My name is Robyn and I’m a 30-year-old Londoner (born and bred). I worked in film for seven years, mostly at a leading UK film and television agency, before quitting my job in a
delirious moment of freedom carefully considered life-change. Along with my boyfriend (also blogging about the trip on Peter’s Tall Tales), I am currently travelling overland to Vladivostok and down, around, and back to the UK through south-east and central Asia, in a trip which will take somewhere around six or nine months, depending on whether you ask him or me.
At 18 I spent a year in southern China, teaching English at a state school in Guangdong Province through the charity organisation Project Trust. I was the archetypal backpacker: poor (we were paid the equivalent of £100 per month), eager, adventurous, and with almost criminally low standards. During the school holidays, we explored as much of the vast country as possible and accumulated more dinner-party stories than I could possibly recount in a single blog. (Suffice it to say that we experienced several brothels (service not included), a hotel with a frozen squatter which defrosted as we used it; several communal showers into which the cleaners merrily walked whilst we were performing our ablutions; accidental abandonment on a still-unknown Shandong train platform; a Kowloon dorm room with mattresses wedged against the fire door; a Xian hotel where the ceiling fan hung mere inches from my head in the upper bunk; a traditional kang which slept me and three friends on one giant mattress; and two 24-hour standing train journeys).
In subsequent years I spent my long university holidays and, after that, annual leave gleaned during my full-time job, backpacking through India, Argentina, New Zealand, Fiji, Vietnam, Laos, and Morocco, plus weekends in a variety of European capitals (Helsinki, Sarajevo, Ljubljana, Paris, Munich, Brussels, to name a few).
Whilst I still considered myself a backpacker, somewhere along the line I realised that I had developed slightly more refined tastes. I no longer considered it good value to select the cheapest possible accommodation. The more money I earned (and it was never a lot; the film industry is notoriously underpaid), and the shorter time I had to spend in a country, the more I considered it sensible to go slightly more upmarket. I realised that I could not only afford but justify the increase of a few pounds here and there for significantly more luxury; or, at least, less outright unpleasantness.
Frankly, I no longer felt obliged to slum it for the sake of authenticity.
When I came across the term “flashpacker“, I realised that it applied to me. I still travel with a backpack (wheely suitcases are, quite literally, not my bag . . . I thank you), and I watch my pennies, but I appreciate comfort. I attempt to travel off the beaten path (don’t we all?!) and value, above all else, adventure and new experiences. I’m independent, intrepid (or reckless, according to my mum), and far more interested in learning about the world around me than simply finding the cheapest deal.
I do still engage in the odd game of “What’s the longest train journey you’ve ever taken?” (56 hours to Chengdu; shortly to be surpassed on the Ulan-Ude to Vladivostok leg of the Trans-Siberian) and “What are the worst toilets you’ve ever seen?” (a story for another day) but I no longer participate in the race to the worst experience.
I started this blog not only because I wanted to document my experiences as a 30-something flashpacker, but also as inspiration for people like me who, perhaps, think they might be “past it” or perhaps haven’t yet started and don’t know where to begin. It’s never too late to seek adventure. You won’t find me seeking poolside cocktails and chocolates on pillows at a luxury spa. Equally, I have no desire to spend my precious exploration time at an all-inclusive resort filled with terrified tourists and with Full English breakfasts on tap.
Not everyone dreams of palatial 5-star hotels, and adventure needn’t mean lack of comfort.