Returning from an Epic Journey

It is done. On March 19th, 2016 at about 10pm local time, after almost 20 months of happily wandering the world, I crossed the border into Canada. The following evening, I reached my parents house. I’ll be calling it home until I go back to work.

VIew from the bedroom. Mother Nature had to pick the day of writing a blog post to be ultra shitty. When the sun is shining, the view is way nicer.

VIew from the bedroom. Mother Nature had to pick blog post writing day to be ultra shitty. When the sun is shining, the view is much nicer.

Since last time, we backpacked through Cambodia, which was great. The country is really just one pleasant surprise after another. We saw so much awesomeness and potential there. Like in every developping country we visited, I was continuously frustrated at how all these good people are stuck with such shit, corrupt governments. (If there’s anything I picked up on the trip, it’s a deep, deep hatred for corruption and poor ressource management. I know there are a lot of factors at play in why some countries fall behind in development, but I feel like the obvious common denominator is that there’s a handful of greedy, incompetant assholes who have all the power. Reduce corruption at the top, develop solid way of distributing ressources and quality of life will improve dramatically.)

After Cambodia, we spent 10 days in Tokyo. Amusingly, our digestive tracts HATE Japan. We travelled carelessly through so many unsanitary developping countries with only rare discomfort, yet ultrahygenic, superclean Japan had us clutching our bellies and howling in pain for the entirety of both of our visits there. I was less affected so I loved Japan anyway, but Ed made me promise to never let him go back.

Shibuya Crossing! The light was red, which is why there aren't that many people. But other than commercial hotspots like this one, I found Tokyo to be actually quite calm. (Granted, it WAS the dead of winter!) Our neighbourhood in Sumida even had a small town feel. If you arrived there blindfolded, you'd never guess you were in the most populated metropolitan area in the world.

Shibuya Crossing! The light was red, which is why there aren’t that many people. But other than commercial hotspots like this one, I found Tokyo to be actually quite calm. (Granted, it WAS the dead of winter!) Our neighbourhood in Sumida even had a small town feel. If you arrived there blindfolded, you’d never guess you were in the most populated metropolitan area in the world.

On our flight back to the US, we were able to stretch our layover in Hong Kong out a few days. To me, Hong Kong looked like Singapore, if Singapore let itself go for, like, a decade. It seemed like the city was build up in the 20ish years following WWII, and then never touched again. I was still fascinated and would have happily stayed for a week. We were rushed, trying to explore the city, learn about its history and eat its famous food in just two days. It’s expensive, though. Even the cheapest, shittiest rooms were above 40$CAN (and Hong Kong shitty is shitty. Probably safe from crime and pretty clean, but in scary, decrepit buildings, with rooms so small you can’t even get the door open.) Our interesting discovery in Hong Kong is that locals like foreign food so much that it’s actually hard to find traditional Hong Kong restaurants, and even harder to find ones you can afford. After it was too late, an avid traveller friend of mine explained that the good places are like on the 10th floor of an unmarked building, so if you want to taste Hong Kong, you have to ask the locals.

The view from Victoria Peak is really nice, although not exactly representative of the bulk of the city! Stingy traveller tip: avoid the silly overpriced tram and viewpoint, take the super cheap city bus and get your photos from the shopping mall's free observatory.

The view from Victoria Peak is really nice, although not exactly representative of the bulk of the city! Stingy traveller tip: avoid the silly overpriced tram and viewpoint, take the super cheap city bus and get your photos from the shopping mall’s free observatory.

After walking around all evening trying to find a Hong Kong restaurant, we settled on McDonald's Hong Kong exclusive meal, the Crunch McPepper. It was even Kung Fu Panda themed! Unfortunately, unlike most region-specific McDonald's foods, this one wasn't quite as good as it looked.

After walking around all evening trying to find a Hong Kong restaurant, we settled on McDonald’s Hong Kong exclusive meal, the Crunchy McPepper. It was even Kung Fu Panda themed! Unfortunately, unlike most region-specific McDonald’s foods, this one wasn’t quite as good as it looked.

And on March 1, we arrived in the US. The flight was uneventful. Cathay Pacific was a comfortable airline with excellent in-flight entertainment. Between watching the full 10th season of Friends and drifting in and out of sleep, I didn’t even notice that I was crammed into a plane for 15 hours.

In my mind, my time in the US was going to be boring and relaxing (to me those words are often synonyms), but it really wasn’t. We had Ed’s immigration and move to worry about, and wedding planning, and my job hunting. I did get a lot sleep in the beginning, but the days were full of researching stuff, making invitations, visiting friends, packing up belongings, shopping for things we couldn’t get in Canada, and fulfulling obligations to Ed’s family. It was pretty fun, I really can’t complain! But it certainly wasn’t boring! The closest I’ve come, even now, to picking up gaming again is catching up on silly Farmville-style phone games.

In my down time, I've been hanging out with the cat. He got kinda fat while we were gone (just like us!), but otherwise, he seems alright. Even the 3 day drive from Ed's parents' house to mines followed by an introduction to two new cats didn't ruffle his feathers too much.

In free time, I’ve been hanging out with the cat. He got kinda fat while we were gone (just like us!), but otherwise, he seems alright. Even the 3 day drive from Ed’s parents’ house to mines followed by an introduction to two new cats didn’t ruffle his feathers too much.

These days I’m still working on the job hunting. There isn’t a huge rush on it yet since I don’t want to start until after the wedding (it would be bad form to ask for a week off to get married within the first two months of a new job), but I would like to know where I’m going so I can start planning the move. The main ideas right now are up North (my first choice – it’s a unique adventure, but the jobs are rare and the move will be annoying), begging for my old job back (great location, great team, great money, lots of improvements since I left, but no new experiences) and hospital job in rural Newfoundland (not the Arctic, but still an experience I’d enjoy, easy to drive to from where I am now and I really want hospital experience. The pay cut is steep, however, more than half of my previous income. It would be fine if I was 15+ years into my career, but after travelling for two years, I feel like I have to save back up before I can stop thinking about money.)

And then there’s wedding planning. It was really frustrating while we were on the road. I didn’t want to think about decorations, caterers, cakes or even colours! But things are slowly coming together. It’s an ultrasmall (pretty much immediate family only, so dear friends, please don’t be hurt), nontraditional ceremony and reception, which helps with the last minute stuff (getting food and accomodation for 30 is infinetely less complicated than for 300!), but I feel until we have everything squared away, I won’t rest easy. All of our guests (besides my parents and the hired help) are from far away, so I want to make sure they have a good time. And, as adverse to traditions as I am, I have to admit that I am excited to party with our families.

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8 Responses to Returning from an Epic Journey

  1. Talarian says:

    As someone who grew up in the Arctic (Yellowknife, NT), I’m not sure I’d like to live there as an adult. It’s pretty sparsely populated, with -40C and 22 – 24 hours of darkness in the winter, and mosquito populations measured by the cubic decimeter in the summer make it pretty miserable in my mind. But it’s damn pretty for sure. I do miss the aurora.

    But welcome back! And good luck adjusting after traveling so long, that’s gotta be rough I’m sure.

    • Ophelie says:

      Thanks! The adjustment actually hasn’t been too bad. The first few days I was going to bed really early (like 2 in the afternoon!) but once we started having evening engagements, the jet lag cleared up. I think the fact that we didn’t have something super structured right away (like school or work) spared us from post-travel shock. Since we’ve been mostly visiting/planning/driving/studying, our lives aren’t too different from when we were travelling. I imagine starting work again will probably be tough, though.

      I’m super interested in your experience growing up in Yellowknife! I’ve always wanted to experience the North – I like extremes (rural west-central Alberta was still too soft IMO) plus it’s like a foreign country within our own country. I’m not a fan of mosquitos, but I’m ok with crazy temperatures and I really want to see the all day light/darkness (again, central Alberta didn’t provide with proper long days in the summer/short days in the winter). And I figure a year contract isn’t too brutal, if I hate it, I wouldn’t have to renew.

  2. Grimmtooth says:

    Welcome back to this hemisphere! Glad things concluded well for you.

    I agree completely with the ‘feel’ of Hong Kong, very worn feel to it. At the time I was there it was still a British colony or whatever, and I believe the British governor sat atop Victoria Peak so it was restricted access. We checked up on the place when I was standing Shore Patrol with our British counterparts. They were very cross with me for talking over a whisper. Can’t take us Americans anywhere. 🙂

    Every time I read about wedding planning and the stresses thereof, I thank my lucky stars that me and the Mrs eloped. My hat’s off to anyone that can weather that particular storm! Congratulations in advance to you both!

    • Ophelie says:

      Thank you! Our wedding is really tiny, nothing compared to those people who have 100+ guests. I did want some sort of family get together since my family is so spread out that we only see each once every few years (and even then, lots of people can’t make it) and since everyone is flying in, but I would have been happy with getting married in my parents’ living room and having a BBQ on their deck. But ah well. The planning is actually kind of fun, now that I’m not on the other side of the world. It would just be easier if I were actually familiar with the area. It’s a really small town, so finding out about vendors goes like:

      “You should check with John! He was great at Caroline’s wedding”
      “John?”
      “Yeah, you know, Lina and Mike’s son”
      “How do I find him?”
      “I’m not sure, email Mary, she’ll give you his phone number.”
      “Mary?”

      I bet Hong Kong has changed a lot from it’s British Colony days. It was pretty hard to imagine military everywhere. Nowadays the island part is a mix of sad buildings and high end shopping malls. And crowded! So crowded! You wouldn’t have to talk in a whisper anymore. Could probably shout and no one would hear over the noise. (Ok, maybe it’s not that bad, but we were coming from silent Japan, so the contrast was huge.)

  3. Drea B says:

    Glad you made it back home and enjoy the wedding and everything else that comes in the future 🙂

  4. Welcome back to what must feel like a foreign country in its own right now. What a ride. When you used to talk about wanting to make this trip, it always seemed kinda surreal. Like, it’s the kind of stuff people talk about but never really do. But you did it and then just kept going after that. I’ve been following the entire time, and it’s never ceased to be awe-inspiring.

    And congratulations on officially roping in a Player 2 — one willing to help you with your Explorer title no less! I’m super excited for you and wish you all my best. ❤

    • Ophelie says:

      Aww thanks! 😀

      They do always say that the hardest part is making the leap. There’s some truth in that – the scariest part was buying the first set of plane tickets and thinking “man, I’m really committing to this.” Next hardest part is stretching out the money, haha. But other than that, once you get going, everything just kind of happens on its own.

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