29 Sep

Three Ways To Sleep Around The World

No, not that kind of sleeping around! I’m talking about regular, old fashioned, lay-your-head-on-a-pillow kind of sleeping. Those of you that thought this would be some kind of salacious, really-get-to-know-Gillian posts will be disappointed ;-)

Sila Resort, Sukhothai, Thailand

One of the things I was really worried about before leaving was sleeping in so many different places. I imagined all kinds of sketchy scenarios that included creepy crawly critters, stained bed sheets, foul smells, and paper thin walls. And, while we did encounter each of those, it was never as bad as it had been in my imagination.

Turns out that one of the most difficult parts of traveling around the world is actually finding a place to stay for the night. Oh, there are plenty of rooms for rent, but I seemed to have trouble finding a reliable way to filter through them all and find the best one for us.

I think that searching for a place to stay was one of the biggest tasks I had. I never seemed to find the ‘sweet spot’ of balancing research and finding the perfect place. I tried researching many, many places and then choosing…and I tried only researching one or two places and neither method changed the result. I spent hours cross referencing all the places on TripAdvisor but, even then, still wasn’t confident that I’d made the best choice. It always seemed to be a crap shoot as to whether the place would be good or not.

Bed at Hostel Verona, Arequipa Peru The three best ways I found are:

1. Check The Guidebook

Use a guidebook that caters to the type of travel you’re doing. No point checking Lonely Planet if you’re expecting luxury any more than it’s worth checking Frommers if you’re expecting budget.

We used LP and usually looked at the midrange price options – we may be budget travelers but we don’t need bottom-of-the-barrel. I’ll be honest, it was hit and miss. The descriptions of hotels/hostels seemed to be all over the map. What one writer described as ‘clean, cute and cozy’ was definitely not what I would call any of that. Yet, other times, we found some real gems.

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2. Surf Accommodation Sites

We used the internet a lot in researching where to stay. There were a few regular accommodation sites that I would search but, just like the guidebook, I found a lot of variation within and across sites not only with descriptions but also with price.

Here are some of the sites I used:

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3. Get Real Traveler Recommendations

This was, by far, the best way to find a place to stay. Speaking directly with other travelers , or connecting with them by email, provided the best information regarding what a place was like and whether we would like it.

After meeting someone, or reading their blog, or chatting by email, we would know a little bit about what they were like. Did they travel in the same style as us or did they flop in dorms all the time? Was their budget twice ours? Or half? Then, when I asked their advice I would know where that advice fit within our travel style.

This was my absolute favorite way of finding a place because all the research had been done for me. I didn’t have to check it out online, or look for user reviews, or worry that we wouldn’t like it. I would just book a night, or just show up, based entirely on the recommendation.

Thank you so much to all that I contacted for advice. I really appreciate that you took the time to get back to me. I always pay it forward and am more than happy to help anyone who contacts me.

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Bonus: Get An Apartment If Possible

Many times, if staying longer than 3 or 4 nights, getting an apartment is totally worth it. We had apartments in Santiago, Chile; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Berlin, Germany. Each time, the nightly cost was a little more than our usual budget for a night but it was worth it to be in a neighborhood and have a kitchen and living room for a few days. We would be able to relax, cook a meal or two, explore a real neighborhood and enjoy quiet evening cocktails. We could really pretend that we lived there and, in each case, we really wished we did!

There are plenty of ways to find apartments – Craigslist probably being the most popular – but we always used an agency. I just felt more comfortable having the buffer of the agency to guard against scams (not that an agency couldn’t scam you either). I found some of the agencies I checked out in the Lonely Planet and sometimes I just googled looking for them.

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05 Jun

All Day, Every Day, All Year Long

Could you spend 24/7 with your partner for the next year? How about if you weren’t at home and were subjected to constant stress, unknown circumstances and outcomes beyond your control? No breaks, no ‘see-you-after-work’, no cool down period, no-one else to rely on. Although there were plenty of things we were worried about before our trip got underway, spending all our time together was not one of them.

We Like Each Other

After an Afternoon By The Pool, Colca Canyon We genuinely enjoy each others’ company and have tons of fun together – that can make all the difference in the world. We have similar interests and spend a lot of time together even at home so being with each other non stop was not something we had to get used to. There are plenty of times when spending so much time together that nerves can get frayed and patience tested – the fact we like each other makes us take a moment in these situations and stops us from saying things that can’t be taken back – I don’t want to hurt someone that I like this much.

Knowing What Is Priority #1

We are number 1 priority, the trip and everything else is number 2. We talked about this before we left and were very clear that if anything should go wrong between us we would return home to deal with it under more familiar circumstances. There would be no breaking up on the road for us – we’ve been together almost 12 years and consider ourselves to have a fabulous relationship – there is no way that traveling was going to come between us. In the end that is why we left India. We were miserable, not talking to each other and barely being civil – our decision to leave was about remembering Priority #1.

Set Up Task Responsibilities

We're Right Here...Bali Road Trip Jason is amazing at navigation. I have been thoroughly impressed by his ability to find our way around any number of cities, either on foot or on the myriad of confusing public transportation systems (Note to self: never piss off the one person in the whole world who can get you back home!). I check out all the accommodations on-line and do all the route planning. J took care of finding and booking all our flights, trains and buses while I managed all the pictures, writing the blog and keeping up on email. We each have our strengths and weaknesses and we used them to our advantage. We also didn’t duplicate tasks – we trusted that we would each do our job and so didn’t have to waste time checking up on each other. It’s a system that worked really well and we use it now that we’re home too.

Meet Other People

Koh San Rd Instobar Friends Being introverts, this one was hard for us but still important. Although we may not have met as many people as other travelers do, we did meet  some great people, had some good laughs, and learned a lot too. Some travelers eschew tours thinking of them as too ‘touristy’ but we thought of them as an easy way to learn about where we were and a great way to meet other people. While on a tour we would rarely be together – it was a great opportunity to chat with someone other than each other! We would almost immediately separate and start learning about the people we were with. Many times we would meet people who had been where we were planning on going and got some excellent recommendations of places to stay or sights to visit. Meeting other people and sharing stories also helped us to understand our ‘traveling selves’ a bit more too. Hearing about other travelers ups and downs showed us that our ups and downs were perfectly normal and helped us relax into it a whole lot more.

Agree On The Plan

We’re planners and so did a lot of research before we got underway. We left plenty of room and possibility for spontaneity and changing of plans but we pretty much stuck to the original plan. It would have been madness had  we not agreed on how we were going to travel, or where we were going to go, or what the expected budget would be. Things were easier for us when we had a plan. I know that’s not the case for everybody but we were less frustrated and uneasy when we knew what was coming up.

It’s Not Always Easy

We were not the same couple while traveling. We lost some of the ‘lightness’ and ‘playfulness’ that is part of who we are. The first three months were definitely the hardest, while we were still figuring out who we were on the road. There certainly were times when we were ripping our hair out with frustration over the seemingly tiniest things. Sometimes we were just ‘done’ with each other and there was nowhere else to turn. We would just have to let it simmer for a while and wait it out. It’s not like at home where there is a chance to get some distance by going to work, or the gym or seeing friends and using the time to gain some perspective on the situation. On the road it really is 24/7. It did get easier though and we find that now that we are home we have returned to our normal selves.

But It’s A Lot Of Fun!

Full Moon Bucket There is nothing like traveling around the world with a best friend. The giggles and the laughs, the knowing glances, the inside jokes, the endless games of cribbage and backgammon…having someone to keep me warm or tell me how cute I am even though I’m wearing the same outfit for the 276th day in a row and haven’t showered in 5 days…the memories we will share with each other forever. It was totally worth it!

We are lucky to have had a chance like this. We still love each other tremendously and have learned how much farther we can go together.

08 May


Homecoming, Vancouver Last day, last country, last international flight. We’re currently winging our way back to Canada three hundred and forty five days after we left.

We had so many firsts when we first set off that it was impossible to count them all. First time packing the bags, first long-distance, overnight bus ride, first time staying in a hostel, first time climbing a mountain, first time trying to communicate in an unknown language…it was all firsts. And it kept going as we kept going…first time crossing a border, first time being completely overwhelmed, first time being in absolute awe, first time sweating while standing in the shade absolutely still, first time using a squat toilet. I will remember them all and we will talk about them for years to come.

And then comes the time when we realized that we were doing something for the last time…and the ‘official last time’ list was started. Last time we would cross a border, last time we would speak Spanish, last time we would take a bus, last time we would swim in that ocean…last time we would pack our bags, on the last day, in the last country just before we board our last international flight. Last…for now.

We are not sad that the trip is over. It’s been an amazing year – one we will look back on as the year that started us out, pushed us out of our comfort zone and made us realize what we are capable of. We’re excited to see what our next Giant Steps will be.

Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free.’      Shawshank Redemption

02 May

Cigarettes And Chocolate Milk

These are just a couple of my cravings
Everything it seems I like’s a little bit stronger
A little bit thicker, a little bit harmful for me

We’ve been away now for almost a year. A year without the comforts of home,  familiar culture, food and routine. We’ll be back in Canada in less than a week and as much as we’re looking back reminiscing about all the fabulous times we’ve had we’re also looking forward to some of the things we have missed.

Here are some of our cravings, in no particular order because at any time any one of these could be the thing that is missed most:

In The Kitchen, Santiago Food. We have, for the most part, lived without ‘western’ food for the entire time we’ve been away. Mainly because we have wanted to enjoy the cuisine of the countries we have been visiting, but also because non-western countries don’t do western food all that well (unless there is a sizable expat community). 

We have also missed cooking. At home we both cook and enjoy trying new things. This isn’t possible on the road (outside of the couple of times we’ve rented apartments) and it’s amazing how much we miss cooking, and eating, even the most basic of dishes. The thought of having a kitchen again, and being able to have something as simple as a cup of tea and some toast fills us with joy at this point…I know, it’s the simple things.

In a great stroke of good planning, we are visiting both of our families before we head back to Victoria and so will have the chance to enjoy each of our mothers home cooking.  J’s mom is of German heritage and there we will enjoy fabulous schnitzel and rouladin, along with some great breads and cheeses. My family hails from jolly olde England and mum makes the best roast beef and yorkshire puddings in the world (I can say that now ‘cause I’ve been ‘round the world), plus her pancakes aren’t too bad either! Do you sense some buttering up and hinting going on? ;-)

Ready For Bed, Poon Hill Trek Sleep. I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to sleeping in the same bed for more than 2 or 3 nights in a row!  I’ve actually done better than I thought I would – I was worried I’d be plagued with insomnia caused by uncomfortable beds, or weird night smells, or (heaven-forbid) bedbugs etc. It hasn’t been as bad as I thought, although there always seems to be a barking dog  and a crowing rooster wherever we are – I  will not miss that at all. The beds haven’t been too bad although I did abandon my take-a-picture-of-every-bed project about half way through – the pictures (and most of the beds) were too bleak to even think about looking at ever again and I’m sure my family and friends looked at some of them in horror.

Carving Workshop, Bangkok-2 Furniture. I have discovered that  the concept of comfortable furniture is lost upon most of the world. Either through necessity, or culture, or climate, or availability of materials, most of the world lives close to the ground or on hard, non-cushioned, furniture. Finding an easy chair or sofa to laze upon has been impossible and my European-soft bones and Canadian comfort ideals have not adjusted to how many people around the world lounge. Although I have great plans on what to do with my time once we get home I have a feeling it will be hard to get my ass out from within the deep folds of our sofa to get anything done.

Along The Ancient Walkway Clothing. Okay, I commented a few months ago about  how freeing it was to be traveling with such a limited wardrobe and how I really didn’t mind wearing the same clothes over and over and over again, but I think it’s reaching it’s limit. Not  only am I seriously tired of the same look day after day but the clothes are beyond worn now – my pants and what-I-call-shorts are faded beyond recognizing their original color and both now have wear holes in the bum region. My one favorite blue t-shirt was faded, holy and so stretched out of shape that I had it remade (in both blue and green) while we were in Vietnam…but they still look exactly like the original and so I am already tired of them. I am looking forward to my old clothes, and some new ones too…something fashionable and stylish, or at least not grey pants and a blue t-shirt.

Street Restaurant, Hanoi Clean. Our tolerance for cleanliness has reached a new low during this year – both our personal cleanliness and that what which we will live in. For the first 2/3 of our trip most of the rooms we stayed in were dingy and uninspired (Asia’s truly cheap prices have allowed us to afford better) and, although we have not slept on any truly dirty sheets, many beds have had graying bedding and slightly smelly pillows. Many of the ‘restaurants’ we have eaten in would definitely not pass health code at home and sometimes I wonder how we have not been sick (J did get Salmonella once early on in the trip but that was because we broke our own lax rules…raw egg white in a Pisco Sour in Peru..just plain silly!).

I will not miss the garbage that piles up everywhere we have been and, although pollution has not affected our health as it does some people, I think we will bend down and kiss the clean green grass once we land in Vancouver and smell the ocean scented breeze.

Northern Turkey Bathroom. Bathroom luxury has, in recent years, been taken to new levels in North America…suffice it to say that this is not the case in the rest of the world. Squat toilets are the norm in many places, and I hate them. There is argument that they are cleaner and more hygienic than western toilets, but I don’t believe it. I am hardly ever able to ‘do my business’ while I worry about where all my clothing is, wonder if items are going to fall out of my pocket, and try not to pee on my feet. And I am unable, completely unable, to do #2 on a squat…my record is 5 days on the Inca Trail without pooing – we ate 4 times a day on that hike and not one ounce left my body…it was impossible! But, on the first day back in town? Five #2’s in one day…TMI, I know…but there it is. I will be happy at home if the toilet is not a squat and if it’s actually attached to the floor (TMI already, so I won’t explain that one) – toilet paper, doors and clean floors are all luxuries.

Our desire to shower is mitigated by at least three factors…how badly do we smell, how clean is the shower, and what are the towels like. This doesn’t take into consideration whether there is any hot water or whether we have any reasonably clean clothes to put on afterwards. A room with a great shower is worth any price and will find us showering 2 or 3 times in a day just for the sheer joy of it.

Routine. I know it seems weird but I miss the routine of my every day life. Traveling has its own routine but I always feel just a little out-of-sorts. I’m looking forward to having my own home again, working in the garden, going to bootcamp, shopping at the plaza, riding my bike and yes…even going to work. I’m sure it won’t last long and soon the wanderlust will return but right now I’m looking over that fence and seeing the green, green grass of home.

07 Apr

Living Closer To Home

Funny thing…traveling around the world for a year has made me think about living closer to home. No mum, I don’t mean that I’ll be moving back to my home town. I mean I should visit the market that’s just down the street instead of going to the supermarket. I should go see what the butcher has that’s local instead of buying meat pre-wrapped in styrofoam packages. I should have a veggie garden.

Everywhere we’ve been I’ve seen markets as a large part of everyone’s day. Why do we stock up with a weeks worth of groceries, eat meat that is factory produced, and buy vegetables that  are shipped from around the world?


market-produceHere, in Vietnam, people eat breakfast at the local Pho stand, go to the market to get lunch ingredients and then go to the market again to get dinner ingredients…now that’s fresh! And that’s what local markets can deliver – the produce likely came out of the ground that morning and the eggs laid within the past few days. Fish in South East Asia was kept in water-filled plastic bins complete with aerating hoses…pick the one you want and take it home. Food tastes better, and is better for us, when it hasn’t been hanging around for weeks.


some-of-the-3000-types-of-potato-in-peruThat’s why everything is so fresh…because it’s offered in the season that it is produced. No red peppers from Chile, no strawberries from California, and no pineapples from Thailand. Local markets  deliver what is available right now, where ever they are. In Peru it was potatoes  and carrots, in Germany it was radishes and lettuce and in India it was eggplant and cauliflower. When it comes to climate, some countries are certainly more fortunate that others and can produce a wide range of food all year round but seasonality provides a rotating variety of produce and lets us anticipate what the next season will bring.


market-chumphon-3In markets around the world I saw a dizzying variety of items. There was lots of different produce, many cuts of meat and plenty of fish, but there was also a plethora of other things that one may need. There is usually a stall or two selling spices, cooking oil, rice, flour, and other flavoring ingredients. Often times it was also possible to buy a knife, bowl, pan or rice cooker right there also. And always there is a booth, or two, or three selling ready made meals to enjoy on the low stools and tables nearby or to take home.


veggi-wallahMy favorite part of the markets I’ve seen is the personal nature of them. The lady behind that pile of greens may not have picked them herself this morning but she likely is related to the person that did. The eggs came from chickens that run around some ones’ yard all day. The people in the market are connected to the food they sell, and the people that buy from the market are connected to the people that produce the food they eat. It’s all personal.

Local Support

In far away markets ‘local support’ is meaningless…there is no other way of doing business other than locally, but at home going to the market means supporting local businesses, local families and a local economy. I can see the dwindling farmland near where I live – it is becoming impossible to earn a living running a small farm and yet there is a movement toward local products. The tide needs to turn faster before there is no more ‘local’ to enjoy.

Don’t worry, I’m not becoming a hemp-wearing, crunchy granola type who only eats organic produce and chickens that led a ‘happy’ life, but I am going to try to live more locally…support local farmers, find a local butcher, grow my own carrots.

25 Dec

Step Out With Our Three Travel Secrets

Our favorite foodie travelers, Forks And Jets, tagged us in a blog challenge to reveal our Three Travel Secrets. So, here are three things that I’ve learned about travel.

Hat Yao Bay View Resort, Koh Pha-Ngan Touts Are Not All Bad. I used to think that touts were all about tricking me into spending more money than I needed to but I have learned that they can actually save me money and get me what I need.

We often land in a place and have not yet found a place to stay. It can be difficult to trek around, with our packs on, to place after place to find a bed. Touts solve this problem by surrounding me with pamphlets, pictures of their hotel, offers of discounted rooms and transport too. They answer all our questions and, if they can’t give us what we’re looking for, they usually know someone who can.

This approach has worked for us countless times and is how we currently find ourselves in a beautiful resort on a white sand beach on Koh Pha-Ngan, Thailand for a price we thought we’d have to pay for a hut ‘within walking distance to the beach’.

Use The Travel Network. There are plenty of ways to get travel information besides the trusty guidebooks.

I follow a number of bloggers who either have traveled, or are currently traveling where I am going. I read their stories and make notes of where they went, what they liked or didn’t like and how they got there – not to replicate their trip of course, but to use what they have learned to help me. Sometimes, if I’m nervous about a place or can’t find enough information, I will email a blogger ‘friend’ and ask them directly. Without fail, they are always willing to help and provide encouragement…as am I when I receive emails – it’s nice to help out.

Many travelers use Twitter, not only to stay in touch back home, but also to reach out to other travelers to get tips and information. Christine, from Almost Fearless, has put together an excellent ebook on Twitter For Travelers – she makes it easy and provides tons of contacts – there is always someone to help.

It turns out that many of my friends from home have done plenty of traveling and many of them have traveled to places we’re now visiting. They told us of their favorites, their ‘hits’ and ‘misses’ and their do’s and don’ts. Some of them have even taken the time to send us emails on the road as we near their travel niche – thanks guys!!

Don’t Be A Budget Slave. It’s no secret that I have had trouble with our budget but I have realized that letting it rule our travel would be a mistake. Certainly there is always a budget and you should save where you can but there is usually a little flex room – we’re just using that flex room. Make sure when planning your budget that you leave this flex – it can make the difference between being a budget slave and being a happy traveler!

There are tons of travelers out there, all with secrets of their own. I’ll tag these five to see what secrets they can share:

09 Nov


Blue Mosque, Istanbul-2 Across the aisle from me the man reads from a small, bound, version of the Koran. His lips move and he visibly relaxes as the recital proceeds. Throughout, he performs modified versions of the motions of his prayer.

I reach for my gin and take a slug. Same effect…we are now both calmer…different method.

As we ready for landing I am calm. Not because of the gin I think, but because I believe that if he believes so strongly, and is such a good man that his god would not let him perish, then I must be okay sitting across the aisle from him. His puppet-master will keep me safe too.

Today I hear a woman explaining, with great conviction, about stories from the Bible and how they relate to the area of the world we are currently in (we are in Jordan, near the baptism site of Jesus and a host of other Christian religious sites).

I cannot understand. It is not within me.

Five times a day the call to prayer rises above the country, above the city, above the sea…and five times a day Turks, Jordanians, and other Muslims, take the time to gather, and wash, and pray. Together, and apart, in cities and in the country.

Christians the world over congregate every Sunday to worship, to be with family and friends, and to share their experiences.

I do not come from a religious background. I am, technically, an atheist. And yet I am fascinated by this adherence to an ideal.

I do not understand religion in my own culture…the giving over to a higher being, the belief that heaven exists (and will be better than life on earth)…but here religion is on a whole other level. It’s not just  a ‘go-to-church-on-Sunday’ kind of thing…five times a day they are called upon. It’s part of their being…un-separated…non-definable…just part of who they are.

It’s fascinating.

Faith, to me, is fascinating. I have often wished that I possessed that belief in something. A truth that is undeniable, unshakable, and above all else. But I don’t.

I have faith in myself…in who I am, and what I can do, in my relationship, my talents, my future…but it doesn’t come from a higher being. It comes from within me.

I guess that’s what I take from these people. Faith is faith. What I believe in is as strong as what they believe in. It’s just different.

I am currently on a plane from Amman, Jordan to Delhi, India. It is filled with Indians returning home. India is a land of hundreds of gods. I have faith that all these people believing in all those gods will see us landing safely.

22 Aug

The Dreaded Overnight Bus

Some backpackers take overnight buses to avoid having to fork over the cost of a room. Some use them as a time saving device, to quickly get from one place to another. And some must take them just for the bragging rights of how many hours they’ve clocked in a darkened, rolling funhouse.

I’m not a fan. I’ve come to quite like bus riding. It’s a great way to see the country and watch the landscape slowly change. On a night bus, there is no seeing the country  or the landscape…it’s dark.  And, in this part of the world at this time of year, it’s dark about 12 hours a night.

But, as we have found, sometimes they are inevitable. And so, here I am, on the dreaded overnight bus. And tonight, as a special treat, there are three children under the age of 5 right in front of us. It’s a 23 hour ride….twenty three hours!!

There are varying degrees of buses in South America but it’s been a bit of a crap shoot as to which level we’ll end up at (I should probably do more research). Our first, from Lima to Cusco, sucked the big one. The second, from Mendoza to Buenos Aires, was sweet heaven. The third, from Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazu was mediocre but passable. And tonight…well we’ll see but this is the longest ride we’ve done and there is no meal service on board…we just stopped at a truck stop restaurant for ‘dinner’ (it’s 10PM)…who knows what breakfast will hold?

They all start out fine as it’s still light outside and I can pass the time staring out the window – which I’ve become quite good at. There might be a movie playing – if it’s not an action movie, or violent, or dubbed only in spanish, I might watch or I might just keep staring out the window. I save all my reading, writing, game playing and other such activities for after dark…there’s a lot of ‘dark time’ to pass.

I always hope that dark will fall later than I expect…but it never does. Night always falls and the familiar pattern begins.

Just before dark, as the temperature outside drops, the windows will start to fog up. I hate that as it robs me of precious staring out of the window time. And so the windows and I start our night bus fight – I ritually aim all the air vents at the windows and pull out my ‘window rag’ to wipe the condensation of as quickly as it forms. I’m usually pretty successful and manage to keep a clear hole until nothing more can be distinguished in the dark.

During this time, if there is an attendant (and there isn’t tonight), he/she will come around and close all the curtains as if we riders could not decide when or if we wanted our own curtains closed. There is no disputing that this should be done – it’s best to let it happen and then open them again once they leave. The reverse happens in the morning.

Depending on the level of service dinner may be served. Keep in mind that even the best service offers airline type food…the worst serves a box with a stale sandwich and a juice box. If not, then it’s now that Jason and I pull out our snack/dinner which is usually tastier and somewhat healthier than either above option – except tonight as we’ve had potato chips, peanuts, pop, and an ice cream bar to get us through the night.

After dinner, maybe another movie or some reading, or writing, or card playing…anything to fill the time and wait for sleep to come.

Now the bus is really dark. No aisle lights, no illuminating tv, no reading lights and, if we’re really out in the country, no street lights either. Just complete darkness, the sound of the engine and the wheels and the feeling of the bus hurtling down the highway.

I hate this time. Usually I am tired but just can’t drift off. The movement of the bus simultaneously lulls me to the edge of sleep and then pulls me back from that edge…it’s exhausting. At best I can sleep an hour at a time, waking up regularly for I-don’t-know-what-reason, at worst the cycle continues and I count down the hours until dawn will break and I can see outside again.

Eventually, thankfully, dawn does break, the windows and I start our battle again, and I can resume staring out the window until we arrive at our destination. First stop? Find the hostel and have a nap!

PS…there are no pictures with this post…because it’s dark!!!