Day 308: Home at the end of the world..?

The final journey: Beijing to Hong Kong

The final journey: Beijing to Hong Kong

Southbound… to a place we used to call home. In 24 hours we will reach destination Hong Kong. In 24 hours our journey will complete. This is the last train that will bridge the final distance and the first I am reluctant to board. Thought I was ready to go home but really, I’m not. I feel nervous the way I felt just before boarding the plane to Mexico, 308 days ago. This train will take us to the end of our travels and the beginning of something new… a new uncertainty.

They say the moment before you die, you get flashbacks of the life you lived. I’m having flashbacks of the roads we journeyed through. We encountered amazing people, challenged our fears and most of all, we made memories. There were tough, but unforgettable ones: we faced some of the filthiest squat toilets, we mastered the perfect squat; we dodged corrupt police, I still got caught; we baked in 40°C heat, we froze in -15°C cold; we developed selective vision and turned blind eyes to fly-infested kebabs; we journeyed through several long hours surviving the entire day on just a few stale bread rolls; we endured 43 hours on a train, making the 24 hour runs look easy…

But we made it. From Baltic Europe to Hong Kong by land, traversing 6 time zones and 23 languages. It’s a little hard to believe we did it, especially when we’d never even dream of having the guts to pull off an overland journey that’d take us through Middle East and Central Asia – it was never part of the dream but I’ve come to learn… once you dare to dream, you’ll find the courage to dream bigger.

I can’t call our journey epic, there were people we met on the way who were on a much grander voyage than ours (e.g. cycling around the world!); I’m already dreaming of a similarly grand adventure in the future. The thing about ‘overlanding’ is you never quite feel like you’re leaving a place, you’re only moving across a continued landscape. You see the gradual changes in people, in culture, and gain a stronger appreciation of how we are all connected – our ancestors, our histories. We are the same people sharing the same land.

But the most profound thing this journey has taught me is how ignorant and uneducated I was despite an American education (shouldn’t be surprising I suppose). A real slap in my face – I had a “world class” career but knew nothing of the world. I’m happy, I’ve graduated from the club of ignorant high flyers.

Now I’m thinking about reintegrating back “home”. Meeting people who can’t relate to anything we have seen or experienced, answering those questions of feigned interest that quickly subject change back to the latest iPad or hippest club. My stomach is overturning at the thought of all the stuff waiting at home for me: 50 boxes of material possessions. When did I ever need so much when living life out of a backpack was so sufficient, easy and carefree??

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  1. Iván says:

    What an amazing post that you made… I remember the night we met together in a bar and it was July.. long long time ago… thank you for sharing all this trip with us (by the blog) and for having this amazing feeling of 'I want to know more and more places'… someday, I will tell my kids that Naty and myself met a vagabond couple that travelled around the world… excellent and safe return to home, our friends!

    Iván and Naty

  2. Ray says:

    Welcome home!

  3. rfmolfino says:

    Your trip is an inspiration for us, to have more courage to do the things that we really want to do.
    Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

  4. Leslie says:

    Welcome home guys! As said so well by those before me, you guys are an inspiration! The courage that you both have demonstrated and the knowledge and experience you have gathered is not taught in school but through 'real life'. We miss you but absolutely thrilled that you took this chance! I can't wait to see what's next. :)

  5. ace says:

    welcome back guys! beautiful post.. gave me shivers down my spine!!!! i am so proud, happy, elated for you guys.. i am still in the ignorant club. and i hope one day to join you guys, and you guys will come back to CANADA!! love and miss u xo

  6. wilson says:

    I did the same trip as you all before. Same countries and same route. I am CS in Iran in 2008. My host told me that he met same person like me and he sent me your blog. Lovely. All you sharing recall all the memory !!! Thanks. Hope you never settle in HK. is sucked

  7. Rafzana says:

    Hi guys,
    Wow, wat an exciting journey you've had. Seeing beautiful places and meeting interesting people… I'm glad you have arrived home safe!
    Hope you'll have a wonderful Christmas and hope that 2011 has a lot of good in store for you guys!

  8. Maritina says:

    You almost made me cry. It must be hard now to get used to "normal life "again, but I hope you get through it without much sorrow.

    Love you guys, thank you so much for sharing your experience with the world.

  9. 旅游-人生,飞翔自由 says:

    Hey , Really proud of you guy here. i have to learn it from you guy …

    Human life is not so many people can do this …you are the one. especially for middle age people…

    Welcome back to your country & have a new life again on this year and work hard more and travel again …

    Thank’s for sharing with us your travel story …

  10. Harris says:

    Still looking for the English version of your diary, but wanted to post this while time was available. In September 2010, at seventy nine, I completed a walkabout beginning in Beijing followed by the Trans Mongolian Siberian Train to Moscow for more. Visited Moscow many times, but this was the first time on the economy, i.e. not on business or short tourist visits, although I have lived on the economy on similar walkabouts in 68 other countries since 1950. I mention this only to confirm that I fully appreciate your journey, the joys, the frustrations, the border crossings, the food, the many cultures and, most importantly, the people. I am now almost finished with such travels, but still plan a couple more before I stop. Please keep on as when you reach my age your journals and photographs will be among your most treasured possessions.

    Harris Greensboro North Carolina USA

    • 山 him says:

      Harris, many thanks for leaving a msg, there’s a great deal of comfort in knowing there are others out there on a similar wavelength. Although our journey is complete, our minds continue to travel everyday. You’re absolutely right, the joys, the frustrations, all those are memories that nobody would ever understand unless they’ve been on a similar adventure, and these will become our most treasured possessions.. not the bank account, not the car, not the house.. (well maybe my guitar!) I hope you continue to enjoy your travels! BTW you should be able to find English posts throughout this blog as I blog in Eng, my wife blogs in Chinese.

  11. Hattie Parker says:

    Can I just say….incredible photography! Unless I’ve missed something here and one of you is a pro already, if not then you should be! I wish I could learn to take pictures like you.

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