This time last year I was frantically packing in the most minimalist style possible: pair of shorts, seems to weigh too much, just roll up the cargo pants instead, is a long sleeve shirt really necessary or should I just be liberal with the sunscreen, do I need a camera or will my phone zoom be miraculously in reach of everything?
This time this year I am packing up everything I own – which like my horizons, is now exponentially bigger (than my bag).
For a year I rolled around a small backpack and a “suitcase” (it transforms into a big backpack – but really, at my age, anything with wheels is useful).
My bag and I had a ton of adventures, we’ve ticked off enough countries to fill out a Bumble profile and seem “worldly” (don’t worry, I will not be touting that information).
I’ve had a year of going from ocean depths to mountain heights, of meeting people from all walks of life, who made me laugh and made me cry, and made my life infinitely better.
And now I am packing heavy boxes full of “clothes” and “kitchen equipment” for a place I don’t have yet.
At the end of the week, I’ve got a flight to Los Angeles, where, after a year of my heart expanding, it’s time for my stuff to expand.
Happy New Year Everyone, here’s to brand new adventures!
They say that before you die, your life flashes before your eyes. I would like to say that perhaps before, before you’re going to maybe die, your future life flashes before your eyes.
Take for instance, the last hour of my life, half of which was spent actively thinking it was the last hour of my life. What flashed? Besides light bulbs? The end of decisions. A vast chasm of thoughts like, “I wouldn’t have to worry about getting a job, or finding a health care plan, or having to sign up for dating apps – or dating, or finding an apartment, or a couch” – a complete end to decisions.
The “End of Decisions” flash was brought on by the decision to get in a car. A car that had to drive an hour to the train station, because the railway tracks were not brave enough to come up that high in the mountain that was covered in so much fog you could literally only see white, and it was dark outside.
There was zero visibility and there were no seatbelts.
The car wound itself around the turns as though it were a rollercoaster on a set track, expertly, like it had done it a thousand times before, but also a little jagged, like it was surprised that mountain turned.
“At least we have our passports so they can identify our bodies” my friend said as it looked as though we could have driven off the side of an unmarked cliff. Her next thought, as we went into on coming traffic to pass an 18 Wheeler, was about where her zip lock bags were – in case she needed to throw up
For one reason or another (mostly skill and a lot of luck) the End of Decisions did not come, damn you Real Life still making me face you in the mirror.
Only three weeks to go before I am back in the US and need to start making decisions again.
For reference – if anyone goes to Sapa, Vietnam and does the same route back to the railway station, just consider it an amusement park ride without a waiting line.
You know when you can’t sleep at night and you just toss around like a lumpy sack of potatoes? And then you realize that you probably shouldn’t have had coffee at 3pm? Especially not when you’ve been a tea drinker for years and this entire year has been such a caffeine-lessened year your body might as well just be full of water?
Well, after Vietnamese coffee (which is delicious) the experience of being a lumpy sack of potatoes gets hightened into being a lumpy sack of potatoes that knows it’s destined for the slicer and the frier.
It was 3am, we were waking up early to ride motorbikes from Hoi An to Hue, an 8 hr journey, “the same one the Top Gear guys did.” It would take us around the Marble Mountains, through the 32 km of gorgeous Da Nang Beach and then way, way up into the Hai Van Pass (ocean-cloud pass).
It was 3am and my brain was telling me not to get on the bike. To be clear, I wasn’t even driving the bike. I was merely riding it while someone else, someone very experienced was driving it. My brain was envisioning itself being flung off the Pass, my body rolling down the hill like that sack of potatoes. My brain was saying that if I don’t die, tomorrow will definitely be the last day that I walk.
Good thing whoever was reading those coffee beans did a bad job, because I didn’t get flung off the Pass, and I am still walking, and except for about an hour where I kept saying to myself, “try and remember what walking feels like in case this really is the last day,” it went great and I loved it.
So everyone, face your fears (even the nonsensical ones) and to all the governments out there, if you’re looking for a new torture device, I’ve got a cheap method to sell you.
PS – I did this trip with my parents, and they had none of these fears, A) they are (mostly) immune to the effects of coffee and B) they are way cooler than me
“There is no one left on the train” said my father as my mother and I looked up from our game of cards.
We looked at him weirdly and then got out of our cabin to inspect the situation.
Indeed, the train was empty. As if Murder on the Orient Express had just happened en masse, and in the game of “whodunnit” the only suspects would be “Ms Short, and Mr & Mrs Parents.”
Luckily, before we could fully contemplate our fate: Vietnamese prison or endless days walking along a section of track whose GPS coordinates were stubbornly not communicating with Google – two men appeared.
They said something in Vietnamese, obviously we did not understand. They typed it into a version of Google Translate, “must get off the train here, take a bus and then get back on the train.”
“So that’s what all those announcements were” said the imaginary cloud bubbles above our heads.
Our rescuers smiled at us as what was happening dawned on us: either the train had broken down, or, part of the track needed to be fixed after the typhoon last week.
Two seconds later, another English speaking couple (the only other English speaking couple) peered out of their cabin. Our rescuers asked us if we would speak English to them and explain – it was like a giant game of Telephone being played with real telephones – a lot was lost in translation – the couple didn’t want to leave because they had small sleeping children with them.
Eventually, we all made it off the train, rejoined the rest of our fellow night-train travellers, waited for our bus to arrive, got on the bus and then made it to the next train, where luckily, eight hours later, someone knocked on our door and told us to get out – at, luckily, the right stop.
More words on most beds in cheap asian hotels:
Sleeping in the bed feels like you paid for a cheap massage and didn’t read the fine print that says “conducted by novice three legged cow”
My head is currently on something that can best be described as “sandbag”
*This is definitely not meant to represent all hotels or all beds, this came after a frustrating night of tossing and turning whilst having a cold -so apologies if I sound like “The Princess and the Pea”
One of the effects of “extreme jogging” is that your toe nails could fall off, which is definitely the excuse I’ll be using if I ever get a personal trainer who believes in the activity.
When you Google “bruised toe nail”, jogging is the second thing that comes up, right after “subungal hematoma.” Mountain climbing, despite being a sport people die from, doesn’t seem to rate on the “toe nail” issues scale.
If you haven’t already guessed, one of the effects of climbing Mt Kinabalu is that my toe nail could decide to vacate the premises.
Generally, you should always cut your toe nails before climbing a mountain, and I did, but when you hike downhill as though you’re a baby giraffe, your nails just naturally ram into your hiking boots, making you squeal in pain like a baby pig, who knows it’s being slaughtered.
At first, I thought I had escaped the Fate of Four Nails; I just assumed everything was bruised and that a night of “feet up” would solve it. There was another woman (hi, Donna) in our group whose nails were purple as soon as she got to the bottom of the mountain – so, if mine hadn’t turned, surely it was vampire rules: make it past dawn and you’re still part of the living.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t work like fiction.
Two days later, my toe still felt like an anvil had dropped on it. To relieve the pressure, I gently trimmed the nail. Yellow puss oozed out, followed by blood. But, it felt good, like everything was deflating for the better.
And then it started to turn purple.
And then I borrowed some solutions from Donna and we started a “dress the nails” club – as part of the pedi-cure, only one polish colour was offered – Iodine Yellow: good at killing bacteria, fungus and even herpes.
The last update on Donna’s nails was that she was having a fun time wiggling the nail off the toe…
Meanwhile, I’m still on a mission to #savethenail, because if it died, the odds of my actual toe surviving South East Asia would diminish by a lot.
I’m 99% sure it will be successful – seeing how the nail no longer hurts in shoes, seeing how it has crossed into a different country (moving location solves problems, right?), and seeing as how my brain has stopped worrying about it enough to have returned to regular service and enabled me to stub it three times, it must be okay.
Also, factually – seeing as how it is way less purple, and the purple bit is only concentrated in one area, it must be okay.