Back to reality

“Keep your hands out of your pockets!” I was cold that’s why my hands were in my pockets. “The car’s not registered to the area and all three of you look quite young. Why are you here?” I was bewildered by what was happening. Question after question. “There’s been a lot of stabbings with rival gangs in the area…”

I’d only been on home soil for an hour and our car was surrounded by 10-12 officers. I wasn’t dreaming, it was really happening. After an ID check and strange line of interrogation, my friends and I were set free. We weren’t angry. We just laughed. We may have reacted differently a few years ago, but I think we’ve grown up. It was a stark reminder that the adventure was over.

The first Monday back to the office was equally strange for me. Stepping into Canary ‘Wolf’ watching the wolves descend furiously from the station escalators to fill their pockets at someone’s expense. I say wolves because there’s a textbook ‘wolf look’. Take the trip to E14 and you’ll know what I mean. I can’t understand the mad dash to the desk. I was totally chilled. My body was here, but my mind was still in Asia. My biggest challenge that day, was to board a train. I can’t say the same for the Nepalese people I met. They face challenges on larger scales each day. Our lives just don’t compare. Another earthquake left people injured this past weekend, another challenge they unwillingly accepted.

The journey was a learning curve for me. I’ve spent so much time putting pressure on myself that I need to do this and I need to do that and I’m guilty of having lived life in fifth gear. I’ve realised that I don’t need to. I’ve slipped down to third gear now. You can start a car in third, you can go uphill and it’s the best gear to build up speed. That’s how I’m living my life right now, I’m moving and there is no struggle. Things don’t bother me as much. I was taught at an early age in Taekwon-do that I should ‘strive for perfection’ and I believed in that for a long time. But no one can be perfect. You can accept who you are and circumstances shape what you become. That’s what I believe right now. I may be wrong, but I’m not perfect!

Through this experience I’ve learnt the art of rolling clothes. I learned from the best! It’s the only way to fill the backpack. You’d be surprised how much more you can fill this way. I couldn’t have lived without the XE Currency app either – a lifesaver that converts currencies offline on your phone. My Caxton currency card was the best investment to store my funds in each country. Walking around with a bundle of cash is just plain stupid. Stick to ATM’s on the main roads, they tend to be less dodgy. If you have any allergies, take translation cards. Without them, who knows what would’ve happened to me. But since then, I’ve learned that I am only allergic to peanuts. I have an Epi Pen now as a precaution too. I was more adventurous with food on this trip. I know what agrees with my stomach now, Asia’s sorted it out. Singapore had the best variety of cuisine that I’d ever had in my life. I would go back just for the food.

Wherever possible, take a train or a bus over internal flights. It’s cheaper and slightly uncomfortable. However, you won’t regret the scenery. It’s the best way to disappear into a daydream. Use HostelWorld at your own risk, Agoda is very good, but TripAdvisor is the best place to get reviews if you’re concerned about where to book accommodation. Most places quote prices in USD, it’s handy to have spare dollars in Asia.

People have asked about my favourite destination. It’s difficult to say or even answer. Nepal is a beautiful country with amazing people, and it was main reason for my journey. I’d love to return there one day. I felt totally relaxed there and I’ve mentioned its similarities to Vietnam. India was brief yet manic, and there’s a lot left to see. Three days wasn’t enough. Thailand will always be a great escape to paradise. I’ll always recommend it to people. Singapore took me by surprise in so many ways, it’s somewhere I could easily live.

Low points – I’ve documented some of my frustrations with accommodation. It’s just one of those things, it happens. I slept in some difficult places and took cold showers, but I just got on with it because I knew it was temporary. Being away from friends and family for Christmas was tough, but I had Zaira so I didn’t feel low at all. The traffic in Delhi was horrific, but expected. Not being able to paraglide was upsetting at the time, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Seeing some of the children physically struggle in Nepal was hard to see.

I loved every minute of my volunteering. I genuinely had so much fun. It was one of the most uplifting moments I’ve ever experienced in my life. I would consider doing it again. You can get a feel for for my experience with my video below.

I had a lot of encouraging messages along the way from friends and family that kept me going, it’s also heartening to hear that some of my friends want to do something similar. Leaving footprints on this world is something that makes me happy and I will continue to do it.

I’ve created memories and lived out a dream on this trip. I’m very fortunate for many reasons. I did most of it on my own and now that I have, I wouldn’t hesitate to travel alone again. The obvious question is: where to next? I touched three continents last year. Hopefully I can better that this year. I’ve stocked up on my Lonely Planet guides, so watch this space.

Finally, I want to thank all of you that have been reading. The stats have been overwhelming and have confirmed, that I need to reconnect with my writing and never neglect it again. As I wrote this post, I gained inspiration from listening to J. Cole’s intro on 2014 Forest Hills Drive and I’ll end with his words:

“Life get hard, you ease your soul

It cleanse ya mind, learn to fly

Then reach the stars, you take the time

To look behind and say: ‘look where I came’

‘Look how far I done came’

They say that dreams come true

And when they do, that there’s a beautiful thing…”

3 thoughts on “Back to reality

  1. ruben says:

    Another well written piece. And we are all so proud of the great work you do, you are an absolute wonderful being of a person and I am envious of the good that you do. Keep going, be strong and you will achieve all that you have set up to achieve well done Pav.

    Liked by 1 person

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