I'm finally at the end of my journey - 140 days after starting out from Shanghai at the other end of the Asian continent. I'll work out the exact distances over the next couple of days and publish something more substantial, but I roughly estimate that I've traveled over 20,000km over road and rail in maybe a hundred buses/trains/shared taxis. I've stayed in over 50 different hotels/hostels/camp sites. And my camera counter tells me that I've taken more than 12,000 photographs.
I admit that I am a little disappointed that I didn't manage to get into Iraq and was rejected outright by the-country-which-shall-not-be-named, and in the end I decided not to risk going to Syria. But as I recollect the experiences I've had over the past few months, I realise that the hits far outnumber the misses. And just like in life, all the gains in the world don't mean anything unless you've lost a little in the process. I feel profoundly fortunate to have mingled and munched my way through 11 countries, enlightened by every different person and plate I've encountered.
I look back at the period of indecision earlier this year before committing to this trip and I wonder what made me think so hard for so long. In retrospect it should have been the easiest decision I've ever had to make. They say the best possible investment of time and money is on education, and that's exactly what this trip represents for me. The insights and memories I have gained from this experience will always serve as cherished references to the rare occasion I chose life over work. Going forward, I believe it will give me better perspective on arriving at a more meaningful balance between the two.
This blog has added a whole new dimension to my travels. It gave me purpose, direction and discipline throughout the trip. It provided an avenue for me to share my writings and photography with my friends. It compelled me to do an inordinate amount of background reading and fact-checking. And I hope it will serve as a source of inspiration for others who are planning trips of their own. In time, perhaps it will inspire me to embark on another adventure to a different part of the world!
I'll be hanging out in Istanbul for the next week or so. This is a beautiful place to reflect on the journey I've been on, and to process what I've learnt along the way. I haven't stopped taking photos though, and will be posting a long-overdue blog on Istanbul soon.