It's shocking to think that 8 months has gone by already and that the Bridger and I leg of the trip is coming to an end. On the other hand, when we think about being in some of our earlier destinations like South Korea or Cambodia it also feels like years back. Each foot in a different camp, as usual.
This update is cutting the cue of the other very chronically ordered and very outdated posts but we felt it was necessary to write something not only to look back on our experiences but to give ourselves a little bit of closure over the last 8 months. But then we were faced with the challenge of how do you summarize in any meaningful way the last 8 months of your life?
Given our pitiful ability to remember anything, Bridger and I have tried several strategies over the months to keep the various memories of this trip actually IN our heads. We write, we talk about everything to each other and we talk about our experiences to other people. Though we've both travelled short term, we have realized over and over again that the nature of longer term traveling is just different in a lot of ways. And one of these ways that was highly unexpected and blindsided us over and over again was the difficulty of talking about this trip open-endedly with other people. I think prior to this trip both of us would have intuitively thought that we would have an abundance of experiences and stories to share at the drop of a pin but after endless conversations that have gone something like this, our confidence in the former statement has been a bit rattled:
Someone: "So what was your favorite place?"
Us: "Uhhh jeez, well, oh man, ok let's see (in head: South Korea?...Thailand?... Cambodia?...Laos?...Philippines?...Dubai?...Jordan?...Israel?...Turkey?...Greece?...Uganda?...Rwanda?...Tanzania?...)
Immigration: "Where are you coming from?"
Us: "Oh, um, jeez where was it, Ashley/Bridger where?" (in head: oh my god Bridger/Ashley please remember because I'm totally blanking out and this is looking really suspicious that we can't tell the immigration person our last stop!!!") (after the longest 42 second pause in non-drug smuggling person history)..."oh right ____"
Someone: "Awesome, anything crazy happened?"
Us: "Uhh jeez, ya, umm, ok let me think, ok..." (in head: South Korea?...Thailand?... Cambodia?...Laos?...Philippines?...Dubai?...Jordan?...Israel?...Turkey?...Greece?...Uganda?...Rwanda?...Tanzania?...)..."oh ya there was this one time..." (proceed to tell lame, non interesting story to fulfill the obligatory requirement to tell a story)
Someone: "Ah I wish I could do that. What have you been doing?"
Us: "Oh ya, lots, we do stuff every day and every day funny stuff happens, but umm, jeez what HAVE we been doing..." (in head: South Korea?...Thailand?... Cambodia?...Laos?...Philippines?...Dubai?...Jordan?...Israel?...Turkey?...Greece?...Uganda?...Rwanda?...Tanzania?...)..." you know, beaching, shopping, renting motorcycles, hiking..."(Proceed to boringly rattle off a list of activities)
It's settled then, as much as we love talking about this trip, we suck at talking about this trip! Seriously, we've been blindsided by how much, in spite of the endless random experiences and events that happen to us both good and bad, both of us are hard pressed to source a single story out of the 8 month mish-mash mess of memories scrambled up in our brain. And when asked, we both definitively and without fail can't come up with anything meaningful to say and start to do the scroll through of each country we've been through, scanning for stories within the confines of what little structure we've been able to file our experiences into. And even then it's a struggle to source one obscure interesting memory completely out of context. On the other hand, in the context of free-flowing conversations with other travelers where you naturally swap stories, we can talk for hours and the stories and experiences flow rather unobstructed. One thing someone tells a story about will trigger your memory about something which triggers their memory and so on. I guess that's how our beautiful and incredibly complex brains work for this stuff...everything is there but you just need someone/something to trigger the switch so you actually have access to it.
We've talked to each other over and over again about how when we get back people are going to ask us about our trip and we're gonna have nothing to say on command and sound like the boringest people in the world on the most boringest trip of the world! But I can assure you, despite our inevitable "cat got your tongue" responses, it has been a very not boring ride! And hopefully at the very least the blog posts, written based on journal entries written on a daily basis to jog my memory before the memories and stories slip out of our ears, will convince both you and us of the fact.
How to summarize 8 months?! Just to reinforce for ourselves exactly what we did in 8 months, we spent a lot of time thinking about it before Bridger went home. Most of the first half has been already documented on the blog already but nothing has been posted for the second half yet so some of these are still surprises. So, here's some (largely embellished) stats, 8 months of a nomad, super abbreviation style:
• Visited 13 different countries
• Took 13 flights
• Took 31+ boat rides
• Rode in 51+ bus trips
• Slept in 73 different beds
• Visited 11 UNESCO world heritage sites
• got in 4257 fights with each other
• had 2.5 "divorces"
• were ripped off 1347 times
• met 27 849 different people
• saw 4 million geckos
• (one of us) consumed 4 672 bottles of beer
• did 2 mail homes for, on average, $100 each
• ate 40 247 bugs in our food
• ate 29 392 rocks in our food
• ate 19 780 hairs/eyelashes in our food
• used 2 different selfie sticks
• used a toilet covered in urine, water, poo or blood 91 987 times
• rode 1 bus that left on time
• missed 2 flights
• were asked for an onward ticket we didn't have 7 times
• encountered 493 000 rude people in jerusalem
• had 12 extra drinks mysteriously show up on our bills "because we offered"
• saw 28 763 machine guns
• tipped $750 000 dollars
• found 3 computers that we could actually use to work on the blog
• rode in 14 761 vehicles that were operating a gas tank on "E"
In between those moments we also:
• experienced the world's tallest flag pole and the world's tallest tower
• rode bicycles through some very rural villages
• drove through active military territory at the DMZ
• got lulled to sleep by the rhythmic sound of termites gnawing our bungalow apart
• climbed to a cliff above ancient ruins for a birds eye view
• had a nap on the stone steps of different ancient ruins
• took a 9 hour boat trip through a 5 inch deep river
• slept in a treehouse with 3 half walls
• clogged several toilets and ran away
• found our own private paradise in Koh Rong Samloem
• kayaked with the last remaining Irrawaddy river dolphins in the world
• went on a 500 km self drive motorbike odyssey
• hot air ballooned above cloud covered cliffs at sunrise with a Chinese company with a somewhat shady safety record
• closed our eyes and prayed on a treacherous, windy bus through mountaintops
• dodged a super typhoon
• camped overnight on an uninhabited island
• rocketed to the surface on an ill fated pitch black night dive
• snorkeled with 100 other people in a confined space with their 100 000 combined skin flakes
• tried our hand at doing yoga on stand up paddle boards
• got drunk at the mayor's birthday party
• woke up in the morning, fully clothed on a couch outside instead of the dorm bed with no memory of how it happened
• hitchhiked on a local boat to a remote, mildly developed island
• hunted fist sized spiders...successfully
• stopped for "candy" on a dark side street with an insane taxi driver
• disappeared down a secret trap door below the Gold Souk in Dubai
• laughed in a police officer's face
• had the shits in four different countries
• got attacked by an irate taxi driver for one more unearned dollar in fare
• slept in the middle of a desert
• got attacked and cussed out by a Bedouin, donkey abusing lunatic
• saw the same view of the Promised Land as Moses did
• trekked along an overpass with our 70/80L packs and waited on the side of the road for a bus we hoped would come
• got superbly budded by a massive group of Amish people waiting in line to get into Jesus' tomb...Jesus' tomb!!!
• Woke up drunk and alone in an alley in Tel Aviv
• scuba'd with sea turtles and a sunken plane
• were so desperate for a computer that we seriously considered buying a Turkish computer with a Turkish keyboard and re-learning how to type
• got 3 layers of dead skin scrubbed off by two men in towels in a Turkish bath
• watched 100 hot air balloons glide through the sky at sunrise
• got 4 passport stamps in one day
• hiked through a valley full of penis shaped rocks
• slept on a hostel couch in the middle of the night with no pillow and a towel for a blanket to escape a solid case of bed bugs
• Visited the second largest mosque in all of Africa
• Booked a hotel room from the airport at 2 am after unexpectedly being denied boarding for our flight
• Cruised through class 5 rapids on the Nile River in both a raft and our free floating life-jacketed bodies unfortunately
• Swam in a volcanic crater lake
• Spent an entire day running around town trying to find a flipping bar or restaurant WITH a tv WITH the right channel to watch tennis
• Had the coldest shower in history
• Got charged by an angry, roaring silverback mountain gorilla in three separate incidents in the middle of the dense jungle
• Led an impromptu dance class/performance for an entire group of village children who found us while walking home from school one day (in case you're wondering African children do NOT like Newfoundland music; they do however, like Daddy Yankee very much)
• Baked in the midday heat while our "luxury coach" bus parked in a gas station parking lot while some incredibly resourceful African man did a clutch repair
• Stalled and reversed four times down a hill on a semi busy road in the capital city of Uganda because the taxi driver refused to admit that in fact, he was completely out of gas
• Visited the now safe city of Gulu in northern Uganda where loosely 10 years ago, village children (i.e. "night commuters") used to walk many km every night to sleep on floors and verandas to escape the ruthless rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army who raided villages at night to abduct them to be child soldiers
• Visited the most remote National Park in Uganda close to the Sudanese border
• Were approached by a herd of curious giraffes and then watched the herd of them lope across the fields at sunset
• Narrowly avoided a charge by a giant male Africa elephant
• Stood on the edge of thunderous Murchison Falls, a sheer, torrential drop without even a guardrail to separate us from certain death
• Visited far too many genocide memorials...what does "never again" mean?
• Were rattled by two 5.5 magnitude earthquakes in the middle of the night in Kigali
• Went bowling at a place where your pins were still set back up by a "pin boy"
• Got invited to a local wedding
• Visited one of the most deadly lakes in the world
• Spent a day in a true Rwandan village with a co-op of ladies who taught us to build, cook, eat, make jewelry and sing/dance Rwandan style
• had our flight plan rescued by a Spanish Diplomat who pulled a major power move
• Visited the site of a former African slave market
• Ate incredibly poor quality food at Freddy Mercury's namesake bar; he was born and spent his early life in Zanzibar
• Wandered dark village streets at midnight looking for any other open accommodation after being driven out of room A by pesticide and room B by bed bugs
• Stole the room key of said accommodation because guy owed us money but mysteriously didn't show up the morning he was supposed to pay us back
• Returned said key a week later (listen, I don't want to be charged with theft in Tanzania) with a note saying "You were dishonest but we are not thieves. Enjoy your $5. You can bet I'll be writing about our experiences here on the internet"
• Pre-drank all night for the huge full moon party and then decided to not go and cuddle up in bed instead
• Had cry meltdowns every day the week prior to Bridger leaving
• Finally cracked the "emergency" cliff bar that had been in my bag for 5 months; we started it, the crow finished it
Of course there is many, MANY more moments...but we can't remember them...
So here's what life is looking like for us for the foreseeable future. Bridger is heading home on August 31st, arriving in Calgary September 1st. He'll spent less than 24 in Calgary before heading to Edmonton to catch his flight to BC. But more importantly, to see the screening of Newfoundland's own Donnie Dunphy's: "Donnie Dunphy: How To Be Deadly", afterparty at none other than the Atlantic Trap and Gill. How's that for the universe softening the blow of coming home? After less than 24 hours in Edmonton, he'll fly to Kelowna to MC his good buddy Travis' wedding. Four days later, he'll head back to Calgary for another 15 hours before flying to Toronto to see his friend Michael, aka Doogs for 2 days. And then finally, he'll be in what he refers to as "God's Country" which of course, is Newfoundland for about 3 weeks. I've been informed that he really misses his mudder. By the end of September he'll fly back to Calgary (his new home in Ashley's mom's basement) and finally start work a couple days later at his beloved Sport and Social Club. And real life starts...
Ashley's plan is much less definitive. After having consistent, daily after-breakfast cries for the last 2 weeks thinking about being on her own after 8 months with Bridger 24/7, she has officially decided to not go home yet. She is not due back at her job until January 2015, if ever, and still has a small bit of money left so figures it's not time to go home yet. Her loose plan so long as things work out, is to volunteer for a period of time in Uganda.
Since only half the trip is written/blogged thus far, Ashley will continue writing and Bridger posting to the blog from the incredible computer/wifi situation in Canada until the entire story of their trip together is told. And then she'll keep telling of her own solo story until the end, whenever that will be...