Considering how difficult it was to shuffle my plans when I realized in Japan that I wouldn’t be able to take the Russian route home, you may wonder if I would have made different travel decisions if I had known. The answer is a resounding no! This post imagines what might have happened if I had flipped my itinerary around and started with Russia and China, and gone east instead of west.
For the purposes of this exercise, let’s assume I would have otherwise traveled the exact same way, but just replaced the last container ship trip (China to Europe) with the Trans Mongolian railway with the same duration but in the other direction. My journey would thus have started with a dash to Moscow, through Russia and Mongolia, and continued from Beijing to Shanghai (the week I actually spent there on the way to my last container ship). Then I would have boarded a ferry to Japan for six weeks, hopped back to China for the three-odd weeks I spent there in reality, and continued zig zagging lazily across South East Asia to Malaysia, where I would have boarded my first ever container ship in this flipped-out scenario, from Malaysia to Australia. Ships to USA and from there to Europe would have finished my travels.
Snow and cold in Russia
I would have arrived in Russia sometime in mid March, when the temperatures would have been just a few degrees above zero. On the flip side, of course I would have made it to Russia, which I missed on my actual journey, with bonus days in Mongolia. As it is very unlikely I will go to Mongolia otherwise, this is a real pity.
Spring in China
I would have arrived in Beijing in early April instead of early March, and the weather would have been much nicer. There might have been less smog as well, and the flowers would have been in full bloom. However …
I would have missed Sakura season in Japan
The ferry would have arrived in Osaka sometime in the third week of April, which means that the cherry blossom season in the south would likely have been over. On the flip side, if I had traveled immediately to the north island, I would have caught it there. This would have meant not visiting some of the destinations I did visit in Japan, while seeing others.
Hot as hell from China to Australia
I would have then returned back to China for the main portion of my travels there. The three weeks I would have then spent traveling in China would have taken place in June. Much of China would have had temperatures over 30 °C. I think I preferred the chilly weather I had.
It would have been even worse in SE Asia, as I would have traveled around SE Asia from July to November which is peak rainy season. Hot and wet, no thank you!
And the worst: it would have been between 30 °C and 40 °C in much of Australia, during the height of their summer. It would have been awful, frankly, trying to cover up my easily burning skin under the hole in the ozone layer, while trying not to die of a heat stroke. I mean, record high temperatures in Coober Pedy around year end are pushing 50 °C!
Much of USA would have been cooler, though, as I would have landed there in beginning of March instead of May as I did. This would have been a relief in Las Vegas and around there, as it was hella hot while I was there.
USA under Trump
By the time I would have made it to the USA, Trump would have been president. I might not have been able to pass immigration, actually, given the increased scrutiny and paranoia rampant since his inauguration. Yes, a middle aged white woman from Finland is hardly on anyone’s list of high risk travelers, but what about that same woman with a passport
that had stamps from three communist countries (Russia, China and Vietnam) and from two muslim countries (Malaysia and Indonesia)? It’s insane that you have to even think that this might make a difference, but here we are.
And frankly, I would not have wanted to travel to the USA with Trump as president. The proud anti-immigration, anti-gay and anti-woman attitude of the president and his cronies would have made me feel decidedly unwelcome. You want to return back to the 1950’s when rich white straight men made all the rules? Fine, I will gladly take my tourist dollars elsewhere. Perhaps I might have found a container ship to Canada instead? Or South America? But I would have missed all the wonderful experiences I had in the USA. Great country, pity about the politics.
Friends not met, experiences not had
I have made some good friends on my journeys and I would not have met them if I had changed my plans in any way. That first container ship journey with its fun loving crew might not have been on my alternate voyages, and I would have had much different ocean crossings than I did. And with this route, I get a fourth container ship trip, which is fantastic!
On the other hand, I might not have broken my arm, or sprained my ankle in Thailand. On the third hand, I met some of my dear old friends along the way, which only happened because we happened to be in the same place at the same time. On balance, I’m happy with the experiences I had, thank you very much!
A new exciting career?
At this point I don’t know yet whether my new bold career will materialize. It is a long shot, so I won’t say much about it yet (just a little hint on the right). But it is very exciting and something I would very much love to do. As the idea was born of the collision of my travel experiences and the offhand remarks of two friends, one of who I only met on the road, I might not have this opportunity I do now if I had changed my travels in any way.
Now I have a plan for the first year after I return back to the UK, without which a return would be too dreadful to contemplate. I have no home and no job waiting after all, so a plan, even though risky, is just what I need to hit the ground running.
After fifteen months of travel, I’m actually thrilled at the idea of going back, finding a place to live and working hard to make my dream come true. Wish me luck!
p.s. this post was scheduled to be published while I was cruising on the CC Kerguelen toward the Suez canal and home