Just sitting here at Sydney airport on my way back home to Dubai after dropping my 10 year old daughter back to Fiji. Yeah I know it sounds a bit crazy but I guess that is my life.
It all started 20 years ago just around this time of the year. I was still in the army in 1987/88 and we were out camping in the snow!
Being a lower officer in the army, with mandatory service, I was out on exercise with my platoon. We were out for 3 weeks in the cold winter. The weather was absolutely appaulling considering we had to camp in tents. It was about 0 degrees daytime so everything melted and we got wet, only to freeze to about -10 C in the night. I still remember about 4 nights when the fireguard either fell asleep or simply had forgotten how to keep the fire going. With the result that we, or rather I, had to restart the fire in the middle of the night. It was 3 weeks of hell for me. I hate cold weather, I hate being cold and wet especially. One of those dark nights again I could not sleep with things flying through my mind.
I was cursing the situation so many times I even forgot the count. Then suddenly one night I just had enough. Not that I could do anything to get out of there but at least I could occupy my mind with something else. For some reason I just said to myself -Next winter I will be as far away from cold Sweden as I possibly can get. I will be on the opposite side of the world for the whole winter. The thought was as simple as that.
From that moment my mind was fully occupied with just that idea. We continued our exercises but I was in another world all together. The idea of being on the other side of the world consumed every moment in the misery :-)
From Sweden that would mean a place like Australia and maybe New Zealand. My mind was already made up and nothing would be able to change me from going. I just started thinking of every detail I would have to plan and get ready to do what I had set out to do. Money, VISA, Itinerary... the list was endless but the more I thought about it the more real it became and the more interesting it became.
After the camping trip we were back in the barracks and got some free time in the evenings. I immediately started to check all sources I had in regards to flights and travel magazines. I found a book called the pacific Handbook which was like a bible on how to travel in the pacific by air or by boat, everything was covered. Much like the Lonely planetbooks do today but they are for my taste missing the original target these days. (later I found anothe ruse for it, being my pillow in some places ;-)
Hmm why only go to Australia and New Zealand I thought after reading a bit. I could by a ticket for about 1000 USD from Copenhagen via Los Angeles to Hawaii, Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, Cook islands, and Tahiti. For an additional 200 USD I could add in Tonga and Samoa islands. There was so many options but it was clear that I could do more than just got to one place. Living costs in pacific could be very cheap if I wanted to so even a budget of 2000 USD for living costs for 6 months would do it.
I told my parents the idea and they simply said. - You must be crazy. Go to pacific backpacking alone and you have never even travelled in Europe let alone in Sweden nor anywhere. hmm for me that seemed such a minor detail that it was dismissed immediately :-)
September 17 , 1998 I flew out as planned. I returned back from my pacific back packing trip in end February 1989. When I flew out of Tahiti towards Los Angeles I was already planning the second trip. A trip which lasted 8 month.
This was the simple start of something that I would never have imagined. On the return back from my trips I just new I would not be able to work and live in Sweden. The world was too interesting to see and with so many countries to visit I just had to find a way to see more of it.
Little did I know then that 10 years later I would find a job were I could get to explore the world as I now keep doing.
My daughter was born in 1997, the same year I joined UN. I am just sitting here at Sydney airport being sad having left her behind in Fiji were she lives with her mom. But at the same time I'm happy. My daughter lives in paradise on Taveuni Island. The island were the dateline goes right through and they see every day first in the world. The same place were the Blue Lagoon film was partially filmed years back. The first time I saw Fiji and Australia is exactly 20 years ago. Since then I have flown numerous times around the globe. I have had the top frequent flyer cards with Emirates 5 years in a row, KLM another 5, Sabena another 5 years and even SAS Eurobonus another 3 years. Looking at the miles I have flown it is way above a Million miles. I have seen paradise places, been in hell on earth and everything between during the 20 years that has followed that initial Backpacking trip to Pacific.
Above is a map that shows the flight paths I have taken in red and either boat or car ride in blue.
People say you are getting old when you start looking back at memories. Maybe it is but for me it rather feels like there has been so little time to actually really think about what I have seen and done over the years. The few times I can relax and actually think back it takes time to just even try sort the mind out.
I just got another mail from my boss. He wants me to go to West Africa to investigate a potential place for us to open up a new office. This year I also have to move out of Dubai as we normally change posting every 4 years and I have overstayed almost two years. Can only wonder, were will I go this time and what part of the world can I then explore further.