There’s a crazy phenomenon that happens when you travel. It’s called “hafta go,” and the more you travel, the more it happens. In this day and age, with the advent of smart phones and current technological means of communication, we can keep the world at our finger tips. People, places, and cultures are just a screen and tap away on the WWW, the World Wide Web, but when you are in the midst of exploring the real WWW, the Whole Wide World, it’s a big place and visiting it all takes a long time. Ok, I’ll be practical, it’s not possible to see it all, but it seems the more you see, the more you want to see.
When I began my Asian Adventure, it was open ended. I didn’t know exactly where I would go, when, and when I’d finish up. 10 days short of one year “on the road,” as I like to say, I’m going “home,” to Massachusetts and New Hampshire to visit friends and family for a month. While planning this trip, I got an invite to go to the Czech Republic from Monika, my friend of 24 years. I hadn’t been in 5 years and I felt I was long overdue. Many flights from Bangkok have a stopover in Dubai, yet I wanted something longer than a brief layover. I purchased two separate tickets. Bangkok-Dubai. I spent 3 days and continued on. Dubai-Prague. I spent 9 days and was overwhelmingly happy. It felt like home.
I was crying tears of joy while waiting in the immigration line and that overwhelming feeling of happiness continued to flow throughout the week. I visited many people I hadn’t seen in 5 years, but most I’ve known for over 20. Then there was this magnetic pull to Barcelona I needed to fulfill but I hadn’t bought a ticket back in March when I made the decision to traverse to globe via the Atlantic Ocean. How would I go from Prague? Plane, train, automobile? I studied flight availability and prices and decided on Prague-Lisbon-Barcelona. Lisbon! Yes, I chose a flight with a 12 hour layover in Portugal. I just “hadta go.” When I sorted out this long weekend adventure, I contacted my best travel buddy from this past year, Elena, from Switzerland. I mentioned her in my previous travel related blog and while she was hesitant to spend the weekend in Spain because she’s in the process of moving and about to start a new job after 15 months of travel, she sent me her travel itinerary. She wrote, “Barcelona, get ready for ‘Team Menu.'”
We were reunited at the airport in Barcelona, navigated through the city past midnight, and emerged from the metro right in front of Casa Batllo, one of Antonio Gaudí’s iconic buildings and one of the main reasons I wanted to go this capital of Catalonia. What are the odds?! I treated my time in Spain as a vacation. It’s a long way from my habits and budget in Asia, but I’ll find a way to financially recover. In keeping with our active history, Elena and I put in over 35 miles in three days walking around the city. (We did 140 miles in the Himalayas then 30 in the jungle in Nepal). We also tried a variety of Spanish tapas, healthy salads, gelato, and even made Swiss Rosti from a packet that she brought from Switzerland. We topped them with fried eggs and cheese, one of our favorite meals while trekking along the Annapurna Circuit. We made sure to stop by all of the famous Gaudí landmarks, checked out parks, walked along the coastline, and more. It was tiring, but well worth it! We were both glad we went and happy we still got along so well, complete with our silly jokes and laughing fits.
When I checked in for my flight to Boston at midnight the day before I left, I looked up Ponta Delgada. I didn’t know where this city was and have purchased so many plane tickets in the last few months, I haven’t really kept track of where all I’m going, I just always make sure to be at the airport on time! As it turns out, I had a layover in Ponta Delgada, an island in the Azores in Portugal. What’s even better, or worse in my case, I learned that Azores Airlines allows you to book a ticket with a layover of up to three days for free in one of the cities in which it flies. That means, had I known before the midnight before my flight, I could have stayed in the Azores. It’s kind of agonizing to have a layover in a place you want to visit. While I don’t know much about the Azores, or even Portugal in general, I’ve wanted to go for years. It’s one of those places I know exists and I’ve met people from there, but never made an effort to go. Now that I’ve been so close, I “hafta go.” It’s on the list. And it’s not far from home, the Azores are actually quite a hike off the coast of mainland Portugal. It seems like a hop, skip, and a jump away from Boston compared to Bangkok!
I have a ticket back to Thailand at the end of July. My backpack is there. My knee should be ready to carry a heavier load and I wanted to continue on my Asian Adventure. But then, I got an opportunity to go back to the Czech Republic. I can stay for a while and take a break from being on the move, which I feel I kind of need. I can rest, finish recovering, make and eat my own healthy food, and get back into the gym, fitness, and fix my current body composition for a while. Being in Europe opens a whole new corridor of travel possibilities for me. While I may forfeit some countries in Asia if I make it back to my friend’s wedding in August, later on I can head south through a lot of other places I “hafta go.” Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Kazakhstan and more are all and have long been on my list.
It’s nice to have options, don’t get me wrong, but I spend so many brain cells dwelling on this topic. Where do I go next? I wake up every day thinking about it and I go to sleep every night hoping the answer will come to me in my dreams.
Bangkok-Dubai-Prague-Lisbon-Barcelona-Boston. It’s been a busy three weeks full of emotion, awe, gratitude, and thoughts. I hope these next weeks will bring a bit more clarity. One thing is sure, there are still many places l “hafta go,” now I just need to decide where and these days, I’m thinking to finish up what I initially set out to do. That was to travel through Asia and I’d be beyond excited to make it to some of the islands in Oceania and finish up in South America. We shall see!