State of the Union

State of the Union
Vang Vieng, Lao Peoples Dem Rep

Vang Vieng, Lao Peoples Dem Rep

It’s been over 3 months now that I’ve been on the road. I think maybe a few people expected that I might be home by now (including me, on several occasions). But I’m not home, so I figured it might be time for an update – not on the places Cara is travelling to, but on Cara. So here are a few questions I fancy someone might be pondering at one point or another, and their answers…. because I have an awful lot more free time to think about silly stuff like this now. Feel free to skip this one if that sounds boring. “Never mind where are you. How are you?” I’m awesome. Honestly. Spectacular. Never happier in my life. Even on the bad days, it’s like, a bad day in Croatia or Thailand or wherever. Ya know? I’m travelling. I’m free. I haven’t felt true, serious stress since before I left on my trip. Admittedly, I’m still having a hard time getting used to traveling solo again. I miss Fabien, and although I’m meeting lots of new people, it’s just not the same. I feel the loneliness much more now. I’ve been sick 3 times in total (just got over the flu), but in general I’m safe and healthy. “It’s hard to tell from a photo – do you look any different or anything?” I’m more out of shape than I’ve ever been in my life. My tummy is poochy and I’m losing all my muscles. My cellulite has cellulite. But….eh, whatever. “How’s the whole backpack thing going?” Eh, alright. My pack has a few deficiencies, which become more evident the longer I travel (like no outside pockets and poor access to the pack contents). I’ve seen others with better packs. The good people at MEC have told me they’ll happily refund or exchange my pack upon my return. I wonder if they want me to remove the little Canadian flag I sewed on to it first? But I can’t say I won’t be happy to unload the thing once and for all and put on my LuluLemon track suit and some slippers. “What do you do all day?” Honestly, I wondered about that too before I first set off on my adventure. But you’d be amazed at how the days fly by. Either I’m doing: 1) touristy / sightseeing /sporty/adventure things, 2) logistical / mapping /research / booking things, 3) mundane / laundry / internet / washing my hair kind of things, 4) actually travelling between two destinations, or 5) taking a break from all of that and not doing much of anything at all. #2 and #4 take up a lot of time; more than I had anticipated. I’ve only ever been slightly bored once, and that was the last couple of days in Bangkok alone. “What do you eat?” I try to eat local dishes as much as I can (although lately I have to admit I’m getting a little tired of rice and veg). Not only is it cheaper, but locals tend to know their own food best, so there are few surprises. Western food always tends to be just a little off the mark, or even downright disappointing, and always more expensive, so it’s not really worth it. Toast is sometimes an exception, and I’ve been known to carry a tiny jar of peanut butter in my purse for just such occasions. “Do you miss any foods?” Peanut butter, obviously. I’d love a huge, fresh, crispy spinach salad with tons of familiar vegetables in it. With blue cheese dressing. And a can of Canada Dry ginger ale. “Do you ever get scared?” Nah. I pretty much follow the well-worn tourist trail, and it’s tough to go too terribly wrong on that. Every place I’ve been to has felt safe, with the exception of maybe Phnom Penh. And there are always lots of other tourists around. “Are you homesick?” I wasn’t, up until recently. Being away a) for this long and b) at Christmas time is a bit tough. I have lots of Christmas traditions with my mom that I’m feeling sad about missing for the first time. And I miss other things, like my bed, and having lots of pillows, a real shower, etc. “How much is all this costing you?” Thousands and thousands and thousands. I am in awe of those I have met who are managing to trave lfor a year or more (in one case, a whole family!). I’ll be broke way before then. “Do you set yourself a daily budget?” Ha ha ha ha ha ha!!! If I knew the first thing about good budgeting, I’d have taken this trip 5 years ago, and I’d be writing to you from a 5-star hotel suite instead of a rickety, dodgy train car (I wrote this a while ago). No but seriously, I don’t budget. I just try to be reasonable and live on the line between “cheap” and “comfortable/safe”. Like I’ll eat for $1 for a while, and then splurge on a $4 meal or whatever. I never stay at the cheapest guesthouses, as the level of security seems to be in direct relation to the price. Plus, I like to have my own bathroom. Transportation is a big expense. In general, I blew way too much in Europe. “Speaking of bathrooms….” Check out the photos and their captions for the story on toilets in Southeast Asia. “When are you coming home?” Pretty soon. I’d like to stay away until the Canadian winter has passed, if I can stretch my money that far. At least ’til the end of February, hopefully. It’s going to be depressing enough just ending my trip, let alone coming home to -40, plus turning 40. Too much all at once. I need at least a little silver lining. Spring is it. “Silver lining? Have you heard what’s happened to the world while you’ve been gone?” I know, no matter when I come home it’s going to be a mess, in so many ways. But do you really think I want to think about that now? “What are the worst and best things you’ve experienced so far?” Worst: either the day I spent walking around in the cold and pouring rain in ? (where was that? somewhere in Greece?), or the first couple of days in Bangkok. Or the moment when Fabien left. Or finding out about Stacey’s passing and not being home for that. Considering all the things that can go wrong when travelling, those things aren’t so bad. Best: impossible to answer. There have been a million bests, in every place I’ve visited (even one or two in India!). But the grape-stomping thing and my new friends in Hvar, Croatia is definitely up there towards the top of the list. And of course, all my time with Fab. “If you could change one thing right now, what would it be?” I’d double or triple my available funds and keep on trucking. That, and time-travel home for a flash visit with my family and my friends, and one sleep on my Tempur-pedic mattress with my blue blanket wrapped around me. And a real, hot shower. And my mom’s food. And a glass of really good red wine. And an episode of the Young and the Restless. Thanks to all of you for following along on my journey. Have a wonderful Christmas / Channukah, everyone! Raise a glass for me! xoxo

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