"Just go. Don't overthink it. Just go. It'll be the best thing you've ever done. it certainly was for us."
Setting up Five Rivers I think has ended up with me being trapped in the past. Every day I go in to work and look at all the photos of our own trip, our staff’s trips and our customer’s trips to South East Asia that have been kindly offered up to help decorate our shop’s walls, which always takes me back. Every time a customer asks for advice about their upcoming trip it takes me back. Every time a customer says they’ve been to this place or that, it takes me back. So it was suggested to me that we should write down a bit of a rough guide of our time away (Rough Guide sounds like a good name, maybe we could use that for the title of our blog?) in the hope it helps you to have a as banging experience as we did!
Thinking back now to what’s happened since we got back and now, its all a bit of a blur, and that’s actually how our trip began.
Here we were, about to go off on the trip of a lifetime, six months away from everything, no worries, cares or commitments. All the time in the world to go about as we pleased. And there I was feeling incredibly daunted by it all.
It was all a bit of a blur. After months of building our meticulous itinerary spreadsheet every night after work for a year, reading copious amounts of travel blogs to overplay, what to do and what to stake, the first thing I can remember from travelling is sitting in Dubai airport, bloody knackered and shit scared. I didn’t want to tell Melissa, who by all accounts seemed pretty upbeat, but for me who had never been outside of Europe before, I was nervous. We were waiting for our connecting 2am flight to Sri Lanka and in an effort to pass the time we went for a walk around Dubai’s ever understated terminal when I actually started to feel a bit jealous of other people walking around the terminal.
Here we were, about to go off on the trip of a lifetime, six months away from everything, no worries, cares or commitments. All the time in the world to go about as we pleased. And there I was feeling incredibly daunted by it all. I looked at all the families walking around the terminal, probably off on a relaxing holiday right here in Dubai in a 5* hotel, maybe even staying in that right tall building, about to have every their every whim catered for on a luxurious holiday. Part of me wishing that's what we were about to do.
But that’s not what we were doing. We were about to board a flight to Sri Lanka with just £5k each to our names to last us six months (that’s a little over £31 a day each) before our return flight to the UK a few days before Christmas. Then a little bit of panic set in, it’s just us for six months. The prospect of spending 6 months with just Melissa was pretty terrifying. I was worried about what if we hate it? What if we have an accident? What if we run out of money? What if our stuff gets knicked? What if we lose our passports? What is something goes wrong at home? What is we annoy each other so much that it becomes unbearable and one of us ditches the other and goes home? (That actually happened to someone we met on Full Moon in Thailand. His mates phone broke and the next morning he said it wasn’t for him and caught the next flight home the next day leaving him his own for the next three months. Brutal!) The worried part of me even started wishing that the six months would be over be over before it has even begun.
The flight to Sri Lanka didn’t help either. To quote our travel diary Melissa described it as “grim” – Spot on. The classic bad flight, turbulence, crying babies, someone kicking your chair and a meal call at 4.30am for a breakfast of curry. Wonderful.
Weary eyed and with me full of pessimism we stuck around as we waited near the baggage carousel for our luggage to come off. Another reason to brick it as a friend of a friend had made the same journey we had just had a few months prior, but his bag did not. Out came Melissa’s bag pretty sharpish, but no sign of mine. We waited, waited, waited some more and as one more bag came out the only other remaining person claimed it and walked off. Just us two left, only one bag. This was it, squeaky bum time, balls to the wall stuff. I suppose I could have borrowed Melissa clothes, as much as I’d back myself pulling off a bikini I doubt the people of Sri Lanka would be too keen to see me like that strutting down Mirissa beach.
Hold on… movement from those flappy things… unbelievable… the bag appeared. I don't know what was greater, the relief that the bag showed up or the devastation when it split 3 months in and we had a right job putting it back together with masking tape. Glass half full I suppose. I looked at Melissa and decided to put the reservations I had about the whole trip behind me and started to think that maybe this trip is going to be alright after all [100% can confirm, saying it turned our to be alright would be criminally understating it]
Reflecting on it I can't quite pin down why I felt so apprehensive. I think possibly it was because of how in detailed we'd planned in and that lead to me getting a bit overwhelmed by it all. We had a massive spreadsheet with too much detail to keep in your head and yes, it is very important to plan where you want to go and what there is to do there to make sure you’re not sat twiddling your thumbs and miss something amazing that’s right around the corner. However, it isn’t important is to plan each hour of every day for the next six month. These are the things that you just need to do as they come, get a feel for a city or a place and see where you end up and what happens without planning it. That's the way to go about travelling, or at least that's the way we think.
This guide won't give you the details of our travels in a wanky, pretentious, finding yourself on a beach in Thailand sort of way (even though arguably we did do that). We didn’t go in to it with a desire to find ourselves or grow and develop as more cultural and spiritual people (trust me now – over an extended period of time away you will from time to time get bored or culture and temples – miss a night in sat on the sofa at home – and crave a McDonalds over some street food). To be honest I think the main reason we wanted to go was because it seemed like a good excuse for a six month jolly... and it a million percent was!
This detailing of our travels also isn’t going to be super informative. We’re not going to tell you how many pairs of socks to take, what places are the best to eat at and where to stay (except for Big Momma’s hostel in Da Lat) – because to be honest we can’t remember most of this sort of thing because that stuff isn’t important.
As wet as it sounds what is important is to go out and make your own stories that you’ll tell your mates at the pub when you’re back, the stuff you’ll piss yourself laughing remembering in the kitchen when you’re making dinner together in a few years time, the stuff that will cheer you up on a crap day at work when you think about it (Sorry, you are most likely gonna have to go back to work after your trip unless you can do a better job at this travel blogging business than I can!).
The mad little coincidences and timings that meant we experienced stuff we’ll never forget that no matter what blog we read to prior to leaving we couldn’t have planned. The same will happen for you 100%, if you're pointed in the right direction, and that’s what we want by sharing our stories and tips with you.
So if you want to know how many T shirts to take with you then maybe go elsewhere (although the answer to that is to not take any and to buy a vest with the logo of a local beer brand from each country to truly immerse yourself in the culture).
However, if you want some honest DOs and some DON'Ts, some funny stories and a little bit of sarcasm in good old 5R fashion to give you inspiration for your own trip and point you in the right direction to make your own #travelmems, (travel memories for the uninformed) then this is the place for you.