i did it…

there’s a counter on the right-hand nav bar of my site. a long long time ago, that counter showed how many days I had left until I went on my trip, and I eagerly looked at it each day, slowly with great anticipation, waiting until it reached zero. it finally did, and I set off, flying from san Francisco to London w/ caryn to start our crazy worldwide adventure. my goal was to travel around the world, see as much as I could, and hopefully make this trip last a whole year. I adjusted the counter on my site so that now it would instead show how many days I’ve been gone. each day, the number grew and grew as the days went by and I continued to see more and more of the world. finally, yesterday, the counter hit 365 days. I’ve been gone traveling for a whole year now.

I still cant quite believe it… a whole year on the road. in this amount of time, travel has completely consumed my life. I literally eat, breathe, and sleep travel. I don’t think I even know what it is to live a normal life anymore. my sense of time is totally skewed, I never know what date or day of the week it is, and when people tell me about going on a one month trip, in my mind it seems like just a short vacation. I wake up in a new place almost every day since during the last year, I’ve stayed in 124 different hotels. I’ve been wearing the same 5 shirts for ages. the only two things constant in my life are caryn and my backpack, a pack that has served me really well over the time, but I still dread having to pack it and unpack it every single damn day.

it seems like the only thing I have to talk to people about is this trip, where I’ve been, what I’ve seen, and the rest of the usual traveler rhetoric. I’m so tired of daily repeating the same things to everyone I see: how long I’ve been on the road, how much money I saved to do this, which route we are taking. if I hear myself saying “Japan was SO expensive! we spent the same there in 5 weeks as we did elsewhere in 5 *months*!” again, I think I will be ill. in fact, I often worry what it’s going to be like back home… what will I talk to people about? no one wants to hear any more stuff about this trip. the people I know are either reading my blog and have already heard it all before, or they haven’t read the blog and thus probably never wanted to hear about it anyway. yes… this trip has literally consumed my life.

and yet, I’m so glad that it has. this year has been challenging, more difficult than a normal year on the job, but has been a million times more rewarding. it still boggles my mind, just how much I have seen. I’ve traveled through 25 different countries on 3 different continents. I’ve gone from huge uber high-tech cities with concrete jungles bathing in neon glow to tiny villages made up of straw huts next to dusty roads and every kind of town in between. I’ve gone from sandy deserts filled with large dunes and camels to snow covered mountains where monkeys shiver in the cold. I’ve dived beneath the water through underwater canyons and sunken ships, and flown through the air looking down on the same ocean. I’ve strolled leisurely on safe European boulevards, and have gone to places most people are too afraid to visit like Syria in bush’s “axis of evil”. I’ve seen the wildlife of the ocean like manta rays, and I’ve seen wild animals on land like lions, tigers, and cheetahs. I’ve eaten food ranging from spicy Thai dishes, to intricate Japanese delicacies, to much blander African fare. I’ve learned to say hello, thanks, yes, and no in a bunch of different languages.

I cant even begin to list what sights I have seen. I’ve seen huge world famous ones that everyone had heard of like the pyramids of Egypt, Eiffel tower in Paris, or the Taj Mahal in India, but I’ve also seen countless tiny places, ones that are a bit off the beaten track and that not many people know about like a temple completely filled with live rats in India, hidden spirit festivals in Myanmar, and small villages in Russian Siberia. I’ve been to the religious centers of so many different religions, from the Wailing Wall to the Dome of the Rock, to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, to the Dalai Lama’s temple in McLeod Ganj. each country I visited had it’s own interesting places to go, things to see, and activities to do. I’ve seen places far and wide, and to get there have spent ages on random transport. in the past year, I’ve taken 31 trains , 52 buses, several vans, all sorts of 3 wheeled rickshaw vehicles, a tractor, a horse, and a camel.

yeah, I’ve seen a lot of places and things, but what is most fascinating out of all of it for me are the people. the real reason why I travel is not to see landmarks, nor is it even to have adventures. the real reason is because I am incredibly interested in seeing how people live and what people are like in different places. despite the internet, TV, newspapers, etc, staying in one place, you never can *really* get to know how others live. you can read about it all you want, but you never know until you actually go and see them for yourself.

one thing I always think about is stereotypes and preconceptions. most of us, we really know very little about how life works in other countries. we have some views about these places, usually views that are shaped by the media or whatnot, and one of the things that traveling lets you do is break all those old views. when I went to a lot of these places, I didn’t really know what to expect. the only things I knew about Africa were random pieces from books and shows: wild animals, restless natives. my mental image of the place was huge open plains with wandering wildlife and men with spears. heh, ok, of course I didn’t think that all of Africa was like that… but I really didn’t know what else to imagine. what more was there. after coming here, I now have an image of what life is like here. I have seen the wild animals, and I’ve seen people living in huts wearing almost no clothes, but I’ve also seen huge cities, thriving businesses, and modern technology. whe3n picturing Ethiopia, all I could conjure up were images of starving children, but now I’ve seen that this isn’t the case. the same thing with the middle east. would all the women there be covered head to toe in burkhas? would there be terrorists lurking at every corner and bombs blowing up left and right? are there really a lot of camels there? and then I went there and saw for myself: no, most of the women dress as they please, the people are extremely friendly and don’t all hate Americans. but yes, there really are a lot of camels there.

and so I keep going, on and on, from place to places, trying to figure out who these people are and what makes them tick. the tricky thing is, I find that as I travel and get rid of these old stereotypes, I start to see places in a more realistic way, but at the same time, I replace the old stereotypes withy new ones. in a way, what is traveling about other than building up stereotypes? you go to a place, so that you can come back and tell about it. you cant tell about every person that lives there.. instead you generalize. you say that the people from country X were incredibly nice, or the people from country Y were extremely religious, or the people from country Z like to dress in a particular style. after spending just a brief 3 weeks in a place, it’s so easy to make sweeping generalizations about the whole population there. the people in Myanmar are all very friendly. Japanese people are really picky about manners. Thai people are easygoing. so many new views I have of groups of people, and yet I have no idea how true any of them are or if they are only true of the handful of people I’ve met. all I can do is to keep traveling, keep meeting people, and keep learning more about them. a year is just not enough time.

the thing that strikes me so often is just how different people are. everyone eats different foods. everyone has different manners. everyone has different ways of doing things. people have various religions, clothing, and political views. some people eat with their hands, while others use utensils. some people wouldn’t dream of eating a cow while others love steaks. some people have huge plates in their lips while others have stretched out necks. I’ve been to so many different places and seen so many different ways of life. and yet, surprisingly, I guess the other thing that strikes me is how *the same* people are. despite all the religious differences, religion for almost everyone is still a way of saying “thanks” for being here to the one who made them. no matter who they are, people all still work, eat, drink, and sleep. everywhere you go, there are still nice people, angry people, sad people, and lazy people. almost everyone has similar goals of living a happy life and supporting their family.

in Thailand, there is this expression “Same Same but Different”. it’s used quite often regarding things you get. when you wanted an AC , but instead you got a tiny room with a fan: same same but different. you asked for a blue shirt, but they only had red: same same but different. you ordered chicken but instead they serve you water buffalo: same same but different. with people, it works too. all these people from all these countries… everyone having similar desires, needs, emotions, etc… yet everyone expresses them differently on the outside, living in different structures, wearing different clothes, and eating different foods. that’s all of us really… same same but different.

*********

once again, as usual, I’d like to ask anyone reading this to leave a comment below. even if it’s just short one. I spent ages writing this journal, and really it’s mainly because I want to be able to remember this stuff later, but still it’s always good to know that out there, there are people reading. so if you are, drop a line down below, even if it’s short or just “hi”.

wow. a whole year. let’s see how long I can keep going from now…

*v

33 thoughts on “i did it…”

  1. I’m so jealous, Vlad. Ever since I got back I’ve been longing to travel again. Your and Caryn’s journals have been so wonderful to read, and have given me some sense of where I’d like to go and what I’d like to do when I get the chance to travel again. Congratulations on making it this far, and good luck with the rest of your travels!

  2. People will not care about your trip at all when you come home. I think one of my friends has looked at my site. Every once in a while people who I know and who know about my site will ask me to bring pictures. It’s like it’s too difficult for them to just look online, they have to be forced to look at them because you bring them to them and lay them in their laps. Yeah, it’s that bad.

    When I got home conversations went like this:
    Friend: “Hi, you’re back from your trip! How was it?”
    Me: “good”
    Friend: “That’s great, oh my god, did you hear what Paris Hilton did!?”

    Everything I think about has to do with my trip. Because I’m leaving again it’s worse. I think “should I buy that shirt? No, because it will be hard to hand wash.” etc. I walk around in America, look at people and think “they have no idea.”

    Still, after 5 months home, I can’t imagine working all day. I think it would have been ebst to have started working right away if I had been home under normal circumstances.

    Are we going to get an update post soon on your future plans/route/timetable?

  3. Vlad, your journal never ceases to amaze me. You’re quite the world traveler! Congrats on reaching and passing the 365 day mark. I look forward to reading what the future holds for you and Caryn.
    My best to the both of you

  4. Congrats on making it a year. I can’t believe London was really one year ago.

    Have fun in SA, and hopefully I can meet you down there.

  5. It’s so great to continue to live vicariously through your blog, so thanks for writing! Now that I’m home I’ve gone back through mine now and again and am sooo glad I wrote a lot on the road–it’s great to look back on it all, even just a few months later. I know what you mean about getting sick of those same conversations on the road. The same thing definitely happened when I got home. A lot of people did want to hear about my trip, which is nice, but most of the conversations were exactly the same, and almost everyone asked the same questions. The unique, interesting conversations were few and far between and I got really tired of talking about it! (I wanted to write up an FAQ to give to people, but thought that might come across as rude rather than helpful!) I’m impressed you’ve made it this long–I was pretty ready to come home after 8 1/2 months, but maybe that’s partly because my boyfriend was home waiting for me rather than right next to me. Can’t wait to hear about the rest of the adventure!

  6. Vlad,
    Reading about your trip has been one of the *only* things I consistently read on LJ. I love hearing about it. When you were in Africa and I read about Ethopia, I actually dreamed about Africa. I’m glad you made the trip and I can only imagine how it would feel to come back to “life” after such an adventure. I’m looking forward to hearing more about it.

    Anyway, I love you guys and I miss you. Keep traveling as long as you can cause it’s getting SUCKY here in the US.

  7. hey vlad, looking forward to having you back. it’s a bittersweet thing i’m sure. even for us, readers. i think some of us lived vicariously through your trip. at least i did. i want to say something significant but can’t find the words. i just know that you’re probably a different person now. and for the better. not so much your personality but your knowledge and empathy for the rest of the world. the next time you go to starbucks and find that they served you a luke warm coffee, you’ll probably look back at that bus ride in ethiopia, or the various bathrooms you encountered and realize… ‘hmmm… it’s not really that bad.” 1/3 of my life was spent in the philippines. where the term ‘basta na’ has similar meaning to ‘same, same but different’. it’s more like ‘whatever happens’. americans or 1st world countries are turned off by uncertainty. or when they don’t get what they want. the rest of the world lives in such conditions. don’t really know where this is going… but i guess what i’m trying to say is the world is getting smaller and you’ve experienced, and touched it. that’s sooo sweet! you’re 1 in a billion vlad.

  8. when you get back, it will be same same but different. Hope you can make it last awhile longer and safe travels!

  9. hey vladdie, congrats on your travel anniversary! good luck in SA, travel safe.

    kG

  10. vladski; can’t believe how much you’ve experienced in one year… its truly amazing. I haven’t read all the posts, I’m looking forward to hear the stories when you get back. Like the trip in Egypt looking for the right hookahs. I have a couple to recall your memory and celebrate your return.

    all the best

  11. Vald, I got hooked on to your travelogue sometime when you were in India as have a couple of my friends. Maybe at some stage you could consider publishing it as a book… maybe lots of people you know might not want to hear the stories again but a lot of people who don’t know you might be interested specially when they dream of,hope to or are planning an adventure like yours. Infact my Japan trip in August was on your footsteps. And you definitely have the ability to write and some lovely photographs.
    All the best

  12. You know that I’m readin’ it. And has it been a year already? It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were out at dinner saying goodbye…

    Patrick

  13. Hey Kids, Whats up?

    Still reading, Wishing I was out there with you guys again. I still have my tee-shirt that I bought in the night market in Chang Mai, “Same Same” on the front, “but Different” on the back. Of course, nobody here knows what the hell it means, so its hard finding a good occasion to wear it. Didn’t even realize till I got home that its really the only “souvenir” thing I bought for myself on the whole trip!

    Any updates on how the money is holding out, and when you’re coming home?

    Ryan

  14. Hey Vlad,

    I don’t even remember how I found your blog, but It has become an evening ritual reading it! I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your experiences here, as my husband and I will be leaving for our RTW in a few months, and have learned so much from you.
    Most blogs are “we did this, and then we did that, and then we went here, and then we went there”, but you are such an insightful fantastic writer!

    Anyway, thanks, stay safe.

    Teresa & Justin (Canada)

  15. Jerk! When I drove you to the airport, you told me you would be back in a year. I go to your website today and what do I see? “Ooh, look at me. I’m Vlad and I’ve been traveling for a year, and I’m still going.”

    Wow.. I just figured out that everyone’s been wishing you good luck in South America not South Africa. I guess I’ll join in too. Good luck in South America Vlad!

  16. Oh, Vlad, I’m still faithfully reading your journal. How could I not? Not only is it totally interesting, but it’s a means of staying connected to you. I can’t tell you how much I wish I could’ve taken this journey with you guys – or even shared a tiny part of it with you. Maybe someday, in the not-too-distant future, we can travel together again – that’d be so RAD! Yeah! >:)

    I love and miss you! :~(

  17. Wow, an entire year that’s a big accomplishment. I am glad I was there to celebrate not only the last month with you guys but also my 27th birthday. Africa was awesome thank you for talking me into coming. Thanks for drinking beer with me last night and thank you for being a friend. Have fun in S.America and don’t play it to safe.

    -joey

  18. Congrats on one year! I’m stil reading. Keep the awesome journal entries coming! 🙂
    -stephanie

  19. Congratulations again with the 1st anniversary.
    Good luck in South America and be safe.

    Lina

  20. Still reading and enjoying 🙂 Looking forward to reading about your second year on the road. 😉

  21. I’m still reading! I can’t believe it’s been a year already!

  22. In some ways it doesn’t seem like it has been one year since we last saw you…Thank God for technology…It allows us to hear from you as soon as the experience feels it’s important for you to share. If we didn’t have this we would always be wondering what you were going through…so, thank you for sharing your journal with us. Enjoy your time in South America. Be safe, God Bless and come back to us safely with even more adventures to share.
    Love,
    Suzi, Tom, Billy, etc.

  23. i can’t even begin to tell you how jealous i am, or what an inspiration you and caryn have been to me. thanks for sharing your stories and photos with all of us!

    can’t wait to see the last installment of south america… and can’t wait to see you guys back here in the bay area again 🙂

  24. Dude, It’s so awsome that you continue to go and see the world. I continue to follow your adventure and have not missed a post. Before you left as we had a farewell lunch for you I had seen much of the world (so I thought). Not anymore. I have only seen a fraction of what you have seen. I commend you on your adventure and wish you future safe travels. Keep the stories coming. I look forward to your book.

  25. congrats Vladdie!! Glad to see you made it safely this far.. Spain seems like such a long long long time ago! Looking forward to hanging out with you soon!

  26. I’m as jealous as anyone else, but don’t you ever miss creating anything? Being part of something? To wander the earth is to be a permanent observer. I’m sure you’ve done more in the last year than consume, but you don’t touch on it here.

  27. Having just met you both this night, I’m pleased and honored to have been invited to have this glimpse of your real lives. (won’t mention the vague tremors of envy)Am truely happy you had this opportunity and have shared it with many, to all our benefits.
    Hope to chat again. Don’t take any wooden blood banks .. er yeah… B

  28. Of course I’m still reading. I agree that everything will be same same but different here too. The same same people are here waiting for you guys… but some of us are up to different things.

    Best of luck in SA and keep on posting.

    Love, Kim

  29. happy aniversary vladdie!
    i have just started taking african danse classes and all i can think about is how amazing it would be for me to get to see where these dances are the norm and the cultural expression. you are doin it. it certainly seems as though one could disorient from one’s beginning point of (cultural) reference quite easily and, in that process, be very aware of one’s own growth on a conscious level as it happens. it sounds like that’s what you’re doing. how wonderful. peace!
    -sagie*

  30. Vlad,

    Let me introduce myself to you. I’m Caryn’s dad’s cousin. I’ve only started reading your journal. Caryn’s mom told me about hers last winter. You’re doing something I haven’t dared to dream of doing. When I had the youth and freedom, I didn’t have the money. Now I’m tied down with a house and other responsibilities so even if we had the money, we still couldn’t go. Be sure that I’m going to go back and read your take on all you’ve seen. Thank you for such detail on things! I’m traveling vicariously through you and Caryn to places I doubt I’ll ever go.

    Your observation that people are “same same only different” is a viewpoint I share.

    Travel safely! I hope to meet you when you get back. 🙂

  31. What a fabulous adventure!
    You get high with places and people and new views! and we see the world in a different light thru your words… thank you 🙂

    Drum bun,
    Ludmila from Romania

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