Here’s the deal, this is a long blog, even by my standards, so if you prefer pictures telling the story then feel free to skip past the text…….

I’ve never kept a diary but huge thanks to Donal from work, lindybear.com was born for that function. I am surprised and delighted that I kept it up because I’ll have it forever. I also want to say thanks to everyone who read and even complimented my ramblings throughout the year, you’re very patient and kind. God I talk waaaaaaaaaay too much :-) To those who said I should write a book and/or change to a career in journalism, I think that might be just a little over generous and I’ll probably be sticking to the day job!!

I think I’ve been pretty open and honest in my blog and, this being a round up of the whole experience, is set to be probably the biggest insight into my head so far. Good luck :-) Here goes……

This is it. Back at home, one year over. In some ways it flew by and in some ways it seemed like I never lived any other life. The most incredible, amazing, awesome, whirlwind adventure I could have wished for. So did I find myself? Or what I was looking for? They are the questions most people ask, don’t they? Well to be honest, I didn’t go looking for myself, myself or anything else. I just went to have a time out and to see a bit of the world.

I like that song by Johnny Cash – I’ve Been Everywhere Man. It’s not a particularly good song or anything, but it makes me smile and gives me that wanderlust feeling. I haven’t been anywhere near as many places as Mr. Cash but this past year I’ve seen a lot. I’ve travelled about 50,000 kilometres by air, sea and road, slept in strange beds mainly (weirdly now that I’m back in my own bed, I keep waking up wondering where I am!!) Also spent nights on trains, buses, boats, hammocks, hostel couches and tent floors, in bus stations and airports. I’ve slept and sometimes laid awake in hostels, hotels and kind strangers’ houses.

All throughout the trip people asked if I’d changed or learned something about myself and my answer was always pretty much the same. I know me pretty well, warts and all :-) I’m still the same person, with the same qualities and the same flaws. I’d also add to this and say that travelling has really just confirmed what I knew about myself, a person who’s mainly good and if I’m not so good, I’ve pretty much been pushed to my limit :-)

 

As I say these were my thoughts……….. until about a month or more ago and then things or me started to change a little. I initially put it down to tiredness from such a haul – particularly through south America. But now I face the reality that yes I have changed, in the weirdest possible way. I look at myself now and see a shyer, quieter and more introverted, even serious version of me. I seem have less to say, at least out loud, hence my conclusion of shyness. Maybe I’ve just relaxed, maybe I’ve calmed down, maybe it’s a good change, maybe it’s temporary, I’m not too sure yet. It’s just a strange change in personality considering all the travels, or taking on the world, if you will, which in my head just doesn’t seem to go hand in hand. Hmmmmmm….

Patriotism is something that has come up in different shapes and forms throughout the year. People reckon when you’re travelling it brings out pride in your country. Physically, it is certainly the case considering my hair turned red and latest freckle count is up around the 7 billion mark :-) In my head though, I’ve always been proud to be Irish, I’m not sure whether travelling accentuates that in me or not. A lot of travellers are quite negative about their home country, which, in some cases, is why they left. You still meet or see Irish who do things you’re not proud of but in general most are friendly and just up for fun. It’s interesting to watch some of your own out of their environment :-)

 

I’ve learned a lot this year too, other cultures, other people and it’s been eye opening, frustrating, fantastic, hilarious and at times sad. Travelling wrecks you physically too, I’ve been my lightest and my heaviest in a very short period of time. I’ve been through every possible emotion, level of energy and level of fatigue. And yes, honestly, towards the end, I was getting a bit tired and needed that stop in Taganga. It was really the only place I allowed myself to stop. After that couple of weeks recharging, I definitely could have kept going for another 6 months or more, but hey I ran out of time and money and all good things come to an end, right? And I can honestly say I relished every second, good and bad.

God I love travelling though, I liken it to relationships, in ways it’s similar. It gives you the same highs and lows, the same excitement, the same frustration, the same fear, the same pay-off, the same craving for more and for me, the same loss when it’s gone. A sort of emptiness. It’s an addiction you see, the more you see, the more you want to see and I’ve never been too good at kicking habits. My list of places to see is longer now that when I first left home. Human greed I guess.

My dad told me if I went that I’d never settle and it would eat away at me forever, and I’ve a feeling he might be right. That’s not to say I’m not thankful for what I got, my god I am sooooo soooo lucky to see all that I have seen. And I think I squeezed in as much as I possibly could in the the time that I had and it must be said I’m so lucky to have so much to come home to.

I have some great memories too, I’ll focus mostly on the happy ones/places/events for the sake of (relative) brevity! So here goes……. 

………the sad but nicest goodbye at home. Sprinting through heathrow airport – jumping over suitcases style! Trying to let go. Buddhas everywhere. That hole in the boat in Indonesia. Flores road trip. A big, big goodbye in Asia. :-( Meeting Kate in Singapore. Australia. Drunken phone calls from home. Missing some great weddings and the birth of Maeve’s daughter, Cara. Hilarious emails from one particular work colleague – you know who you are!! Awesome landscape in the Northern territory. The day I turned thirty.

The laughs we had in Darwin. Cooking with Janz in the morning and all of us laughing at the “savages” we had to feed. Cracking up with Frankie in the Italian restaurant. Sitting on the bed at 4.30am almost crying from tiredness and wondering how we would get through another day of work. Planning our departure. Counting down the days. Deserted coastline in Cape Tribulation. Whitehaven beach. Sunshine coast. Driving down the east coast of Australia with sun blazing in the windows, listening to Christmas songs. Christmas in Sydney. The awesome great ocean road. Climbing glaciers, that big bungee jump and sky diving with a hangover from hell. Goodbye in New Zealand. Just me again.

Mesmerised by the sky all over south America. Spanglish. Beautiful Bariloche. Long, long bus journeys. Swollen ankles. Blown away (metaphorically and physically) in Patagonia. Trekking alone at what felt like the edge of the world. Freezing in Ushuaia (end of the world) waiting for my disgusting (but only warm) clothes to be laundered. Great bunch of folks in Buenos Aires. Rio Carnival. Eaten alive by mosquitoes. Lying on the salt flats in Bolivia. Death Road. The giggles. Trekking to Macchu Pichu. Holding my breath on a beach in Tayrona National Park, Columbia. Writing. Late nights in Taganga. Feeling not quite myself.

Meeting some great people and sometimes being lucky enough to meet them again. Also meeting some very, very strange people :-) And on that note, being more patient and tolerant beyond what I ever thought I had the capacity for :-) Phazed by nothing. Getting on with it. Surprised at my lack of laziness. Days where it all went wrong. Days where it all went right. Making plans. Going with the flow. Chilling out properly. Just loving it! Immensely energetic. Aging incredibly. Sweating profusely. Shivering uncontrollably. Disgustingly dirty. Muddy clothes. Blistered toes. Flip flops. Sandy feet. Constantly meeting, smiling, laughing, talking, singing(!) packing, moving on, leaving and saying goodbye. Wishing for one more hour, day, week or month. Feeling nervous meeting my family. Chilling out southern style with the folks in Kentucky. Walking into arrivals in Dublin airport. Cork. Home.

This has been my adventure, my journey and these are my memories, and of course so many more. Now I have to let go and like leaving so many amazing places and great people from this past while, this is a tough goodbye. For the best ones, I’ve tried to burn them into my memory. I’ll miss you, you consumed me, filled me up, entertained me, made me laugh and cry (sometimes all at once!!) Great things always seem to have to be fleeting, don’t they? But now it’s back to real life and all that brings. Good things I hope. Great things would be even better :-)  (told ya I’m greedy) Yes Lindy officially needs a new project, anyone got any ideas??  :-)

I want to thank everyone at home for being so good to me all year. And to the those who kept in contact, you were great :-) As for lindybear, well I’m not sure, it may be nice to keep it going, it’s been really interesting to read back over it, just in terms of how I felt at that time more so than where I was and what I did. I’m not sure there’s enough going on with me to write a regular blog though. Play that one by ear I think. So for now I’ll leave you with some of my favourite (million) photographs………