Around The World In 180 Days

My name’s Sam and I have a confession: I’m a travel addict. Seeing the world, embracing new cultures, meeting new people – it’s my favourite pastime. So when I found myself at one of life’s crossroads aged 31, I decided it was time for another adventure. Only this one had to be my biggest trip yet – the mother of all holidays. Why? Well, my then-husband and I had been busily planning our future: new house, renovations…preparing the nest for the arrival of children. Finally, the house was ready. Only the children never came. I had a series of painful operations until I was eventually told that my only hope of becoming a mother was IVF. Already tiring of the long and stressful journey towards parenthood, we decided that an altogether different journey should come before the intrusive fertility treatment: a round-the-world trip lasting six months. Neither of us had ever been backpacking before, so we figured it was now or never. We certainly wouldn’t get to do it if the treatment was successful, after all.
Having made the bold decision to go, thanks to the wonders of Google the rest was surprisingly easy. We did our research and got a fantastic deal comprising 13 flights in total, leaving a few months later, in September 2008. We would fly from Heathrow into Sao Paulo, Brazil, then Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, then back to Thailand for a few weeks relaxation before flying home to London in March.
Once the trip was booked we were buzzing with excitement, and set about planning the finer details: getting injections for scary exotic diseases we’d never heard of such as Japanese encephalitis; researching the merits of various different types of rucksacks; buying new clothes, from hiking gear and fleeces to flip-flops and swimwear. Laying it all out on the bed in the spare room, we eyed the mountain of clothes versus the size of the rucksack dubiously. How on Earth would we fit it all in? Vacuum bags and compression sacks were our saviours, sucking the air out of everything in order to free up valuable space. So much so that I then managed to squeeze a travel iron, hairdryer and straighteners into my backpack (much to the amusement of the hippy types we met on our travels).
When the day finally came to leave our jobs we were bouncing off the walls with excitement. You know that lighter-than-air feeling you get when leaving work to go on a two-week holiday? Well multiply that by a thousand and you still won’t come close to the sheer euphoria we felt, knowing we were about to disappear around the world for Six. Whole. Months. We were ecstatic! Saying goodbye to our families was emotional, and as we boarded that first flight we did feel slightly nervous: did we have enough money? Had we forgotten anything? Would some of the countries we were visiting be dangerous?
Upon arriving in Sao Paulo, Brazil, for the first leg of our journey, everything felt slightly surreal. We were tired from the long flight, had no idea where we were going and couldn’t speak a word of Portuguese between us. We were not used to carrying our lives on our backs at this point, and the rucksacks felt heavy and awkward. But we soon met plenty of other travellers, all treading the same well-worn path around the globe, and those nerve-racking first few days stepping outside our comfort zone were soon replaced with high spirits and an energetic lust for life that you just don’t get from doing the hamster-in-a-wheel 9-to-5 back home. Every day of the trip was jam-packed with the most amazing experiences, such as hiking the Inca trail through the mountains of Peru, exploring the tombs of Angkor Wat in Cambodia and skydiving over Lake Taupo in New Zealand. We watched the sun come up over Ayers Rock, spent Christmas on Bondi Beach in Sydney, and saw in the New Year at a Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan, Thailand, with 30,000 other revellers. Every single day was an unforgettable adventure. That’s not to say it was all plain sailing – we had some hair-raising moments too, such as child drug-runners pointing guns at us in the favelas in Rio…and cycling for six hours down the gravel mountain paths of The World’s Most Dangerous Road in Bolivia on battered old BMXs, whizzing passing memorials to the 300+ people who die on that road each year. Terrifying!
The World’s Most Dangerous Road, Bolivia
 Despite the challenging moments, those six months were the most exhilarating of my life. We met so many people: fellow backpackers who we’re still in contact with today, ten years on; fascinating indigenous tribespeople, and tons of amazing characters from all walks of life. I wrote a blog throughout the trip and old friends and colleagues would follow it and arrange to meet up with us at various points along the way. I reckon I learnt more about geography, politics, art, history, and culture in those six months than in my entire time at grammar school.
With our fellow Inca Trail hikers, Peru
It sounds cheesy, but we came back from that trip different people: wiser, more accepting, less materialistic – with a changed outlook on the world we live in. It truly opened our eyes, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone. We never did get the family we were hoping for, despite multiple IVF attempts upon our return, but if I had managed to have children of my own I’d have taken them abroad as often and to as many far-flung destinations as possible. If you are thinking of planning an adventure, I’d say go for it! The clothes and shoes you buy now won’t mean much to you in ten years’ time…but the travel memories you acquire will last a lifetime. For me, adventures win over ‘stuff’ every time.   
Breathtaking views over Machu Picchu, Peru
This article first appeared at Adventure Meetups here. If reading this has whet your appetite for an adventure of your own, check out their website: