It all began with an idea a year and a half ago, which slowly became reality. In the summer of 2012, after returning from South-East Asia only a few months prior, but finding a chunk of my heart left behind, I had to return to find the something I was looking for. I needed to see more, taste more, and so began the journey to my adventure.
The remainder of 2012 was spent getting back to square one after my last escapade. January came and so did positive numbers. I bunkered down, becoming very much a loner. My life was now work, eat, shit and sleep. Keeping an expense budget of 100 dollars a week, using half of that on transportation to work alone, this didn’t leave much for food and my vices. I made it happen. Luckily working as the sous chef of The Log Cabin Inn, I wasn’t in short supply of food. By late February, already working 50-60 hours a week, it wasn’t enough. Knowing the manager of McDonalds in Parry Sound, I scored a part time gig, which was conveniently worked around my schedule. I began schlepping grease on both my days off and two half night shifts after feeding a restaurant. This brought me to an eight day non-stop work week. This left me very little time for the eating and shitting parts of my life but to my benefit I didn’t have a chance to spend a dime. If I could keep this up without killing myself I had my trip budget in the bag. I finally tapped out after working 109 days straight and took a single day off.
In September, we lost a body at the restaurant, so they asked me if I would quit McDonalds and work 6-7 days there instead. It was perfect timing, I felt close to pulling a ‘Scarface’ in ‘Half-Baked’. I appreciated the flexibility and the help they gave me in reaching my target, also seeing that side of the industry was interesting and eye-opening. After my notice was up, I was able to take a day off biweekly and pull in more coin. Life was good, two days off a month!! Lost with that time, usually waking up in a panic feeling the need to be somewhere, it was a day off none the less.
December came, my last month of employment. The busy Christmas season made it pass so quickly which led to my final shift, New Years Eve. Final dinner service, 118 people, full house. A perfect way to end my career at the Log Cabin Inn, but I knew I would miss the rush behind the line. Black-bean marinated ostrich carpaccio, port poached figs and P.E.I. Mussels in a smoked tomato and basil cream were our appetizers specials. Bison Rib-eye with a blueberry demi, Wild Boar Chops with a maple jus, Braised Rabbit Ravioli in a hedgehog mushroom cream and miso marinated, sesame crusted Halibut with a roasted corn sauce as mains. It was a bittersweet reality that I was finally finished the long haul and the light was getting brighter. My forested retreat in Parry Sound will never be forgotten, hiking through the bush to forage for mushrooms, ramps and berries, but it was time to finish this chapter and move on from this rugged beauty.
When the work was finally finished, I was planning on wandering as I saw fit, so I went to a travel agent to clear up a few questions. This put an end to my free spirited frolic across the world. Europe is easy, more or less get a passport, fly in, fly out. Asia not so much. India requires a tourist visa, but lasts for 6 months. A reference point was needed, so I unwillingly booked a hostel in New Delhi, where I was landing. I love going in blind. A different sized passport photo was also required, 2×2 inches and an application printed from online. Mainland China frowns upon backpackers, keeping a tight leash on its visitors. I was told that an invitation from a friend or family I would be staying with or planned reservations were required. Not sure if I was informed correctly, but not fitting into my schedule, I 86’d China from my route. South East Asia for the most part is hassle free and happy to take my money, just a visa at the door, all varying in price and length. Vietnam being the exception, a tourist visa was needed before arrival, but as long as you are okay with giving your passport away in a foreign country for a few days, then this can be done abroad.
Putting absolutely no thought into travel insurance, and then recollecting all the potential serious injuries I came so close to enduring, I thought twice. Within the 2 months I travelled in South East Asia, I was almost in two scooter accidents, burnt myself thinking I was capable of fire poi and cut my foot open in 3 places on my last week. Being the expert doctor I am, I hit the bottle until I could walk on it and went about my day. It became so infected when I got home, I probably should have gone to a real doctor, and if I was still travelling I would have had to. Travel insurance usually can only be sold for 6 months or so, but I contacted OHIP extending this to one year. The catch is a new health card was issued, expiring 2 days after I’m supposed to return in which case I would need to renew immediately. If I choose extend my travels past this date then all health benefits are revoked until I’ve been back in Canada for 3 months. If this worries you, I would suggest returning on time, but considering I haven’t been to a doctor in years, I’m willing to risk it. If the money is there to keep on keeping on, then that’s what I’ll do.
When it came to the list of diseases/illnesses I was hoping to avoid, I went for a travel consultation to further educate myself. I tuned in attentively, to take very little of their advice. Malaria pills were recommended, which need to be taken a week before and a month after being in a risk area. Knowing about these ahead of time, I knew I was declining those. Another mosquito borne illness was Japanese encephalitis. More of a concern if your stay is longer than a month, and if getting off the beaten path into rural communities is on the itinerary. I had intentions to take the precautionary 2 shots (a month apart) for this since I knew my travels would consist of both. Then the price tag was mentioned, 237 dollars for each shot, and those intentions were tossed by the wayside. I got the basics for going abroad, making sure my Typhoid, Hep A and Hep B were taken care of. Apart from that, I let them shoot me up with a Tetanus booster with polio and a Measles booster, since apparently the one we get as a child doesn’t actually last forever anymore.
Selling just about everything I own was one of the most freeing feelings, I’ve ever experienced. Having no materialistic value in my life except that of which could fit in my new home on my back led to two things. Total freedom and no attachments. Only a few days to go, and my excitement was about to burst and my nerves about fried. I have no idea what this next year or more is going to bring me. Education, of the food, drink, and people of the world. Adventure, from the snow-capped Himalayas to the searing sand of Thailand’s beaches. A bigger view of what’s out there and a realization of how small I am. All I know, is to let the good times roll, take the great and stunning with the bad and ugly and most of all remember I’m here for a GOOD time, not a LONG time.