What I did on my holidays
Sun, 02 Mar 2008 17:31:45 +0000
Index What's in Mat's backpack?
I'm travelling around the world. There seems very little chance of backing out of it now. It's really happening. And this being 2008, I therefore need a blog on which to write about my experiences. This is that blog. Welcome.
The most important topic that needs addressing right off the bat is "Why?" So let's start with that. It seems easiest to first strike out a few common reasons for travelling that do not apply in my case:
So, you miserable bastard, why are you doing this? Maybe a little more like the following:
- I am not off to see the sights. I've seen them already, on the TV. Everything looks smaller in real life, and smells worse.
- I don't plan to learn about the history and traditions of other countries. Wikipedia has that covered. Wikipedia may be about as reliable as shutting your eyes and guessing, but it still beats out the stories of the locals clustered around a tourist attraction in a foreign country.
- I'm not out to make interesting new friends. I don't make friends quickly, especially in a foreign language. And in my experience, the difficulty of travelling is exponentially related to the number of people in the party. I fully intend to be a travelling troglodyte, and so there.
None of that, unfortunately, is likely to make for particularly coherent blog entries, so don't be surprised if this descends into a Catalogue of Exotic Train Station Waiting Rooms of the World. Or, worse, What I Did On My Holidays. If my experiences come off sounding stupefyingly dull, don't worry, they almost certainly weren't for me. That is, apart from the queuing, which certainly was.
- See the rest of the world before it changes. I believe we're on the threshold of something pretty big right now: the chasm between the third world and the first has mostly been filled in. You can't actually walk across yet, and poverty is still as bad as it ever was. But the groundwork has been laid to set off a feedback loop of stability, peace, and development. I think the barriers that keep nations separate are set to crumble, and when that happens they will all change radically. I want to have seen what the world was like, when it was like it is now. Both how it was better and how it was worse.
- Have my opinions changed. Most countries have at least one pervasive attitude which I find objectionable. For example, I happened to arrive in Istanbul the day after their national day, with everything covered in Turkish flags. I don't like having national flags draped everywhere. It's just a little... nationalistic. But seeing how unifying those flags are for Turks, how much they obviously loved them, budged my opinion a little. It seems less offensive in real life than it does on the TV. You really need to be there.
- Challenge my assumptions about the world. Not the big stuff, like what religion people are or what their opinion is of China's role in the 21st century and so on. Stuff like whether the hot tap is on the left or the right. When you start to question how things are, it leads to understanding why things are the way they are. And that's satisfying.
- Suffer. I'm going to miss trains, swelter, freeze, go hungry, sleep uncomfortably or not at all, and, above all, queue. It is going to, in a word, suck. And when I'm done doing that, I'm going to slump down onto a bench somewhere, and notice that I'm on the bank of the most gorgeous river I've ever seen, or staring at a stunning old building replete with craftsmanship and history, or in the midst of a crowd celebrating something wonderful that happens once in a lifetime. It is by this method that you assemble memories worth remembering.
- And contribute to world peace and understanding. Just having foreigners wandering around your country changes the way you think. It might, of course, change you into a raving nationalistic ethnic cleanser. But even then, the assumptions of your world shift. Foreigners exist, and you must deal with them. I will, as politely and inoffensively as I possibly can, remind people of this. And hopefully some people will gain a favourable first impression.
So with that out of the way, the next thing you want to know is where I'm going to be, and when. You and me both, mate. The best approximation is probably to be found in TripIt, which I've filed under the "Links" thing. But you have to be a member, which is a pain. Basically, I'm travelling from March to September, through South America, Canada, Japan, South-East Asia, Perth, the Middle East, Eastern and Southern Africa, before rounding things off by taking the trans-Mongolian railway from Moscow to Beijing. It's an ambitious itinerary, and I am fully prepared to fail to follow it.
And then we come to the boring bit: about this blog. I've been promising everyone that I'll write a blog entry every day. This is because I'm a pathological liar: obviously that's not going to work, I'll be busy. And even with the best will in the world I can't make a blog entry appear on the site every day: many places won't have Internet access. But I intend to write and save blog entries on my PDA, and since I have a folding keyboard they may even be verbose, like this one. When I get Internet access, I'll upload them. There may be photos, and possibly even maps, but Wordpress seems reluctant about the idea so don't count on it.
I have enabled comments on the blog. I can't imagine what people might have to say, but I've been asked, and in Wordpress it seems easier to leave it on than switch it off. But I've also turned on comment moderation, which means you'll have to wait for me to get Internet access before your comments will actually appear. This is to avoid the blog being saturated with adverts for penis pills (if you want penis pills, buy them from Mat Exon's Penis Pill Web Emporium, coming soon to this domain). Don't use an email address you care about: I'm not a particularly conscientious sysadmin, so it's entirely possible that the hackers will fillet my server like a ripe sardine.
And I notice that the site looks awful in Internet Explorer, with the images not lining up correctly and text off on the wrong side and so on. If you use Internet Explorer, tough. Let this be a lesson to you. I designed the site the way I want it to look, and I followed the rules while doing so. Firefox may be a hacked-up pile of rubbish, but it too follows the rules. I'm all out of compromise here.
In a couple of weeks, it kicks off, and hopefully there will be some real blog entries to read. In the meantime, file away the RSS feed and wait.
Index What's in Mat's backpack?