89 days. It’s 89 days since I’ve slept in my own bed or washed my clothes properly or felt the English rain on my face. When I left home it was snowing but now I’m being sent snapchats of sunburn and reading news reports about a spring heat wave. For the last three months I’ve been volunteering, exploring and experiencing a different kind of life in Borneo and Cambodia. Right now I’m struggling to imagine an existence where I sleep in a room by myself and no longer have perpetually dirty feet. But in just a few hours I’ll be back on home soil, free from the suffocating humidity and with the feel of carpet beneath my feet (oh how I’ve missed carpet!). And then the catch ups and questions will begin. And that’s when I’ll struggle to sum up these whole three months of craziness in one sentence to answer the question “how was your trip?”. How can I sum up everything I’ve seen, done and felt over these 89 days in one answer? I’ve got approximately 15 hours to prepare my standard sentence for the quick reunion catch-up. But there’s simply too much to say about the last three months.
I could begin by considering the purpose of the trip: overseas volunteering. Returning to England I bring with me the newly learnt skills of cement mixing, bricklaying and how to dig really big holes. So if you’re interested in charity or construction work then swap the generic question of “how was it?” to “what projects did you work on?”. Then I could instruct you on the ingredients of concrete or demonstrate the most effective way of carrying bricks without a wheelbarrow.
Ask me about the people I’ve met and I could give you a mini biography of everyone I’ve spent the last three months with. I could tell you where they’ve been, where they are and where they’re going. I could read you the goodbye notes that they wrote me or discuss how they’ve changed me, even if just a little.
Ask me about where I’ve stayed and I could give you a comprehensive review of the different camps. I could rate the showers or reminisce on what it’s like to fall asleep in a longhouse. I could tell you about the food I’ve eaten and the hilarious people who cooked it for us. For each camp I have stories to share of the games we played and the memories we made.
Ask me about how I spent my days off for tales of temples and island zip wires. With my stash of photos I’ll give you a virtual tour of Angkor Wat or spoil you with countless beach sunsets.
Ask me about the wildlife and I’ll try to imitate the infuriating nighttime symphony of cicadas and dogs and lizards who lurk in the dark and cry “tokay” like a wheezy toy. There are night time horror stories of mice in mosquito nets and beetle-ridden bathrooms. Alternatively, I could describe how incredible orangutans are to watch or what Nemo’s home looks like in real life. I could tell you how magical watching a firefly wish you goodnight is or what it feels like to hold a tarantula.
The last three months have been life changing. I doubt I’ll fully realise what an impact this trip has had on me for a few months yet, maybe only those around me will see the difference. It’s a three month story with chapters, characters and plot twists. An entire novel which would be pretty difficult to squeeze into a quick reply. But as time goes by, no doubt Borneo and Cambodia will infiltrate my bank of stories and life experiences. The adventures will become memories and the memories will become legends. There’ll be photo albums and scrapbook entries to immortalise the adventures and one day I’ll look back on what I’ve done in joyful disbelief.
But for now I’m looking ahead. Tomorrow I’ll be reunited with family and friends. Next week I’ll head off to Wales to climb mountains and run alongside the seafront. Next month I’ll be in America. The adventures never stop coming. Forever I’ll be planning and saving and dreaming. There are still pages to fill in my passport and countries to tick off my bucket list.
I’ll keep you posted,