I’m a great planner — an aspect of my personality so ingrained that it rarely faded during 10 months on the road. Even removed as I was from the rigours of Western life, away from the myriad rules and regulations that simply don’t apply in other parts of the world, the need to strategize remained a strong force inside me. Most of the time that is.
Slick & Twisted Trails, A warm welcome in remote Laos
They spotted us before we saw them, their eyes trained for the whispers of the forest. When my gaze finally picked them out, they were statues, frozen against the trees at the bend in the path. The shared expression on their faces made me stop, too. I couldn’t decipher it at first. Kheo, my guide, beckoned me on. I turned and looked behind me, half-expecting to see the rippling shadow of a tiger. But only the thin bamboo rails of the spirit gate, decorated with chicken feathers, lay behind. The four Akha girls, their hair bound up with orange wool, firewood baskets in hand and faces pale in apprehension were staring at me. Kheo swallowed a giggle. “They think maybe you are a ghost.”
GoNOMAD, Sleeping with the Akha Hill Tribes in Northern Laos
I was getting more tenacious after three months on the road. The experiential equivalent of a heroin addict running out of skin, I had reached the point at which I needed to seek out bolder experiences, to take bigger risks and get closer to the unknown to achieve the same high that travel gave me at the start of my trip. It was this internal one-upmanship struggle that found me counting out coins in three currencies to a man in an unmarked hut in the Northern Laos border town of Muang Khua.
The Planet D, Panic, Puno and Petrol Bombs: Bolivia to Peru the unconventional way
Bolivia, June 2011. I had been on the road for nine months and had crossed nine borders. After dropping down into Vietnam through the precipitous mountains of Northern Laos whilst perched on crates of Red Bull, and having paid a white-coated man for dubious ‘health checks’ to enter Cambodia, I thought I’d seen the best the immigration services of the world could throw at me. But I was wrong.
101 Holidays, Best travel blogs of the week
My articles for this useful site, with practical tips and advice, include: Writing on the road: 10 things I couldn’t live without, The freelance travel writer lifestyle, How to become a great freelance travel writer, Finding freelance travel writing jobs: 5 golden rules, and Freelance travel writing as a career.