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Before I left

A little about me before I left for this trip.

Up until the age of 19, my time out of England had been limited to a 5-day school trip to Berlin when I was 14, a school trip to the South of France when I was 15 or 16, a couple of weeks in Ireland on a family holiday when I was I think 17, and maybe a couple of short trips to France at other times. Not including a few times that I was in Wales, though I'm not sure that counts for too much.

Having taken a gap year between college and university, my plan had always been to work for the first 6 months, then travel for the final 6 months. The only problem with that, was I was earning so much money working, that I couldn't tear myself away. Having a few thousand in my back pocket by the time I started uni was a good feeling to have. It meant, though, that my plan of 6 months of travelling, had instead become 6 more months working as a swimming pool lifeguard, staring at water for up to 17 hours a day. Not how I had initially envisaged it. But what I had done in this time working, was dream. I had dreamt, and I had researched. And in that, I had got myself on a few mailing lists. And speak as damningly about junk mail as you may, it was some junk mail from BUNAC when I was 19, that reignighted my fire to travel. They had mailed me about the Work Canada program, and that was all the encouragement I needed. I still had £1,000's saved from my gap year, so with very little thought, I signed up to spend the Summer of 2005 over in Vancouver, Canada.

View From My Appartment This was quite a leap for me. My biggest trip previously was a school trip to Berlin when I was 14. Everything organised for me, all I had to do was turn up at the airport. Now, I find myself thousands of miles away from home in London, stood in the centre of Vancouver's downtown. No job. Nowhere to live. No friends. Nobody.

Call me foolish, but that didn't worry me. It only excited me. The freedom to create my life for the next 4 months, from scratch. There was no blueprint of how I was supposed to do things, I was out on my own. For the next 10 weeks I made money where I could. Handing out, probably hundreds of CV's essentially came to nothing. They say it's not what you know, but who. And this was so true back then. I got a job working for a waiting agency, that I heard about when I got talking to someone when I was doing my laundry in a hostel. And I got a job collecting glasses in a bar, that I heard about from a guy I met on a night out. I also got myself a room in an appartment in a 16th floor mountain view appartment. I say I got a room, more a matress in a living room, but that was all I was after. Partying in Vancouver And after 2 weeks of turmoil, staying in varying hostels, handing out resume's like flyers, appartment hunting, meeting new people, interviewing for jobs, organising everything I could need, and finally I could settle down and relax: The best time of my life. I only stayed in Vancouver a further 8 weeks. And loved every second. But my heart wanted to travel, and wanted to see things. Life in Vancouver was perfect. Alcohol flowed like water. People would come, and people would go. But what I had created for myself was all that I wanted. All that I could have asked for. And knowing that I had worked to achieve it, made it even more special. The blisters on my feet from handing out resumes and searching for appartments were trophies that I wish I could've kept forever. My flight back to London, however, was flying from New York, so I knew that I would have to do some travelling before I got home, so at the end of July, I decided to use some of the £££'s I had stored in my back pocket to explore the world a little. Despite arriving in Vancouver with nothing, I had been pretty self-sufficient so my bank balance was still looking very healthy. My Appartment Block So in late July, 2005, I packed my bag, and off I went.

I had no set itinery for this travel that I did. None apart from 6 weeks from now, I had to be in New York. This is where I was set to fly home from. One place I'd always wanted to see was Alaska. It's name alone was calling to me. Having flown from London to Vancouver, I had gone the breadth of Canada, and barely seen a thing. So for my trip, I pledged to fly as little as possible, choosing to travel by land and sea so I could see all that I could, and not just city centres and airports. So stopping a varying points en route, including Victoria and Prince Rupert, I made my way by ferry up the inside passage and up to Juneau, Alaska's state capital. I met people on the way, heard people tell their stories, listened and learnt, and found myself alone in the most beautiful of places. I saw Juneau as a mini-Vancouver. The sea, the mountains, and the downtown, just like Vancouver. Just all compressed into a much smaller town. sunset Getting out into Alaska's mountains, alone, was a breathtaking experience. Hell I didn't even take a map, which almost cost me greatly on one occasion. As did almost falling into one of the mountains, but it was worth every risk. When your whole life, all you've known is the city, the openness of Alaska was something to be trasured. I wish I could've stayed here forever, but New York was beconing, so on I went.

Juneau is unique in the places I have visited in my life, in that there is no road to the city. You can get the ferry in, or you can fly in. With a ferry only serving to move me further from New York, for the one time this journey, I opted to fly. And wow! Alaska from the ground is breathtaking. Alaska from the air is just as so. A 45-minute flight from Juneau to Anchorage literally gave me a sore mouth as the jaw-dropping views from the window had me gaping the entire journey.

I had once heard about Anchorage, that the best thing about it, was that it was only 30 minutes away from Alaska. I had never paid much attention to such talk, but it is a true fact. Mount Roberts The moose freely roam and the air is a fresh Alaskan air, that is hard to describe why it's different. But to me, it just felt better to breathe when in Alaska. But Anchorage too had the ammenitites of a typical American city. It had a Wal-mart and a Chucky Cheese, so I only spent 3 nights in Anchorage, despite it's delightful downtown area come sunset.

From Anchorage, was the first significant bus journey of this trip. I had done a 10-hour journey whilst travelling Vancouver Island. But from Anchorage to Whitehorse in The Yukon, took in excess of 22 hours. The journey however was an experience in itself. At times I was the only passenger in the bus. And where else will the bus driver by you ice-creams when you stop because you look too hot. I even got dropped at the door or the hostel I was staying at. That, however, was the only night that I was able to stay there. I had not decided on Whitehorse until hostels were booked up. And just like I'd said no flying, I'd also said no hotels during this trip. Money is a premium when travelling, and I wanted to make sure that any I spent, went on seeing things other than the inside of hotel rooms. Juneau from above With no hostels to stay in therefore, my solution was to buy a tent, and a sleeping mat. Had people told me how cold Whitehorse gets at night time, even in the Summer, then I may have reviewed my no hotel policy. But I stuck it out. The site was on the banks of the river Yukon, and in the evenings, I would build a fire to cook my dinner. Raw meat cooked on an open fire, whilst sleeping outside in the cold. This was an experience I wanted from my travels.

The Yukon too was a wonderful place to hike. One day I went on a 19km walk, followed the next day by 30km to, and up a mountain. I was going as far as I could, to see as much as I could, to the point of exhaustion. Often dehydrated with no water, my desire to see all that I could kept me going and going. Every time a step seemed too hard to take, my brain would tell me, "You can sleep when you're dead. You can sleep when you're dead." There were only 5 or 6 days spent in Whitehorse, but the experience stays with me now. Sleeping in a tent, I had no way of storing food. When I got back from this 30km trek, what must I do? Go and get some meat. The store is 4km away. So 8km later... I need to cut fire wood. South Sawyer Glacier It was quite an experience. And the 28 hour bus journey to Edmonton may sound a little daunting. But after all of that, it was great to be off my feet.

From 3 days in Edmonton, next came Toronto. A 52 hour bus journey away: An experience in itself. And it turns out Canada really isn't as interesting as I'd hoped. But at least I've seen it now. From Toronto came Ottawa. From Ottawa came Montreal. And from Montreal came New York. Finally home. About 3 days to unpack, and repack, before I was heading back off to university again. I'd had the best experience of my life. And now I was expected to sit around in lecture theatres. Write meaningless assignments and listen to boring lectures. One thing was for sure, however, I wouldn't be doing that forever. I'd caught the travel bug. Now the thought of seeing the world at every opportunity excites me. Why have a career? You sit in a office, 40 hours a week for the next 40 years. Retire for a couple of years. Then you die. Why have savings? Alaska from the air People dream about being rich. But what is money without experience? From this point on for me, money was not important. Career was not important. Experience was everything. And travel equals experience.

I have finished by business degree. As much as I loathed much of the work, university is also an experience to savour. It mirrors travelling as you associate with people who often want to experience and enjoy. Anchorage sign How so many turn into 9-5 dogs bodies when they're finished astounds me. Maybe the lack of knowing where to turn next, and the need to pay bills and they're stuck in the work cycle forever. For me, though, even university included travel. My 3rd year of study was again spent over in Canada. This time spending on the East coast, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Moose And this summer (2008), some of us will be having a reunion in Mexico. Another opportunity to experience something new.

Since returning from that Summer in 2005, I have spend a week getting drunk in Italy, and shall next month spend a week in Spain. But neither those, nor my second term in Canada can or will compare to that Summer in 2005. The freedom I had then to do as I pleased, with no guidelines to follow, or paymasters to obey is something I've craved ever since. This time though, it will be not for just 4 months, but hopefully years. My savings leave me in good stead to travel far and away. And hopefully this time I'll have to opportunity to do what I did in Vancouver, in numerous places throughout the world. This is my dream for this trip. And I'll be doing all that I can to ensure that this dream comes alive.

My 2005 route:

(Click on an icon or line for a description)

Land Sea Air

Green Pin Start

Red Pin Finish

Page written on: 31 March 2008

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