Twenty Nine Days with Omar

  When I went on a cruise back in 2003, I was a 15 year old, 110 pound skinny punk with a mean jaw line. I met a bunch of other kids travelling with their parents and we basically became a solid Wolfpack. The first time I ever got drunk was with these kids from all corners of the world. I remember being so attracted to this one girl from Miami I thought I was about to get my first kiss, but none of us acted on it (being nervous and shy is a huge understatement at this particular moment). By the end of the trip, I remember one of the mates cried as his mom wouldn’t let him stay out later with the rest of us, saying good bye to all of us earlier than when the rest of us had to. We all exchanged MySpace contact and emails. At the time I didn’t have MySpace so I made a note of it to get a profile upon returning home. I remember the feeling of being so close to these fucks I was like “man, we’ll talk all the time and maybe one day we’ll even cross paths again!!”. But after about a month, the flame went out and we just stopped chatting…well, for me anyway. 

  I’m on day 49 – my last day – of my backpacking trip across 5 countries (Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Indonesia, and Australia). Of these 49 days, I’ve spent 29 with a guy named Omar – a 21 year old from a shithole called Ipswich, England. Omar will say it’s a shithole because there’s nothing there to do but to be honest he has yet to realize he’s a byproduct of it and as a result, is a piece of shit himself.  

  

 Much like my experience from that cruise, I have many new and memorable experiences with various people all over the world on my current trip. However, having spent so much time with Omar experiencing these new and exciting moments, it was a difficult good bye see-ya later. There’s just something about travelling that makes it so easy to connect with someone. Being thrown together in strange situations, unbridled and uninhibited, it really makes you open to become connected with someone!   
I originally met this sound geezer in Hoi An over some spliffs with a bunch of mutual friends. Omar was the first to smoke bomb to bed, and I was the second as we both got really fucked up. I never saw him again until randomly bumping into him in Hue at a bar. We ended up getting a bunch of other travellers together and went to town at various bars in Hue. Omar left to Hanoi the next morning and I went to Phong Nha. 

  
In Hanoi, I checked into my hostel and ran into him again. From here on out, there wasn’t a day where we didn’t do something together…well, for the next 29 days anyway. 

I had plans to go to Thailand after Vietnam and spend a week or so there before flying back to Canada. However, I was easily convinced that I shouldn’t go home just after 4 weeks of traveling and with Omar traveling until May with no plans we decided to check out Laos together.    
Going with the flow taking things day by day was something I’m not comfortable with prior to travelling. When it comes to travelling I’m a plan ahead type of guy. I want and need to know what’s going to happen in 2, 5, 10 days ahead. But as I quickly realized a week into my backpacking trip, this isn’t a good way to do a solo trip like this. You meet so many people who give you suggestions and advice that plans change on the daily. So those train tickets to cities in Vietnam I had booked while in Canada? Refunded or scrapped. So when I met Omar and realized he’s doing the same thing as I am – go with the flow travelling – my initial itinerary of Vietnam and Thailand has become Vietnam, Laos, Bangkok, Indonesia, and Australia. 

It’s kind of crazy to realize that the type of shit we went through together I have never gone through with even my closest friends back home…if that makes sense. Over 29 days we really became two peas in a pod.  He became the little brother I never had.

 
Similar to the friends I made on that cruise back in 2003, I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few years Omar and I stop talking. It’s the way life goes. Travelling has that ability to bring people together, but it also takes you away from them as well. But one thing is for certain – we are friends for life and I know should we ever meet up again we’d pick up where we left off. I wouldn’t have had my trip any other way.

We went our separate ways after Ubud, with Omar leaving to the Philippines and I to Australia. The photo below is taken at Denpasar Airport before heading our our separate ways and illustrates perfectly our relationship. I’m the quiet, laid back, somewhat introvert guy whereas Omar is the outgoing, jokester goof. I really hope to see you again, pal!  

 
I encourage everyone to really go travel solo. I’ve never done a tour through a group such as G Adventures or Contiko, but I’ve met travellers who have done both and many of them will say backpacking alone is much more fun. I hate to use cliches or popular sayings but I agree with the following quote by Saint Augustine that’s famous among backpackers: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”.

And lastly, as one friend who I met in Saigon told me that kind of stuck with me throughout the rest of my trip: “I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of- and if you ever find you’re not – I hope you have the strength to seek it all over again”. 

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