At the end of 2012 I sold my condo, quit my job, and bought a ticket to the other side of the world. (Cue dramatic music!)
I suppose you want to know why.
I guess it’s partly because of Jon Bon Jovi.
He told me that it’s my life, it’s now or never, and I ain’t gonna live forever.
And I believed him.
(I’m not sure why I believed him but nobody else did… perhaps I am more susceptible to the wisdom of hair bands… but that’s a question for another time.)
It’s also because every time I travel I feel so happy and so alive. And so sorry that I can’t stay longer.
And I felt a bit like I was drifting—things were happening to me, but I wasn’t controlling them. Because life happens, whether you make the choices or someone else does. Choosing to leave everything behind and take this trip was a huge decision—but it was all mine. Everyone keeps asking if I’m scared, but the truth is, for the first time in a long time, I feel in total control of my life.
And finally, I knew that I wanted to move to a bigger city, and since Americans generally only get 2-3 weeks of vacation, the time between jobs is really our only chance to do serious traveling.
So there’s the why. Now for the what:
A few days after Christmas I flew into Bangkok, where I met up with some friends from home who were flying via Paris. They joined me for the first two weeks of my trip.
From there we took a bus to Siem Reap, the city closest to the temples of Angkor Wat. After a few days we took a boat to Phnom Penh, where they left me to contemplate the genocide museum and the Killing Fields on my own.
From Phnom Penh I went to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), where I was blown away by the energy (and the traffic!). I took a side trip to the Mekong River Delta, then another to crawl through the Vietnam War-era tunnels. Then I flew to Hoi An, where I had some lovely clothes made, took a bus to Hue, where I saw some lovely imperial tombs, and took an overnight bus to Hanoi. I took two exquisite side trips to Sapa and Halong Bay (which may be the most beautiful place in the world), before flying to Vientiane, Laos.
I (briefly) explored Vientiane before taking a bus to Vang Vieng for the obligatory tube ride down the Nam Song river.
I took an overnight train to Bangkok, where I spent my birthday indulging my World War II nerd-dom visiting the Bridge on the River Kwai and my music theater geek-dom by visiting the royal palace (the setting for The King and I).
Then I took an overnight bus south to Penang, Malaysia, where I will spent the lunar new year.
From there I headed to the Cameron Highlands for some tea plantations (dangerous for a tea addict like myself).
From there I made a beeline for the bright lights of Singapore.
After a few days in the big city, I went to the historic town of Melaca, Malaysia, before making my way to another metropolis: Kuala Lumpur.
From K.L. I flew to Wuxi, China, where I taught for four months.
I also spent a long weekend in Busan, Korea.
Once my job was over, I went to the southern city of Guilin, and the beautiful town of Yangshuo. The landscape was breathtaking!
Then I flew to Tokyo for two weeks exploring Japan. In addition to the capital, I went to Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Miyajima, and Takayama.
When I got back to China I flew to Hong Kong, where I had a lovely time enjoying the big city–and lying on the beach.
I flew back to the States–and almost immediately started visiting friends all over the country. I flew from Boston to Seattle, then to Wichita, then got a ride to Indianapolis, then took the bus to Chicago, got a ride to Minneapolis, took the bus back to Chicago, then another bus to Pittsburgh via Cleveland, then got a ride to Morgantown, WV, then got a ride back to Pittsburgh, then took the bus to Washington, DC, then to New York, then home to Boston. Whew!
I am about to fly to Guatemala, where I will be improving my Spanish for five weeks. I’m VERY excited! (And also nervous–it will be a big change from Asia!)
I am probably going to have to face the real world again… Oh, well. We all gotta go sometime!
(Are you jealous? Because I’m kind of jealous, and I’m doing it!)