In my 2017 reflections post I talked about how this year has been a year of stability. Mostly because I came back to London from Jordan in 2016 to be closer to Josh. Having a consistent base for more than a year has been really wonderful and much needed. But I’ve definitely still done a lot of travel this year, now just with the best travel buddy there is! This post is a travel round up of 2017 but first, here is my year in numbers:
2017, you sure flew by! But what fun you have been (even during those London grey winter months, which I just love to hate).
In mid-2016 I moved back to London after working in Jordan. Another big life change and uprooting. One of many over the past 8 years!
It wasn’t easy to get settled back into London-life and find a job in the city. For a while I worked remotely for the job I had in Jordan. After some major hustle and a million job applications, I finally found work in London at the end of 2016. Josh and I moved in together around that time (another big life move!). By January of 2017 all of the pieces seemed to have come together.
“The value of things is not the time they last, but the intensity with which they occur. That is why there are unforgettable moments and unique people.” -Fernando Pessoa
1. You’ll make the best of friends.
The trip started out with just myself and one of my closest friends, Leah. By day three there were four of us, and by the end we were a rag-a-muffin crew of ten. In the beginning, we were really intimidated of biking with anyone else. “They’ll be more experienced, we’ll just hold them back, but look at all their spandex!” Luckily, we quickly got over our own insecurities about being bike touring newbies because the people we met along the way are what made the trip what it was.
We’ve only driven 20 minutes outside of Tashkent and it already feels like a different world. The soviet style apartment buildings and lush parks dissipate into dusty villages and farm land. When I first moved to Tashkent, I felt like I had stepped as far away from the familiar as possible. Now when I return to Tashkent from other regions of Uzbekistan, I feel like I’ve stepped back into the modern world. This time we were off to spend the day in the unfamiliar of Zaamin National Park.
On our way to Khiva, we visited Chilpik or the “tower of silence”. Dakhams are circular walled structures built on the top of hills. The dead were left inside the walls to be exposed to birds which eat the flesh. The bones are then dried in the sun and put in a central well. In an arid climate like Uzbekistan, they disintegrate into a powder. This Zorastrian burial practice pre-dates Islam which arrived in the region in the eighth century.
From Nukus we were able to find a shared taxi to the former fishing village of Moynaq. The 220 km drive took 4 hours and was far less bumpy than one would expect for being so remote. As the 6 of us snuggled close in the tiny car, the clouds hung low threatening us with rain. Passing through the small villages we could see first hand how shaped the land had become from irrigation canals siphoning water from the Aral Sea to the cotton fields.
Spring break draws to mind images of toned bodies, fruity drinks with pretty straws, and an endless escape of soft sand and blue water. I’ve never had this idealized spring break, and this year was certainly no exception.
Sitting in an old propeller plane I gripped tightly to my seats’ armrests as we set off across Uzbekistan and its vast desert to the small city of Nukus, in the western portion of the country. “Will the propellers still work if we run out of fuel?”, I stupidly spat out. My mind was filled with irrational thoughts of hurdling towards the earth in something called a plane, but looked more like a small rusty tin can. “WHY is there black stuff on the wing!?” Breath. The older I get, the more terrified I get of flying. The best part, I’ve been skydiving 4 times. Let’s figure that one out.
The bus system in Israel is efficient, relatively cheap, and they even have free wifi (which is a hot commodity in Uzbekistan and you better believe I used every minute of it). After a few relaxing days in Tel-Aviv we boarded the Egged bus for the southern resort town of Eilat.
We took the bus on a Sunday so it was nearly filled with soldiers going back from their weekend leave. I’d recommend keeping this in mind when planning your trip. The landscape going south was dry and arid. As we reached closer to the border with Jordan, it looked like some sort of lunar landscape. Although we had boarded a bus to the Israeli town of Eilat, we had our sites set on the small town of Aqaba on the Jordanian side of the Red Sea.
A year ago I fell prey to one of those silly internet bucket lists. You know, the ones titled “10 Things Every 25 year-old Should Know” or “96238347 Places to Visit Before 30”. At first you feel inspired and then you just feel like a couch potato doing nothing while everyone else figures out all the bullet points to being a real adult. I hate those. Around the same time I read an article about how writing down goals makes you more likely to accomplish them. Feeling both inspired, agitated, and in a bit of a standstill with life I decided to write down 25 things I’d like to do while I’m 25. I’m stubborn, so as I wrote down numbers one, two and twenty-one I knew I’d do them even if friends thought it was a bit overly ambitious. Now folding 1000 paper cranes, I don’t know how I ever thought I could actually do that.