Final reflections from the quartergapyear…

I can’t quite believe that my amazing journey is finally coming to an end. It is exactly 13 weeks ago to the day that I set out from my flat in Blackheath for Heathrow airport, the BA business class lounge, a glass of champagne and a huge sense of excitement and trepidation about what lay ahead. In just 2 hours time, I will be making my way to Bangkok airport. Yes, I will again be enjoying the fine hospitality of BA, and even though I will be sad to say goodbye to travels and be returning to work on Monday morning, I have a different sense of excitement and trepidation about what life will have in store for me. And also a lot of anticipation about what promises to be the best EVER homecoming weekend choreographed by the hostess with the mostest, Mel. Can’t wait to see the girls.

Such were the expectation on the quartergapyear that there was a very big danger of it disappointing, and not managing to live up to what I had dreamed it could be. I have to say, though, that it has truly been the most amazing, most wonderful 3 months of my life. I have pushed myself to be independent and brave; I have met so many great people and new friends; every day has brought a new memory, moment and experience to savour for a lifetime; I have learned new skills; I have found out good things about myself that I didn’t know; I have come to love and appreciate my family and friends even more than I did before; I have said goodbye to the last stage of my life, but with fondness, positivity and goodwill; I have come to understand what the future can hold for me, and to accept the need to take each day as it comes, listen to myself, and embrace new realities with an open heart and an open mind; and most importantly, I have remembered how to live for the moment and wring every last drop of fun, enjoyment and happiness from life. Of everything, it is the last feeling that I hope I can hold on to when I am back.

I have been reading back through my journals, reflecting on the amazing things I have done. It gives me so much pleasure to think how much fun I have managed to pack into 3 months,, how many memories made, how much I have grown and learned as a person. If only every 3 months of my life could be the same. Here are some of the selected highlights:

Friends: a wonderful send off from the girls in Blackheath the night before I left; long emails from Mel and my mum packed with news from home and funny anecdotes; FB chats with all the girls filling them in on the details that haven’t made it onto this blog; a valentines text from my sister; xmas with the delightful Roberts family; sing-a-long Grease with Dan and the boys; dancing in Palms with Dan and Tony; Lou Lou’s birthday celebrations; tears at midnight as the fireworks went off over the Sydney Harbour bridge; last night drinks at the Sydney Opera bar; great news friends like Rebecca and Chris, Jonni and Louisa, Becca and Johannes, Matthew, Arian, Tamara, Jo and Dan, and many more; my lovely scuba instructor Billy and our big tequilla night out.

Personal achievements: feeling truly alive again; sleeping soundly for the first time in ages; scaring myself and enjoying it; being proud of myself for travelling alone and making the whole thing work; listening to myself; fending off the rats; being chilled out when I realised I had missed my flight from Phnom Penh to Bangkok; learning to scuba dive and then getting my advanced qualification.

So many ‘firsts’: scuba diving to 35 metres and seeing a turtle swimming underwater; watching my first 3D film; swimming in a river; seeing a flying fish; staying in a bamboo hut; sleeping under a mosquito net; sleeping outdoors on the top deck of the boat off Richelou Rock; seeing a salt farm; seeing someone eat a deep fried spider; doing a night dive.

Music: open mic night in Cairns; 2 nights jamming with the locals in Kalaw; playing guitar on boats; beers and guitar playing on the rooftop terrace on Bribie Island; learning lots of new songs.

Travel experiences: going back to basics; the roof top bar in Bangkok that was so full of life and fun; temple gazing in Bangkok; picking up fresh pineapple and mango on the go; getting my first glimpse of Burma from the plane as we came in to land; beautiful but crumbling architecture of Yangon; cooling off with the fan in my room in Yangon after a busy day sightseeing; being at Schwedagon Pagoda as my divorce came through on 9 January; reading Burmese Days by Kandawgyi Lake; the sense of camaraderie among female bus travellers as we all troop into the ladies toilets together on stops; Ang Sang Suu Kyi’s writings on friendship in Letters from Burma; the dawn bus ride from Kalaw to Nagschwe as the mist rose over the hills and through the trees; catching up with Kalaw friends at Inle Lake; bike ride with Matthew and Arian through the beautiful Burmese countryside and feeling an impulsive smile strech wide across my face as I felt so truly happy; Bagan temples by horse cart and hot air balloon; the boat ride from Nuang U to Mandalay with beers and guitar on deck and amazing sun rise and sun set; the motorbike ride along the beach with Ray in Ngwe Saung; crazy nights out with Tamara in Siem Reap; sad historical truths in Phnom Penh at S21 prison and the killing fields; watching a family playing together on Otres beach; feeling like I was at the edge of the world at the old casino on Bokhill Mountain; the 1965 film at the National Museum of Cambodia; Cambodian cooking course; my island paradise in Koh Pagnang; my luxury boutique hotel in Bangkok.

And that, as they say, is a wrap.

I now have an hour to shower and prep for my trip to the airport and then it’s head down and wake up in London.

In many ways, I don’t want this adventure to end, don’t want to come home and back to reality. But then I remember Anna’s wise words ” you will remember that the world is such an amazing place, and you have barely begun to scratch the surface. So much more to see and do.” I already have plans for where I will go next – not for so long next time, unfortunately, but travel is part of who I am and the desire to explore, learn and grow is stronger than ever in me.  As I said in one of my previous blog posts, ” the fire of adventure has been lit, and its embers will continue to glow in my head and in my heart, the desire to explore and grow have been reawoken in my soul.” It is that thought that I take with me as I bring this brilliant, wonderful, life changing adventure to a close. And come home to start the new chapter of my life.

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