My journey from the UK to here would not have been the same if it was not for the people I have met along the way. Of course there are hundreds of people out there who are amazing and inspiring. There are a few who I have particularly enjoyed spending time with and have inspired me along the way, for a all sorts of reasons. This is a small tribute to them.
I spent almost 6 weeks of my journey with Jordi. You really get to know someone well when you travel together, as there is no escaping one another! Thankfully, he is an incredibly inspiring man and I very much enjoyed travelling with him. Jordi’s passion for people is catching. He is never afraid to strike up conversation with locals and travellers alike, always attempting their native language, even if it is nothing more than “tree” and pointing out the window. He is silly by nature and loves to make people laugh and it is impossible not to laugh along with him. Beneath the surface he is a deep thinker. He cares a great deal for people and he makes short videos that are raw and real. Nothing makes him happier than being generous and through his kindnesses I questioned my own ability to let go and give.
I met Saulo in Moscow. He is from Brazil and was spending two months travelling in Russia. Even though he was so nervous about travelling alone he was still brave enough to try it. Even more incredible, his budget was only 200 Euros, so he was travelling the whole way couchsurfing. Despite his tight budget, he was too was generous, and I was so impressed that his desire to travel meant he found a way to do it. I thoroughly enjoyed his company.
Stèphane and I met in Listvyanka. We went hiking and camping together. It was a beautiful place and I loved hanging out on the side of the lake cooking over the fire with him. He was a forager by nature and had many a survival skill. At just 23 he had spent the summer living alone in the woods of Norway. I cannot imagine the mental strength it takes to spend so much time alone.
In Mongolia I met Jonas. He had just spent 8 weeks working on farm in Mongolia. Before that he had walked from Gibraltar, in the South of Spain, to Stockholm, Sweden. It had taken him six months. He carried 38kilos and had wild camped most of the way. What an adventure!
“Apa” is a 70 year old Grandma who lives in the kazakh mountains of Mongolia. She is bent double from years of collecting water. In her seventies she is still a formidable worker who keeps the family home running. She is also so selfless and kind. She looks after everybody before herself, often giving up the only chair in the house for a guest, despite having troubles with her knees. If I can be half as strong, physically and mentally, as her when I am her age I will be happy.
I have known Mel for many years now having met and then lived together in Nottingham. She now lives in China and catching up with her after several years without much contact was amazing. She teaches English part time, writes articles for local publications and has recently started a handmade craft fair bringing foreign expats and Chinese citizens together. I think Mel is one of the kindest, gentlest and most humble persons I know.
Mike and I met in Turkey earlier this year and then in Yangshuo we met up again. This time he was with his girlfriend Jonna. Mike is a dedicated climber whose passion is infectious. He has recently achieved a long term goal and climbed 8a+, which for those of you who don’t climb, is bloody amazing! He always has kind words to say about everyone and I think he is a peacemaker by nature. Jonna too is absolutely lovely. A strong vegan, her own dedication to her values is inspiring. They are a great couple to spend time with.
I also met Dylan in Yangshuo. Though I hate to label him, his values resonate with punk music, subversion and anarchism. He challenged my own stereotypes and is incredibly chilled out. He knew a little about the Karen tribe, and there own statelessness and gave me some good book recommendations. He has lived off grid in Australia, learnt how to set up sit in tree protests and now he lives in China. There is something about being able to keep that rebellious identity in a state controlled country that I love.
Mark is 28 and also from the UK, though he has not lived there for some years now. He is an adventurer by nature and amongst other things, he has ridden a tuktuk across India. We spent Christmas climbing in Vietnam together which was brilliant. Currently he is riding a motorbike around Laos.
Most recently I met Adolpho from Columbia on the bus from Hanoi to Luang Prabang. Travelling at just 17, he is incredible. He radiates confidence and maturity. Already in his last year of education in an international school in India, he is applying for universities around the world. I’m not sure I have ever met a 17 year old like him before.
And finally, Maddy. We have been in touch since I left the UK but eventually met in person in Chiang Mai for New Year. She is also going to be volunteering with the Karen Hilltribes Trust in another school 60km or so away from me. She is an incredible person. Last year she suffered from a neurological condition that meant she was unable to work, or even walk and talk properly. Less than a year later, she is with me in Thailand about to embark on an adventure, living and working with the Karen tribe in Northern Thailand. I am so impressed by her dogged determination to get better and her positive attitude to life and opportunities.
Of course, in a few words I cannot express just how much all these people have inspired and challenged me along the way.
And, there have been a myriad of other people along the way who I have not mentioned here but have also made my journey much more enjoyable. To all the travellers, buskers, climbers, locals and everyone else I have met on route, a huge thanks to all of you.