Saturday, 25 August 2012

What's in a Name?

As the days until my departure inexorably grow fewer, the spectre of actually planning a 7-month trip looms ever larger. Somehow, the intention of seeing as much as I can of all the beautiful countries I will be visiting (Nepal, India, Australia, New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Japan and China) will have to be reconciled with the desire to drift rather than rush around, to try living and breathing a place rather than stumble from tourist trap to tourist trap, from sight to sight, without really seeing. 

Another difficulty, as the above paragraph highlights, is to attempt to talk or even think about this trip while avoiding all the terribly cliché "gap yah" terminology ("self-discovery", "cultural experience" and the like). This seems like an often a futile wish in a world in which tailor-made trips and tourists overrunning a place like locusts can strip pretty much any location of any heart and soul it may once have had - or even still have. 

Nevertheless, I harbour a little hope that I will be able to avoid the pitfalls of mass tourism, as well as of "booze cruise"-type holidays - both can be fun, but for now that is not what I am looking for. 

With hindsight, the benefits of undertaking a trip like this at the ripe old age of 23, rather than at 18 straight after leaving school, become apparent. The extent to which University and the last 5 years in general have changed me is pretty overwhelming, as anyone who has known me since first year or before would surely agree. Call it growing up, maturing, learning about yourself and others and human interaction - whatever it is, it has left me significantly better prepared to make the most of a trip "around the world". 

And if a few phrases or words have rather stereotypical connotations - well, frankly, so be it. I will do my utmost to avoid living these stereotypes, not for the sake of avoiding doing so but because I would like to get more out of this journey.

Over the next few weeks I will be musing over the various places and regions I would like to explore, and also the numerous bits and bobs that need sorting out, from the mundane to the slightly more random. Any comments, advice, opinions and criticism are more than welcome and will quite possibly contribute to making my pleas don't be shy!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Time to get back on it...

So after one failed attempt to begin blogging on something resembling a regular basis, this is as good a time as any to give it another shot. Having just finished University in June, I have managed to have a reasonably eventful summer thus far. 

It's odd how even after five years at Cambridge, and despite the feeling that it was very much time to bow out with whatever grace remained to me, I couldn't help but miss the place, along with all its quirks and oddities and most importantly all the incredible people who have shaped my life to such an overwhelming extent, really quite a lot. To an extent I still do, of course, but it turns out that the feeling of loss is strongest only as long as one has nothing else to fill one's days with.

In my case, this was to get a job with LOCOG out at Dorney Lake (which they, for some reason, insist on calling "Eton Dorney") where the Olympic Rowing and Canoe Sprint competitions are held. The transport team doesn't sound like the most glamorous place in the world to be working, but it has turned out to be excellent fun, both in terms of what we actually do and the people you get to work with. Once again, thanks must go to Steve, who got me this job in the first place instead of a volunteering post at the Olympic Village in Stratford. 

As it turns out, Transport actually have some of the best opportunities for contact with the athletes as we're in charge of running their buses between the Village and Dorney. This means that they wait for said buses right where we hang out, and they tend to actually be quite chatty - particularly once their competitions are over. I often found it difficult to talk to people I percieve to be so far superior to me in almost any respect, but they're mostly fairly down-to-Earth people. It probably helps that rowing is the kind of niche sport that only really gets any mainstream exposure during the Olympics, so maybe it's a nice change - rather than an onerous everyday reality - for athletes to be more universally recognised and "in demand". 

It was also nice to see that even during Olympic competition, athletes still like to have a bit of (nice and clean) fun, demonstrated here by a kayaking four/quad (K4): 

The one thing I really badly miss is doing sport myself. Obviously seeing Olympic crews paddling in Dorney contributed to this a lot, and it's good to have a job that involves being outside and a fair bit of moving around, but the absence of regular and frequent training is really grating. This may stem partly from a mild body complex(?) developed during my time with CUL (no regrets, mind - in fact, I'm still gutted I didn't trial this year) and partly from the simple fact that training twice a day was pretty normal for the last few months at University. 

Whatever the reasons, I can't wait to have enough free time for regular sport again, and to start rowing seriously again with a Tideway club when I'm back in London (where I may end up staying when I return from travelling).

For now, though, it's time to enjoy the Paralympics which promise more chilled work (shorter days, and quite possibly a more relaxed/convivial atmosphere) - and then, after a few days in London and Cambridge each, it'll be time to head back home to Vienna for a month to see all the lovely people back at home and spend as much time as possible with them before heading off to see the world (there's a great expression in Hungarian - világgá menni - which translates literally as going away world-wards)!