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We have been sensible.

We have adulted.

We are both somewhere north of forty. I now like celery after a lifetime of hatred – my most grown-up accomplishment so far. Vanessa’s DIY skills, and accompanying trunk of tools, are the envy of friends and neighbours. We have a pressure cooker! House parties turned to dinner parties, and clubbing to theatre, long since. Our pensions are sufficient for a pack of Werthers per day.


Friends have been diagnosed with illnesses – we’re lucky, so far; they’re generally recovering. But it’s a helpful kick up the arse to remember that just saving for decades can be foolish; you might never get to use that pension – or just not be able to enjoy it. Enjoying our lives and our money now – just feels right. Time to go travelling.

We’d been calling it a sabbatical. Until people who actually do sabbaticals pointed out – indignantly – that you’re meant to be doing kinda work related things during them.

We could call it a holiday. But that’s a holiday-allowance-sized sliver – just about enough to finally come down with that cold you didn’t have time for in work, and just as you’re starting to feel that holiday mood – you’re back working again.

It could be a gap year. But we’re far too decadent to rough it in proper backpacker style any more – and rapidly discovered that the budget will stretch to about 3 months.

So – gap quarter it is. And about as good a way of having a mid life crisis as we can think of – far cheaper than an affair, or a Ferrari. And maybe – just maybe – when we get back, this whole Brexit mess will be over. Don’t know what’s next, really: figure it out come May.

But first – all this ^^^^.

V, being brilliant and expert bargain hunter, managed to get almost-free business class flights to Sydney and out from Tokyo, using an evil combination of air miles and BA companion voucher. Should be a refreshing change from our normal Ryanair hell.

Originally planned not to plan. Be all spontaneous and backpacker-ey. Then, as winter weekends got wetter and darker, it was just too tempting to figure out place after place. This volcano trip, that free-diving course, this vineyard, that hot spring… So now, we’ve got planes, trains, automobiles and hotels booked for 90 days; a heavenly spreadsheet holding all the details; and a document – 37 pages and counting – with the ‘brief’ notes on main things that look interesting in the places we’re going. Oh, well. Planned spontaneity is much cheaper. And, TBH, probably more fun – we’d have had to work out where to go / stay anyway. Doing it on a damp London weekend just means we don’t have to do it when we’d rather be surfing.

So here’s the overview

  • Australia – end Jan/early Feb
    • Sydney and Melbourne – just a few days, then return for longer later. Great Ocean Road, penguins and wine.
  • New Zealand – early to mid Feb
    • Queenstown – adventure central! Too many things to do there, from river surfing to bungee.
    • Franz Josef – glacier trekking
    • Christchurch – visiting relatives, admiring the reconstruction post-earthquake
    • Marlborough (via Kaikoura) – wine region, via swimming with dolphins
    • Tongariro – spectacular hike across volcano, overlooking Mount Doom
    • Rotorua – hardcore geothermal activity, geysers and sulphuric pools, plus some more bathable options.
    • Whitianga – hot sands beach (volcanically heated springs under the sand: dig a hole and bury yourself) and cathedral cove
    • Auckland – friends and flight
  • Australia again, mid to end Feb
    • Sydney, Uluru, Noosa, Brisbane – all pretty self explanatory, except Noosa, which just looks like nice beachey area to relax for a few days in a good hotel – as both Australia and New Zealand are surprisingly expensive and we’ll be near backpacker-level accommodation throughout. The horror!
  • Indonesia, start to mid Mar
    • Bali – obvs. Also Gili Air nearby, want to learn how to free dive. Apparently after 1-2 days you can get down to 20m on one breath? Or die in the attempt, I suppose.
    • Then Java – to climb two volcanoes, Mount Ijen and Mount Bromo. Ijen is covered by blue flames at night as the sulphuric gasses burn. Bromo just looks like every volcano that every child draws: perfect cone with stripes all the way down – hopefully not of live red lava, as I drew it.
    • Both of which are midnight hikes from very average hotels to watch sunrise – so finish with a few days around Borobodur, admiring temples and relaxing in very nice hotel again
    • Then off to Sumatra, to play with orang utans, before flying to Hong Kong
  • China – mid March to early April
    • Stay in Macau, the former Portuguese colony, rather than HK itself – seems a bit different (and much cheaper)
    • Train to Yangshuo and Guilin area – spectacular limestone karst regions
    • Then towards Tibet. Tibet itself is shut to foreign tourists in Feb and March – but just outside the border is equally beautiful and Himalayan, around the areas of Lijiang, Shangri-La, Tiger Leaping Gorge, and Lugu lake (the kingdom of women)
    • Xi’an, for the terracotta warriors. And a ‘luxury’ overnight sleeper train to Beijing, where we spend the final few days of China
  • South Korea – just a flying visit: few days each in Seoul and Busan, from which we catch the ferry to Japan
  • Japan – our longest stay, over 3 weeks from early Apr till our return flight on 1 May. Think we’ll find it too short even so – the more I read, the more I want.
    • Nagasaki – as well as the nuclear bomb memorials and turtle temple, the ‘ghost island’ of Hashima looks intriguing: one of the most densely populated places in the world in the 70s, now abandoned and rotting in a post-apocalyptic way
    • Beppu – hells, sand baths and onsen
    • Naoshima – art island
    • Nara for its Daibutsu, giant buddha surrounded by deer, and rather fabulous cemetery nearby in Okunoin
    • Kyoto – which will hopefully be in full cherry blossom swing, with amazing temples and food
    • Mount Fuji – not climbing season (that’s my excuse), so will just admire the view from the lakes around it instead
    • Shibu Onsen – for a few more days of wandering around from hot spring to hot spring in traditional village
    • Tokyo. I haven’t even started looking into Tokyo properly, and already have pages of notes – dancing robot restaurant, a sumo baby crying festival, a recreation of Kowloon Walled City. Too much insane stuff that looks brilliant.

Then – back to reality. Will London still have jobs after Brexit? Will there be hordes of thugs roaming the streets, getting rid of foreigners, homosexuals, travellers and other undesirables like ourselves? Or, more likely, will the British Government still be unable to – like – govern? No idea. Maybe we’ll move country; maybe not.

(Side note: interviewed a Russian project manager recently who described Brexit as being created to torment project managers – the impossible deadlines! The amount to get done! The team at each others throats!)

Packed and ready to go! Hand luggage: small bags, 10kg each. Let’s see how long that lasts.