Christmas on the Road

Christmas Day 2015. Day 165 since Le Conquet in France. 33 days remaining to reach our destination in Cape Leeuwin, Western Australia.

We’re blessed to have made it through 6 months of travel, without major incident, in good health, and without any family breakdowns!

We find ourselves in Chiang Mai, Thailand, staying in a beautiful heritage hotel, for some peace, quiet and much needed downtime from our time on the road. Most recently, we have completed our travels in Myanmar, covering some 1500km by road and rail through the countryside and rural villages of this beautiful country. We re-entered Thailand overland via Mae Sot, and fortunately managed to book up some lovely accommodation in Chiang Mai at the last minute, at the height of silly season.

After a very hectic (but amazing) past two months, we’ve really been looking forward to put our feet up, to enjoy a quiet Christmas, to regroup, to reflect on the recent phases of our journey, and to think about the final month of travel ahead of us.

As a brief aside, I must note how refreshing it has been to have spent the past month travelling through predominantly Buddhist Myanmar and Thailand thereby avoiding the usual excesses and commercial circus that these days seem to have supplanted the heart of the Christmas message. It has been refreshing to have the headspace to focus only on what is important to us during this special time of year – the spiritual significance, family, and close friends.

So in that spirit of reflection and gratitude, I’d like to first wish everyone who reads this – our families and friends – all the blessings and good wishes of Christmas and our sincerest best wishes for the coming new year!

We’re certainly looking forward to all the changes that the new year holds in store for us. It is a little bittersweet to see the finish line of our travels on the horizon: part of us would like to continue travelling and exploring this wonderful world that we inhabit, but part of us also looks forward to a return to ‘normal’. With our new perspective on life, ‘normal’ means no more packing and repacking luggage, weekends with family and friends, school routines, clean running water, and clean toilets!

As we reflect on the blessings we have received this year past, we feel particularly lucky that the planets aligned such that we were able to undertake this wonderful voyage as a family. And what has enriched this experience for us are the friends old and new who have shared some of this voyage around the world – and made us feel a little sense of home away from home. I’d like to express our thanks and dedicate this post to you all.

To name a few names:

Our voyage in France commenced with the Crochu family. Anne, Mayeul and Odaline trekked out to Le Conquet with us to kick off the long route home! Jean-René and Isabelle, who have always supported all our moves and this crazy adventure as well, joined us in Pornichet and later on for a family reunion in Croatia. Eric, Katya and Jeanne hosted us in their countryside home and again in Kaštela, Croatia, where we all reunited to celebrate Jeanne’s baptism along with the Samardzic family.

Eleanor, a nanny and helper for us in Hong Kong and who has become part of our family, accompanied us for the first few weeks of travel.  We enjoyed her company and it was a tearful farewell when she left, sad to part after more than three years together.

We were grateful to spend a day at Château de Versailles with the Germani family, Cécile’s friends since school days.

As we headed towards the south of France, we were able to meet up with Jason Saunders, and M. and Mme Moysan, in Lyon. It was fitting that Jase, a best man at our wedding, joined Cécile and I to celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary!

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In Cucuron, our friends from Peak School in Hong Kong, the Peters family, welcomed us to their home in the heart of Provence. It was a beautiful time together and chance for our girls to spend a little time playing with school friends before the longest days on the road. Special thanks to Charlie Peters who gave Louisa her pink ‘pirate skirt’ – which has been an indispensible part of her wardrobe ever since. (There’s hardly been a day on our entire voyage that she hasn’t worn it!)

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Ina and Andrej Borovnik, and Zofija Kukovič, hosted us during our time in Slovenia and gave us a real insider’s perspective on the beautiful alpine country. We were very touched. Cécile wrote about it here. Best of luck on the new adventure of parenthood, Ina!

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After the family reunion in Croatia, we were solo on the road for a time, and enjoyed winding our way south towards Greece and a rendez-vous with our dear friends the Bollinger family. They had hosted us at home in London on our outbound journey, and we had all pre-planned to meet up in the Greek island of Sifnos at the end of the summer. By this stage of our travel, we all were looking forward to a week together, to be with friends in an idyllic Aegean paradise, and to take a welcome pause from the constant motion.

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In Istanbul, Eila Thomas – another ex-Hong Kong buddy – was a great source of local info and we enjoyed sharing a few (many) beers together.

Once we hit Iran, we had a serendipitous reunion with our long-time friends and accomplished world-travellers, Adrianne Chen and Greg Chapman. They are also on a year-long odyssey around the world, and by sheer coincidence we met up with each other in Shiraz. We spent a wonderful few days together before our paths diverged once again. They have a humorous and entertaining blog of their adventures, A Time to Explore. Bon voyage, guys!

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We then became reliant on our guides through the various cities of Iran, and we were touched by the genuine warmth – beyond professional guidance – that they extended to us and especially to our girls. Thank you again Sahar, Sepideh, Mohammed, and Farbod.

Among the many warm welcomes we experienced in Iran, Faride Moeinvaziri and her family were especially gracious hosts in Shiraz and Tehran. We have made new friends and cherish those experiences together.

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Next on our route, Dubai, and another planned pause on our travels to spend time with friends the Parker family. Morgan – founder of the Wheel2Wheel initiative, my partner on many previous road trips, my brother – was not only our host but from the outset a sounding board and source of inspiration to undertake our journey. We’re deeply grateful. Together with Levina and Aria, they hosted us for 12 days of enjoying Dubai with the girls (one of their favourite stops!) as well as doing all the mundane administration of life, like sorting mail and paying bills, that allowed us to stay on the road for the extended time. It was a welcome break and the longest stop of our entire journey. Thanks as always!

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In Dubai I was also fortunate to be able to catch up with my old Aikido partner Abhijeet, and my London Business School buddy Nitin.

India was next, beginning in Mumbai. I was reunited with Emily Menon (nee Harrison) also from our work on Wheel2Wheel. She gave us plenty of good ideas of what to do in Mumbai including organizing a number of interesting NGO visits. Congratulations on your subsequent wedding, Em!

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Another new friend, met on the road, was our tuk-tuk driver in Jaisalmer, Mr Bhim, who invited us to join the local festivals with his family and so we enjoyed several nights of learning traditional Indian dance and a warm welcome from the extended Bhim family. It was a really memorable stay.

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After India, we ventured into China, and Andrew Stead flew in to Kunming to join us for a weekend city-break. The Stead family are long-time friends from Perth and adventurous Andrew, favourite uncle to the girls, has stayed with us several times in Hong Kong, so it was nice to see an old friend on the road. It also helped that he is fluent in Mandarin and was able to help us kickstart our China travels. Andrew was also instrumental in helping us connect and meet up with our Tibetan god-daughter, Tenzin. See you again soon, my friend.

Our very special guide throughout China, Nancy Wu, also went far beyond the call of duty, looking after all our needs and becoming a friend during three weeks of travel together. It was a tearful farewell at the end, but we have no doubt we will meet up again, back in China or perhaps Australia. The girls send you a big hug and kiss.

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In Lhasa, we are thankful for the introduction to local guide, Dorjee, who’s deep knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism and history was very educational, and who we will no doubt meet again on a return visit.

From Yunnan, through the south of China to Laos and Thailand, we joined a group road trip organized with On The Road Experiences. Here, we met two other couples, each of us driving a car in convoy through the region and, once again, we were fortunate to have met new friends on the road. We had a great connection with Andrew and Sheryl, and Kun and Esther. Thanks for the good humour, endless games with the kids, dolphin rides etc etc. Let’s keep that promise to keep in touch.

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We next crossed over into Myanmar and again are thankful to Philippe and Edith for making the hop from Hong Kong to join us for a weekend in Yangon. It was great to have the company of dear friends to explore the historic old city. See you soon – in Perth next?

Following that weekend, we were reunited with Daniel Siegfried, founder of Child’s Dream, an NGO providing access to education for young people throughout the Mekong delta region (including Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar). We had first met Daniel and co-founder Marc Jenni during our Wheel2Wheel work, and Cécile and I continue to follow and support their excellent work. Daniel, his sister Tanya, and members of the Child’s Dream team brought us along on their tour of southern Myanmar, visiting numerous NGO projects providing a variety of educational initiatives. We also had the honour of participating in the opening of a new school near Hpa-An. We continue to be inspired by their work and will follow the progress in Myanmar with interest.

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That brings us to the present – a quiet Christmas – and just a few more stops remaining. We look forward to celebrating the New Year with our old friends from Tokyo, the McAvoy family, now living in Malaysia.

Then on to Australia, where we will be welcomed by my old mates from home and the Ng family! The end of the line is approaching quickly.

In addition to all of the people above, we also appreciate the many, many people whom we have met briefly, and who may have provided a helping hand along the way – as I wrote about previously. In the spirit of Christmas, we also send you our best wishes.

So, on that note, I sign off and return to savour the remains of Christmas Day – including watching a little Star Wars with the family!

Merry Christmas to one and all.

Merry Christmas from the elves

Merry Christmas from the elves!

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9 Comments:

  1. Mark Conway December 25, 2015 Reply

    Happy Christmas!
    Love and prayers
    XXXXXX
    Mark and Nic

  2. Rina December 26, 2015 Reply

    What a trip!
    Merry Christmas to you all. Xx

  3. Victor Tiu December 26, 2015 Reply

    Merry Christmas all!

    Love the Tiu’s

  4. Poida Rowton December 26, 2015 Reply

    Such a brilliant read! Can’t wait to see you all very soon back in ‘normal’ Perth 🙂 Merry Christmas guys xxxx

    • Admin December 26, 2015 Reply

      Thanks Poids! Looks like you guys had a blast with your recent celebrations!!! Join you for the next one… Can’t believe how quickly its all going – see you soon!

  5. Alan Ng December 26, 2015 Reply

    Thanks everyone! Really appreciate your kind wishes. Same from us to you!
    Mark and Nic, sorry, we can’t extend the trip across to Sydney… School start date is approaching a bit too soon. But we will come visit soon – much easier from next year!
    See you all soon.

  6. BRIAND Claire December 28, 2015 Reply

    Je vous souhaite de très bonnes fêtes de fin d’année à tous les 5. Profitez bien de votre voyage et bonne rentrée des classes aux filles. Je vous embrasse bien fort.

  7. Dave December 31, 2015 Reply

    Merry Christmas! Best wishes for the holidays from the Burnie’s. Adele, Zach and Hayden are all enjoying the holidays with me and Mandy – we’re doing our own travels, but not in the same way (Baltimore, San Francisco, suburbs of Toronto). Best wishes for a safe and happy 2016.

  8. Farideh April 18, 2018 Reply

    hiiiiii,…..wo0o0ow our photo.. miss u all … I share it with my family too. They can see it now..

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