Life's a Journey : 30 of my favourite things at 30.
Ko Phayam Travel Blog› entry 111 of 268 › view all entries
Well there it goes! Another major landmark on this Journey of Life zooms past me in the rear-view mirror of my days. My fourth decade on Planet Earth starts today. Still so much of the wide world to see. Nothing fancy, original (or even particularly interesting I hazard here) to mark the Big Three Oh. Just 30 things, major or minor and in no particular order of priority that so far stand out for me and I have enjoyed so much in my big adventure so far :
1. Travbuddy - Yes, yes, yes, I know! A shameless and predictable grab for your affections straight outta the blocks but I cannot emphasise enough how the platform TB provides for helping my friends (new & old), loved ones and most notably, myself have such a wonderful means of capturing and reflecting upon experiences, memories and images has fast become a keystone of my adventure.
2. Buff (or rather Buffalo) MoMos - MoMos are Nepal’s take on steamed dumplings. Stuffed with buffalo meat and served with spicy sauces, these are one of my fave snacks from the country, and of my journey so far. I could eat ‘em until the cows come home... which of course they never will, for by then I’ll’ve eaten ‘em all already!
3. Freedom to think - Whilst it’s true that sometimes, caught up in the tidal flow of fellow travellers it can be surprisingly tricky to find the headspace to genuinely, quietly stop and think, the option to stop and go and search for that space is always there.
4. Sunset at Petra [Jordan] - A dawn ‘til dusk day in the ancient rose-red city ruins of Petra has proven so far to be one of the finest of my journey to date. Utter magnificence and beauty from start until finish when the burning red sun bled down into the Wadi Arabia desert with Bedouin pipe music echoing from the cliffs before my friends and I walked back through the city by the light of the moon and stars…and a mobile phone! J
6. Mountains - Before we start to really travel I think we have an idea of who we are and what environments we prefer to be in and take most contentment from experiencing. That we don’t more often relocate to such well-springs of our best happinesses is most often I guess a consequence of the necessities and obligations of ‘Modern Life’; and more depressingly a lack of will to act for our better aspirations.
7. Freedom to read - Don’t get me wrong, I have been quite a voracious reader for some many years now. But again, the guilt-free act of just picking up one book after another and consuming all that inspiration without the knowledge that you’re basically procrastinating from other life obligations makes is soooo much more enjoyable! Time to really read your chosen book.
8. Gelato - What can I say. Italian ice-cream (in my experience) is unsurpassably delicious and I’d eat ‘em until my bum was twice as big as m’backpack! “HEY! What ya doin’ sayin’ it already is?! Ya cheeky sh*te!”
10. New friends - This follows well from SpicyThai ‘cos so many were made there. An obvious choice, but actually it really does not cease to amaze me how many wonderful, wonderful people you meet all of the time on your travels. Constant new stimulation, inspiration and company to reinvigorate your heart for the journey ahead.
11. Phosphorescent plankton, [Railay, Thailand] - Everything is illuminated. Literally. Swimming in the night-blackened, watery embrace of the Andaman Sea by the light of the full moon whilst these fantastical little underwater fireworks burst from the wake of your every movement is one of the strangest and most beautiful experiences of my life to date.
12. Public buses - Yeah, yeah, yeah.
13. Basil-drenched focaccia bread, [Cinque Terre, Italy] - Widely available throughout Italy, but a regional speciality (amongst others) of the Cinque Terre villages of the north-western Ligurian coastline.
14. The Petronas Twin Towers, [Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia] - Whilst I’ve experienced many architectural wonders of ‘Man’ (both modern and of antiquity) in my journey so far, these incredible towers have exposed themselves most blindingly and crisply upon the photographic paper of my minds eye. Illuminated at night, they have an elegance and symmetry of design and appearance that I found quite, quite breathtaking.
15. A deepening appreciation of what it is to love and to miss family and ‘Home’ - Well yes, the saying goes that absence makes the heart grow fonder. But family is Heart. Your heart.
16. Paper Lanterns, [North Thailand] - Not by any means the especial property of Thai celebratory culture, but it was here amidst various New Years revelries that I experienced the gentle beauty of these simple, tissue paper lanterns being filled with hot air and released high, higher, far and away into the night sky. Particularly in Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son. I love the look of expectant happiness on the faces of those; friends, families or lovers lighting their faces and waiting patiently to release their lights into the universe.
17. Giovanni Segantini [St.Moritz, Switzerland] - I am eternally grateful to Donata Lietha, a darling dear ol’ swiss lady who drew my attention to this artist, his connection with the Engerdine region of the Alps and the museum dedicated to his works in St.Moritz. Stylistically none-too-distant from Van Gogh to look at (and painting before him). I’m so happy to have been introduced to the beauty and serenity of his elegantly realised paintings. I am not a religious man but Ave Maria Crossing the Lake is probably the most beautiful painting I have ever seen, in the flesh or otherwise.
18. Penang curries - A very well known and exported Southeast Asian classic. A simmered down, thickened creamy, spicy coconut sauce with chicken (or whatever you wish) with steamed rice and a scattering of sweet basil leaves. Done well, it’s become absolutely one of my faves. (The more potato and cashew but rich Massamum curries too). The best one so far? Na’s Kitchen in Pai, north Thailand. And, yes Na, I forgive you for more than likely giving Paul, John, Julia and I food poisoning. I’d still eat your Penang curry for a month of Sundays to come. They were that good!
19. Venetian canals and vaparettos - On an unlimited 3 day pass I could have ridden the waterways of Venice from dusk ‘til dawn on each and every one of ‘em if there wasn’t so much else of intrigue and wonder to get up to in the ‘floating city’.
20. “NAMASTE!” - The warmth and welcome of the people of other nations. The degree of this changes across one border to the next of course, but, so far my month in Nepal has struck me the most in the pleasure and sincerity of interaction with the local people. “Namaste” is about the only word (shamefully) I learnt in my four weeks there but it’ll get you through every time. Always happy to greet and assist, the Nepalese people are very humble and genuine and I thank them for their hospitality.
21. The Cinque Terre, [Italy] - There are many places I have fallen in love with on my travels already (Prague, Zermatt, Venice, Petra, Annapurna, Ko Phayam & more) but for three days in the Cinque Terre (‘Five Lands’) on Italy’s Ligurian coast I was utterly transported. An almost transcendental response to the scenic beauty and deep sense of calm imparted to me by this tiny collection of pretty, cliff top villages set besides the blue, blue sea and amidst the greens and golds of the olive trees and lemon groves on the hilly slopes. If I were of Native American Indian cultural persuasions (and not wanting to spoil the warm vista I have here painted with a touch of cold morbidity), it is to these sunset facing sea-hills to whose summits I would return and climb when the time comes to lie down and breathe my last.
22. The Glacier Express, [Switzerland] - This was one of only two things I absolutely promised myself I had to do on this journey. And I did it. And it was every bit as incredible an experience as I had imagined it would be. Check the blog. What a ride!
23. Blue skies ‘n’ sun in my eyes - I cannot deny that I have thus far been exceptionally blessed by the weather I have experienced during my travels. It’s been utterly perfect almost every step of the way. Seeing every destination in the best possible comfort and light, giving me full range for my emotions to engage with and fully appreciate everywhere I’ve been and everything I’ve seen. At the time of writing, barring a couple of inconsequential drizzles or downpours, I have still only had one genuine, full day of rain.
24. The kindness of strangers - I have been lucky to have benefited from plenty of this. And I hope too that I have paid my dues to Travel Karma by assisting or otherwise occasionally enriching the experience of others I have met. I dunno. You’d have to ask them. Just a day or so ago I had one of the best meals of my trip so far, not least for the fact that Ian and Elvine took pity upon me and my meagre plate of egg-fried rice and drew me to the bosom of their food laden table and their generosity.
25. Hot spring waterfall, [The Dead Sea, Jordan] - Total bone-deep; soul-deep relaxation lying on my back after a long dip in the Dead Sea whilst the warm waters of Mother Nature’s embrace pounded and washed over me. I coulda fallen asleep and drowned a happy man right there and then with a siren besides me on either flank.
26. Street stall food - The budget traveller’s best friend and often the best, and sometimes only way to get to experience samples of truly earthy, delicious local cuisine.
27. The sea - I’ve talked about this in previous blogs, but, having grown up by the sea on the south coast of England there is a psychological need for me to lay my eyes upon ocean waters from time to time. The soul gets a little too parched otherwise. The oceans of the world. Borderlines that are tidal; shifting; fluid; undefined and with unknown depths and treasures. That kinda fits well with my feelings for how borders should be. Nothing rigid. Looking out to sea. A horizon line that sinks into blue and suggests an infinity for the imagination that city-neon living cannot achieve.
28. Freedom to write - I’ve pretty much never written before. I’m a doodler by tradition if not trade. But in the last decade or so I have always itched to start to sketch and paint with words. But previously I have always failed in my attempts and fallen frustrated at the third sentence clause or so. But having escaped the constant distractions and little suffocations of daily employed life (self-inflicted distractions too) I find I can finally, falteringly at least, begin to try to find a voice for my pen. And this journal and TravBuddy are proving a wonderful forum to at least begin to “give it a try”.
29. Freedom - I have it right here, right now. In so many ways, shapes, colours and compositions that I don’t even know where to begin. It is of course, an indefinable thing. But I have it. Them. Freedoms. It is undeniable. It is a privilege I hope not to abuse. I am very lucky. I know this. It does of course come at a cost. At costs. Costs past. Costs and accountabilities in the future too. But before I wade through so many more manners of cliché, I will leave ‘Freedom’ at that and say no more.
30. YOU - Yep, tha’s right. You. “Yes, YOU!”. Sat there, right now in front of your computer screen at this very minute. Reading aaaaall this. I don’t know who you may be. You could be my sister, my aunt or a cousin (although statistically this is unlikely). A stranger (for now), a friend old or new (and always I hope)… and whoever you are, if you are reading this now and have got this far, I am amazed, and thank you so much. Give yourself a pat on the back. A gold star. Sip the dregs of that long since cold coffee and bathe your weary eyes in cold water. Because I am so humbled by the time, attention and responses I’ve received for this journal so far that I cannot thank YOU too much and I only promise I’ll strive to try to keep it rolling, and hopefully improving if I can.
1...2...3... “Haaaappy birthday to meeee”… see you soon from Stevie x