Today -the 1st of March- marks the day one year ago that I made the decision to step into an airplane to go out on a trip to the other end of the world. Between leaving and returning home a lot has happened and it’s finally time to look back at it all and make a recap of my trip –one year later-!

MY TRAVEL PLAN: THE ORIGINS
After having had four years of experience with three to four week group trips, the idea for a longer solo trip came to mind. In August 2016 I just got back from a trip to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama and Iceland and that’s when things really started. I made a plan to quit my job, my band and leave everything behind to travel for 8 months, one year, one and a half years, who could tell? My main reasons to go on a trip like this are to explore new things and enjoy the moment. I am still able to do this because I’m healthy and don’t really have anything to lose. In the months after the Central America and Iceland trip I did quit my job and band and focused on the trip and the all of the possible destinations. I came up with the following list of countries to visit:
– New Zealand;
– Thailand;
– Singapore;
– Malaysia;
– Laos;
– Cambodia;
– Vietnam;
– Myanmar;
– Nepal
New Zealand was already on my to do list as a must visit country and Asia is one of my favorite places to go to because of the nice people, good food and it isn’t as expensive as other places and countries.

The list was intended more as a guideline than a strict-to-be-followed-route (except for New Zealand of course, this was my must visit). The first two months went by and I visited Thailand, New Zealand and Singapore and then a new plan came together: go to Indonesia by ferry..! Why not? So the plans had changed and I arrived in Jakarta and also flew to Sumatra before heading to Malaysia. In the end I visited the following countries:
– Thailand
– New Zealand
– Singapore
– Indonesia
– Malaysia
– Laos
– Cambodia
– Vietnam
In my final trip Indonesia got squeezed in between Singapore and Malaysia but with the goal of slow travelling for one year I had to ditch one of the countries. I just took off the last country on the list and in this case that was Nepal. I also didn’t go to Myanmar because of the news of people getting massacred in certain parts of the country and I didn’t feel like supporting a country killing off its own people.

HOW BLOGGING HELPED ME DURING MY TRIP
During my trip I weekly wrote the stories of my experiences on this blog. Writing is really something to get into, in the first couple of stories I was still looking for a good way to write down my things. But after the first few “Shorts” I really started to like the writing and it actually helped me during my trip. By writing I could already process all of the things that happened during a week and could let go of it. This way I didn’t have too much on my mind and I could focus on everything happening in the moment without too much influences of what has happened before.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PEOPLE!
All of my stories wouldn’t have happened the way they have happened without all the people I came across during this trip. From travelling with my friends to meeting people at hostels, you’re never alone and together you make plans for things to see and do. In my opinion you can get the best experiences if you share them with others and that’s why I’m really happy that I was able to experience and share a lot with the people I have met!

Conversations always start off with the same questions like: “what’s your name?”, “where are you from?”, “how long have you been travelling for?” and “where have you been?” After two months I got a bit annoyed by these questions but actually the more I started thinking about them the more I actually started appreciating them!.. I met people from about 38 nationalities ranging from Europe, the Americas, Oceania and of course Asia that means at least 38 different cultures you encounter. By asking these simple questions you can easily get an impression of someone’s cultural backgrounds, their habits and how they might respond to certain things. Every once in a while it is really nice to talk to someone on a different level or to your own friends who already know you.
With all these people from so many places the ideas for new trips pop up really quickly and before you know it you have made plans to visit half of the world already!

IT’S ALSO ABOUT THE NUMBERS
A long trip isn’t complete without some actual facts of what went down so here are some shortlists and statistics for you:

Departure : 01 March 2017
Return : 26 December 2017
Days travelled : 301
Money spent : ± €15K
Distance covered (+/-) : 65.106 km (according to my Polarsteps app)
Furthest destination : Christchurch, 18.730km away from home
Accomodation
Hostels : 63
Hotels : 18
Guest houses : 15
Transport
Cars, taxis : 67
Buses : 51
Boats, ferries : 47
Trains, light rails : 37
Minivans : 31
Motorbikes : 22
Planes : 21
Bicycles : 3
Kayaks : 2
Helicopters : 1
During the course of my journey my backpack went from 20kg to 13kg.
Photos : 7.539 (after selection), 13.748 pictures with DSLR, no idea how many with phone
Nationalities met : 38
Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, UK, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Bulgaria, Turkey, US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Russia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, China, South Korea, Japan, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Mexico, Colombia, India,

TOP ACTIVITIES
In this list are some of the activities I remember the most:
1. Trekking, Phongsaly, Laos
2. Mueller Hut Track, Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park, New Zealand
3. Tab Kak Hang Nak Nature Trail, Krabi, Thailand
4. Hobbiton Movie Set, New Zealand
5. Helicopter flight, Fox Glacier, New Zealand
6. Jungle trekking Orangutans, Bukit Lawang, Indonesia
7. Pacu Jawi/cow racing, Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia
8. Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
9. Thakhek Loop, Laos
10. S21, Killing Fields, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
11. Mulu boat race practice, Mulu, Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo
12. Ultra Music Singapore
13. 21km hike, Sa Pa, Vietnam
14. Tattoo, Chiang Mai, Thailand

TOP PLACES
The top 10 places I have visited:
1. Koh Chang, Thailand: definitely one my favorite destinations and the best island I’ve visited.
2. Siem Reap, Cambodia: good place to stay for a longer period of time, much to see, do and eat.
3. Koh Tao, Thailand: good vibes and beaches
4. Farewell Spit, New Zealand: beach and dunes everywhere, reminded me of home
5. Mt. Sunday, New Zealand: one mountain in surrounded by a whole range, imagine being there alone, I was…
6. Georgetown, Malaysia: art and street food, need I say more?
7. Bangkok, Thailand: I love to stroll around the big Asian cities, so much to see.
8. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: same same as Bangkok
9. Queenstown, New Zealand: touristic town on the South Island, reminded me of my hometown.
10. Hanoi, Vietnam: chaos, people, good food, food everywhere actually and coffee!

CONCLUSION
Around nine months of travelling a thought hit me and I knew that I had achieved the goals I set at the beginning of my trip and I have found what I was looking for. It’s been good and it was time to go home. The goal I set out with:

The idea is to travel around Southeast Asia and New Zealand for a year. It might even become 1½ years, but it can also last for 8 months, time will tell. (…) This trip will be about letting go of everything I know, living in the moment and go with the flow. I want to explore the world, learn new things and get to know people from around the globe.

Towards the end of my trip I was just happy being around and nothing more. Whatever happens happens. I’ve seen and experienced a lot. One of the things I learned is to always trust your instincts and everything will be fine. No matter what happens there is always a solution to be found. Thinking like this makes life a whole of a lot easier.

BACK IN THE NETHERLANDS: NEW PLANS
From the moment I set foot in the Netherlands things started to get moving again. I came back with new ideas and a different view on life.
Already in the car I was talking about finding a new band and my mother was still like… Don’t rush things too much, you’ve just gotten back! Some days after I got back home I went to collect my bass guitars from the storage box and went to the instrument store in town. There I got in contact with a guy looking for a bass player in his band and as of now we’re rehearsing with five band members!
But that’s not all… I also sent one of my pictures of the Indonesian Pacu Jawi or cow race to the Getaway Travel Picture of the Year Contest I managed to get the 3rd price during the annual ‘vakantiebeurs’ or travel fair.
My time abroad has also given me a lot of confidence and that’s also why I decided to start a business. Last Valentine’s Day I officially started my own building engineering company and this is the next step of my life!

Am I tired of travelling? No way! I’m already thinking about new places to visit. Next thing I really want to do a motorcycle trip to Scandinavia. It’s only a matter of time (…and money).

Thanks everyone for joining me on my trip and see you around!