Chapter 14: Statistically speaking

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
― Dr. Seuss

So with bags to unpack, friends and family to see (and us being more keen on one of those activities than the other!) we’ve found ourselves with time to reflect on the last six months. Originally we’d planed to head off somewhere else for a few days before work beckoned, but it turned out we felt there was ‘no place like home’ to help settle us into every day life.

Part of these ponderings have led us to numbers… Along the way we tried to keep track of a few statistics. Some were easy as they printed them on tickets (I.e mileages) some harder. For example we were going great guns with keeping a tally of the number of religious establishments we’d been in… Until we got to Myanmar and we hit hundreds of temples (almost) a day so this one is a bit of a guesstimate!! But here we go with the more random account of our time away:

Total time away:  133 Days, 5 hours, 30 minutes and 15 seconds

Total time smiling:  133 Days, 5 hours…… the rest of the time was spent re-planning when our second train was part cancelled!

Number of Countries visited / passed through on this trip (look out for the ‘how to celebrate 100 countries blog in the future!):  16 – UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, Mongolia, China, Nepal, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, Australia, Philippines

Hottest Temperature:  38 degree Myanmar

Coldest Temperature:  -28 degrees Mongolia

Total mileage by train (excluding Metro / Underground systems): 19, 585km or 12, 170 miles

Total time on trains:  315 hours, 24 minutes or 13 days, 3 hours and 24 minutes

Total mileage by plane:  37, 192 km or 23, 110 miles

Total time in planes:  52 hours, 13 minutes (including flight with my Father-in-law)

Total mileage by bus / coach:  2768km or 1720 miles

Total time on coaches / buses: 63 hours and 45 minutes or 2 Days, 15 hours and 45 minutes

Total mileage driving through Mongolia and on The Friendship Highway in Tibet:  1245km or 774 miles

Total time on boats:  10 Hours Diving + 36 hours Yangtze Cruise + 1 hour on a rowing boat in Nepal

Cheapest Subway / Underground ticket:  7p – Delhi Metro

Cheapest Train Ticket:  75 Rupees (74p) – Gorakpour to Varanassi Junction (9 hour slow train!!!!!)

Cancelled Transport:  1 Plane,  1 train

Total time under water:  13 hours, 48 minutes (828 minutes)

Number of modes of transport:  14:  Car, Taxi, Train, Tuk-tuk, Bus, Coach, Hot Air Balloon, Paraglide, ATV (Quad Bike), Aeroplane, Metro / Underground, Boat, Horse and Camel

Number of temples visited:  122

Number of Churches visited:  21

Number of Monasteries visited:  33

Number of tigers spotted:  Zero!

Number of hours spent looking for tigers:  20 hours!

Number of falls on snow and ice: Dean 3, Natalie 1

Number of Delhi Belly attacks: Dean 2, Natalie 5

Number of parcels sent home:  Three

Number of Lonely Planets used:  Seven – Trans Siberian, Mongolia, China, Nepal, India, Myanmar, Philippines (yes very heavy!)

Number of currencies:  10 – Euro, Russian Ruble, Mongolian Tugrik, Chinese Yuan, Nepalese Rupee, Indian Rupee, Malaysian Ringt, Myanmar Kyat, Australian Dollar, Philippine Peso

Most expensive public loo:  ‘GUM’ Centre, Red Square Moscow – £2

Cheapest public loo:  Monkey Temple, Kathmandu – 3p

Great Train challenge UNO winner:  Natalie 56 : Dean 50

Weight of my rucksack:  13kg to start, 21kg at the end!

Best glass of champagne:  Moet and Chandon!

Number of photos taken: Don’t ask! (Dean was somewhere in the vicinity of 20,000)

Highlight of trip:  Mongolia, Tibet, Myanmar, our 2nd Wedding and diving in the Philippines… ok thats more than one!

I think it is fair to say that whilst these stats look fairly impressive here, anyone who has ever been on a long trip will tell you they all really merge into one over-arching thought when you get home.  It’s something I call the ‘Heathrow effect’.  This means that as soon as you touch down and walk through through arrivals doors, your whole trip dissolves into one big dream.  But what a mighty good dream it was….

– Natalie

Overcoming Your Fears: Learning to Dive

When Natalie and I first met, she was already an accomplished diver, while I had had neither the opportunity to learn or had the inclination. This was quite a surprise for Natalie because on the surface this should have been something that appealed to me. It wasn’t until we had been together for about 18 months that I seriously thought about learning to dive.

I was in Central America on my annual enforced hiatus from Europe to stay within visa regulations when I had the idea. “When I get to Mexico I am going to learn to dive,” I told Natalie over Skype one day. “Seriously?” was the response on the other end, “that’s awesome”. After promising I would take the plunge so to speak there, was no getting out of it. So upon arriving in Playa Del Carmen I searched around until I decided Phocea Mexico was the dive company to help open up this whole new World to me.

When most people think of learning to dive some of the common fears and concerns are things such as breathing underwater, or encountering rather large and somewhat hungry marine life. My fears were a little more personal. Having worn glasses or contact lenses since I was 18 my biggest fear was what would happen if I lost my mask, and the possibility of my contacts washing away. This had always played on my mind and reared its ugly head again when I first learnt to dive.

I found Nemo!

I found Nemo!

The PADI course was a great mixture of theory and practice, slowly building up your confidence and skill sets in between experiencing the wonders of life underwater. Initially we went through the basics in a large swimming pool, something that I hated. Every time we went under the surface I was engulfed in a sense of claustrophobia, doubts spinning around my mind that this was not natural or ‘normal’. Amazingly on our first dive in the open water I was totally at ease. There was no feeling of claustrophobia, no uncertainty just a feeling of peace and being at ease. The tests and procedures continued and I never did feel comfortable removing my mask and that fear of being nearly blind underwater was ever persistent in the back of my mind.
Completing my Open Water certification was an amazing feeling, I had overcome my doubts but more importantly a new world of travel experiences had opened up for me, and ones both Natalie and I could now share together. As with any new skill you master there is one very important factor in ensuring those new skills ‘stick’, and that is practice. Sadly after learning, Natalie and I had little to no opportunity to go diving. With wedding planning and numerous visas eating into our time, diving slid off into the background of priorities. Just over two years after learning we were able to spend a few days at the end of our honeymoon diving together for the first time. As we kitted up, the procedures and training I had received in Mexico quickly came flooding back and my excitement levels rose.

Most importantly for me during that two-year gap I had received laser eye surgery and no longer needed contact lenses or glasses, a huge boost to my diving ‘career’ and my confidence! The one thing that had made me nervous before every dive was now non-existent so there really was nothing to hold me back.

As we planned our recent adventure we had decided it would be a great way to finish with a relaxed, almost mini holiday / honeymoon in the Philippines, and the basis of this trip was to do some quality diving together. The nerves and apprehension that had once been there was now replaced with excitement. To refresh my skills and improve my diving I completed my Advanced Open Water Certificate. My confidence and ability underwater soared over the two weeks in the Philippines and I was slowly catching Natalie in air consumption (or lack of!) and buoyancy control.

Practice makes perfect

Practice makes perfect

As the saying goes, ‘practice makes perfect’, and it was so true with my diving. Control, manoeuvrability, buoyancy and breathing all became second nature down there and rather than constantly worrying about what I was doing I was now able to enjoy my surroundings.

Learning to dive really does open up a whole new world. From stunningly colourful coral to the intricately decorated tropical fish to schools of sardines that swim around in enormous schools as if controlled by some sort of collective consciousness, you certainly get a greater appreciation for just how amazing nature really is. The silence of life underwater is probably the most notable difference from life above the surface. For the most part all you hear is your breathing and the bubbles escaping your regulator. Over the last two weeks of our trip I was lucky enough to dive with turtles, hundreds of variety of fish and even see my first sharks!

Looking like a pro!

Looking like a pro!

The beautiful thing about travelling is you are constantly challenged and given the opportunity to overcome your fears. Whether it is bungee jumping, skydiving, mountain climbing, or in my case learning to dive, the opportunities are almost always there when you travel. However, if you do challenge yourself and do something you would never have dreamt of back home, you may just discover a new hobby or new passion that will enhance future travels. That is what happened to me, I love diving and cannot wait until our next underwater adventures.


– Dean