Mexico

 

A ten-hour flight from Heathrow to Mexico City. Between gin and tonics and another dodgy Hollywood blockbuster plenty of time to ponder what the coming months might hold in store.

 

But a round-the-world trip covering 30,000 miles and eleven countries is about as unpredictable as the immediate future will ever get. I have a few magazine stories to fit into my itinerary but aside from that I am going pretty much on-a-wing-and-a-prayer. Some of the places I will be visiting will be new destinations for me and, as always, I am struggling to resist that urge to build up preconceived expectations. I prefer to be hit with the full ‘in-your-face wow factor’ of a new city where I have to learn the ropes all over again. I can already feel the adrenalin buzz of lost traveller virginity (hopefully in a good way) in brash backstreet quarters of Sao Paulo, Rio, Montevideo…

 

Other places are like old friends. I look forward to drinking rum in familiar Managua bars and to surfing familiar waves in Panama. I and am already pipe-dreaming about returns to treasured rooms in friendly old guesthouses in Bali, Bangkok and Saigon. I have visited Mexico City several times over the last couple of years too and am already counting the hours to touchdown and the first taste of tequila in my favourite Coyoacan bar. I left that exciting city eleven months ago on a flight where I met Shakira (although I didn’t know it then, I was also on my way to drink beer with George Clooney beer on a Venice Beach terrace). Not the sort of lauded company I normally keep but that was halfway around my first round-the-world trip and I had already come to expect the unexpected. In the weeks before that I had dodged Colombian guerrillas in Darien, spent time in a community of Nicaraguan garbage-dump dwellers and helped a Guatemalan shaman make sacrifices to his stone god. (For some reason he was convinced that I needed some divine help with my relationships with the opposite sex…and he was probably right).

 

Now I am heading off on my second round-the-world assignment. I have learned not to try to guess at what might lie ahead. There’s an art to working out the ideal rtw route and in the planning I had been able to count on the help of what must be the most experienced team of professionals in the business. I wanted plenty of adventure of course. That was the major point. I was very keen to take in some exciting new destinations that were unknown to me (Brazil, Uruguay, NZ, Laos…) but also to enjoy some more extended quality time with ‘old friends’ (Nicaragua, Panama, Bali, Australia, Thailand, Vietnam and, of course Mexico).

 

The trick is to pick plenty of challenging destinations – the places that will fuel your gung-ho traveller tales for years to come. But also you need time to relax, kick-back and take a breather. (In my case I also need to be able to sit still for a week or so from time to time, to actually get some writing done). Some places are more expensive of course and in those I prefer to work fast to chase my stories…and then get out to somewhere less costly where I can hunker down and set up a temporary office. Some places offer fairly rough, spartan travelling conditions but from time to time it can be nice to live it up a little. You don’t need to go to extremes but it’s a fact that a bedroll by a desert campfire is never more alluring than after a spell at the Ritz.

 

After all if you prefer predictability and routine then a round-the-world trip is not the way to chase it. It is true what they say about variety being the spice of life. But then again they also tell you that it’s a small world…It’s not. I’ve been there.

More photos here