East and Back Again, a retrospective

Now that we’ve settled back into what most would consider a ‘normal’ life, it is a good time to reflect a bit and look back on our trip. The least we can say is that it has been a true emotional roller coaster.

It wasn’t easy to return to the everyday life, despite the joy of reuniting with friends and family. A large trip like this really changes your view on the world in a profound way. The experiences, the things you’ve learned, the people you’ve met, it all makes you see things from a different perspective. That is exactly why we do it. It is what turns the travel into a journey.

Many other travelers warned us that it would be hard to come back to our old life after such a long time. Trying to settle back in, only to notice that while you feel so different, nothing much has changed at home. For 5 months, we had been bombarded with so many new impressions and had to a adapt and deal with¬†with everything that has been thrown at us, sometimes on a daily basis. So after we got home, we definitely needed some time to adjust and conform to the western culture. In fact, even now we still haven’t, not fully.

Some of the people we’ve spoken to after our return thought we would see our trip as a disappointment or even a failure. Just because we didn’t get to visit all the places or countries we had planned to and had spoken about. But they seem to misinterpret the point of travelling like we do. The old adagio may have turned a bit stale, but it truly is the journey that counts, not the destination.

It is true though, that we ended up doing something vastly different from what we had set out to. We crossed Turkey and Georgia three times. We somehow found ourselves in the Baltics and Scandinavia in stead of Central Asia. The map with our planned vs. our actual route says it all. It has been a wonderful expedition.

Our routes: planned (pink) vs actual (green)
Our routes: planned (pink) vs actual (green)

There’s plenty of other opportunities for us to explore the Pamir and the Altai mountains, or to visit the Stans. In return, we’ve seen so many other beautiful places we hadn’t even imagined before we left. Despite the mechanical misfortunes, this trip was also filled with joy and with the overwhelming kindness humanity has to offer pretty much everywhere. It would be sacrilege to discard that as a failure.

Another question we are often asked is what the highlights of our trip were. That is always a tough one to answer. The things we’ve seen and the people we’ve met are so varied we couldn’t possible compare them. There simply aren’t any meaningful parameters to compare them by.

There are 2 ‘impressions’ though that deserve a special mention. First prize for most impressive landscapes must go to the Caucasus. Nature in Armenia and especially the Georgian High Caucasus mountains is simply breathtaking.

The most pleasant surprise however were the friendly people we met along the way: from Turkey to Iran, to Russia and everything in between. The vilified “axis of evil” turned out to be inhabited by the most hospitable, generous and kind human beings. The unrivalled hospitality of the Iranians was so mind blowing it just cannot be explained in words. And the biggest danger we ever faced was indigestion from being stuffed with the most delicious foods.

Yet, everywhere we went were interesting things to do and people to meet. All it took was that little step off the beaten track. The further we traveled from the commonly visited spots, the closer we felt to real people in their everyday lives. And to our astonishment, in most of those cases, people took us in and invited us to experience that life with them, even if only for the briefest of moments.

Now, all that is left for us, is to thank again everyone who has supported us, both from back home and on the road. And of course to start preparing and planning for the next big journey. We might even take another shot at getting to the Pamir.

 

Jo Written by:

Roamer, wanderer, nomad, vagabond.

Keen and curious adventurer who feels just as much at home in IT as in the workshop tinkering on bikes. Loves exploring the world, its people and himself, preferably on 2 wheels behind the handlebars of his beloved bike. Lucky to have found a partner in life and on the road to share this with.