And just like this one year passed and I am drinking a gin&tonic while waiting for my flight back to Europe. I can’t believe how quickly time flies when you are having a good time. From the first days in China when I was so excited about everything to the last few days in Mexico, it has been an amazing year.
The last few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster for me. It was very difficult to accept the fact that soon this trip will be over. I was getting used to this lifestyle. I liked being a nomad and moving all the time, I liked living with no worries. I’ve met a lot of people in the last weeks that were just starting the trip of their lifetime. I could feel their excitement in exploring new places and their energy. I could see myself through them one year ago. While they will have their best time ever, I will have to find a job, a place to live and go back to a normal life. It is sad to think that I won’t be a backpacker anymore. A life full of responsibilities is waiting for me and the alarm will ring every morning to wake me up for work.
On the other hand, I’m happy to go back and see my family. Every time I spoke with my parents on the phone they were asking me when I’m coming back. I guess it was difficult for them to see their son wandering alone in all these far away countries that they know nothing about. And it was difficult for me too not to see them, especially for Christmas. Even though I’m not planning to move back to Romania, being in Europe feels that I am somehow closer to them.
I missed my friends and I am excited to see them again. When you travel you meet a lot of people, but it is not easy to make a ‘good’ friend. By the time you start knowing them better, they are gone. My first stop will be in London to meet and reconnect with the people who supported and helped me during this year. While I was away I tried to keep in touch with everyone, but it’s not the same when you are not there for the Saturday parties, for the BBQs or for the casual after work beers. It’s the close circle of friends that you have in normal life, but not when backpacking.
The uncertainty of my future is exciting, but also scary at the same time. As this trip was coming to an end, more and more people asked me what I will do next. To be honest I don’t exactly know. I didn’t want to think about it while travelling. Right now I’m homeless, jobless and broke. For short-term I’ll try to earn some money while living in the Netherlands with my sister. Long term, it is a big unknown even for me. I don’t have any plans to move back to London and Romania is out of question. It will probably be a new country, but which one depends on too many factors, including opportunities and personal commitments. I will have a period of transition of a few months when I’ll try to put everything together and take a decision. I’m optimistic about what will happen next, but things can go in any direction.
Follow your dreams
I don’t know how much this trip changed me, but I feel that I achieved something in life. I remember when I was a kid and I was dreaming of going to exotic islands with palm trees and white sand beaches. I was dreaming to see colourful fish and dive through corals, I was dreaming to be on top of a mountain above the clouds, I wanted to see the world and go everywhere. It was maybe a too big of a dream for a poor kid like me who has never even left Romania. But after this trip I can say I achieved my childhood dreams. I’m glad I had the courage to do this crazy trip and above all, I’m proud that I’ve done it before my 30th birthday. I’ve seen so many cool places that I didn’t even know they existed. I’ve experienced so many cultures and met so many people. I just have to stop for a bit and reflect about all these incredible things that happened to me in the past year. I still can’t believe I filled all the pages of my passport with stamps in only two years and a half.
If there is something that I’ve learned while travelling for so long, that will be living a minimalistic lifestyle. No laptop, no TV, no fancy clothes or shoes. In fact, what do you actually need to live? I travelled around the world for one year only with a 40L backpack. It is probably smaller than what most of the people bring on their two weeks holiday. I slept in basic hostels and shared rooms with many people. I was eating whatever the locals eat and I was moving around like a local. A few clothes, food and a roof above your head is all you need. After a trip like this you realize that you own so many things that don’t necessarily make your life better. They are there just for your extra layer of comfort.
I’m still alive and well
I’m sad this trip is over, but I’m glad I’m here alive and well, being able to write this. It was my main worry that I will get sick, robbed or even killed. Except for a few t-shirts, I’m coming back with the same luggage I left with and I am as healthy as in the first day. During this year I visited a few countries that I was really scared of. And for good reasons. I’ve met many people who got robbed or other bad things happened to them. Most of the times it was not even their fault. When your bag gets stolen from the trunk of the bus or when you get robbed at knife/gun point is not much you can do. I guess I was just lucky that nothing bad happened to me. It was a small risk that I was aware of and prepared for. Even if I was robbed, I was not the end of the world. Things can be easily replaced, but nobody can steal from me the amazing memories I have from this trip.
What will happen to the blog?
I created this blog to share this journey with my friends and family and encourage other people to travel. I’ve spent a lot of time and I put a lot of effort into writing each post and it was really exciting to see how many people read it. Even though I know I’m not a good writer, I am actually quite proud of this blog. It is part of this trip and it means a lot for me. I had some moments at the beginning when I wanted to stop, but some readers encouraged me to keep writing. However, after this trip it will be difficult to find free time and interesting things to write about. I don’t plan to turn it into a personal blog or make money out of it, so it will probably hibernate until my next big adventure.
What about the sketch?
The drawing from this post has an interesting story. It’s one of coolest things that happen to me on this trip.
It was a hot Saturday afternoon in Valladolid, Mexico. After visiting a few cenotes in the morning I went back to the hostel to relax a bit. As I was laying in my bed, I could hear AC/DC playing loud in the little park in front of my hostel. I left my room and I saw a couple of people installing a sound system. The park was empty, so I just sat down on the central fountain listening to the music and browsing my phone. I was there for like half hour until the music stopped and then I went back to my room.
Later in the evening, the music started again. I went outside and the park was full with people. A few rows of seats were placed in front of the stage where a school band was playing. On a side a few food-stands were selling local food. From what I understood it was a charity event to collect money for poor families.
It was dinner time so I decided to try some of the local food. While I was queueing to get quesadillas, a woman from the crowd saw me and with a hand gesture she told me to wait. She was a local, in her thirties I think, wearing casual clothes. She started looking through her bag, while I was confused about what was going on. I thought she will give me a bible and try to convert me to her church. You know, one of those people. I was preparing to say that I’m not interested in any religion, when she handed me this sketch. I managed to say “gracias” and then she disappeared into the crowd.
Why would someone give me a sketch like this? I thought she is a local artist and she just gives her drawings for free to random people. As I was staring at the piece of paper in my hand I had my WOW moment. It was a sketch of me from a few hours before, while I was sitting on the fountain. That was so unexpected and super cool at the same time.
Thank you dear stranger for making my day better! I will keep this special sketch together with all my memories and photos from this trip. I will hang it on my wall next to my passport full of stamps.
Some facts about this trip
I can’t finish this post without giving you some cool stats. It is just a short list of things that I could quickly count.
- 365 days of travelling
- 4 continents
- 24 countries
- 26 flights
- 18160 GBP spend including all the flights, insurance and visas
- I travelled from 0m to over 5000m altitude
- Skydived from 4000m and dived to 38m depth
- Crossed the equator twice
- I had a total of 15kg of luggage for the whole year
- I now speak 3 foreign languages (Una cerveza por favor!)
And just like this, one year passed…
Wooooow!! Congrats Raul! See you soon!
Well done Raul! Was great following your blog. Welcome back
Congraaaaats!!! I recognize myself in most of the feelings you described, even if our sabbatical was just a few months long. You don’t realise it just yet, but the effects of such a journey will start kicking after you return to ‘normal’ life. 🙂 Good luck with your new life, i’m sure the adventures will somehow stick to you for the future as well, no matter the country! Cheers to freedom! 😉