What made me hit the road again after having travelled for one year already in 2005? What route should I take? And damn – who am I by the way?
It was about time. Time to start that trip I have been preparing for 8 weeks now. Working off a huge to-do list that became longer and longer and longer, not shorter like it was supposed to be. So, finally I was sitting in an plane heading out to the world once more, making my dream come true for the second time.
In 2005 I had travelled – together with my friend Fabian – already for one year (some stories can still be found here. It was the greatest decision I took in life, to travel this long, most of the time together with a person I would trust my life to and whom I know since my childhood. The memories this trip brought to us are countless and valuable, they are with me every day of my life.
When I came back from this first trip at the age of 26, I quickly developed the thought of going again before turning 35. By good or bad fortune and due to financial problems of my company, I lost my job at the age of 34, suddenly being back in my self-set timeline again. Being a thourough German, a pro-con list was to show me if it is the time to travel again (I guess I knew the answer already). Somehow the pro-side had a slight overweight, having huge trouble to find any backdraws at all: I was healthy as a bull, my family had no trouble as well. My godchild, lovely Hannah (and daughter of my travelling companion and friend Fabian), was yet too young to have conversation concerning religious freedom in the 19th century with. Finances were not the problem, always travelling on a shoestring anyways. And if I would fail to sublet my rental apartment in Munich, I would not be qualified to receive a kindergarten graduation paper… But first and foremost: I wanted to travel again, it was on my mind since several months and now, due to thelost job, I had no real obligations whatsoever, no family or loan to take care of, not even a gym or mobile contract. When if not now…
So the major question on which many to-dos relied upon was: Where to go? Initially, I planned to go West again, like in 2005, visiting North, Central and South America first. However, Fabian and I had originally planned our past journey to begin by heading East by the Trans-Siberian Railway. Eventually, this did not work out due to our start in January 2005 – not wishing to explore Russia in Arctic temperatures. So this time, I decided to finally turning this old dream into reality and slowly jolting via overnight trains East. Thus the first main country to be visited had to be Russia, realm of endless plains and woods, vodka and birches, bears and militia controls (I thought).
The option was travelling to Vladivostok and heading on by ferry to Japan. Or going via Mongolia to Beijing, heading on from there. After all visas could be gathered, the call was made for the latter: Mongolia lured way too much, having heard a lot about its beauty. And I wanted to finally see the Great Wall, this greatest man-made wonder.
In 2005 we decided to travel with a cheap RTW (around-the-world) ticket by STA Travel. It came around 2,300 Euro I think, 1,800 Euro plus taxes. It led us to Mexico, from South America to New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, and finally from Hong Kong back to Germany. So, being not sure about buying another RTW, my way lead again to STA, coming back with an astonishing offer of 5,000 Euro for a route which lead quite some time overland. I double-checked, looking up every flight for myself and found, that I would spend (buying my tickets on this very day) a mere 2,900 Euro (not taking date-changing fees of STA into account yet…). Thus, no RTW-ticket this time, but a complete DIY-trip (do-it-yourself). For the beginning, I stuck with purchasing one flight only, via Riga to Saint Petersburg in Russia, as well as for two parts of my Trans-Siberian adventure: The longest ride on a stretch (Yekaterinburg – Irkutsk) and its feeder train (Kazan – Yekaterinburg). These trains were better not to be missed…
Writing this, sitting in Ulan Bator, Mongolia’s vast capital (just try finding an address here…), I find the decisions worked out quite well. I had enough time for the cities I wanted to see, I had incredible great experiences with the people I met (foremost via couchsurfing.com) and I encountered not one major problem.
The biggest issue was to get into that travelling flow, the right mood, the certainty, that my new embarkment had been the right decision. There was quite a lack on all of that. When I left Germany on that plane, I strongly thought about the very day I came back from my first trip: Sitting in London-Heathrow with absolutely tattered clothes, my shirt being more of a rag than a shirt after a year of continuous wearing. I was tired of travelling, happy to come home and rest. And of all things this mood came into my mind, just when leaving and travelling for the first days. It was not to change until the sun came out, literally. Being haunted by unusually cold and wet weather, from heavy rain to snow, my mood changed greatly with the sun finally shining brightly over beautiful lake Baikal. Being warmed in face and soul by it, the real journey behind a holiday trip had finally begun after some three weeks down the road.