January 2013 marks the start of our eighth year of continuous travel. Yes, that’s right, it’s a whopping seven whole years to the month that we packed up our Dubai apartment, put everything we own in storage, and took to the road for what we thought might be a year of travel, bouncing around the planet from one assignment to the next.
This month also marks the third birthday of Grantourismo and the launch of our first ‘grand tour’ project – twelve months on the road travelling the world and staying in villas and apartments in partnership with HomeAwayUK. Of course, we’d been developing Grantourismo for a lot longer, blogging anonymously for another site under the same banner, and on a personal level we’d been developing our style of ‘grand touring’ for years, renting apartments in places long before it became a popular form of travel and years before sites like HomeAway and Roomorama even existed.
So, yes, we do have something to celebrate and there’s a bottle of bubbly sitting in the fridge in the apartment we’re currently renting in Hanoi. Sadly we didn’t jet off to some exciting destination and toast on a balcony overlooking a beautiful beach – although we were invited on a luxe Silversea cruise that we unfortunately had to decline. So we did get close.
Then what have we been up to for the most part of January? If we haven’t been blogging and we didn’t spontaneously take that long overdue holiday we’ve been complaining about needing, what have we been doing? Put simply: we stayed put in Hanoi.
Our January ‘at home’ means we can tick off one of our new year’s resolutions: to really slow down. We took our own advice that we dish out to you here and we didn’t go anywhere. Admittedly, we were pushed a little. Terence caught a nasty cold or flu just before Christmas and then I got sick and couldn’t shake it for weeks. We rarely get ill but when we do it really hits us. In fact, the last time I was sick like this it was in Edinburgh in January 2010, and before that it was Scandinavia July 2006. The fact I know the dates says something.
We still had a lot of work on during our hibernation – freelancers don’t have sick leave unfortunately – mainly stories for magazines and newspapers, my part-time editor-at-large gig for Lifestyle+Travel, and a big project for one of our favourite publishers. So we bunkered down in the Hanoi apartment to write, dosing up on cold tablets and antibiotics, and curling up on the sofa at night to watch movies.
And when we got better, we ventured out in breaks to take long walks around Hanoi and feast on bun cha and sip bia hoi from tiny blue plastic seats. And Terence has been out taking photos every day, making beautiful images on the streets in Hanoi.
Our January wasn’t at all what we planned – by now we’d intended to be in Saigon, having travelled south through Vietnam, and be on our way back to Phnom Penh – but the plans we made had to be continually remade. Even yesterday I changed our Vietnam itinerary once more, for a final time.
We had planned a year of Asian trips – to Burma, Bhutan, the Philippines, and Korea, and maybe back to Japan – while new projects have been tempting us to return to New Zealand, Scandinavia, Africa, and Argentina. But let’s see what happens… I have a feeling that as far as travel goes, this is going to be our year of not planning, on letting go and letting serendipity work its magic.
One thing we won’t be letting go of, however, are our plans for Grantourismo. We’ve been developing ideas for some time as to how we’re going to take our baby to the next level, to do what we do well – local travel, experiential travel, and slow and sustainable travel – even better, and 2013 is the year we’ll put those plans into action. This year you can expect a refreshed design, some exciting new features, and a fair share of surprises, so do stick around and come along for the ride. A slow ride. To wherever in the world life takes us next…