One of the most common things I hear from inexperienced travelers – whether they’re college students on a quick backpacking trip or newlyweds on a two-week honeymoon – is the intention of “getting it out of their system.” The trip they’re on, often a first foray overseas, is aimed at crossing that one item off their bucket list – to say “yes, I did it, and now I can move on.”
The thing is, if there’s anything I’ve learned from my travels it’s that there’s no such thing as “getting it out of your system.” Because the more you travel – the more you see and do – the longer your list becomes. Maybe you meet someone who tells you of a similar must-see destination, or maybe you fall in love with a country, resolving to come back every year. Maybe you pick up a hobby like surfing, for which there’s always a place with bigger waves. Whatever your interest, this idea of trying to get everything off of your list is as futile as saying “Well, now I’ve watched a movie – so I never need to watch another movie again.” If you like movies there will always be a new one to see, just like no matter how far you go, there’s always more world to explore.
Still, there are a handful of trips that are so iconic they seem to find their way onto almost every bucket list. Swimming with dolphins, skydiving, riding the Trans-Siberian Express – these are the kinds of things you hear over and over and over again.
So, what’s the point of all this?
Well, I mentioned a few posts ago that I had some big plans on the horizon – plans that ultimately made me leave Siem Reap. These plans include not one, not two, but half a dozen major things on my list. And the plans were already in motion.
Herb, one of my main long-term travel companions, had already landed in Bangkok. In just over a week we were to meet up for my second Songkran – Thai New Year festival – before embarking on what would ultimately turn into my largest and most ambitious adventure yet. (And yes, I can say so with certainty – because I’m now writing this post over a year later.)
For those who don’t know, I won’t spill all the beans right away – but I will say that the trip starts with a ride on the Trans-Siberian railway. It’s a trip that’s been near the top of my ever-growing todo list since it was barely half a page long, yet somehow, conditions were never quite right.
It’s summer – the best time to travel in Russia; I have a great travel companion who’s free to join; and I’m already just a stone’s throw from the starting point in Beijing. The only thing standing in my way: visas.
If any of you have tried to get a Russian or (post-Olympic) Chinese visa, you’ll know what an impossible headache it can be…and to make matters worse, they technically only allow you to apply in your country of residence. So what should you do if you’re already traveling overseas? “Fly back home and apply there.” Seriously, that’s what they say. As a result, Thorntree’s forums are overflowing with rumors of which consulates are and aren’t willing to break the rules at any given time.
Thus, one of the main reasons for my next stop in Phnom Penh. People seem to be having some luck there, and either way, the more corrupt the country the better chance I’d have.
Plus of course, I couldn’t very well leave Cambodia without at least a quick peek at its capital 🙂
Note: These posts are behind realtime; the above took place in March, 2012.