Home and happy!
I made it!
2 years on the road, 23 countries visited, a bit of money raised for charity, a bit of hope spread, a few people inspired, a spot of volunteering done, awareness of PTSD and cancer raised, 41 things ticked off my anti bucket list, many friends made, 1000s of photos taken, a life time of memories made, a generous and good world discovered and lots of hope spread.
All because I wanted to be happy again.
I arrived back to a sunny UK to be greeted at the airport by my beautiful parents. I cannot even begin to tell you how happy I am to be home.
My 101 adventure started on June 17th 2013 but this journey actually started about 8 months before that.
After months of various forms of therapy to help me cope with the effects of PTSD after surviving cancer for the second time my girlfriend ended our relationship. I don’t blame her as I was making her as miserable as I was making myself. I realised then that I had reached the lowest point I could possibly go. I was consumed by fear. She had once loved me so much so for her to make that decision made me realise that I really wasn’t the happy positive person I once was. By being unhappy I was making others unhappy as well.
The following day I stopped taking anti depressants and decided I would follow a life long dream and travel around the world. Two weeks after that I went for my two year check up and in the waiting room I decided I would try and help others as I travelled and create a website raising the awareness of PTSD and to show people that there is life after cancer. Two months after that I moved out of my flat, got rid of most of my possessions and moved in with my brother and his wife and started saving my money and planning my trip. Soon after that I started sleeping again, my eczema cleared up and I started to feel more optimistic and happy again.
I felt better even before I set off on this trip and it was all because I not only had something to look forward to but because I was being proactive in changing my life. In the end this trip was just a bonus as I was already more than half way to achieving the main reason I needed to go away in the first place….To feel happy again!
It was amazing to see what effects on the body the power of positive thought had.
The past two years have brought with them the most incredible experiences of my life and I still have to pinch myself when I think of all I’ve done. I have met the most incredible people, visited some of the most awe inspiring places on the planet and learned an awful lot about life along the way.
The only thing I ever had planned on this trip was my volunteering with Raleigh International. The rest I just figured out as I went. I started with only 45 things on my list and now I think I’m up to around 74 things now. I’ve added less and less to my list one of the reasons is because I’ve become increasingly more content with my life. I’m just so grateful to have experienced the things I have. Anything more would now simply be a bonus.
Going on this trip is the bravest thing I have ever done and I am so proud. Admittedly it did take two bouts of cancer to pluck up the courage to do this but I got there in the end. I may well have no money or job now but I feel like the most successful person in the world.
There are so many amazing people out there that have helped make this dream possible. I have been overwhelmed by the generosity and support of both friends and strangers.
Some of my friends went out of their way to raise money for me which is something I never asked for. They just believed in what I was doing which was just incredible. Some ran marathons, had cake sales, cycled across countries, had halloween parties and so much more. I was completely overwhelmed by this support and I am forever grateful. Thank you to my sponsors who supported me long before I even had a website. They were supportive from the get go and I am so appreciative they took a chance on me. A huge thank you to my wonderful friend Phil Rae who built and designed my beautiful website. He has also spent his spare time updating it for me over the past two years. I didn’t know Phil before this but he has now become a very close friend.
Thank you to my wonderful brother and sister in law for letting be stay with them whilst I saved for this trip and for also keeping motivated when I still wasn’t sure if this was a good idea. My brother has been my inspiration ever since we were children. He kept me motivated when I was ill and I wouldn’t have even dared imagining doing this trip without his inspiration or support.
Thank you to my parents for always being there for me. They are and have always been the foundations that hold me up and keep me safe. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them.
Thank you so much to all the people who I have met along the way, who gave me somewhere to sleep, bought me a hot chocolate or were just nice to me. Your support was again a reminder that there are a lot of good selfless people out there.
Finally a huge thank you to everyone who follows this blog. I have not had the pleasure of meeting most of you but I cannot thank you enough for the support you have given me. Your messages and comments have not only filled my heart with joy and kept me motivated but they’ve also helped my parents and some of my friends understand what this blog was all about. I have said quite a lot about my experiences with cancer and PTSD. I can imagine it must be strange for my parents to see me make it all so public. I know how much it has helped me but I also think it helped them understand that many other people have also been affected by the psychological effects of cancer. I felt very alone when struggling with PTSD after cancer. I had no idea that it was so common until I started 101. Thank you for your support and sharing your experiences with me. It has really helped me.
There is a common misconception that people no longer need support once the treatment and operations are finished with and you are in the clear. That is not the case I am afraid. I liken beating cancer to climbing Everest and you get to the top and have all your safety equipment taken away. It’s sometimes difficult to know what to do next. I needed as much support after cancer as I did during it and I really got that from many of you. You will never fully realise just how much that has meant to me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I wanted this blog to be a place where people could come and just feel good. I wanted to show you how wonderful the world actually is and that there is happiness after all the pain and fear.
If you had heard of a guy who had suffered from cancer twice, had one kidney, a large part of his bowel missing, blood clots and suffered with PTSD you might have felt quite sorry for him. I hope I have dispelled that perception now and when you meet someone who might be going through a similar thing, you might like to say:- “I heard of a guy who had that. He went travelling around the world for two years, climbed volcanoes, jumped out planes and met loads of really cool people. He’s doing just fine and so will you”.
Whether you followed this blog because of a love for travel or whether you have experienced illness I sincerely hope that parts of it have put a smile on your face and inspired you when thinking of your own to do list. I was no adventurer before this. I hope you look at my experiences (not just travel) and think ‘if this guy can do it then I could easily do it too’ because that is the truth of it.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart everyone. I am so honoured to have shared this adventure with you. There is a lot more to come and more in which I would like to involve all of you.
I now plan to set up numerous charitable 101 ventures in which 101 Things To Do When You Survive can help and inspire more people. I firmly believe we have the foundations for something good and long lasting that will help many charities and raise awareness of many other causes. I really hope you will play a big part in that. I plan to make health and nutrition a big feature on my website as well. Let’s see if we do our bit to not only help more people survive but also help lower cancer diagnosis rates!
I will of course being hoping to add and tick off more things from my list but for now I’m pretty content.
The final photo in this post is a photo of my new bedroom.
My big brother and his amazing wife have again invited me to live with them whilst I sort myself out. They have just bought their very first house and ever since they asked me to live with them I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I have been more excited about that than all of the other things left on my list.
A few days ago my brother sent me this photo of the room they have set up for me. I must have looked at this photo about 50 times in the past few days imagining what it’s going to be like to be there. The thought of having my very own room and having drawers in which to unpack my bag fills me with so much excitement. Who ever thought a bedroom in Maidenhead would be more appealing than ticking off something new from your dream list. How life has changed!;)
So here we go gang! Back to the old new! I was slightly worried that this trip might have just been a lovely distraction from my usual worrying ways but as I write this I realise I’m not going to let happen. I’m going to keep working hard to keep getting better. I’ve got my 5 year check up soon, Im going to enrol in a mindfulness course to help me live more in the moment and help control my anxiety. I’ve also got to get off my lazy butt and start training for my Transamerica bike ride. I’m going to write a book and oh yes…find some kind of work which pays money! Yikes! I might have to do that one first!:) You and I also have a certain hot chocolate party on Richmond Hill in September as well! Date coming soon!
So is there life after cancer? You bet your ass there is and you know what….if your reading this then life is also happening right now!
I must confess that I have been very much conflicted in my views to what brings about a better life. I am big believer that we should all live in the moment and try not to think too much about the future. But when your moment isn’t much fun, like when you’re having chemotherapy, I truly believe that thinking of a future life where the pain has stopped and you are doing fun things can be the best medicine of all. Hope is a wonderful thing.
I’d been struggling in how to convey this until yesterday. I arrived home to find the most beautiful and life affirming book in the mail that had been made Katie, the head nurse at the Butterly Children’s Hospice. It is the most beautiful book about my visit to the hospice. She also wrote some inspirational quotes in the book and it is there I found this one which I think you’ll agree says it all;
Learn from yesterday.
Live for today.
Hope for tomorrow.
Be good to yourselves gang and in doing so you will also be good to those you love and meet on this little journey called life.
Love and well wishes to you all
I couldn’t let my time in China go by without mentioning the incredible hospitality I received when I was there.
One of the many things I’ve loved about writing this blog is that I’ve visited all these wonderful countries and I’ve been able to tell you know just how wonderful the world actually is. I have now visited 23 countries in the past 24 months and I’ve never felt threatened or unsafe. From the once most dangerous city in the world in Colombia to the favelas of Brazil, the people I have met from the places I have visited have opened my eyes to just how many good and honest people there are in the world.
I was a bit disillusioned with the world before setting off on this trip. In my former my life I was a Crime Scene Investigator in London. This was a great job but 9 years of dealing with crime everyday was enough to make you see the world in a slightly negative way. Media tends to focus on the negative which leads us to believe that we are all falling apart at the seams and that there is war and unrest everywhere. There are of course places in the world which are sadly undergoing many struggles but there is also a lot of good in the world.
Which brings me on to China. I think it’s safe to say that China has some polices that I don’t agree with so this is an account solely based on my personal experience in China.
I didn’t know much about China before going apart from things like the Great Wall, the Terracotta army, the transiberian express and some of the things I’d seen in the news. It’s safe to say I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.
I was quite surprised by how few westerners there were in the places I visited. I visited 4 cities during my 8 days in China and didn’t see many westerners at all. There were a few more in Shanghai but not as many as I thought there would be.
Because of the lack of westerners myself, Katie, Amy and Caroline were stopped on so many occasions by people wanting photographs with us. In Xi’an a girl asked if she could have a photo with me because she said I looked like David Beckham. I asked if I could also get a photo with her and she looked at me like I was a total weirdo! Ha! You can see her reaction in the photo with the bikes in it.
The David Beckham thing went with me wherever I went in China. I’m not going to lie I actually loved every second of it until I realised that David Beckham promotes pretty much every single product in China and as a result his face is absolutely everywhere. It then hit me that maybe Chinese people only thought I looked like him because he’s the only westerner they ever see (and the fact I’ve got a dodgy haircut:)). My dream of thinking I was a millionaire sportsman was quickly shattered!
Katie is fluent in Chinese and without her I was lost when ordering food. In Xi’an I went to a cafe for lunch and the whole menu was in Chinese. There weren’t any pictures of the food either so I couldn’t even just point. This was the case in many of the local restaurants. In the end I had about 6 members of staff around me giggling and laughing with only one knowing a tiny bit of English. She knew the words for meat and noodles so that’s what I got. I actually wanted vegetarian noodles but my Chinese language app didn’t have a word for vegetables. No wonder it was free! They all just seemed to really want to help me which was lovely.
Katie was determined to make our time not only worthwhile for the children’s hospice but also fun. She took us all out for dinner and Namoi who is the Chinese director at the hospice organised for us to go to Karaoke. If you thought my singing at the opera house was bad then you haven’t heard me doing karaoke. That’s me and Naomi’s husband Damien singing Barbie Girl by Aqua in the pic. Damien being the karaoke pro doing his very best to look like Barbie.
All the gang at the hospice were so friendly and accommodating as were most of the people I met in China. A wonderful guy called David who is the administrator at Butterfly and a few others from the hospice took me out for dinner and to see some of their city. We all went for a walk up a well known hill (I can’t remember the name) to a viewing point overlooking Changsha city. It was really lovely and I got to know everyone and learn a little bit about Chinese culture.
As we were walking David asked if I had any brothers or sisters. I told him I had a big brother. Completely forgetting about the one child per family law in China I asked David if he had any brothers or sisters. He replied no and when I asked if he would like a sibling and he shouted out with excitement of how much he would have loved to have a brother or a sister. This was yet another reminder of just how fortunate I am to have the life I have.
Naomi was absolutely amazing in helping me when I was in China. She booked me a cheap flight to Xi’an, found me a cheap hostel and even organised for her friend to pick me up from the airport. A wonderful guy called Zhao Hao picked me up but only spoke a few words of English. My Chinese was no better than a simple hello but I had downloaded a Chinese language app before arriving especially for moments like these. It is amazing how much of a conversation you can have when just saying one or two words.
Zhao Hao was beyond generous. From the airport he drove me to the Terracotta Army museum where he first bought me lunch. I tried to pay to say thank you for the lift but he didn’t seem happy with this. Apparently it is frowned upon for a guest to pay for anything when in the company of your host. He then waited outside in his car for two and half hours as I went in to see the Terracotta Army. I had asked him to leave as he had two kids and worked all week as an accountant. I felt terrible that he was spending part of his weekend with someone who didn’t even speak his own language. He then drove me to my hostel and even checked me in before carrying my bag up to my room. I’ve never experienced anything like it and I was totally overwhelmed by his hospitality. The generosity I have received around the world has certainly changed how I want to host my guests. Other than my mum I don’t know anyone who would do this for someone they have never met.
I spent 8 days in China and only got to see a small part of it but my experience was a very warm, welcoming and generous one. One which I will never forget and one which has made me re-evaluate how I want to host guests. A huge thank you to Naomi, Linda, David, Alan, Zhao Hoa, the Ayis, Katie, Caroline and Amy for making me feel so welcome. I hope I can do the same for you one day.
2 days to go!
The City of Xi’an and Thing #43 – Stand toe to toe with the mighty Terracotta Army
Good luck Team 101
This time last year I was getting ready to embark on the third most physically demanding challenge of my life (the first two were involuntary and started with the letter C) and complete a 140 mile bike ride across the state of Connecticut in the USA to raise money for a camp for seriously ill children.
Sadly I can’t make it this year but that hasn’t stopped the legend that is Andy Heaps from creating TEAM 101! Not only that he had modified Angelride to make even more difficult for him and the other Team 101 members. Instead of 140 miles they will ride 250 miles, with 110 of those miles being through the night in what they have called ‘Hills of Hope’. Their plan is simple, they want to want to almost kill themselves doing something amazing in order to raise as much money as possible for a place that helps makes seriously ill children better.
In order to help prepare these cycling warriors for this weekends challenge I have attached my Rocky IV tribute montage that I made last year to help motivate me. It’s hilariously bad but it worked so make sure you watch and learn Team 101!
I have asked you all for a lot this week and this will be my last request for a while but I would love it if you could please help sponsor Team 101 and help them reach their target of $12,000 for the Hole in the Wall gang camp.
You can read more about their challenge and also sponsor them here.
If I weren’t still on the road I would be attempting this madness as well.
Good luck to Team 101 and to all those taking part in Angelride this weekend. You are all heroes.
Breast cancer awareness
My amazing friend Vicki Connerty has written this wonderful article for a well known website in Australia.
Entitled ‘Hair is overrated’: A pragmatists guide to breast cancer. It is a very honest and inspiring account of Vicki’s current fight with Breast Cancer.
It is a beautiful piece of writing and one every one on the planet should read and be made aware of.
Please read, like, share and tell others about its wonderful content.
Well done Vicki. This is wonderful and I am in no doubt will help 1000’s of men and women around the world.
My most favourite thing so far
As my trip draws to a close I’ve had many people ask me what the best thing on my list has been.
My answer without hesitation is Thing #60 – Angelride.
At the end of 2013 I was invited to take part in this ride by an amazing guy called Andy Heaps. Andy had seen my story and challenged me to take part in a bike ride in the states. Angelride is a 140 mile bike ride across the state of Connecticut which raises money for a camp for seriously ill children. Andy wrote to me at a time when my story was getting a lot of press around the world and as a result I was getting a lot of emails which made it difficult to reply to them all. Andy’s email just blew me away and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. He spoke with such passion about this amazing event and its cause that I knew I just had to do it. I agreed to do this year but I suddenly realised I would be in Asia and probably wouldn’t have the funds to do it then so I cut my trip short in South America and flew up from Brazil to the states with three weeks to go before the 2014 Angelride.
He rightly said in his email that the camp Angelride raises money for is everything 101 Things To Do When You Survive is about. It was about fun, inspiring others and letting people know that they are not alone. The Hole in the Wall Gang camp provides a safe place for seriously ill children to go, have fun and be with other children who are going through the same thing as them.
Although, we do need a few blasts of treatment now and then I truly believe that fun and laughter are the best medicine. The mind is the most powerful tool we have so we need to take care of it by remembering what life really is about.
Tests have shown that these kids leave camp with a higher count of disease fighting white blood cells than when they arrive. That’s how powerful these experiences are.
I was fortunate enough to be a volunteer at the camp in the week that children with sickle cell disease were there. I got to see first hand just how much the Hole In The Wall Gang camp does for these kids and it was so lovely to see that it was worth every exhausting second I spent on that bike.
This place is pretty much a hospital disguised as an adventure camp.
Angelride was originally set up to help with the medical costs for one of Lynn’s friends daughters called Angel. Angel not only got better but has just become a nurse. She is an amazing girl.
With Angel all better the Angelride now raises money specifically for the hospital outreach programme of the Hole in Wall Gang camp where they take the fun to kids in hospital who are too sick to go to camp.
A visit from one of these guys will definitely put a smile on any child’s face no matter what they are going through. I have seen first hand what a life of fear can to do a persons health both inside and out and it’s not good. $50 (£25) of your money will ensure a sick child gets a visit from the Hole In Wall Gang.
So why was this my favourite thing?
Anyone who has had chemo will tell you there are a good few moments where you wonder if you’ll ever get your energy back. If you’ll ever be ‘normal’ again. I’ve struggled my whole life with any type of physical excursion so to ride 140 miles over two days with one weeks training was one of the biggest things I’ve ever achieved.
I honestly felt invincible afterwards and in the locker room I asked my big bro to capture that moment with that photo of me with my top off. Although I don’t really have the body to pull off a pose like that I can honesty say at the time I felt like I was strongest person in the world. I was so proud and for days afterwards I felt the best I’ve ever felt.
Although the ride itself was extremely difficult I had the motivation of not only the unwell children I was raising money for but I also had my big brother riding next to me and my beautiful mum waiting for me at the end. It had been a year since I had last seen them both so this was extra special.
Best of all though we’re the people I met whilst I was there. I had flown up from South America to a place where I knew no one at all. I was given a place to stay, food, equipment, the biggest hugs you’ve ever heard of and a bike!
On the ride itself I peddled every inch of the way. A rule my brother and I said I would keep to but even if I had walked up the hills it wouldn’t have mattered. It took me 10 and half hours to complete the first day and I rode into camp with the 24 strong motor support crew behind me beeping their horns and a couple of hundred people to cheer me on at the end. I was exhausted physically but it was my emotions that broke down first and I fell into the arms of lovely Lynn who is organiser of Angelride. They are some of the most wonderful and generous people I have ever met.
Thanks to you guys I managed to raise a total of $5000 for the Hole in the Wall camp and next year I’ll aim to raise even more when I use Angelride as the start of my challenge to cycle across the USA unsupported. (Mum and dad…. I’ll explain more to you about this when I speak to you….I haven’t actually told them about that yet!;)
I can’t make this year’s Angelride as I will still be away but Andy will be there and has created ‘Team 101’ which he and a team of 6 other legends have modified to make it even more challenging. So instead of 140 miles, Team 101 (complete with team 101 kit will cycle 110 miles through the night from upstate New York to Connecticut where Team 101 will meet the rest of the Angel Riders at the Hole In the Wall Gang camp where they will complete the last day together. In total they will cover an overall distance of 250 miles. They have called this modified ride ‘Hills of Hope’. Love it!
It’s an amazing feat and one I hope will inspire others.
Last year I was used as an example of someone who has a few health issues and who had never ridden a bike before giving the ride a shot. This year has again been a very severe winter and as a result many people have not registered for the ride because they feel they haven’t trained enough.
Video of my angelride experience
I made this video for my fellow Angel Riders to hopefully inspire others to register for the ride and to show people what a wonderful cause the Hole in the Wall Gang camp is. In this video I explain why the ride meant so much, along with footage of the ride, my big finish, some of the amazing people I met but more importantly you’ll see footage from the Hole In the Wall Gang camp. This is what it’s all about:-
As I can’t make this year’s ride I promised Team 101 that I’d help them fundraise for this wonderful cause. I would be so grateful if you could sponsor the guys to complete this incredible challenge. I can promise you the money goes directly to providing a very sick child with an unforgettable experience.
You can sponsor them here and also read the reason why they chose the name Team 101.
Thank you so much gang and good luck to Team 101 and all the other legends taking part in Angelride this year.
Quick update from Angkor Wat
It’s been quite a busy time in Cambodia gang and I’ve fallen way behind with my updates but I thought I’d share just a couple of shots from Thing #14 on my list – Taste the Air at Angkor Wat.
Blog coming soon!
Thank you all once again for all your requests for postcards. Most of the messages have had me in tears but I’m absolutely loving writing to you all.
My sincerest apologies for not replying to your messages as well. I didn’t think writing postcards could be so time consuming but along with the incredibly honest and lovely content of your messages and the sheer amount of you who wrote to me I’ve struggled to fit everything into my days here. That is in no way a complaint by the way. I love writing and I love you guys so this is an absolute pleasure for me especially when I imagine my postcard putting a smile on your face. There are some amazing people out there and learning more about you is such a lovely way to end my trip. I would like nothing more than having a day in the future where we can all meet.
Richmond Hill gathering will be in September sometime so I hope we can all meet then and tick off Thing #62 together. More details of that to follow.
Right, this update was only meant to be the first paragraph!:) hope you like the pics. More Cambodia enticing pics and stories coming soon. You’d love this place so add it to your list now!:)
Post Tramatic Stress Disorder
Shine Cancer Support podcast
I’ve made no secret of my experience with my mental health issues after cancer. This is a topic that is now coming to the forefront of cancer treatment and after care. My main reason for sharing my story was to raise awareness about the psychological effects of cancer. It was these mental health issues that led me to change my life and embark on this trip around the world. At the time I felt it was my only hope. I don’t really feel like that anymore but that story is for another time.
I recently recorded a podcast for the wonderful people at Shine Cancer Support in the UK. I’ve had the pleasure of being closely involved with them for the past year or so.
This podcast was part of a show called ‘NOT YOUR GRANDMAS CANCER SHOW hosted by the wonderful Tatum De Roeck.
In this show myself and two other amazing people discuss PTSD and anxiety and how we have coped with it.
It’s well worth a listen.
If you are short on time then you can listen to my podcast here but I would definitely recommend listening to both Richard and Natalie’s stories as well. They both amazing people.
For those of you who are short on data like me, you can also read the blog post I wrote here :-
I hoe this goes some way to helping those of you who struggle like I did. I don’t have all the answers and something tells me that when I get home I’ll have to keep working hard to keep this anxiety in check but as I say in the podcast; “You are not alone and there is hope”.
Postcards, volunteering, and Cambodia
I write this to you from the amazing town of Siem Reap in Cambodia and I have to say I have completely fallen in love with this place.
It’s crazy hot and despite choosing the worst time of year to volunteer on a farm I have totally fallen in love.
It’s been a pretty busy time here in Siem Reap and as a result my updates have taken a bit of backseat.
I am now in my second week of volunteering for a wonderful children’s charity called the Green Gecko project. Im going to talk more about that and the amazing woman who set it up in a separate update but it’s a wonderful organisation that helps keep kids off the streets of Siem Reap.
My volunteering involves working on a farm that grows food to help feed the children and in the afternoons I assist an amazing guy called Matthew teach the kids English.
The kids are amazing and such fun to be around. I particularly love working on the farm though. I thought it would be the other way around. It’s pretty hard work and my hands are covered in blisters but I love being outside, the guys are great and I love seeing the results of the work we’re doing in a physical form. Maybe I’ll take up building when I get home!
I have been completely overwhelmed by those of you that have asked for a postcard. I love reading your messages and I can relate to pretty much everything you all mention in them. I found myself getting quite emotional when reading them the other day because I know exactly what you are going through. I feel incredibly honoured that you have chosen shared your life experiences with me. I hope you like your postcards and I hope they put a big smile on your face even if just for 10 seconds of your day. Please know that the guy who wrote them knows exactly what you are going through and if there is hope for him then there is hope for us all. (Not entirely sure why I’m referring to myself in the third person there but rather than delete it I thought I would write this entire new sentence instead!…..the heat is clearly getting to me).
Any free time I have is spent writing these and I love it. Today I got up at 7 and headed to a little coffee shop where I wrote a couple before work. It was really lovely and I think I’ll add this to my daily routine. I never imagined missing routine so much.
The Cambodian people are one of the friendliest nations I have visited so far. For a country that has been through hell and to be the type of people they are is just incredible. Saying that makes me realise that you guys also encapsulate this wonderful way of living as well after dealing with traumatic times.
They are such friendly and welcoming people.
Zoe’s lovely Australian friend Beck is kindly letting me stay at her apartment. I almost wet myself when she showed me to my own room which had en suit! For a midnight weeer this is the dream! She is great fun and a big fan of cooking and movie nights so she may never get rid of me!
Best of all though, being here means I get to hang out with my little cousin Zoe. Zoe and her husband Charlie have lived in Siem Reap for the best part of a decade and they run the best bar/restaurant in town…’Charlie’s!’ True story!:) I’d love to say that I only go there for lunch because it means I get to see them but the truth is their food is really good! Sorry guys.
This is the first time I’ve ever met Charlie as I missed both their weddings due to my travels. He is a great guy with a heart of gold and it is wonderful to spend time with them both.
So I have a lovely little routine going here and I must say I’m loving having this kind of structure to my days. The last couple of months I have felt so stressed about life after this trip but being here has calmed me down so much. I love the work, I love writing the postcards, I’ve made some great friends and I’m sleeping like a baby. I’ve missed this.
If I didn’t feel like such a sweaty mess all the time I’d safely say this is perfect (see worst selfie ever for proof of this).
Cambodia is defiantly a place you should visit!
I’ll be updating you soon with tales and photographs of standing toe to toe with the Terracotta Army in China, watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat and best of all about telling you all about the incredible people I’ve met who are doing amazing things for children in need of help. There are a lot of good people out there!
If any of you would like volunteering ideas for yourself or for anyone you know then please visit www.greengeckoproject.org for more details. I promise you would love this place!
Kuala Lumpar, Asia, and thoughts of home
Hellooo gang! I hope you are all well. I’ve just arrived in the bustling (and ridiculously hot) city of Siem Reap in Cambodia after an unexpected and inspiring trip to China where I was invited to visit a children’s hospice. I’ll talk more about that soon but it was an experience I really wasn’t expecting to have.
Social media is banned in China so I’ve been media free for the past week or so.
Before my trip to China I stayed in the city of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia for about a week. I thought I’d try something different so instead of flying I caught a 6 hour train from Singapore to KL. You can pretty much fly for around the same price and it takes about 5 hours less but I love trains so this was a much more fun option. With the air conditioning on full it was a pretty chilly experience.
Truth be told I was ready to go home after New Zealand. I’ve got to a point now where I’m just craving some home comforts and also having that ‘settled’ feeling which I seem to have eluded for almost three years now. Even the year I spent saving for this trip staying at my brother and sister in laws flat never really felt settled. It was lovely but it definitely never felt like my place. Not just because I was sleeping in their office but more because I was always preparing to leave again.
I’m now approaching two years on the road and the the novelty of staying in different places and living out of a bag has definitely worn off. The thought of all the different 101 related ventures I want to set up are the things I’m more excited about now. Someone could come up and give me £5,000 to keep travelling and tick off even more things from my list and I wouldn’t take it. Home is calling and I’m super excited about it.
I couldn’t come all this way however and not visit my two gorgeous cousins Alexa and Zoe. Alexa lives in KL and Zoe in Cambodia. They have been here for almost a decade and I have never been to visit in all this time so this was the perfect opportunity. Despite my China trip Asia is now more of a family affair than it is a sight seeing tour. Seeing Angkor Wat is on my list which is in the same town as Zoe’s so this is a lovely coincidence. Just to clarify, it’s not that I don’t want to see Asia. Asia is very high up on my list but I would just rather see it with fresh eyes so I can full appreciate it.
My cousin Alexa has lived in KL with her fiancé, Andrew for around 8 years now and they absolutely love it. I arrived with the sole purpose of hanging out with them.
The Trouts are a very close family but more often than not we only get to see each other once or twice a year and when we do it is usually at Christmas with everyone chatting away to everyone. As a result you never really get a chance to have a one on one chat with anyone. I’ve now spent the past two Christmas’ away from home so this week in KL was especially lovely as it gave me a chance to hang out with Alexa and really catch up. She is such an amazing girl. I also got to know Andrew who is a great guy and we had the best chats. We must have chatted about everything from sport to the theory of relativity.
Although KL is not my most favourite city in the world, Alexa and Andrew have such a great life there. They have an amazing apartment which in the UK would cost an absolute fortune, have cheap and quick access to all of Asia, they have a great social life and most importantly, a wonderful group of friends who I got to meet over a Good Friday feast at one of their friends house. A fake microphone, some music and some drunk people makes for a very good night.
Alexa plays Gaelic Football or simply known as ‘football’ if you are Irish (very important to know) and she took me to join a practice session one night and blimey it’s exhausting. Great fun but KL is hotter than the earth’s core so it’s pretty tough.
When they are not driving the Malaysians are super friendly people. Lex took me to see the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra play a jazz concert at the concert hall in the iconic Petronas Twin Towers. I rocked up in my flip flops, shorts and a tatty shirt only to be told I couldn’t come in. When I looked around I noticed that everyone was in suits so maybe I was a tad bit underdressed.
I told Lex to go in and I quickly ran out to the legendary budget but incredibly awesome shop of Uniq Glo and bought the cheapest trousers I could find and ran back upstairs to the concert hall where the ushers rustled up a suit jacket and a pair of shoes for me to wear. The shoes were too small and the jacket too big but I felt like quite the man around town nonetheless.
In what was like a scene from Pretty Woman, I surprised Lex at the interval with my new look. Despite her look of ‘are we really related?’ I could tell she was secretly proud to be out with such a dapper gent!;)
I then had to apply for a Chinese visa which wasn’t as complicated as I thought it would be. I filled out an application, got a letter of invitation from the children’s hospice I was visiting and got a visa no problem. It’s a lot cheaper to do it yourself and isn’t as complicated as you might think it is. Saying that please don’t do what I did and book a flight to China on the same day your due to pick up your visa. As ever, it all worked out but visions of a big ‘declined’ stamp were running through my head the night before and with that a non refundable flight to China down the pan!
Fortunately all worked out well and I went on to China and I met some of the most amazing people I’ve ever had the honour of meeting.
A huge thank you to Alexa and Andrew for their generosity and for having a weary and smelly traveller hang out with them for the week. I absolutely loved my time with you. Roll on a long overdue Trout reunion at Christmas.