Travel


I’ve been collecting artwork on all my travels throughout Africa, and now I finally have a wall on which I can display everything.

(Where everything’s from (starting in the upper left and going clockwise in a circle): Ethiopia, Botswana, Kenya, Ghana, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Zambia, Kenya, South Africa. A few still haven’t made it up yet because I ran out of room.)

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It’s been a while.  Over a month, in fact. And once again, I’ve had some adventurous holiday travels.

Last year, just before Christmas, I got stuck in London for multiple days due to severe weather conditions. Both England and France were shut down, blaming the unusual weather.

This year, I got stuck in Paris at almost the exact same time of year due to very similar weather conditions. I’m not sure I believe the weather is “unusual” anymore.

I wasn’t supposed to be traveling back to the US at that time, but my mom’s flight to Europe (via Heathrow) got cancelled and my friend who was supposed to spend the holidays with us in southern France got the flu. So we decided it would be best if I returned home and booked me on the next flight out of Paris. It was a 7:30am flight to NYC via Portugal, so I went to the airport the evening before. At 11pm, I checked my flight status online and found out it was cancelled. I spent the next hour or so on the phone with the airline to reschedule my flights.

The next morning, mayhem in the airport ensued. Having not slept, I spent the early morning waiting in line at the airline’s ticket desk to try to get myself on the next available flight. I was surrounded by a few families that had been traveling for 3 days already because they had been stuck in London first. The women working the ticket desk were so unenthusiastic that they opened up the desk nearly an hour late. Most people were too drained and miserable to complain.

I finally made it to the ticket desk only to find out that the airline I was flying didn’t have a stand-by option, so I just had to hope that my rescheduled flight for later in that day actually took off (I rescheduled it for rather late in the day in hope that the afternoon conditions would be better). Later, I found out that some flights were taking off with empty seats despite the number of people stuck in the airport.

I had several hours until my flight, so I went to the airport’s medical facility and slept. In addition to being stuck in the airport, I was on antibiotics for a throat/chest infections that had gone untreated for 2 weeks since the UK’s NHS seems to have an aversion to prescribing antibiotics, and I had gotten the flu from my friend and was running a fever.

Eventually my flight took off, and I made it to Portugal. I spent the night in a hotel near the airport and caught a flight to NYC the following day. I had all the usual delays and felt miserable, but I was so happy to finally make it home that I didn’t care. My overall travel time from Paris to my mom’s house in CT was over 48 hours.

Once I was home, things got much better. It took me another couple days to get rid of my fever, but then I started feeling better for the first time in weeks. My travel luck finally turned around a bit and I made it into and out of New York City with no problems in the midst of the crazy snow storm that shut the city down. And I spent a very nice New Years in Vermont (and went skiing for the first time in years).

On the way back to the UK, I almost missed my flight because the New York area was once again hit by snow. The city itself seemed fine, but the roads from CT to the airport were covered with snow and blocked (due to several accidents). It took us an hour to drive 6 miles. Eventually we reached some clear roads and made it to the airport in time. The rest of my travels back went smoothly.

Now I’m back in Cambridge and done with traveling for a bit. I’m drained from the illnesses and the travel stress, so the next couple weeks will probably involve some recovery. And I’ve decided that this is the last time I’ll ever travel to northern Europe during the winter holidays.

Happy 2011, everyone.

Everyone has something in life that they want to do. You want to speak Japanese. You want to learn to fly a plane. You want to climb Kilimanjaro.

Many people like to state this want, but usually the ratio of wants stated to wants actually achieved is quite low. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because we only have a set amount of time in the day and we have to prioritize. So most people state many more wants than they ever hope to achieve.

A friend of mine once told me that of all the people she knows, I was most likely to actually go through with all the crazy things I said I wanted to do. If I said I wanted to spend at least a year traveling overland through eastern Africa, she believed me. And that’s exactly what I did after graduation.

Yesterday, I crossed a major bridge for another one of my wants. A couple of years ago, I decided I wanted to learn to ride a motorcycle. So I did, from a friend in Ethiopia. Then I started thinking about the possibility of riding a motorcycle from London to southern Africa, via West Africa. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do it (for a variety of reasons). So I got my motorcycle license, I talked to everyone and anyone about long overland trips for advice, and I started to accumulate gear. Saturday, I bought my first bike.

I am now the proud new owner of a KLR 650. I got it used for a good price not too far from Cambridge (with the help of a friend who told me everything I need to know about buying a used bike and registering it etc. in the UK). I have the whole year to play around on it, before I try to convince people to come with me on yet another ridiculous trip through western Europe and West Africa. I want to move back to Africa (Kenya or Zambia probably), but I want my own set of wheels this time. And what better way to have them than to drive them down there myself?

After over two years of living out of my backpack, I now live in this house in Cambridge, England. It’s awesome. I can’t begin to express how nice it was to unpack all of my things after so long. Or to have my own bed.

I’ll be here for one year doing an MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development (so my technology- and development-related posts will most definitely continue!). I’ve been here for a week and a half already and there’s an overwhelming amount of things to do: meet people in my College, meet people in my course, join societies, make my room feel like my home, buy a bike, start attending lectures, etc, etc. Hopefully things will settle down into a rhythm soon. But for now, I’m simply enjoying all that Cambridge has to offer!

I’ve already posted a couple times on what I’ve learned from my recent year and a half excursion down eastern Africa. Most of these posts focused on my own personal learnings as a nomadic traveler and development worker rather that what I’ve noticed in general about the world. I post very little on general cultural observations unless it directly relates to my work.

A friend recently sent me this link to a series of lessons from another long-term traveler. He does a much better job of summarizing the life and observations of a traveler than I do, without looking through a tinted lens. Check it out.

The following totals are from my recent road trip across the States:

Miles: 7,858.o miles
Days: 21 days
Coasts reached: 2
States stopped in: 26
Number of Cracker Barrels seen: 79
Number of Subaru Outbacks seen: 628 (225 pre-Colorado, 349 in Colorado alone, 54 post-Colorado)
Number of times we listened to Stuck Like Glue, F**k You, and California Girls: Too many to count

2,254.7 miles: Austin, Texas:

2,488.0 miles: somewhere in Western Texas:

3,640.1 miles: Grand Canyon:

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