I was a teacher and decided to enrol in a program where my salary was reduced by 20 percent for 5 years but year five I had off with pay. There were no firm plans when I did this. I thought I could use the year to go back to university for my Masters degree, have a baby (but there was no man currently in my life), or travel around the world.
I first decided to eliminate the idea of having a baby. I applied to universities and was accepted into a Masters program. I polled family and friends and their vote was to travel. When friends of mine decided to travel the world with two young children I thought ‘why not’! So we all bought round-the-world airline tickets and everything fell into place. We decided to start the trip together and meet up every once in awhile. I really appreciated having them to talk to about itineraries. My friend’s sister was a travel agent and that also was helpful.
We started in Tahiti in French Polynesia and then went to the Cook Islands while we waited for the weather in New Zealand to get warmer. After New Zealand it was Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, China, Nepal, India, Turkey, Greece and England. I met up with people at youth hostels and would travel with them and people from home came and travelled with me a couple of times.
I had always wanted to go to China for I thought its history and culture were fascinating, but I didn’t know how I would do it as an independent traveller (this was 1987). After three times bumping into a Canadian woman of Chinese heritage who had grown up in Malaysia and spoke Cantonese and some Mandarin and who was also interested in going to China, I decided it was destined to be. We travelled around China for five weeks. So everything came together.
That world trip is still fresh in my memory and established my travel baseline. I have now been to many places and met lots of travellers. Using my year off to go around the globe was a very good decision.
This interview with Charlotte Fanjoy has been condensed and edited.
© Riding the buses 2011