During July, August and September 2016, I had three months off work and travelled from Glasgow to Tokyo without flying, followed by a few days in Hawaii then a whistle stop tour of the US mainland. Those three months took me all the way around the world, heading east from Glasgow on an early morning train, and continuing east until I arrived back at Glasgow Central Station – starting and finishing at my local train station.
It’s the most time off I’ve ever had from work and is the most switched off I’ve ever been from work. It was travel at my own pace, taking me to a lot of places I had wanted to visit and pushing me out of my comfort zone in others – something I’m keen to keep doing.
After a train journey to York followed by the overnight ferry from Hull to Zeebrugge, the trip kicked off with the old towns of Bruges, Ghent and Brussels, followed by Luxembourg City then a great time in Germany – particularly in Heidelberg and Quedlinburg. The old towns of Europe don’t get tiring.
It was on the journey from Warsaw to Minsk that it started to feel like a bit more of an adventure. It actually felt like going through a portal from one world to another. From central Warsaw, a train to Warsaw Zachodnia was followed by a long walk – it felt like about a quarter of a mile – through an underground tunnel, stinking of kebab shops, which comes out at the bus station. In that short trip, the sun had pretty much set, the buses were mainly heading east, out of the EU, and it already felt really quite foreign. My bus was an overnight to Minsk, including an uncomfortable border crossing.
From the relatively tourist-friendly Moscow, each stop in Russia felt unique and was a challenge in a different way but so enjoyable. Travelling thousands of miles on the Trans-Siberian Railway is the experience of a lifetime. And Ulan-Ude through to Ulaanbatar, the wonderful train ride on to Beijing and travels through South Korea and Japan offered so much that I’ll never forget – people, scenery, food, culture.
And after travelling from Glasgow to Tokyo without flying, I finished up with a few days in Hawaii followed by a whistle stop tour of some of the mainland USA, through Texas, New Orleans, Tennessee, up to DC and ending in New York. The intention from the start was to finish in a place I knew well before the inevitable return to the norm.
Some friends have asked “so is that you finished then?” I guess the expectation after a bit of travel is settling down into life. Except that isn’t the case. Seeing some of the world only whets the appetite to see a lot more, and while I can’t take that time off work regularly, there is no chance that, at my age, I will settle for already having done the best trip I’ll ever do when there’s so much more out there.
The return to work after three months away was tough, really, really tough. I naively expected that a couple of days of catching up on emails would be enough to get back up to speed and into the routine but in hindsight it took around six weeks for me to say I was back into it. At first I even struggled to have proper work conversations, lacking the confidence in my own ability in a job I’ve done for over a decade.
But many months on, well entrenched in the routine and with a few (shorter) trips behind me, planning for the next big break is already underway.