England - Round The World Tour 3 2004 T-43

Train to London

Thursday 29th July

There has been a huge gap between the last travel update and this one - about 10 months, in fact. So what happened? Perhaps a few words on what has happened to us in recent months are in order.

We had rather a good time touring around the British Isles with the camper van and decided to keep it instead of selling it straight away, as was the original plan. The idea being that we could then use it again for smaller holidays within Europe after we finally settle down. Since we ploughed so much money into ‘the brick’, this meant that we did not have enough funds left to finish our globetrotting. There was nothing else to it; I had to get a job to earn some more money before we could set off again. Back to the rat race it was, then, even if only temporarily.

After settling back in with Jacqueline again in our room (*cough*) in the loft, I set about looking for some contract work in London. After a few weeks, I had set myself up with a nice little gig in Camden Town in North London, contracting for a company called TUI. Other than the 2-hour commute time there and back each day, it’s been a nice place to work and they’ve foolishly been paying me lots of money. A couple of 3-month extensions further have meant that I’ve not needed to look for additional work since day one.

After about six months, Jacqueline decided that she was going to renovate Charlotte’s room and thus needed the space in the loft. Yes, my very own sister was actually evicting us. We were out on the streets again, begging for pennies from passers-by and scrounging food from whatever the local cats had left uneaten in their food bowls. Luckily, I have a rather large family and my eldest brother, John, took pity on us and offered us a room in his house. As it turns out, we’ve been quite comfortable there and we all get on quite well together. I’ve been teaching John & Lisa how to play cards well and they have both been keen to learn what they can from me as far as professional photography is concerned. They are actually starting to get quite good so it’s nice to see my patient tuition finally starting to pay off. Naturally, I let them think that they have talent.

Mum & Dad were finally offered their own place to live recently (having lived in my Brother Paul’s house for the past couple of years) and have now moved in. They are back in South Ockendon where I and all my other siblings grew up. It is about 100 yards from the house where my eldest brothers and sisters were born. Surrounded by familiar friends and literally dozens of other family members, they are clearly much better off now than they were. The house (a ground floor maisonette actually) is slowly starting to look like a home and I will now travel with much more peace of mind knowing that they are settled and comfortable.

Over the past several months, we’ve been saving extremely hard and ploughing all we can from my salary into our travel savings fund. Just recently, I announced to my boss my travel plans and we have started the final countdown to departure – now set in stone for September 10th. The race is now on to find a replacement for me so that I can hand off my responsibilities in an orderly manner.

Sandy has just recently returned from a trip back to Florida to visit our friends and ex-neighbours. She spent no less than four weeks there and had a thoroughly good time being pampered and looked after by all our friends. Guess who had to stay behind to earn money to pay for the trip? Sandy would go back and live there again in a heartbeat. Two years on, she still misses our life there. Not having our own house or a place to call our own has probably done little to alleviate these feelings of disconnectedness. It has been a big price that we’ve had to pay for the luxury of travelling the world.

So, where are we going next? Well, the breakdown looks something like this:

London India Hong Kong China Thailand Cambodia Australia New Zealand Fiji Vanuatu Fiji Cook Islands Tahiti Easter Island Chile Peru Ecuador Galapagos Islands USA Mexico London

Sandy wants the trip to last no more than 8 months. If it were left up to me, I’d spend the entire year allowed by the RTW ticket. In reality, the trip will probably last about 9-10 months depending on how much time we hang around in Florida when we pass through.

The flights are all booked and paid for and the trip is now set in stone. With the exception of the initial departure date of September 14th, all flight dates are flexible and we can change them at will with no penalty (assuming we can get seats on the plane).

Much of my time in recent weeks has been dedicated to sorting out practical matters. Just yesterday, I handed in our passports to our travel agent to arrange our Indian & Chinese visas (the only visas we need to arrange before departure). For the most part, we now have all our backpacks, footwear and clothing that we will be travelling with. Sandy brought back lots of goodies from America that we are going to be taking with us also. The new laptop that I’m typing on (the old one overheated and fried the mother board) is probably the most important (certainly the most expensive) piece of equipment that we are taking with us again. Although it can be a pain lugging it around everywhere, I really can’t imagine how we would otherwise manage our photos or how I would keep my daily journal.

In addition to the laptop, she also brought back a new camera and underwater housing, as well as an underwater strobe and arm assembly. With this new 5 mega-pixel camera and strobe combination, this should drastically improve the quality of our underwater photography. We are planning on doing quite a bit of diving along the way and I have allotted a generous budget to cover for this. Our first diving opportunity will be in Thailand in November. We’ll see just how good the underwater pics are when I put them online when the time comes.

There are lots of things that we are looking forward to with this trip. We already know from past experience that we are going to be exposed to a wide range of wonderful new experiences but there are some things in particular that we are particularly eagerly anticipating. For one thing, we are going to be spending both Christmas and New Years with Ree-Ree, my Australian cousin in Melbourne. We sometimes forget that it was a deep-rooted desire to go to Australia to visit Ree-Ree that spurned this whole travelling spree to begin with.

Other things that I am particularly looking forward to include the Great Wall of China, Ayres Rock, Easter Island, visiting the islands of the South Pacific, Machu Picchu in Peru and the Galapagos Islands, to name but a few. I’ll have to reflect in this list at the end o the trip.