Tommy Walker left behind his home town of Stockton in 2012 to travel the world. Since then he has backpacked through South America and South East Asia and worked in Australia
IT was the day after my 25th birthday. I left Stockton in the early hours to catch a train from Darlington station to London Heathrow. I was leaving a life behind which had for many reasons stalled. However since I was a boy I always dreamed of hitting the road. It was tough to go solo but I had my backpack on and off I went. I was flying to Thailand.
The first stop was Bangkok, and in particular the mecca of backpackers, Khao San Road, which set the tone for the rest of my adventure. I was immediately in love with the place because of the energy place boasted. Tuk-tuks were riding everywhere. The people, the lights, shops, alleys, roads and temples made me spin. My eyes were glaring open to this new world. Throughout Thailand, from eating novelty scorpions and cockroaches, to riding motorbikes, visiting Buddhist temples and chilling on the beaches, this country was just insane.
Loading article content
The Thai islands were some of the best moments I have to say. The Full Moon parties were full on, where thousands of backpackers and locals flocked until sunrise on Haad Rin beach. Also whilst roaming these islands, it was special spending Christmas Day 2012 on Maya Bay, the beach lagoon depicted in Leonardo Di Caprios movie ‘ The Beach’.
Three days I took touring Angkor Wat in Cambodia, temple ruins scattered across the land where Angelina Jolie filmed her Tomb Raider movie. I stood square on with India’s Taj Mahal, something that I’ve never held in much admiration. I ended up teaching English in Laos as volunteer work. I saw the local beauty of the country Myanmar. I surfed in Indonesia. Hell, I even took up acting in Bangkok! The opportunities and experiences were there to unravel.
A lot of what Asia has to offer is the stunning beaches and the tasty food. The street food can be as cheap as 50p! Compared to the UK, Asia is cheap. Hostels are lively and comfy, transport is more than half the price in England. The culture is warming and friendly. Asia was just a new planet.
Nine months and ten countries later, I boarded a flight to Melbourne, Australia. It wasn’t the plan but I just went with it. Melbourne is very European and cosmopolitan, where the weather changes to four seasons in one day, coffee is a big thing, run down pubs are popular, sport events are constant and the influx of people is very multi-national. Socially is it very laid back, everyone can be themselves without feeling the need to conform. It has been recognised as the most liveable city in the world for several years now. In Australia, they even try and do their own Chicken Parmo, although they swap the béchamel for Napoli sauce and call it a Parma. I worked here for most the year, exploring a great city and taking a lot of road trips to beaches, country and outback areas.
On to South America and firstly the World Cup in Brazil. Sun, sea, salsa and football. I even bumped into TV presenter Kay Murray, who is a huge Boro fan, as well as ex-Newcastle player Joey Barton. My mate from home bought us tickets to five games in Rio De Janiero, which included the game where we saw had the goal of the tournament. Remember Colombia’s James Rodriquez v Uruguay, the chest-turn-swivel-volley from outside the box? Pure class. Brazil was a country I spent over two months visiting and to say it was huge and overwhelming is an understatement. The place is the size of central Europe.
Venezuela, despite its dangers was beautiful. I got to visit its beauty in Angel Falls, the world’s largest waterfall. I finished on the Los Roques islands. Imagine crystal clear waters and white chalky sand - absolute paradise.
Colombia, despite it’s previous reputation, is visited more now by travellers. I hiked through the jungle, met local kids, and visited Roberto Escobar, the brother of the notorious Pablo Escobar.
The Galapagos Islands in Ecuador were my favourite as there were vast amounts of undomesticated wildlife. I even plunged into the water with sharks while scuba diving! On the land I came face to face with exotic black marina iguanas and giant turtles.
Peru I visited the famous Machu Pichu, Bolivia I mountain biked the worlds most dangerous road, not to mention going Anaconda hunting in the Amazon rainforest. Argentina I ate steak, steak and more steak.
I’d encourage anyone back home to give travelling a go. The best thing about my travels has been the people; it’s the people you meet along the way who make it. I do miss family and friends, the Boro games, the Parmos, but honestly I’ve got so many places I want to see in the world.
n Tommy Walker is a travel blogger for Intrepid Travel, in Australia.