Reflecting on long-term travels. Part One.

It’s probably time to reflect on my travels this year. Here is Part One.

I’ve had plans to travel for a longer period of time for the past 12 years but one reason or another – it would never quite come to become a reality. Then, upon my recovery in late 2015, I made a promise to myself that I shall embark on a long trip. Ever since I’ve been preparing for it: shifting career, arranging finance, clearing up time and mental space, changing my mindset (“one should work full-time”, “one cannot leave the safety of having regular clients”, “one must save, not spend on things intangible” to “travel is investment”, “clients will find me if I have something to offer them, not least that I have led an interesting and fulfilled life”, “one should work efficiently, not full-time unless one wants to” and then most importantly to redefine “work” and “full-time”).

In 2016, I went for a three month stay in the Himalayas to undergo treatment, but also to learn (Reiki, basic Ayurveda, marma massage) and look around. That was wonderful and also showed me that staying on the road for several weeks in a row is possible and one doesn’t have to be a nomad to do that.

In April 2018, I rehearsed my long-term travels with a three weeks trip in Devon, Cornwall, London, Barcelona. I’ve learnt to adjust to each other, to work on the go, got a rough idea of what to pack (even though we had to revise it later a few times).

Then on 29th August we hit the road – first for a month in Europe and then for what I thought would be several months in South-East Asia. Things didn’t go to plan and it was a wonderful, if painful, discovery that flexibility and letting go of plans is key.

So this one is to talk about my findings from the European part of our trip:

– idea no.1 has been to see Europe in its’ vastness which meant to avoid flights. Only trains, buses and walking. Of course, I didn’t cover all of Europe but I still got a good understanding of how big and diverse Europe is and that’s amazing.

– My route was rather ambitious and by week 4 we got quite tired (and a bit grumpy). I realised that packing in too many attractions and places to see isn’t sustainable and definitely isn’t my style. I need time to adjust to the place, to feel it and to think about it, people living there and my life. As a rule of thumb, I feel that staying for at least four days in one place is absolutely necessary.

– So the trip went as follows: Birmingham to London (0.5 day) to Paris (2 days) to Nuremberg (1 day) to Vienna (4 days) to Brno (4 days) to Bratislava (1 day) to Esztergom (1 day) to Budapest (3 days) to Zagreb (4 days) to Split (6 days) to Dubrovnik (3 days) to Sarajevo (4 days) to Most (0.5 day) to Munich (2 days). From there the first flight to Bangkok was taken.

– Mixing activities (sightseeings and nature visits) is a must. On average, two or three days of nature should follow four or five days of city tours. But also lazy days, chilling out in cafes, in bed, on a terrace – you name it – are utterly important. Working hours should be scheduled in too. Ideally, in blocks of two to four hours. And, of course, days for emergencies (like feeling under the weather) should be factored in.

– Being vegan on the go isn’t as easy as an omnivore but it isn’t impossible. It just required preparation and more time to get to good eateries or for cooking. In this sense, staying in apartments or places providing access to kitchens has a lot of sense. As is packing plenty of nuts, dried fruit and getting fresh fruit and veg supply in the markets (bananas, avocados, apples are true friends of vegan health-conscious travellers).

– Packing light is important and minimalism is wonderful, yet when one thinks about health, there are certain things to be taken and they require space in the luggage. Thus my choice of a 40l backpack and 15l daypack hasn’t been ideal. I will have to replace it with a 60l backpack/wheeled bag and a 20l daypack. Extra health-related items I take with me include a small collection of essential oils, first aid kit, nuts and dried fruit, a collection of organic herbal teas, cutlery, travel mug, water bottle with filter.

– I have never felt happier with my choice as I invested in high quality travel accessories: a Tilley hat, Osprey backpack, Swiss knife, Timberland cotton shirts, linen and cotton trousers, good speaker and Bowers and Wilkins headphones, good large shawl. I hope these albeit pricier than some of their analogues will serve me for years. So I do class those as an investment. And then, important for me – they are so pleasant to touch, to look at, to use…

– I feel that I have addiction to gadgets and I do need to reduce time spent on them. This takes a lot of energy and I am yet to come up with an effective solution to this issue. I can go for days with no gadgets next to my bed for gadget-free mornings and evenings, I can delete social media apps, I can turn the sound off, I can stop looking at my screen at mealtimes, but it isn’t implemented 100% and occasionally (and rather frequently I must admit) I do break these rules… Reliance on a smartphone for navigating around town, finding reviews and addresses of vegan-friendly eateries, work-related issues doesn’t help.

– Work has to be varied and not solely rely in the Internet. This gives extra freedom and chance to earn even if WiFi fails. In my case, a combination of writing, editing, occasional translating, teaching and coaching works perfectly well. It also has helped me appreciate that coaching is the way forward for me as is writing.

Lifestyle and health coach. Cancer coach. Reiki Master Practitioner. Harborne, Birmingham, UK.

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