Monday, 22 September 2008

Things to do before I go...

Find out when A gets to Shanghai, and whether he's still coming. My excitement about traveling with him is fast becoming excitement about traveling full stop. How do I get from Beijing to Shanghai? The plane's the most boring option. LonelyPlanet tells me I can go by train via Tianjin, Qingdao, Ji'nan and Zhujiayu, which sounds exciting even without reading what those places involve. If I read it cover to cover I could make an informed decision, but I'm in two minds. On the one hand, I'm taking someone else's opinion before I experience the place myself. Not much is personal about that. On the other hand, I can hand pick the places I find exciting. Both are attractive, but I definitely think it's a good idea to travel alone for a while before meeting up with A.

Read, watch, learn. Wild Swans, Empire of the Sun, Raise the Red Lantern, On the Road. Find, read, pack. Films, flickr pages, columnists' views, anything's a resource. Lonelyplanet obviously. Going to Uganda, I read one book, which helped me understand and contextualise what I was shown. If I expose myself to more ideas, opinions and images then I can start to find my own way to explore the country.

What do I take? 
2 x trousers
1 x shorts
2 x shirts (non-designer, obviously)
2 x t-shirts
2 x sweaters
4 x boxers, socks

I don't want to leave my camera at home, this is why I bought it after all. I'll have to risk losing it, it's worth it. With a new prime lens and an extra memory stick, I should be sorted.

Books - three fiction/non-fiction books and two lonely planets

Face wash/liquid soap


Sunday, 21 September 2008

A booked flight changes everything...

Nothing stifles adventure faster than bureaucracy. When a single flight to China costs almost twice as much as a return and the Chinese government won't issue a visa without an address for your stay it's easy to wrap yourself in a comfort blanket. Then there's fear. Two days ago I was looking at a wonderfully middle class, safe trip to Beijing, a six week language course, with a return flight booked (optional, but it would be easy to take it) for early December.

Luckily I spoke to A, who suddenly got keen. He had a plan to get from Shanghai to Bombay via Nepal. A is no big risk taker, but this is exciting. If I have to apply for a new visa to get on my return flight, then suddenly my return date is as free as I want it to be. I can push on from India, visit the Maldives and teach English, spend a month in Hong Kong bars, ski with S in Japan.

"You're not as conservative as you think you are". Lunch with my Dad opened me up in ways I really hadn't anticipated. I met him in the middle of a panic attack. I felt directionless, unsure of myself, panicked at every possible career move. I tried to remind myself that I had a good degree from a good university, but it wasn't working. Growing up in protected North London, with an emphasis on being the best student and a stigma attached to any form of non-achievement, it's easy to see yourself as cushy, safe, risk-adverse. He was right though. I am switched on by this. My stupor is gone, I cannot wait to get out of London. I'm not telling too many people either, I hate the long goodbye thing. When S left she spent a month comforting the people she was leaving, or being comforted by them, because she wouldn't see them for a year. If I don't see my friends till next year it will be sad, but spending the next month being reminded of what I'm 'missing' is worse. I've got to look forward right now, focus on what I'll do when I'm away.