Travel Diaries

So having had no inspiration to write anything remotely interesting over the last week or so (a bit of a worry when your blog is only a week or so old) I figured I’d share something. As you may or may not have read in my first post, I went travelling last year for 8 months through Europe, the Middle East and a little bit of North Africa with my mate Karl. Along the way, we took to diary writing (we referred to it as ‘something future self will thank us for’) and managed to maintain it despite the terrible chore it became. Yesterday I came home to Armidale, NSW for a few weeks over the mid year break and spent a few minutes today flipping through the four and a half diaries I managed to fill with my observations, thoughts and stories while I was away.
It hardly makes for riveting reading. Written mostly in cramped hostels or on shaky public transport in terrible handwriting, out of some begrudging devotion to ‘future self’, it’s not exactly an eloquent portrayal of flourishing youth gallivanting across the other the side of the world. It’s rather crude and won’t really entertain anyone but myself, who was there, can read my own handwriting, and will mostly know what I was talking about.
However, at the beginning of each new diary (sometimes after searching all over a city just to find one) I allowed myself a little introduction, or reflection on where I was physically and, mostly, mentally. It’s interesting how these five separate pieces of writing, each composed several months after the last, provide something of a snapshot on the progression of my mental state over those 8 months. I can clearly see my progression from a naive, immature kid to, well, a slightly older, slightly less naive but still immature kid.
Firstly, I should provide some context. Karl and I flew out from Brisbane to Amsterdam to be met by my family there on the 2nd of May, 2010, which happened to be my 19th birthday. Also, my family at home kind of fell apart while I was away, in what can only be described as a spectacular disintegration of a lot of ‘truths’ and trust that I took for granted. To have found out over the phone in Istanbul, and then coming home 2 months later seems like both a blessing and a curse but this is not the place for such reflection.

So, without further ado, I give you five introductions to five different journals filled with travel experiences over 8 months by a 19 year old me. Please forgive my overall woefully bad writing. It’ll be better when I’m a real journo I promise!

2nd May 2010 (My 19th birthday!)
Where to today: Brisbane – Taipei – Bangkok – Amsterdam – Apeldoorn
Where are we sleeping: On the plane
6:25pm Aust. time.

So! Off we go. I’ve often wondered what I’ll write here before we’ve really done anything, sitting on the plane. Don’t want to get too grandiose or sound pretentious but, then again, who else will want to read this? Let’s just say I’m slightly scared, pretty excited, nervous and a wee bit hungover. Soon we’ll land in Taipei, board a flight to Amsterdam and be picked up by Oma and Anjes and train it to Apeldoorn. What a mindfuck! But oh so cool. I keep thinking that, how I feel right now, heading out alone with my best mate into the unknown, is so new to me, so foreign, so exciting and scary. Then I think that this feeling is going to be recreated again and again over the next 6 months. Fark! My goals for this trip? Should I have any? How about just have a shitload of fun, put myself out of my comfort zone and embrace new experiences. And who am I kidding, I wanna get at least a bit of sex! My birthday today hasn’t been bad thus far, but I’m way more excited about being overseas than 19 – freaking old son! Nothing in the way of gifts really, but who really cares? This next 6 months, Karl and I are gonna be hardcore travellers son! Yeeeew! Kinda wondering where this desire to travel came from … but then again, who cares? In my genes I spose – kinda following my parents’ footsteps. Hope my kids do the same. Turbulence is getting a bit rough and making my already illegible handwriting even worse, so I’ll put it away for meow.
P.S. – Wobbling wings make me nervous
P.P.S. – Want a bday beer in Taipei but budget comes first – dammit. Happy 19th to me! – 9pm Taipei time
P.P.P.S. – Rachel McAdams is hot

A word.
So the first book is filled and the second is begun. A few days ago, with Karl once again, on the train from Florence to Rome I think it was, I browsed the pages that, apart from my unreliable memory and poorly trained photographs, are to be my chronicle of the past 3 and a bit months. What adventures lie in those pages, days and their experiences that already I’d have forgotten if it wasn’t for my grudging dedication to diary writing. At the time it’s tedious and honestly I’ve enjoyed not having to write because I have the excuse of not having a diary. But I know this is one of those rare things that future self will really thank me for, although he will probably simultaneously curse my terrible handwriting. Part of me can’t wait to read this to my parents, to myself as an old man, and possibly one day toss it to my own kids (when they’re old enough, mind) and say ‘Here, see what your old man used to get up to back in the day’. For reasons of continuity I will stick with the ‘What day is it’, ‘Where to today’ etc etc format of the last diary. So a big “How’s it goin?” to future self, wherever you may be. Hope you’re having as much fun as I am and are still gallivanting across the globe like I hope you do.
Quinten, Naples, 13th August 2010.

…And on we go to round 3! At this point I am beginning to recognise changes in myself, although I’m very unsure of what they actually are. I wonder what the people at home (especially my parents) will think of me when I return, as a lot of people have said it’ll be a new person who will step off that plane. The physical and mental exhaustion of the weeks following Italy is gone, and I feel now we find more fun seeing beautiful countryside, eating local food with locals etc etc as opposed to just drinking in a hostel. Being in less touristy places (especially lately) helps this. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the odd brewski (Karl’s taken to calling me alcoholic, but I think that’s more because he’s drinking a lot less these days), but more often than not we go to local bars and chat the night away. I don’t want to stop travelling. Wait, scratch that; I don’t want to go home. I want to see more places and get to know them all better. The travel bug took me long ago and the symptoms are getting worse and worse (or better and better). I’m looking forward to seeing more of Albania, island hopping Greece, EVERYTHING about Turkey and the new experiences of the Middle East. It doesn’t feel like I should go home soon and, with over 2 and a half months to go, it shouldn’t. So, future self, as you sit and read these pages in years to come I wonder if, with the benefit of hindsight, you’ll be able to see the changes in me from what I write. It will be interesting to do some day. In the meantime, however, Albanian bus drivers holler out their destinations while their colleagues and clients debate animatedly over tiny cups of coffee. The wind gently disperses the humidity of last night’s rainstorm and ancient, gurgling, mud bespattered buses awkwardly negotiate the potholes and each other. Across our small round table stocked with two small coffees on saucers, discarded sugar bags, an ashtray and a bill sits my hairy best mate, fingering through his dirty Albanian ‘monopoly money’ for the 50 lekë needed to pay. In an hour we board a bus to the medieval town of Gjirokastra, in southern Albania. As water washes away the sugary coffee from my mouth and an old man narrowly avoids being hit by a bus, I can’t help but smile. Life is good. Life is very, very good.
Tirana, Albania, 26th September 2010.

So book number four is begun. So much has happened since that day in Tirana when I wrote an introduction to journal no. three! For one thing, the life and family I left at home has changed forever, and I will never return to the home that I left. Not the same home anyway, and now the homecoming I was not exactly looking forward to is positively loathsome for me to think about. Nevertheless, Monty Python’s ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ springs to mind and thinking about all the adventures, people and places contained in the previous journal sends through me a surge of gravity at just how much I have done. I still have over a month left, in some of the most exotic, out there places yet. I’ve been flogging this horse over 6 months now but the old thing’s still got some adventures in her yet I’m sure. Such a permanent fixture in my life recently, Karl, is suddenly gone and I won’t be seeing him for a relatively long time now. I miss him but I’m enjoying being on my own. Living with Shirl and the Prishkulnik family has eased me into this but coming to Israel definitely felt like opening a new chapter. The end of one era and the start of a new one.
I wish I didn’t have to go home – I know it’s going to be terrible, and not just because of what’s going on there now – and it really makes me feel a little sick to think about it. But I have to go. (‘When you’re chewing on life’s gristle, don’t grumble! Give a whislte!”) Stop moping dammit! Over a month! In Israel, Jordan and Egypt! It’s not over yet son, things only get more adventurous from here. Let’s have some fun out there, and let future self deal with the future. There’s plenty more stuff to see and do out there, and as long as there’s new places to go I’m gonna want to see them.
Petach Tikva, Israel, 12th November 2010.

Well, there’s not much I can write as an introduction to this one. It doesn’t come from some exotic, far flung corner, nor from the stately boulevards of some European city. No, my journey is over, and it kinda kills me to write of those last few days knowing full well that, for now, there are no more adventures in store. While coming home has taught me that, at least in a natural sense, Australia is just as beautiful as anywhere else in the world, I still long for the sense of uncertainty, of expectation and not knowing what to expect, of adventure and being somehow unique that travel in other countries and their culture brings. Before we left I used to try and imagine myself tramping through foreign cities and landscapes, but I would always struggle to picture what those places would look and feel like. Now, all I have to do is pick a memory. And what a bank I’ve built up! Any phrase or story uttered by anyone brings to mind fresh stories and memories temporarily forgotten, but hopefully all kept within the pages of these diaries. I can’t wait to finish so I can read back over it all. The feeling I have now is probably an enviable one. It is a feeling of immense satisfaction with what I’ve done coupled with an eager desire to do it all again. The uncertainty of practicalities is sometimes a worry, but hopefully I can get out there and go again relatively soon. Insh’allah.
Moonee Beach, Australia, 7th January 2011.

4 thoughts on “Travel Diaries”

  1. Hi, I followed you on twitter and then read this through procrastination..
    Just wanted to say that you made me remember the numerous occasions where I got the “life is very, very good ” buzz in both bizarre Albania and the … intoxicating.. Israel. But also you’re a fuckhead because now I’m thinking about how I want to be there right now and I can’t be.

    1. Haha sorry dude, writing it did the same to me. You’re wouldn’t happen to be @jatkinz on twitter are you? Mehthinks we’ve got a lot in common then, being aspiring journalists and all. I agree with Albania being bizarre, that country is so fun. How do you mean by Israel being intoxicating? That’s probably one of many words I would use to describe it. Had a lot of fun there, but then again, I had a lot of fun everywhere I went haha. Have fun out there man:)

  2. Yes and also on my first trip overseas I flew with China Airlines via the also groovy Taiwan, which is also the way I suspect you went to Amsterdam.
    Bizarre. Yes I am jatkinz.
    What do I mean by Israel being intoxicating? I dunno, it’s very difficult to describe Israel with single words. I chose that one because I thought it was kinda apt.
    You too, good luck, might run into you in Gaza City some time.

  3. Wow, that is crazy, I did fly through groovy Taiwan with China Airlines. Out of interest, when did you go? I reckon ‘intoxicating’ describes Israel pretty well. But you could go on and on about that country so I’ll stop myself now.
    Cheers for the comment dude, always good to meet like minded people. Gaza City sounds rad

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