It was reading Matt’s recent post on his blog that made me mull over what we are currently doing, and I realised that we haven’t really explained how this all started for us.
Calling this a ‘travel blog’ maybe sounds a little too professional – at the end of the day we are a married couple mooching around, travelling from one place to another that we want to visit – historical sites, temples, cities, events, beaches – taking copious amounts of photos, and looking for somewhere other than the UK to settle down. We don’t make any money from blogging, as most people think that everyone who writes about travel does, and it’s certainly not written well enough to make any anyway! 😦
My husband had lived in Wales all his life and I had lived at various spots around England all of mine. Before we met, individually we both wanted to leave the UK for farther shores. Hubby was getting rid of all his stuff in order to leave at some future point to who-knows-where, and I was planning my own journey to get rid of everything to work in a Spa Resort in Cyprus, travelling on my 1200cc motorbike, alone, to get there.
After we met – well, let’s just say that we found a kindred spirit in each other in just about every way possible – our plans changed drastically, and we decided that together we could do what we had always wanted – leave the UK for good, and explore until we found ‘home’.
We are both Reiki Master Teachers; I have extensive hotel/catering and retail background, as well as extensive Customer Service experience; hubby is an Advanced Level 3 Personal Trainer and Sports Nutritionist, and we both wanted to get away from having to do jobs we disliked instead of utilising what makes us happy. We both want to make more of the Holistic skills we have and have now embarked on home-study world-wide recognised Diploma courses to further our skills. We can study anywhere along our travels, and hopefully put these extra skills to use somewhere once we qualify. This makes us happy 🙂
Several travel plans later, and lots of arguing and tearing our hair out, the majority of our stuff was gone, what was left was crated up (including my beloved motorbike) and stored to wait for shipping – whenever we get somewhere that we feel we want to settle long term. The initial plan now was to ‘Island Hop’ down through Greece, aiming for Turkey – we had all the camping gear from a previous plan which didn’t work out, and it seemed silly not to use it.
By this point in the planning, hubby had been laid off from a temporary post he had been working since moving from Wales; I had given up my full time job that I had worked for 9 years; we had given up our properties and had been staying in a UK campsite for about 6 weeks.
After the initial couple of weeks that we quite enjoyed, we ended up thoroughly fed up of the type of people who usually frequent British campsites – there were a few nice people who we had pleasant conversations with, but the majority were just god-awful people who did nothing but stare as they walked past; stared from a distance at everything we did; or had conversations about us to other people which we could hear quite clearly – the worst thing was that they were telling other people about us when they hadn’t even spoken to us and knew nothing! It’s really aggravating when people won’t speak to you for whatever reasons of their own but then proceed to talk to others within earshot of you, telling them all about you when they have no clue as to who you are, and what you are doing. All to make themselves look more important, and seem like they had been sociable with us when in fact they had been the complete opposite!
I personally can’t ever understand what makes us worthy of people being very standoffish and yet constantly staring and then talking to everyone else about us – hubby has a very good muscular physique (given his profession, he should have!) which does make him stand out amongst men, but I cannot see this as a reason why everyone should be fixated on what we do. It’s not me being arrogant and saying that people constantly stare at us – they actually do, and we find it really, really annoying and frustrating. We don’t like the attention and would quite happily fade into the background and be Wallflowers, but it just doesn’t happen. It seems the more we try to blend in and not be seen, the more we stand out. So…it’s something we have to deal with, but equally something we would like to escape from, if we can find somewhere to settle down where people are more accepting of others differences/strengths/weaknesses and do not see them as reasons for aggression, challenge or confrontation.
Essentially, I guess, we want to find somewhere that we can just ‘be’, without all the negative energy that seems to be prevalent in most of society these days.
Hopping over from the UK to our first Greek Island of Kefalonia was meant to be a gentle transition from the UK, just to allow us to get used to a new pace and style of life from what we were used to. Working just to pay bills is not something we liked buying into so this was also part of our reason for leaving the UK – taxation is going rapidly uphill and standard of living is going even faster downhill. We wanted to get off both rollercoasters. We had both had well-paid jobs for our areas, and to find out that people who were on Benefits were actually taking home more than we were as a working couple, was a big bash to the head, knocking some sense back into us. I used to take calls in my old job from people on Benefits who would talk about coming back from this holiday or that holiday and they had about four a year, yet as a working couple we couldn’t even afford one decent holiday together. We hadn’t even been able to get ‘approved’ time off work for a couple of days honeymoon when we got married so we didn’t have one, as it was hard enough for us to even get the day off to have the ceremony!
So – the flight to Kefalonia was a relief! – it was like a huge weight had been lifted and felt more like an escape from a Prison sentence 🙂
We started off having a lovely time there, getting a tan, exploring, eating lovely Greek cuisine – the usual holiday things. Then as we got more into lifestyle mode, more settled into a routine because we weren’t just on holiday and didn’t have an end date, we realised that Kefalonia and Greece…Europe…just wasn’t far enough away from the culture we were already part of and trying to leave behind.
The island-hopping plan also went out of the window as we realised our money wasn’t going far enough, and we hadn’t physically gone far enough!
Try as we might to get away, we ended up staying 6 weeks on the isle of Kefalonia and we met some interesting people and even had a business proposition whilst there, which was most unexpected but by the time it came along we had already decided to fly to Cambodia and then tour Asia, and we just weren’t willing to cancel this out and try to make a life on Kefalonia; equally, it wasn’t financially sound to try and live in Asia and go back to the island for the summer to run a business.
Cambodia beckoned, and we got on a ‘plane. At the moment we are still here, but shortly to descend on Thailand to do a month-long Traditional Thai Massage course to add to our skills.
In the short time we have been travelling, we have become a little disillusioned already – ex-pats are everywhere, and sadly it means so is their attitude and arrogance, the same as in the UK or maybe any Western country. We are travelling to escape that…
Maybe we can’t escape the typical Western attitude anywhere? It’s not the best one for our state of mind or well-being – it’s typically one of ‘more, more, more!’ and everything and everyone who comes into contact with anything Western seems to be getting infected by it. It’s not pretty.
In many ways there is so much to see in Non-Western societies that quickens the heart and gladdens the mind – like carefree Cambodian children smiling and playing so much more than any Western child I have ever witnessed – yet there is much that has been influenced by the Western world which saddens the soul and is almost painful to be party to.
We have spoken to a few Western travellers and a few locals, and the chasm between the viewpoints and their attitudes is bottomless.
Someone staying at our hotel had visited the ‘Killing Fields’ and spoke so unemotionally about it, yet the mere thought of it invokes such feelings deep inside me that I couldn’t contemplate visiting a site of such horror and being so detached about it. When my husband was in the Forces, he was taken to see Belson Concentration Camp – it made a permanent imprint, and was very moving for him – unlike most tourists who seem to go just to say they have been. Has the West lost their sense of humility and compassion, so that they can visit such profoundly moving places and feel nothing?
We had the chance of visiting the Floating Village when staying in Siem Reap – the thought of seeing the way of life there is fascinating, as it is something we just have no experience of, but when you look at what the tour companies earn from every tourist paying for the tuk-tuk there ($25) and then the boat trip ($20 each), you know that this doesn’t influence the locals lifestyle in any positive way apart from making them more hungry for any $ they can make by selling cheap ‘bought-in’ products to tourists. It’s not local produce made by the people from the floating village, it’s the same cheap tourist tat that you get in the markets in towns. We couldn’t bring ourselves to contribute to that lie which is being broadcast to everyone; to negatively influence any of those locals about tourists by putting them in a glass cage to be viewed like a rare animal; or to be one of the Westerners that gets ripped off for a huge amount of cash for a day trip when the living wage here for most is between $50 and $75 per month – Essentially, it feels deeply wrong to be paying over a month of their wages for the ‘experience’ of staring at the ‘real Cambodians’ for a couple of hours like some freak show exhibit.
‘Real Cambodians’ or just the really poor ones?! Every person who lives here is a ‘real’ Cambodian and the ones we interacted personally with were absolutely lovely. I would rather talk to someone that I meet on a street than pay for the ‘privilege’ of staring at someone in their home, even if it is a Floating one.
We are travelling to meet and interact with the real people and not the ones brought to our attention by tour companies.
I know that most tourists wouldn’t agree with us, but I really don’t care. I say it as I see it, not how others may want to view it.
A mountain in the middle of nowhere looks good right now.