Monday, 6 June 2011

Summer Beckons

Before the travelling commences, there is the small matter of summer.

Just a couple of days ago, I returned home from my last job with my now-former company and am savouring the prospect of a summer of unemployment. For those that may not have been familiar with my movements over the last five years, I have been working for a small oil service company that provides pressure and temperature data for oil companies, usually for exploratory wells but increasingly for completion and production purposes also. If none of that makes much sense to you, don't worry - it frequently didn't make much sense to me either. Nonetheless, it was a fantastically interesting job that sent me round the world to the most unlikeliest of locations and I cannot imagine any job in the last five years having suited me so well.

My previous blog at pretty much covered the highs and lows of this offshore existence.

A terrific job then, but not without a few glitches, and the most notable one was my absolute lack of routine. I effectively worked on call, and one phonecall could see me on a flight to somewhere, say, in Africa the next morning, for months sometimes. I might be home for a day or six months between jobs. While sometimes quite exciting, it could also be exasperating, and it made planning anything very difficult. Hence for the last five years, I've only seen patches of summer, and those patches have been unplanned and taken on a day-by-day basis.

This summer I have the joy of being able to plan, and the joy of three months at leisure. This means I have been able to plan all kinds of things that previously either wouldn't have been possible, or would have had to have been done last minute. As such, I already have trips to London, Manchester, Dublin, perhaps the Faroe Islands, and all round Scotland planned, to catch up with various friends I've been neglecting for too long. I also have a holiday with my girlfriend to Barcelona booked for August. The first trip I'm making is up north tomorrow, to Fortrose, to see my new niece, who was born a matter of weeks ago while I was away working.

What my free summer will also allow me to do is getting the remainder of my travel plans sorted out. I've already booked my one-way flight to Sydney, but am trying to figure out the cheapest way to Indonesia from there, and also trying to unravel the mysteries of how on earth to get a Russian tourist visa nine months in advance. There's the small matter of planning the best time to visit North Korea, and coordinating various fixed events during the travels, such as my girlfriend's friend's wedding in India in January. All these are things that were awkward to manage when on an oil rig, in a noisy unit with my brain melting, but can be managed much more easily sitting on a sofa at home with a selection of whiskies.

Finally, I now need to gather together my large mass of notes and make some sense of them. Although Wikipedia is a fantastic resource, I decided early on I did not want to make it my primary source of knowledge on each landmark I'm due to visit - it does great summaries, but I'm after something a little more in-depth. And so for the last few years I have gathered a small library of reading material, which I have tried to condense into a few pages of key and interesting facts on each place to visit. I've already retyped my astonishingly illegible handwritten notes, but now I need to translate what these oft-cryptic notes mean: note-taking is not a strong point of mine. Fortunately, the notes are all cross-referenced to whatever page of whatever book I was using, so during the summer, while I still have the books to hand, I can reword all my notes to actually make some sense. This will be quite a time-consuming process, but a useful one, as it will help my understanding of what I'm going to see.

Aside from all of that, I simply intend to enjoy two very simple things that I have not fully experienced together for some years, and may not for some more, and that is familiarity and freedom. The familiarity of being at home with familiar faces and places, as well as the freedom to move around at my own leisure. Hell, after 49 days offshore - which I've just returned from - even being able to go outside and walk to the shops is a treat.

And of course, like all out-of-work people, I look forward with great anticipation to drinking regularly every afternoon and showering intermittently. Ah, unemployed summer!


  1. Is North Korea part of the trip? I can't see it on the list though I am sure some of Pyongyang's vanity projects are worthy of consideration.

  2. It's not on the formal "landmark list", but as I'll be in the area and as I've been wanting to go for years, I'm going to take about five days out to visit. Tours begin and end in Beijing, which should work out conveniently.

    I have a feeling that it may now be possible to stay at that (formerly?) unfinished hotel, once the biggest hotel in the world, which due to the lack of available funds remained derelict for years and years. It was North Korea's tallest building, but they refused to acknowledge its existence.

  3. Yes I remember hearing about it from you and then reading about it. Work is now apparently going ahead again. Would be fascinating to go to NK - the most alien country on earth, perhaps.

    The Juche Tower might also be worth looking at, though presumably you'll get little say in the matter from your guides/enforcers.


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