Where are you going? Why?

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Re: Where are you going? Why?

Postby AzmanW » Sun May 05, 2019 2:22 am

Hi, I’m Azman, from Malaysia – long-time lurker, first-time poster. A bit of a long post, sorry.

My love for overlanding actually started long before I actually did it. I was planning a cheap getaway with my friends to Bangkok (which never happened), and the train was the cheapest way to get there. It had never occurred to me before, but out of curiosity I looked if I could go to Cambodia from there… and then to Vietnam… and then China… and so on.

And then I hit Kashgar. Seeing some of the very few YouTube videos of the Animal Market, I was hooked. I had never seen anything like it. It was China (where half my ancestors are from), yet Muslim; Turkic yet not Turkey. I had never thought of that part of the world.

That was back in 2013. Uzbekistan was still under Islam Karimov (I had an Uzbekistani friend who hated the guy), Central Asia seemed so very distant, so foreign… so irresistible. I don’t know if travel blogs existed back then, not entirely sure if I saw Caravanistan at this time. The Man in Seat 61 was definitely my main source.

I managed to find a path all the way until London, initially via the Trans-Siberian, but then via Central Asia. But I put the thought away – it was a lovely journey, and perhaps someday, a long, long time from now, I would do it. But how could I? Besides, I had exams.

Come 2016, I had just finished my first year in the London School of Economics, having gotten a full scholarship the year before. The thought of overlanding had never quite left me, but as I saw some of my seniors graduate and plan boring vacations, it struck me that there was nothing stopping me from doing what I had always dreamt of. I also found, or re-discovered Caravanistan somewhere this time.

Since then I have been planning. So much has changed. Islam Karimov died, Astana is now Nur-Sultan. At the same time, word of the Uyghur’s repression grew stronger every year. In some ways I feel a little cheated – I had so-called ‘discovered’ this place so long ago! Now it was changing before I could see it (not that it’s a bad thing, but FOMO) – I was itching to go.

I got an internship and a part-time job to save enough money. I took a year of Russian, which kind of helped, but I’m still mediocre at it (at best). I backpacked in West Africa for a month in the summer, partially for the adventure, partially to test myself if I was ready for this journey.

After 6 years, I’m heading out by the end of the month, hoping to reach home by October, when I need to start work. I’m really nervous – will I be able to communicate? Will my planning go awry? Have I planned too much, in too little time? The last bit is most concerning to me. As you can imagine, 3 years is a lot of time to search nearly everything. My itinerary (which I’ll post separately) includes hitting all the ‘right dates’ for the markets, train journeys, etc. But I worry that I won’t be able to go with the flow, given how much I’ve planned.

Now that I’m so close, I still can’t believe it’s going to happen. I’m horribly nervous, scared of my own expectations, but regardless I have to thank Caravanistan for making it possible.

Phew – a long post, thank you very much for listening! I hope I'll see some of the people on this forum on my journey!
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Re: Where are you going? Why?

Postby steven » Tue May 07, 2019 6:25 am

Great story!

My tip: no need to worry, everything will be fine. I never plan anything in advance (I know, I write a travel guide) and it always works out, one way or another. Trust, kindness and openness towards others is my recipe. Usually a good idea (disclaimer: not always, use your sound judgment).

Your Russian will soon improve :-)
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