feeling like you`ve missed too much along the way?

Then I started reading the Canadian government's travel reports for some of the places on my original plan, and I realized it might be prudent to rethink the plan for safety reasons, not just in the interests of time.  Here are some of their more interesting quotes: 

"...advises against non-essential travel to [...]. Canadians face great risk in [...].  Canadians choosing to travel to [...] despite this warning should carefully evaluate the implications for their security and safety. Canadians already in [...] should consider leaving if their presence is not necessary. ... Canadian officials may not be in a position to provide consular assistance to Canadians in some parts of the country ... due to security concerns."

Hmmm.  Iran, Pakistan and -- this one surprised me -- Thailand made that list.  (The news about recent events in Thailand apparently didn't make it to South America, so it was all new to me when I started googling for information.)  So that pretty much puts paid to the hippie trail idea ... although just the start and the end (flying over the troublesome bits in between) would work.

Southeast Asia had always included Thailand for me when I thought about going there, but it appears it's not the safest place to be these days either.  So that cuts down my list for that part of the world too.  If Australia or NZ decides to turn renegade and dangerous in the next few months, it will become a very short round-the-world itinerary, indeed!

So I started thinking about Africa again instead -- not the western bits, which are equally or more problematic, security-wise.  But what about top to bottom, or vice versa -- Cairo to Cape Town, or the reverse?  That's the kind of trip I couldn't do in a few weeks' holidays when I'm back at work, so it could be a great way to spend some time this year.  I looked up some trips online -- there's no way I'd try to do THAT trip entirely on my own, are you nuts? -- and there's some very intriguing options out there, for trips anywhere from a couple of months to nearly a year. 

But if I choose to go to Africa instead, what do I then give up?  Do I still try to go to India, Nepal or southeast Asia -- all of which I've been promising myself for years I'd do, when I finally took that year off to travel -- or will I just end up rushed and never stopping to breathe?  Do I skip over it all, and just do Africa, or will I then feel like I've missed out on something important?  Do I still try the round-the-world thing, but maybe substitute the Trans-Siberian railway, or a trek through the 'Stans, for the more dangerous parts of central Asia?

How do I choose?  At some point I'll have to -- by the time I get home, I'd like to be able to buy plane tickets and sort out visas, but that means I'd better know whither I goest!  I hate to pick something, though, knowing that it means I have to give up on something else ... maybe I just need to convince my boss to give me another six months, and I'll be able to fit it all in.  (Hey, Todd, if you're reading this ... let me know what you think!)

I posted a while back (before I left home) about needing a personal assistant.  That offer's still open ... any interest in doing all the research for me and mapping out an itinerary for me for August to December?  You can come along, if you like, just as long as you promise to do your share of the cooking and not to whine about "but it's not like this at home".   You are allowed to whine, but it must be about reasonable things.

I really wish I had my running shoes with me right about now.  I discovered long ago that the best way to stop myself over-analyzing everything for a while was punishingly hard exercise -- forget about yoga, I can't clear my mind unless I'm working up a sweat and gasping for air!  Long walk, tomorrow, perhaps, instead of reading.  And if you have any bright ideas for me between now and then, I'm all ears.  Er, eyes.  Whatever.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Carol, I vote India over Africa any day.