Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Grand Tour Wraps Up

"After all, the grand tour is just the inspired way of heading home." - Paul Theroux

So this is it. Six months of travel is over and I make my way home to Toronto tomorrow - just in time for Canada Day. It's surreal.

I ended the trip in China with a few relatively uneventful days in rainy Shanghai. A group of us from the hostel drank cheap Chinese beer on the Bund until 4:00 am, watching fireworks and marveling at the pure nastiness of Chinese public toilets. I then spent the last little bit in BC with my family, readjusting to hearing English everywhere, the lack of staring as I walk down the street and the absence of people urinating in public.

A recap of the last six months:

# of countries visited: 8 - Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, India, Tibet and China.

Transportation taken: Camels, donkey carts, auto-rickshaws, pedal-rickshaws, taxis, mini-vans, school buses, short buses, airport buses, luxury buses, bullet trains, normal trains, ferries, boats, bicycles, piggyback rides, motorcycles, scooters, countless airplanes, trekking.

Strange Foods Eaten: Slugs, raw horse meat, crickets, scorpions, pigs feet, a large bowl of bones and cabbage, butter tea, yak burgers, black eggs, pretty much everything I ate in China.

Highlights: Everest Base Camp, Ankgor Wat, The Taj Mahal, The Great Wall of China, Camel Safari, Japanese Sumo, Laos.

Low Points: Sick sick sick in Agra (I left that out of the blog - you didn't need all the details), bombs in Delhi, no Nepal.

Animals On Tour: Insane monkeys, pandas, penguins, carp, donkeys, peacocks, dogs, cats, a turtle, camels, elephants, dung beetles, cows, yaks, langoons.

What Has Changed: When I left Toronto it was Christmas. There was snow on the ground. My life was different. Six months later, a lot of things and people have changed. People have gotten engaged and married. Others have moved to new cities, some have new jobs. Some people who seemed important when I left aren't part of my life anymore.

What I Learned?: As cliche as it sounds (because you have all heard this speech before), I realize how incredibly fortunate I am for the priviledged life that I live in Canada. I have a family who loves me. I have an amazing group of friends. I have my health and a wonderful education. I have opportunities that people in other countries can only dream about. I have money. I have more than enough to eat. I can afford the luxury of travel. I hope to never have to worry about having a home, finding a job or enough food. I have my freedom. I have hope. After this trip I come home realizing that much of the world doesn't have even a fraction of these things.

While I had the most incredible experiences traveling - I saw and did so much - the poor people that I saw everywhere in Asia had the greatest impact on me. In the end, the most important thing that I come home with is a feeling of deep responsibility to the truly destitute people I saw everyday. It seems unfair that we all have so much and that they have so little. So I leave you with a quote from Ghandi that I saw at his house in Delhi.

"I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her]. Will he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] to a control over his [her] own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions?Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away."


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