I didn’t travel alone

Date: Friday 18th March 2016

Location: My Bedroom, Dorset, United Kingdom

It’s March and I’m sitting in my bedroom in my mum’s house where I’m now living (at the age of 26), looking out the window at the grey sky, the grey roads and the grey houses. Sometimes I forget that I even left the country, and when I do remember I wonder if it wasn’t just a dream. But then I look down at my arm and there are these two little marks on my forearm that will probably be there for a long time to come. They are the scars from when a giant, thorny fern fell on me in the jungle and I was too impatient to wait for the thorns to fall out on their own so I dug them out with a needle … and now they have scarred. And then there’s the thin white line that goes up my shin on my right leg where I scraped it climbing a fence to get into a corn field in America … and then I got sunburnt the next day and now it will stay. It took 4 months for the bruises from that bloody table challenge in New Zealand to fade, although I did keep accidentally hitting them on stuff so maybe it wasn’t all the game. To add to this I don’t think the mosquito and sandfly bite marks on my ankles will ever disappear. But the biggest change to me is when I close my eyes. Inside my head I can see a million different pictures in a myriad of the most spectacular colours. Each memory in turn can make me smile, laugh, cry, pause in wonder, cringe in embarrassment, fill with joy, stare in awe, swell with pride, make my heart break, make my heart sing and make me feel an astounding number of things that touch every point on the emotional rainbow (my emotional range is now definitely larger than a teaspoon). On the whole they make me grin from ear to ear. Memories are amazing; each one is like a brightly wrapped gift that I get to open again and again.

But more than just the physical and mental marks left on me I’ve gained the knowledge of this incredible group of people whom I never would have met in any other situation. When you are travelling you meet people you had never even imagined could exist and they’re doing things with their lives that you never even considered someone could do. Each and every person you meet opens up your eyes to new possibilities and it’s overwhelming and fascinating all at the same time. I loved learning about each and every one of you and I’m honoured that you thought I was worth sharing your story with.

When I tell people I’ve just travelled around the world on my own they generally tell me I was brave to do so (which I still think is a weird comment) but the truth is I didn’t travel the world alone, I travelled it with all of you. Whether it was a month, a few weeks, a day or even just dinner you all kept me company and shared my experiences the whole way round. I know I’m sounding all lovey-dovey and New Age (maybe I picked it up in America) but you guys made my trip what it was. If I hadn’t had someone around to take me out for dinner on my first night in New York or take me wine tasting in Niagara or show me how a tornado forms in real time or take me dancing all night in Austin or take me to crazy music festivals or invite me to stay in your family home or get me lost in the Wyoming mountains on a horse or teach me how to use a machete or join me in swimming in a river full of piranha and caymans or teach me how to act like a tree when there’s a monkey on your back or how to play dishes or save me from killer chickens or encourage me to get to the top of Colca Canyon or chase llamas in Cusco for me or help rescue my backpack in Puno or make me friendship bracelets in a truck driving across the salt flats of Bolivia or understand my excitement at geysers in Rotorua or jump out of a plane with me or forgiven my terrible Maori stick throwing or ride across the Narnia landscape with me or jump into the freezing lake Wanaka with me or laugh at me when I got too drunk (again) in New Zealand or invite me out on random snorkelling trip with all your friends when you’d only just met me or stay up drinking and laughing all night on a random sand island or take me to the most hilarious, empty club in the middle of the outback or laugh your way round the museums of Melbourne with me or take me for walks on the beach discussing the pitfalls of love or spend the evening prank calling exes with me and dancing like a crazy person … my journey would not have been the same.

So I want to say a huge thank you to everyone I met and remind you that by traveller code if you ever need a place to stay, or even just some help navigating my home country/city, then just let me know and I’ll be there for you.

And to those who haven’t yet travelled, go, please go, just go. Like I said, memories are amazing! They are worth far more than any Gucci handbag or Louboutin shoes you’re saving for (and I would really love a pair of Louboutin’s) and making the memories themselves is even more magical. The world is a massive, complex and beautiful place that I haven’t started to scratch the surface of. You don’t travel to realise your dreams, you travel to create dreams you don’t even know you’re going to dream yet.

BeFunky Collage

 

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Let Me Tell You a Story

Date: Saturday 22nd August to Friday 28th August 2015

Location: Taricaya, Peru (still)

When you walk in the jungle you will discover many beautiful things. Exotic flowers that grow like daisies, butterflies that shine like jewels, little lizards that scamper among the vines and vegetation that you can part like a curtain. The scaffolding holding up this vegetation is a mix of the most interesting trees that shoot up towards the daylight in tall, straight lines.

There is a particular tree in the jungle that is taller than all the others, the roots splay out from above your head creating cavities big enough for a grown man to sleep in and its branches and leaves are lost in the canopy and the clouds. The bark of the tree is white and clean so you can see it for miles and in the moonlight it seems to glow. Around this tree strange things can happen. Stories have been told in the jungle for hundreds of years of the magic that is around this tree as this is not just a tree, it is a home. It is a home to insects, birds, monkeys and even some other plants but it is also home to Chuyachaqui.

Chuyachaqui is the guardian of the jungle and he can tell if you have been good to the forest or not (let’s call him a jungle Father Christmas). According to locals of the area he deserves your respect, just like the forest, and you should greet him kindly when you walk past him – a simple “Buenos Dias” will suffice. If he feels like it Chuyachaqui can choose to show himself to you but he is a shape shifter. He will appear to look like someone you know very well and he will never appear next to you, you will have to walk to reach him. If you have been good to the forest then you will have no problem and you can follow your friend with no second thought, however if you have not treated the forest with respect you should be weary. The only way you can tell if the one you follow is your friend or foe is that Chuyachaqui will have one human foot and one animal foot, but by the time you have found this out it will be too late. If you have done wrong he will lead you off the path and around and around in circles until you are lost and lonely with no way home. To be lost in the jungle is not a good thing, even for a local so you should always treat the jungle well.

When I heard this story a huge smile came onto my face, to me this folk tale (whether you believe in it or not) shows that even without the global knowledge of deforestation it is intrinsic to individual human values to protect what is around us. It is a shame that individual human thoughts rarely translate to global consciousness … but we can keep trying, individually.