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I’ve experienced many relationships whilst travelling. I’ve created them, forged them, negotiated them, deconstructed them, unravelled them, fought them, dissected them, systematically destroyed them, sewn them back together, acquiesced to them. Relationships with food, nature, people, myself, money, security, fear, pain, loss, and grief–dear sweet grief. That’s what travelling does.

Travelling alone is a lot like life–you’re never actually alone. Meeting people might be one of the best parts of travelling solo but so is the chance to “face yourself”, as a friend of mine describes it.

Rudyard Kipling wrote, “the first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.” No kidding. I’ve spent a great deal of time in South East Asia. My senses have been abused beyond what I thought possible, to the point where the sight of some things don’t affect me like they once did.

I spent three days motorbiking the Bolaven Plateau in the Champasak province in southern Laos. I started in Pakse and travelled a well-known route. It was 300 kilometres, more or less. I used this adventure as an opportunity to learn to drive a semi-automatic bike, which has a manual shift mechanism but no clutch. You shift up by tapping your toe in front of the left foot rest.

After a cycle home beneath the stars I swing happily in my hammock and listen to all the night sounds around me in this calm and idyllic place in the basin of the Mekong river.

CAUTION: I’ve used the word NASTY prolifically in this blog, for good reason because no synonym seems to suffice. And, I am going to make some huge generalizations here about “gendered” hygiene, totally culturally specific and from my experience being a woman and living and travelling with boys (and by boys I mean grown men, you know, the ones who put their dirty backpack on the bed!).

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