Like old-aged pensioners huddled around a domino table, we travellers are not adverse to measuring our lives in days. Indeed, today marks the 1098th day — or three year anniversary — since I strapped on my seatbelt and took off from London Heathrow.

Three Years…

Usually at this time of year, I roll out an ode to the “power of emotion” instilled within me, and the “power of evocation” which surrounds me. But today, I’m merely sitting back with a coffee in my small Wellington flat, and smiling contently.

…the quickest way to see a country, is to slowly open your eyes.

Smiling because I’ve done what I set out to do.

I’ve forcibly taken hold of my life, and I’ve travelled. I’ve travelled across ten countries over the past three years, and thirty-seven throughout my life.

Not as many notches as you may have thought, for such a perpetual, and vocal traveller. However there’s very good reason for this, and If you’re a discerning traveller, learn from my experience and realise that the quickest way to see a country, is to slowly open your eyes.

My Favourite Country

…a destination, in every sense of the word.

India has become an indelible mark on my soul, and my memories of my time there, are among the greatest gifts from my journey.

Without wanting to smear clichés all over your screen; India is intensely powerful in so many ways. Its presence and aura has bled into the subcontinent, making the entire region a kaleidoscopic adventure, and I doubt it will ever be surpassed. It goes far deeper than any notion about travel. India is a destination, in every sense of the word.

My Favourite Journey

For there to be great destinations, there needs to be great journeys. I’m fortunate, that in recent times I’ve journeyed along the Trans-Mongolian railway, I’ve journeyed through the Gobi and off the beaten track in China. I’ve crossed the Himalayas, via the behemoth of Everest and driven almost every highway in Australia. Yet one journey stands out, and again, it’s within India.

Through villages swarming with smiles…

Together with Reb — my sickeningly cute girlfriend whom I met in China — we found a man called Ganesh. As happens in India, we had a quiet word, and we rented a Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle. Over the following thirty days, we crossed South India from Chennai in the east, up and over the Western Ghats to Kochi in the west, and back again.

This was a journey of unbridled adventure. Through villages swarming with smiles, through towns abuzz with trade and into the black heart of cities, entrenched in gooey chaos.

The exhaustion of that journey, cost Reb and I our blossoming relationship. We broke up shortly after we handed the keys to the Enfield back to Ganesh.

So perhaps there’s another journey I should mention.

My Most Important Journey

…the girl will not be.

I decided to flee Bali, for fear of running into Reb. The girl I’d split in two, and drained of tears in India. I heard on the grapevine she was there, and I could feel it in my bones. I couldn’t face running into her so I decided it was time to face my travelling nemesis; Southeast Asia.

“Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.” The eternal echo of round the world travellers.

But I ran into Reb the night before I left: “I’m flying to Singapore tomorrow,” I sighed, “and then onto Malaysia and Thailand.”

48-hours later, I completed a round trip from Bali to Singapore, and back into her arms. I learned something vital that day, something I’ve repeatedly failed to grasp in my life: the country of my dreams will always be there, but the girl will not be.

… and Counting

The longer I’ve been on the road, the shorter time appears. There’s a lot I aim to achieve with my life, and travelling endlessly and without cause isn’t one of them. It’s important for me to attain the right balance, and if these passed three years have taught me anything, it’s to appreciate the things I have in life.

Milestones in travel are somewhat tedious. I’m more excited to be staring down the barrel of the future than picking off the charred residue of the past. Not only because I’m doing it from the destination of my childhood dreams: ‘the other side of the world.’

If you’d like to know anything about my life as a traveller, feel free to scribe a question on the comment thread below. Or perhaps you can share your own experience?
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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

ayngelina June 30, 2010 at 1:23 pm

Picking a country is hard, it must be like picking your favorite child. But it’s good to hear you loved India, after I finish with Central and South America my plan is to head there so I’m sure I’ll have lots of questions.

Ant June 30, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Thanks Ayngelina, you’re absolutely right: picking a favourite country is hard, and it’s something we travellers are always being asked, right?

It’s also hard to deny a country the accolade of your favourite country. I often dismiss the questions with: ‘They’re all good!’ which is quite true, but in my heart of hearts — India always reigns supreme.

Audrey July 1, 2010 at 12:28 am

“There’s a lot I aim to achieve with my life, and travelling endlessly and without cause isn’t one of them.”

This sentiment resonates strongly with me. People always ask if I want to travel for the rest of my life. The answer is yes, but with purpose. We’ve had a few instances of not traveling with purpose or cause and I got burned out, felt ungrounded, and was ready to stop altogether. It took me some time to figure out what the issue was, but now I look at future journeys with this in mind.

Congratulations on celebrating this third anniversary in your childhood dream place!

Ant July 1, 2010 at 6:49 am

Thanks Audrey. Absolutely right. I think there comes a point where travelling over a prolonged period of time (1+ years) can become a bit selfish when you look at it from a global perspective.

It can be all take, take, take, when it’s so easy to stop and give back. I’m not saying everyone should drop their backpacks and pick up shovels, I just feel there are causes that often get overlooked for the journey itself.

I hasten to add, my cause doesn’t need to be a philanthropic one. It could be a personal project, a series of local ones or any of the big issues facing the world.

Erica July 2, 2010 at 12:34 am

Loved reading this blog post of yours. And I totally agree with Audrey on traveling with purpose. When we have a deeper purpose to a certain trip or RTW journey, everything makes more sense. Meaning is the key.

Ant July 2, 2010 at 6:29 am

Meaning is the key.

Thanks Erica. When we stop and consider this, it’s so true. And we don’t always realise what we’re unlocking.

Sometimes the things we believe we are working towards, turn out to be completely different. Mere offshoots of the main cause, but incredibly important to the lives of others.

Akila July 2, 2010 at 10:38 am

Congratulations on your 3rd anniversary traveling. I think of milestones as a measurement of how much I have left to do rather than an indication of where I have been. And, now, I am going to go back and read through some of your old posts on China as we are there right now.

Ant July 2, 2010 at 11:25 am

Ah, China. There are reams of posts about China here on, it’s such an amazing place. Especially as a person who speaks no Mandarin. It’s often a complete white-out for oral communication, even the adverts make no sense which gives a unique vantage point for one of the world’s most dynamic countries.

Indian Bazaars July 14, 2010 at 9:46 am

Enjoyed reading this post and especially liked “…the quickest way to see a country, is to slowly open your eyes” That was a nice one!

Ant July 14, 2010 at 10:38 am

Thanks! It’s so true, especially of India.

(I have to admit, I thought your comment was spam — consider using your name.)

deepa gupta July 15, 2010 at 9:49 pm

nice write up.

Ralph July 23, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Very deep insights that has gotten a few smiles and head nodding agreement from me. Regardless of where you will travel, nothing will matter if you don’t have the heart in it. 🙂

Please share more of your insights with us at the World Wide Travel Blog Party, bring everyone you know, bloggers or not. 🙂 Kudos to you and Good luck!

Emily July 24, 2010 at 2:07 am

Very cool post. So many long-term travelers I see hurry from one place to another in hopes of getting as many passport stamps as possible. I love that you have spread it out and stayed longer in each place. I’ve never been to India, but the way you describe it, it sounds magical!

Ant July 24, 2010 at 6:31 am

@Ralph: Thanks for your comment Ralph, right on. Without heart, what have you got, really?

@Emily: Thanks Emily — as hard as I try to describe India, it’s forever beyond my reach as a writer. Perhaps the greatest adjective, is that’s literally indescribable.

Laurence Norah July 27, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Wow great post on travelling. I’m just entering my second year, and ended up taking a detour, instead of the logical Australia -> New Zealand, the slightly more roundabout Australia -> Germany -> New Zealand, because I went and fell in love. You just can’t tell what’s going to be coming round the corner, sometimes the best laid plans (and even the financially sensible ideas!) need to be thrown asunder! Now we are both looking forward to a year in New Zealand.

Ant July 27, 2010 at 7:49 pm

That is quite a detour, Laurence! It’s funny, the haphazard route Love takes sometimes. The price of good love is infinitely more than a hundred RTW tickets anyway, so I fully appreciate your experience. Soppy buggers.

If you want or need to know anything about life down here in NZ, be sure to drop me a line mate.

Jaime D. August 2, 2010 at 10:18 pm

Congratulations on celebrating 3yrs. I still have a year to go before I start my RTW trip but am learning so much through this great travel community. I love the advice you give ” realise that the quickest way to see a country, is to slowly open your eyes.” I am going to take that into account as I am traveling.

Ant August 3, 2010 at 6:08 am

It is so true, Jaime. When I first started travelling, I had the end in sight… the moment I came back and could tell everyone where I’d been. When in fact, I should have had the journey itself in sight, and telling myself to enjoy the moment.

Iina May 5, 2014 at 12:09 pm

“But today, I’m merely sitting back with a coffee in my small Wellington flat, and smiling contently.
Smiling because I’ve done what I set out to do.”

Come on, that must feel good. I really do hope to reach that level of peace of mind in the future. Gonna start my big trip in September and like to read your blog while waiting for it.

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