Travel Planning 2012 — Or, Getting My Sh*t Together, Sort Of
I had high hopes for our sojourn in Blighty.
By approximately, umm, now, Z and I would have completed a whirlwind tour of the UK, caught up with scores of friends and relatives, and done all the tourist stuff you’re supposed to do in London that you never actually do when you’re actually living there.
I would also have finished two big projects (more details on these, umm, later…), sorted out and sold or given away the possessions that are clogging my parents’ attic (and quite possibly the ones still clogging our old house in London), billed a couple of large jobs, been paid for a couple more and not dropped the ball on learning Chinese.
Would you like to guess how much of this I’ve achieved? Or would that make you dissolve into a ball of crystal tears?
CLUE: I’ve spent more time than is conceivably possible stabbing at the reload button on my eBay sales page like a starving lab rat. £15.63! £15.85! Seriously, it’s worse than the horses…
CLUE 2: My parents are semi-retired. This is a lifestyle that suits me rather well. In between binge eating and trips to the pub, I took a whole two quid off my brother playing bridge this weekend. At 5p for 100 points, that’s a lot of cards…
Anywise, at least I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions.
Because if I had a quid for every New Year I’ve given up smoking, I’d have the money for a packet of fags — in AUSTRALIA!
Now, I know that if there’s one thing worse than hearing about other people’s minor ailments, it’s reading about them in a long whiny blog post.
So let’s just say I’ve spent the last four weeks dribbling self-pity and mucus all over my parents’ house, and leave it at that, eh?
Because that’s what every parent wants, when their theoretically adult child returns from two years overseas, isn’t it? A trail of snotty tissues, intermittent low-level whining about sinus headaches and waking the whole house up around dawn with a bout of the sort of coughing normally accompanied by Tennants Extra, a dog on a string, a smelly Army-issue blanket and a rasped iteration of “spare any change please?”
Bonus points to both my parents for not once having suggested I give up smoking…
Still, at least my Christmas pyjamas have been getting good use! (And, frankly, parents, it could be worse. )
Z, meanwhile, who has not only the family gut of iron but also an irritating immunity to colds, has been toddling off to the village school every day, rather in the manner of someone who’s been going there all his life.
Highlights? Playing Vampire in the playground, popping round to his mate’s next door after school, hanging off his grandparents like a rather scruffy puppy and, umm, generally being a small boy.
Low points? Getting up on Asia time twice a week to carry on learning Chinese and doing his maths and science without being late for the social thing that is school.
“But it’s DARK, Mum!”
“I know, sweetheart. It’s ENGLAND. And it’s January…”
Anywise… The good news is that we now have a semi-coherent travel plan for the next few months. (Z is cool with the life nomadic until he’s 13, then basing ourselves in Bali, which gives me a couple more years to change the name of this site. And, yes, since you ask, that *was* also on my to do list for January. And, while you’re asking, he is now actually 11.)
And, in other great news, my cold is *much better*! Thank you so much for asking.
Oh wait. You didn’t…
To our travel plans…
One notable omission to an otherwise thoroughly excellent (almost) two years of world travel has been skiing. Z loves snow. And, while we’ve had a bit of that in China, we’ve both been jonesing for skiing.
So we will be rectifying that — this week! — in Bulgaria, a country I have never visited and am so far signally failing to research. (Although I can tell you the elevation and lift count of the country’s major ski resorts off the top of my head…)
Frankly, research is an unrewarding task, in a household comprising two highly-educated 60-somethings (with a library, no less!) and a small boy with more book learnin’ than is, frankly, good for me.
Me (looking at Times Atlas of World History): “Oooh! Did you know what Bulgaria used to be called in classical times?”
Z (playing Minecraft): “Thracia.”
Me: “How the F*CK did you know that?”
My dad: “Well, it’s rather general knowledge, isn’t it? [to Z] Let me tell you about Basil the Bulgar-Slayer…”
Me: “That’s why Thracia was famous for wine!”
My mum: “Yes, Bulgarian red isn’t bad.”
Me: “Oooh! They have some lovely Roman remains at Plovdiv!”
My dad: “Ah. That would be Philippopolis.”
My mum: “Oh, yes, Philippopolis.”
Z: “As in Philip of Macedon?”
Me: “Do you have any books on Bulgaria?”
My dad: “Yes, we have one on the medieval Balkans.”
My mum: “That’s unreadable.”
Me: “So what exactly does medieval mean in that context?”
My dad: “Before the Turkish invasion, roughly…”
Me: “Ummm…. When was that?”
Me (applying remnants of high school Russian to the Bulgarian state railway website): Did you know they use Cyrillic script in Bulgaria?
My mum: Yes. We drove through it on the way to Romania.
My dad: There’s only one famous Bulgarian. Bogomil. Of the Bogomilian heresy.
Me: Pray continue…
My dad: It’s a version of the Manichaean heresy…
We’ll head back from Bulgaria to Blighty for a couple of weeks of finishing off projects (or procrastinating, of course), then spend the British half term catching up with friends and family and hopefully doing some tourist stuff too.
Then we’ll be off through North Africa. Plans are to visit Egypt, Jordan, Israel, where we have friends, probably Lebanon, and then Turkey, working our way through to Greece, where my folks have a house, for early summer, and getting in some diving, some religious and cultural unschooling, and a few more wonders of the world.
Which we will, both of us, hopefully have researched rather better than I’m doing with Bulgaria.
As far as I can tell from my decoding of the travel advisories (for a good perspective on the worthwhileness of any system that rates Turkey, a popular package tour destination in these climes, at the same level of risk as Iraq check Travelfish’s blog), these bits of the Middle East should be sunny, educational and, provided we don’t hang out in Tahrir Square, get too close to the Syrian border or start exploring refugee camps solo, not significantly more dangerous than a couple of years ago.
If not as safe as Z would like to think.
“Does Gaddafi going mean we can go to Libya now, Mum?”
“Umm, no… As with most Western wars in the Middle East, quite the reverse…”
The rest of the year?
Well, that’s a little in flux. Z has agreed to spend six months in a Chinese school to consolidate his Chinese, and I’d like to be in northern China in time for the ice festival in Harbin next year. Z also wants to take the Trans-Siberian into China, see Moscow and is keen for some Bali time too, while I’m developing a minor obsession with Mongolia.
On the other hand, his dad, who was due to visit this hemisphere in February but now can’t, is now planning to move back to the UK in the middle of the year.
Which means, given we didn’t get it together for Z to fly to Oz before we left Asia, and he’s long overdue some dad time, he’ll be headed to either Brisbane (flying unaccompanied minor) or Western Europe (probably with me and overland) around the middle of the year.
So, after a slow and (sorry!) rather snotty start, 2012 is looking pretty good so far. How’s yours shaping up?