Caught With My Pants Down – A Birthday to Remember

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A Birthday to Remember

I wouldn’t trade my life for anything. The privilege of seeing things few others are fortunate enough to see is something that I continually think about. I am extremely lucky to have been born in Canada to a middle income family allowing me opportunities people in most countries would only dream of having. In saying all of this, there are tradeoffs to long-term travel that we have to live with. The toughest one is being apart from our families for such a long time. I’ve struggled with homesickness throughout this trip.

My first bout hit me in China, two months or so into our trip, where I also struggled to find common ground in a place that may be the most foreign of anywhere we’ve been so far. I felt a bit guilty at the time. I mean I understand everyone gets homesick but was it hitting me too early into the trip? Since that first episode in China I’ve had waves of it here and there but I’ve been able to manage it because of things like Facebook, FaceTime and Skype. However, in saying this, nothing and I mean nothing compares to seeing someone you care for face-to-face.

Christmas passed and although we loved our first sunny Christmas in Koh Lanta, Thailand, we both found that holiday especially difficult. Christmas for me has always been my favourite holiday. I have great memories of big Christmases at my grandparents’ where 30 or 40 people would all get together, eat, drink and trade stories. My 31st birthday (I know I barely look 18 haha) was coming up fast in February and although birthdays were never a really important thing to me, I started to think about how I’d be spending this one without any family except for of course my beautiful wife.

One year ago for my 30th birthday I had a monster party back in my home town of Edmonton where we also took the opportunity to tell all of our friends that we were leaving on our round-the-world trip. That birthday was amazing, one of the best I’ve ever had and although I wouldn’t trade the fact that I was going to spend my 31st half way around the world, I was reminded of how far away I was from my family.

After arriving in Yogyakarta exhausted after almost 48 hours of travelling, I was in desperate need of unwinding.  The kind of unwinding that can only be achieved through hijackings and robberies via Grand Theft Auto. While I was in the middle of a gang war, Alyse told me that she was going downstairs and get some tea for us.

Then this happened…

Deer in the headlights if you ever saw one. I was shocked. I honestly thought when he walked in that I had fallen asleep at my computer and I was dreaming. By the way, I apologize for the lack of clothing!

My brother surprises me in Indonesia

While getting dressed Alyse and Ryan explained to me that they had been planning this for months which could not have been easy as our itinerary for this part of our trip had changed at least a half dozen times. I was amazed that they were able to pull this off. My brother told me he was going to spend the next two weeks with us in Indonesia and then fly half way around the world to continue his adventure in South America. I couldn’t believe it. I was in complete shock.

Just before heading out for beers, my brother passed on a gift basket from home which included some of our favourite things like my Mom’s homemade snacks, almonds and DARK CHOCOLATE! And of course because it’s my Mom she had to send me some new underwear as well. Thanks Mom! Along with the gift basket were hand written notes from my other siblings and a few of our really good friends back home. These notes kept me going later on in our trip especially during the tougher travel days.

Gifts from home

The next day the three of us went out and explored Yogyakarta. It would be my brother’s first full day in Asia, so cool for us to be a part of. There were little things that my brother would comment on or stare confused at that we had, after almost a year in Asia, started to take for granted. It reminded us of how special Asia was and made us feel rejuvenated to really finish our Asia leg with a bang.

I think my brother thought it was odd how many people wanted to take their photos with Alyse…

photos with tourists

But he got used to the “celebrity life” pretty quick after just a few hours…

Posing for some pics

Of course given that we’re brothers I felt obligated to haze my brother just a little bit because that’s how we love each other. There was a really persistent shop keeper who tried to sell me a bandana and knowing Asian sales persistence pretty well at this point, told him that he should go talk to my brother because “he was really interested in buying one”. Well, true to form this shop keeper went after my brother like a shark on a slow moving Aussie and before I knew it my brother was pretty much running for his life to get away from this guy who was following him through every shop in the market (see the photo below). After a good five minutes of watching this and of course laughing my ass off I had to step in and as I did I saw that the salesman had written down an offer for his bandana of nearly $54 USD!

Sorry bro, but you would’ve done the same!

Running away from vendors

I couldn’t have been happier or more shocked when my brother walked through the door. Every bit of homesickness that I was feeling washed away in an instant when I saw his face and realized it wasn’t just a dream. Thank you Ryan for coming half way around the world to make my birthday quite possibly the best that I have ever had.

On our second day together in Indonesia, we woke up to something that none of us expected. A volcano had erupted close to Yogyakarta and had blanketed the city in ash but I’ll save that story for the next post!






Lover of travel, photography, nature, movies, and nachos. If you love Star Wars and Lord of the Rings we'll probably become best friends.

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