When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.
(Please see also http://trvl2.com for our 2010 trip to Nepal.)
I like travelling. In fact, if I could I would do it 365 days a year. I've always had the urge to get away from the boring bits and pieces I know so well and see other, stranger things (back in the 1980s, a student friend of mine maintained that this urge was a sort of unconscious escape wish — never believed this load of Freudian codswallop). Not necessarily beautiful or enjoyable things, though I don't mind being in the midst of a glorious landscape or tucking into some mouthwatering food. No, I (and Vero, my wife), we want experiences. We are both curious and so we always want(ed) to get under the skin of other people, touch their way of living, see (albeit often only superficially) how it must feel to be a farmer in the Himalayas, 4500 metres above sea level, or to cross a 1000-mile desert on camel-back, with barely enough water to bring the caravan to the next watering hole…
In short, life has so many facets, and humans have so many fascinating ways of doing what are basically the same few things: greedy bastard that I am, I want to experience them all. It helps that we can ignore hardships. It's like pain: we can ignore that as well, at least up to a point. Some of the most amazing things we did were only possible because we simply decided to ignore pain or hardship — and were lucky enough to get away with it. Because occasionally we almost go too far… one of these days we will go too far. But it's worth it: no risk, no fun.
Our favourite countries — other than Germany and France;-) — are Nepal, Syria, Wales (yep, that rainwashed Wales indeed) and sunny Spain (I am afraid we do like bull-fighting). However, both Nepal and Syria are very much in a class of their own: only in Nepal and in Syria do we have that uncanny feeling that we are exactly in the right place at the right time with the right people. I can't explain it, it may be just something in our bones or in our genes. Anyway, the people in these two countries are most definitely special: their boundless friendliness, their ease, their ability to produce happiness in the face of adversity, their magnanimity… these are things we cherish. For me Nepal is, in a way, the perfect embodiment of the hugeness, culturally and geographically, that is the Himalayas. And Syria plays a similar role when it comes to the Arab world and culture, which is my other great love. Yes, I have always looked east: somehow the Americas, south and north, just leave me cold.
Okay, 'nuff blurb. We've been to India and Nepal for almost half a year in 2003/2004 but as we neither sent emails from the road nor took any photographs (an enjoyable way of travelling, by the way) there's not much to show for it. During 2005 we managed two trips: in spring and early summer a four-month overland journey from Cairo to Istanbul, then in October a full month on Cyprus 2005. Among other things you'll find the text of all the emails we sent; for Cyprus there are also some photos.
The first half of 2006 we spent once again in the Middle East: TISL. This means Turkey (mainly the eastern half which we didn't see during the 2005 trip), Iran, Syria (obviously) and Lebanon. The whole lot in about four months, March to July. The main reason why we went back is that we really wanted to see the other half of Turkey as well as Iran… a fascinating (if sometimes frustrating) country, if there ever was one. And in the event, including Lebanon in the trip turned out to be a pretty good idea: just a few weeks after our visit the troubles between Hezbollah and Israel flared up.
End of 2006 and start of 2007 saw Operation TINDO, our shorthand for Thailand and Indochina. We went, once more, for the four worst months of the European winter, starting November and returning in March: we flew out to Bangkok (via Amman, of all places), then trudged overland through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and finally back to Bangkok. All in all, the region left us a bit underwhelmed… it's pretty easy travelling (on a very beaten track, as compared to, say, Syria or Iran) and there are not too many really spectacular sights (well, there's of course Angkor Wat). Don't get us wrong: it was an altogether nice trip but on the whole it was definitely on the sedate side of things. (Especially Laos, but that's another story.)
For the autumn/winter of 2007/08 we wanted to go on an extended trip through India and Nepal, but for various reasons we couldn't arrange that in time for the Nepalese trekking season. Instead we were thinking of flying once again to Thailand, to do a stint of some eight weeks in Vietnam (mainly in the north which we had liked a lot last year) and another four weeks or so in Burma (code word for that journey was TINDO-B). However, mid-October, a German colleague of Vero's in Berlin decided to have his three-month “Vaterschaftsurlaub” (that's a sort of parent's holiday for couples with a new-born) from 1st of January 2008. Vero, quick as ever, realised that *someone* would have to fill that vacancy… long story short: we curtailed our TINDO-B travel plans to a meagre six weeks (mainly through Thailand and Cambodia, for Angkor Wat and the north-east which we hadn't seen last time) and decided to overwinter in freezing Berlin. It was a crazy idea, but then again, Berlin is a nice (if cold) place and we really enjoyed our extended stay there.
Well, came autumn/winter of 2008/09… and we finally managed to get to Nepal and India! It was a GREAT trip, not least because we enjoyed India a lot more than we did back in 2003/04. Still, the Nepalese mountains have been the absolute highlight once more: 45 days trekking to, in and out of the Everest region, for the fourth time -- if anyone can believe that.
Winter 2009/10 saw us in Britain, with our first Xmas in England for many years but strangely, it didn't feel as if we had missed anything the years before. There was a lot of snow around and the Brits thought it was “bitterly cold”. I've lived in southern Germany for many years and from that I know what “bitterly cold” means. This it ain't;-).
Anyway, we already have our flights to Kathmandu booked (yes, we're absolutely serious) and end of February we'll be once again crawling through the Nepalese mountains. This will be our twelfth visit to the country: we simply had to complete the dozen. And as usual, we'll keep you posted about our peregrinations. There is also a new, not yet fully-fledged website, dedicated specifically to this and future trips: just go to http://trvl2.com
$updated from: Travel.htxt Sat 18 Jan 2014 13:14:23 thomasl (By Thomas Lauer)$