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January 16th, 2018 - endings and beginnings

May 16th 2012 is the day I set out for my journey. Therefore I send out my newsletter on the 16th of every month (given my travels allow it). If you would like to receive these updates straight to your inbox, you can sign up here:

Hey there my favorite newsletter recipient – yes you!

 

This new year has really snuck up on us, hasn’t it? But then again, they always do. Years are sneaky that way. They start off slow and then, next thing you know, the next one is ahead and then gone again. All years come with beginnings, endings and change in-between, yet some more than others.

 

This one will be a big one for me – big life change ahead: 2018 will mark the ending of my journey around the world after 6 years. Homecoming for the first time in so long is still a strange concept to me, but I’ve grown very fond of it by now. Especially since I can’t wait to spend some quality time with these here goofballs:

I still can’t imagine a life back home, but I am looking forward to writing a new chapter that leads me back there much more regularly. I am planning on staying for awhile and then setting out again, but this time settling in places for longer and doing shorter trips in-between. I want to work much more on MilesAstray and while my actual journey around the world is coming to some sort of end, the process of penning it down has only just begun. I have years of pictures, stories and ideas to catch up with and it fulfills me to see my “passion baby” come to life online and as a next step in print.

For now, however, it is time to take some last steps on the road I set out for in 2012, and so here I am, currently in Kazakhstan. “How did I end up here?” is the question I asked myself three nights ago around 5am. Bedbugs were having the time of their lives with me, the worn out mattress drilled its springs into my back, the bottomless top sheet was moving with me in an erratic rhythm, the guy snoring at the far end of my dorm was giving his nightly crescendo and my fever held me in a tight grip while outside a -30 degree snow storm chased itself around the block.

 

In these moments the body and mind, wheezing outside their comfort zone, pretend like every moment of traveling has been like this and stress the question of all questions: “why?” But deep down they know as well as I do that this is just one of these moments. Sure, this isn’t the first time and my being used to it explains why I’ve been tolerating this situation for two weeks, but to be fair – this kind and other kinds of inconvenience have mostly been a somewhat amusing part of the trip and by no means an everyday occurrence. However, enough was enough that night. I took out my laptop, booked another place and some hours later I left.

 

Seriously though – how did I end up here?

 

latest moves

Last time I checked in with you I was in Spain, catching my breath for two months in Granada, a city I love more and more each time. A couple of days later I hopped on a plane to Rotterdam and a train and a bus ride later I was reunited with my family in Zealand, a place that brought back childhood vacation memories. I always loved the beaches there, piling up dunes along a rough and dark sea far from the Caribbean:

It was the first time since I left that I got to spend Christmas with my family and I truly appreciate them leaving the comfort of our home to meet me there. I cherished every minute of these days, not in a corny but in a very real way. Once they left, I stayed a little longer in the area and discussed some of the big questions in life with my host Sophy.

 

 

 

 

On the 31st of December I left Zealand to embark on somewhat of a marathon towards Astana, Kazakhstan. I took a train to Amsterdam in the afternoon and upon arrival the police cleared the whole station – no luggage storage for me. So I stepped into the rainy Amsterdam night with my entire luggage to find a hotel that would let me drop off my backpack. I succeeded eventually and with the rain easing up I ran around town for a couple of hours to catch up with some distant childhood memories and to find a good vantage point for the fireworks.

 

 

 

 

Eventually I ended up here:

 

 

 

 

A couple of minutes after midnight I had to wrap it up, hurry back to the hotel, grab my backpack and storm to the station – just in time to catch the train to the airport. After finding a sweet spot to roll out my sleeping pad, I caught some hours of sleep before taking off for Warsaw in the morning. A twelve hour layover there was enough time to explore small bits and pieces of Poland’s capital, before the last leg to Kazakhstan.

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Warsaw

Almost two days after leaving Zealand I arrived to Astana in the morning of January 2nd, delighted by the fact that the cold winter wasn’t as harsh as I had anticipated. So that’s how I got here.

 

 

 

 

On my second day I ran into Aida, a young Kazakh woman who not only helped me as a translator at the mall, but also invited me along to meet her friend Ainam at night! We went to a bar with board games and I asked my way through Kazakh culture and history. It was another one of these “how did I get here” moments, but of an altogether different and more significant nature – traveling you oftentimes wind up in situations that beg for you to take it all in and make yourself aware of the surreal peculiarities your normalities would be back home: there I was, playing some Russian version of Times Up in a Kazakh bar at 4am with someone I had met at the mall a couple of hours prior. What setting could be farther away from home right now?    

 

 

 

 

We met again for a swim and for the traditional horse meat dish at Aida’s home, while I waited for my embassy to issue a new passport. My current document is full and although it lasted me all the way here, there is one last visa that doesn’t fit anymore – India. Which brings me to my next steps:

 

where to next

I’m soon off to cross this vast country by train and spend some days in the South, before crossing the border to Kyrgyzstan. I want to stay there for some three weeks while applying for my Indian visa.

And what about you - where to next? If you want some inspiration for a trip in 2018, stop by my landscapes and urban shots in the photo section, sorted by regions.

 

inspiration

photos

landscapes

known marvels and chance discoveries

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urban

cityscapes & street photography

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Nepal

Himalayas / Hiking Alone, Astray & Everestless

b/w

when inked in black & white

work on the ground & online

Spain

Barcelona / Revolution in the Air, But Where?