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Final Prep and “Leaving on a jet plane”

..but I do know when I will be back again 19th December 2019 (if all goes to plan).

For many years I had to travel back and forward to Asia, specially to Hong Kong, as part of my job. Mostly that was a challenge, due to jet lag and time away from home, but I have over time grown very fond of Asia and the people there, specially my friends in China and the city of Hong Kong. In fact working in Asia flexing between the “gentle on the surface, cut throat underneath” culture of the Chinese folks I so admire, and the “all on the table charging forward” culture of my American employers was something of a speciality of mine.

An American friend of mine took over some of my responsibilities when I moved back to Europe, he phoned me in a panic some weeks later as he had been told that we were paying more for some land than a local Chinese company with connections to the government had recently paid nearby. He thought as they tend to say, that we were being screwed, I remember reseting his expectations by saying “thats the wrong question, of course we are being screwed, we are a big American company without strong local connections (guanxi). The right question is “are we being reasonably or unreasonably screwed?” With a little more discussion, we agreed that the 10% premium we had uncovered was probably more in the ball park of reasonable and the deal went ahead.

The only reason for reminiscing about the past on this travel blog is that it brought be two very nice benefits on this trip. By using my air miles on KLM I was able to get both to Cartagena and a return trip to Santiago, so I could go home for Christmas, for the very reasonable sum of 450 GBP, that did blow my 250k worth of air miles but at least I got to use them up and Lee was able to get on the same flights out to Santiago after Christmas. The second benefit is that I got a Platinum card for life from them after a massive number of trips, so I get lounges, upgrades and a big luggage allowance for free so I can take spares and extra bags back and forward as needed.

The last few days before a big trip are always a little tense, to-do lists seem to get longer instead of shorter until, about four days before departure, comes “the acceptance” that all those things are not going to get done and its time to focus on the critical stuff that needs to be done. In my case it had crept up on me a bit, as my Mum had a hip operation and I spent a week in Ireland helping out, so by the time I got home there were only days left to sort everything out.

In my case the time pressure made things pretty easy, I needed to get my company accounts in order, so that I would stay legal while travelling, the leak in the house roof needed to be fixed and ceilings repainted (which it was) and the rest of the most critical stuff was just spending time with my family. By design I was planning to leave just after the celebration of Holly’s 21st birthday and at the end of the summer, to maximise useful time at home this year. So we had a lovely evening at Kitchin restaurant for Hollys birthday, which was her choice, two days before I left, then Lee and I celebrated with a special fish and chips and soggy dog walk on the beach on the last day and had a nice day cycling earlier in the week to prepare us for the final departure.

I am jealous of folks who manage to synchronise their life ambitions so they can travel together, for Lee and I at the moment our paths are a little different from each other, as she, quite understandably as she is enjoying her job and it is going well for her, so is still working, while I am pursuing some lifelong travelling dreams, so we spend a portion of the year apart (40%), a portion together at home (50%) and a portion travelling together (10%) which for us is a reasonable balance. The good thing is that we are both supportive of each other doing the things that make us happy even if the consequence is we end up spending more time apart than we would prefer.

In reality this time apart is not that different from when I was working in a total time sense however what is different this time is the long spell away (11 weeks) without a break. I used to spend time in the weeks working away, but most weekends we would all be home together, so this is quite a different proposition and I have to steel myself for the long break.

The good news is that both Poppy and Holly have moved back home this year to conserve finances, so all three of them will be at home together to keep each other company and so can also cover the dogs and cats between them with the help of our dog walker or neighbours. Poppy is very pleased to have the use of my nice MG to impress her friends as she is now old enough to be insured on it and I would rather it is used occasionally than sit in the garage for the whole time.

Poppy happy to tootle around in the old MG when I am away

I often wish that I could teleport home for two days every couple of weeks for free just to chill in front of the TV or have my favourite curry, but it is the nature of these adventures, in fact something that makes them an adventure rather than just a holiday, that they take time and one has to deal with some feelings of loneliness and separation along the way as part of the challenge. Oddly these feelings are often the strongest just at the start of the trip, before the routine of finding the way and exploring takes over, and later in the middle of the trip when both the start and the end seem a long way away.

Skyroam go anywhere network access system

So keeping in touch with home is important for me so this time I have invested in a special hub device called a “Skyroam Solis” which allows me in theory to have five connected devices and internet access anywhere in the world that has a reasonable phone service, with unlimited data use. Its not cheap, but it should be able to save us getting local SIM cards for two people as we cross each country, and all the hassle of finding them, getting these set up and organised. If I am not happy I can cancel the Solis registration at any time, unlike a phone plan – so that is one of the new experiments for this trip. I still have the backup of my satellite DeLorme Inreach system for the deserts or the high mountains, and emergency cover, but that is a strictly limited text only capability, and very expensive per message.

My Delorme Inreach navigator and satellite emergency communications system

The other thing I have done to simplify things is to get some local currency for each country in advance in the UK, in the past getting some money as we crossed the border was the second hassle, but now I can cruise past the money changers and get better rates in the cities at proper exchanges when needed, as I now have that few hundred dollars of cash for each place. Finally the last part of the border ritual has been taken care of as I have bought a single insurance in advance for all the countries from Peru onward leaving just Colombia to sort out when I am first there as Equador does not require insurance.

This means I am much better prepared for this trip than the “roof of the world tour” all the little things above, plus the fact that visas are easy in South America should make for a much more relaxed trip overall and it was certainly easier to prepare for.

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