Back in 2006 I’d only ever been abroad twice, a 2 week holiday in the Costa Del Sol and a 4 day city break in Rome. The decision to go travelling for a year was born out of being totally bored with life and always having a nagging in the back of my mind that I’d wanted to see and do more, a familiar story. I was 24, had dropped out of my last 2 creative courses and was in a job I hated waiting for some stroke of genius to hit me. I’d always admired photographers and had been buying photography magazines for years but the closest I’d ever gotten to giving it a try was crawling on pine needles commando style trying to get a picture of a red squirrel and getting nothing but blurry red flashes of tail. So when I bought a semi pro digital slr and announced that I was going to be a travel photographer I got more than a few sceptical looks amongst comments about mortgages and jobs.

After a trip to STA travel with my fiancé the ball was well and truly in motion. Within 2 months we’d arranged to rent out our house, got all the relevant immunisations, arranged what visas we could and were busy looking at backpacks and getting very very excited.

Our original itinerary was for 1 year with us aiming to be home around Christmas 2007:

London to Hong Kong 4th Nov 2006
Singapore to Sydney 21st Dec 2006
Sydney to Christchurch 23rd June 2007

It was a flexible itinerary with lots of room to get from Hong Kong to Singapore following in the footsteps of thousands of travellers before us along the well worn South East Asia trail. It was also a one way ticket. We had liked the idea of being all intrepid and not actually setting anything in stone or deciding on a route home.

We had penciled 5 days in Hong Kong, a week in Vietnam, a week in Cambodia, a few days in Laos and 3 weeks in Thailand. As soon as we hit Vietnam this was blown completely out of the water! We ended up spending almost 4 weeks in Vietnam and considered spending the rest of the 6 weeks there. All along the way we met other travellers raving about one place or another. This is the only thing really that kept us from staying, the want to see more.

Rush Hour at Angkor Wat
Crowds gather and mill about waiting to watch the sun set in the ancient Kingdom of Angkor, Cambodia.

 

It was a similar story when we got to Australia. Our original 6 months turned into a year, with 7 months of that spent living in a campervan and a quick realisation that we had run out of money and needed to work. Not to mention having to make a quick trip over the pond to Christchurch to activate our Kiwi visas. By the time Christmas 2007 hit (our original ‘estimated’ home date) we’d finally made it to New Zealand, skint and having already used half of our years visa.

A tuk tuk in Bangkok's colourful Banglamphu district, Thailand.
A tuk tuk in Bangkok’s colourful Banglamphu district, Thailand.

 

Fast forward nearly 10 months and we couldn’t quite believe we were still in New Zealand. Our feet were getting itchy and the Pacific Islands were calling. We had 2 choices, take a 2 week ‘holiday’ and come back to New Zealand to earn some more cash and head for another continent, or leave New Zealand to start our journey home with what money we had left and make a few stops along the way. We had been away from home for a long time and our lives had been forever altered by the amazing experiences we’d had and the people we’d met. We had also missed birthdays and Christmases and little ones growing up and without having to discuss it, we both knew it was time to go home.

Kata Tjuta at Sundown
The evening’s last rays of sun turn the rock a deep orange. Uluru and Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory, Australia.

 

We had a 2 week break in Tonga to power down before heading back through the chaos of South East Asia and decided not to tell our friends and family that we had booked a flight home. We arrived in London on the 10th of November 2008, 2 years and 6 days after leaving. We left home with one neatly packed backpack between us and came home with 2 bursting at the seams. Never underestimate the power of being completely captivated by a place when you have a flexible itinerary and the time to spare!

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