“One Year, 20 countries, 50 chefs.”
It is politically incorrect to say I love flying nowadays, especially since we will be avoiding any flights on our “big trip” and even though I hate a 12-hour flight in cramped economy seats like anyone else; I can never contain the excitement I feel when walking into an airport. It does not matter what the destination is, it is the feeling of knowing you will be taking off to an-“other” place. I love the tired exhilaration that lingers in your footsteps as you step off the plane and inhale a new air which is heavier, lighter, colder or sticky hot compared to the last breath you took before entering the plane cabin. Modern technology has allowed us to cross continents with an unnatural speed – you can fall asleep (or watch the 5 movies you were too embarrassed to go to in the cinema) for a few hours and suddenly find yourself in an environment directly opposite of the one you left. This is convenient when we only have a couple weeks of holidays to escape, but it does not give us the opportunity to see all that is in between. What landscapes, what cultures, what beauty have we flown over in our sleep?
This is why, despite my love of airports, we have decided not to visit any and embark on a journey by land for a year. (That, and CO2 emissions)
What we have named our Journey to the East will involve going from Brussels to China by land, traversing some of the countries from the Old Silk Road. Similar journeys have been undertaken before, from Marco Polo who supposedly took 24 years to Nicolas Bouvier who has recounted it in his book, “L’usage du monde”. We chose this route because we wanted to experience a part of the world we know very little about; scarcely any mainstream western news covers Central Asia and when it does, it is often negative. We also wanted to take a journey that could be done by land, seeing the transition over a large landmass and taking the time to discover where Europe ends and Asia starts. Personally, it is the land that spans between my two cultures and I am curious to hear the change in language, meet the changing faces and taste the changing flavours as we go from one side of my heritage to the other.
While keeping the itinerary flexible, here is a quick overview of places we’ll be aiming for: Starting off in Brussels, we will pass through the following European countries – France, Italy, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece and then sail to Turkey before entering Iran and the gateway into Central Asia – Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, then finally China. Once in China, going through Xinjiang, Tibet and Yunnan, the plan is to join friends in Nepal, Laos and Burma, before going back in to Southern China and arriving in Hong Kong as the final destination.
As you can imagine, in the excitement of planning, a new country gets added every week, so there is only one fundamental rule – to stay as open and elastic as possible in terms of where we go and how long we stay there. We drew our journey to the east map (above) colouring in the countries we want to explore, but you will also be able to follow the updated destinations and posts on this map.
Departure date: April 2014
What would you like to read and see about these places?