Are you a tourist or a traveller? Do you head for the beach every year or do you ever think about doing something unusual?
I consider myself to be a traveller and have absolutely no interest whatsoever of spending my time laying on a beach, so when I retired I decided to travel as much as possible and so set myself a target:
TO TRAVEL AROUND THE WORLD USING SURFACE TRANSPORT ONLY.
It soon became apparent that I would have to break the journey down into a number of legs, returning back to the UK after I had finished each trip. This was due to my other commitments and prevailing weather conditions around the globe; for instance, who would want to be in the Far East during the typhoon season?
And so it was that after much planning and research on the Internet and in various guidebooks, I had compiled a 12 page excel spreadsheet detailing the trip that I was about to undertake.
I have used John Allan Travel in Didcot since 1990 when I moved back into the area and have always liked their approach, because as an independent travel agent they do not try and sell you a package holiday as soon as you walk through the door, but will if that is what you want. They treat each client as an individual and will use their expertise to get you the holiday / trip / journey that you want. They particularly like getting involved in the unusual, so when I first explained my plans, they could not have been more helpful. The suggestions that they offered were based on their collective expertise and the companies they proposed that I should use were all specialists in their particular field and they helped to create the trip that I wanted to undertake.
Even the staff in the bank were intrigued and wanted to know where I was going when I gave them my request for the foreign currency.
Sun 12 May ’13 – day 1 When the day of the journey arrived the rugby season had finished and Henley had been promoted as Champions of Division 2 (South) in the RFU National Leagues. Frank Lampard has become Chelsea’s highest ever goal scorer, but I still remember the team of the late 60’s and early 70’s and was present at Old Trafford when they won the FA Cup and in Athens the following season when they lifted the European Cup Winners Cup, both after replays.
So, with my bags packed, I took a taxi to Didcot station, the train to London and another taxi to London International, to give St Pancras its correct title if you are travelling by Eurostar. I want to do as much of the journey in daylight as possible in order to see the country that I was travelling through and so it was to be an overnight stop in Brussels before using Deutsche Bahn (DB) ICE trains to travel to Berlin via Köln.
The restoration work to St Pancras has given the UK and London in particular a terminus to be proud of and the large statue of Sir John Betjeman on the concourse is testament to the work he did that prevented the station being demolished in the late 1960’s.
Boarding for the train is announced and it’s up the ramp and on to the train. I have a seat in Standard Premier (book as soon as tickets become available and things can be quite cheap), but as seat 61 is free, the preferred seat of Mark Smith, the founder of the fantastic Man In Seat 61 website, I move places.
I am heading for Japan by rail via Belgium, Germany, Poland, Belarus, Russia, Mongolia, China, back into Russia and then a ferry from Vladivostok to Japan via South Korea. My adventure had begun and it would be 100 days before I returned home!!
(Follow my Blogs here in the coming weeks, as I report on my overland journey to Japan)