The Big OE – First Blood
I’m sitting on a couch in a decent sized apartment building. It’s a muggy 28 degrees, and the living room only has a couple of ceiling fans to push the warm air around. Outside it’s pelting down with cup sized drops, forming tremendous puddles in the park downstairs. I’ve now been on the road for just over 3 weeks, and the road has led to Singapore.
Let me back track a little. At the beginning of 2009, I was a happy go lucky New Zealand boy. I had ambitions to rise the ranks at the office, go flatting, eventually buy a house, and at all stages keep a healthy number of mates around me for drinking, road tripping, and generally hanging out.
I then embarked on a motorcycle trip around New Zealand. They say too much time in the saddle does something to the brain. It distorts, muddles, and skews it to become something else. I didn’t believe it at the time, but looking back on it now, I can see that when I returned from that trip, I was not the same person that started it. Slowly an itch came over me. It slowly dawned on me that New Zealand wasn’t big enough. Not only was it not big enough, it was starting to constrain, choke, and stifle me. Plans were drawn up. Big plans. Plans that involved the cities of Europe, the cold plains of Russia, the Steppes of Mongolia, and the steamy jungles of South East Asia.
For about 2 years those plans percolated. They changed, flipped, and performed somersaults over each other, as I researched and plotted on the maps plastered carefully across my bedroom walls.
At the start of 2010, one of the goals that I set myself was to be out of the country by Christmas. It wasn’t until March that I realised that formed the perfect departure date – i.e. Something I wouldn’t forget.
By November, we had finally settled on a rather loose plan. Trying to stay off the beaten track a bit, we would head to Malaysia first, stopping at Penang to visit friends and family, then flying to Sabah, in Eastern Malaysia, to attend a friend’s wedding and check out what that part of Malaysia had to offer. Then we would head off to Singapore, there to try to find jobs and settle for a while. If Singapore didn’t work out, we’d fly to London, buy a motorcycle, and travel Europe until we either ran out of money, or found a place that suited us.
So, with a fair paced rush and a roar, Christmas was upon us, and suddenly the flaw in the plan became painfully apparent – never try to pack, sell your life’s assets, work a full time job, do multiple freelance jobs, AND go to all the inevitable farewell and Christmas parties. With about 2 hours of sleep, and hastily packed bags, I found myself sitting in the departure lounge, waiting for that magical moment where we could take our seats on the aeroplane, and lay to rest our stress and concerns for the next 10 hours.
Suddenly the 25th of December became the 16th of January. My jeans and shirt have been exchanged for a singlet and shorts, and my skin has acquired non-computer aided tan. And I’m now faced with the struggle of recounting the last 3 weeks, aided only by 8gbs of photos, and barely readable scratchings in my journal. Tearing my gaze away from the rapidly growing puddles on the ground below, I start my typing.