07.09.2013. Day 88.
I found my feet once again in Athens, where I spent one last night at the familiar hostel, drinking that last free shot of ouzo before ending the day with a few pints shared with other nameless travellers at the hostel bar. I was due for Istanbul the next day, my transit point before flying off back to Singapore. The 3 months sabbatical has come to an end.
Some of the most memorable things:
– Spending 2 weeks as a volunteer at the farms of Mount Pleasant and Bryn Pedol. I am humbled by the experience and the sheer hard work of farmers, and truly grateful to have met such wonderful and inspiring people in Austin and Zoe who treated me with the greatest hospitality. I wish for the opportunity to meet them again in my life.
– Climbing Pen Y Fan and Snowdon, the 2 tallest peaks of Wales
– Witnessing the Adratic coasts of Croatia, Montenegro and Albania, as well as the Ioanian and Aegean waters of Greece. Some of these places are incredibly touristy, but the views are just out of the world.
– Travelling across the Balkans and began to form my personal ‘favourites’. The stories of Bosnia and Herzegovina touched me deeply, and Albania by its virtue of being so ‘roughed’ and ‘untouched’ gave me my best travel experiences. These are 2 of my favourite countries.
– Boarding a fully packed overnight 8 hours train from Brasov to Constanta, Romania with the expectation of it being a sleeper train, which of course as it turned out, wasn’t. While boarding a bus at Constanta, I was almost pick pocketed. I try to see each country I visit with an open mind, but Romania simply didn’t do too much for me.
– Entering the incredibly friendly Kosovo, before learning that its legal status as a ‘country’ has been contended by many others, including my own. I met some brilliant locals here who showed me to local liquor (Raki), and a fellow couchsurfer even brought me along to meet his friends. We spent the night at some of the coolest night spots, including an active train station turned bar at night. It was random, weird and brilliant. I can’t remember making my way back to my accommodation quite alright!
– The hilarity of bumping into the same people multiple times at different places. There was this fellow British lone traveller whom I met at least 4 times in Prishtina, Tirana, Berat and Gjirokaster. His was a story quite inspiring, of how he was working and saving hard at work, before being deceived by his boss and decided it wasn’t worth it and off he went travelling the world with his life savings. Mine, by contrast ‘Oh, I have 3 months between work and I just enjoy traveling alone‘ is far less. Despite multiple encounters, we made it a point to not travel together and see how many more times our paths will cross.
– Attempting to have my hair cut with absolutely no language ability at Skopje and Gjirokaster. At the latter, I made the local barber scribble prices on my note pad and it showed 2- 400 and 500 Albanian Leks. I opted for the former which resulted in me leaving the barber with a bald head. I didn’t have to have another hair cut after that
– In 90 days I did not make use of a single ride of taxi or GPS to make my way to anywhere. It is a very proud record.
The 3 months journey was long and at times, lonely and tiring, but when driven by the insatiable thirst to see more of this marvelous world, it was always exhilarating and harrowing.
Who knows when will be the next time I can do something like that again?