My longest stint of travelling took place between November 1998 & July 1999, a total of eight months. During that time I changed as a person, both physically and mentally...mostly positive. When I think back to when my parents picked my up from Heathrow I am sure they must have thought that this man standing before them had eaten their son. I was (at least) 2 stone heavier, had a shaved head, goatee and an Australian accent. Travelling definitely changes you. You become more educated, more sociable and without a doubt, more confident. Physically, some people get fitter. Unfortunately my diet of beer and junk food did not have that effect.
Following my two months travelling across USA, I spent June 1998 watching the World Cup at home and in July started working back at Carlton. My plan was to work back there for four months, organise my PGCE place at University of Leeds and then leave for a eight month jolly around the southern hemisphere. On Wednesday 16th September I took the afternoon off, went to Bridge the World (www.bridgetheworld.com) with my mate Ricki and I bought my round the world ticket. Then got the train to then Premier League outfit Coventry City for a Southend United cup game. I like remembering significant days like that.
|My round the world flights1998/1999|
London to Fiji (change in LA)
Fiji to Auckland
Christchurch to Sydney
Cairns to Perth
Perth to Johannesberg
Cape Town to London.
The actual trip I did was very similar but I changed Jo'berg to Harare in Zimbabwe.
On November 5th 1998 I boarded a B.A. flight to L.A, had a six hour stop over and then took a further 10 hour flight to Fiji. Those who haven't been travelling are always interested in whether you were alone and how you felt. Then they often say "I couldn't do that".
My experience tells me that approximately 70% of travellers are alone and this actually helps if you wish to meet other travellers, you naturally gravitate to one another and form groups yourself. Pairs of travellers already have 'safety in numbers' so people don't really look out for them. I was nervous but realised that you have to go through feelings like that in order to reap the ultimate benefits. It was nerve-wracking but exciting. Looking back my memories are of amazing times with brilliant like minded people. I can count on one hand the number of times I felt lonely in 8 months.
Once on the plane at Heathrow, I was greeted by the person in the next seat to me, a young girl of similar age who it turned out was going travelling to Fiji. Without saying it, we shared a collective sigh of relief that we weren't alone any more and we both relaxed. We hung out at LAX and then met two further female travellers also on their way to Fiji. As we landed in Nadi on 7th November another female traveller joined us at immigration so as I walked through the exit I was now accompanied by 4 females. We all decided to go to 'The Beachhouse', a backpacker lodge on the south coast of the main island and that's how my big travel started.
I had planned for two weeks in Fiji and in October had made arrangements to meet a girl called Sara (who was a friend of a friend at Carlton) in Fiji. Without knowing if e-mail would be available (I now had an e-mail address) we arranged to meet outside Thomas Cook in Nadi at 12.00pm on 13th November. I had no idea if Sara would turn up but I went nevertheless. Amazingly she did (albeit one hour late), in a rental car and with another three ladies. As a group we went to Mana Island and stayed at Ratu Kini's hostel (http://www.ratukinidiveresort.com.fj/). The photos below are from Mana Island.
When my two weeks were up in Fiji I headed to the airport for the short flight to Auckland, New Zealand. At the airport I met a Canadian guy called James who I had previously met briefly at The Beachouse and who was heading to Auckland. Little did we know this was the beginning of a long friendship and as well as being in Fiji together, we would enjoy New Zealand, Sydney, I would visit him in United Arab Emirates in 2005 and he would come to my wedding in England in 2008. Mine and Laura's trip to Canada to see James and his family is being planned.
Fiji had been amazing, and I had some incredibly humbling experiences, church on my first morning, then being invited to dinner by some locals who worked at the Beachouse and finally visiting a local school and listening to the most beautiful singing I had ever heard. I also really liked the relaxed Fijian lifestyle, the structure of their society and how important families and family values were. Fiji officially rocked.