Our family and friends think we're incredible for actually doing something so bold
When Kathinka Horn and her husband Kirstan decided they wanted to shake things up in their lives, they made the decision to go on the sort of trip that most of us only dream of.
It was Kirstan who first started thinking about some kind of complete change, or at the very least a break from the everyday. He had been getting increasingly disillusioned with his career as a smokery business co-owner which he had been doing for over 20 years. I was clocking up my 11th year of helping manage a successful farm shop and delicatessen on the outskirts of Cambridge, where we live, and although I was really happy in my job, my thoughts started to turn towards some kind of change for myself too.
All of this coincided with Luke, our eldest son leaving to pursue a videography career in Bristol, followed by our youngest, Oscar, who also moved to Bristol to start his university studies. With so much changing at home, it was even more of a prompt for Kirstan and I to think about what we wanted to do next with our lives.
Making the decision
We talked about starting a business of our own, but couldn’t really nail down the idea and decided that before taking on this potential new responsibility, we should go on an extended break in order to see a part of the world that we both loved, and to hatch the future business idea free from the stresses of UK life. We would finance the trip by renting out our house, with back up from our savings if needed.
After much discussion, we gave our respective work places nearly a year’s notice that we would be leaving. I remember feeling slightly terrified when I said to to my colleague that that Christmas (our busiest time of year) would be my last one, and that I would leave the following summer. But I also clearly remember having a feeling of immense relief that I’d said the words.
Kirstan and I have always wanted to travel more together as we had got married, bought a flat and had our first son all within 18 months of meeting, back in 1999. Now we shared the overriding feeling that, with our boys leaving for the next stages of their lives, it was our time for new adventures. Both of them have been super supportive of our travel plans, as have all our family and friends who think we are incredible for actually doing something so bold, rather than just talking about it!
Where to go?
We are both great lovers of food and had a longing to see Vietnam so that seemed a great country to start off in . We were also keen to do some extended travelling in India so the plan was to head west after Vietnam through Cambodia, Thailand and then on to India.
We have now completed a month in Vietnam and the same in Cambodia. Discovering temples, crazy cities, beautiful landscapes and the incredible hospitality of the people. Vietnam did not disappoint in the delicious food stakes, fresh and vibrant street food and with recommendations from friends back home and the odd Anthony Bourdain episode we didn’t go wrong. Hanoi with it’s French colonial past was a particular favorite spot. The café culture there is on par with many European capitals. Vietnam is the second biggest exporter of coffee and they take great pride in this with their beautiful café interiors and extra strong and very delicious coffee with condensed milk.
Our travel down the east coast of the country was sadly a little marred by fairly intense flooding which stopped us visiting some more rural locations with beautiful caves and such like. It also made travel a little hairy for example when on one particular train journey from Hanoi to Hué the train couldn’t continue because of flooded tracks. Trying to get off a stationary train and find a local taxi in a small Vietnamese village was interesting. Kirstan managed to find a willing local with a car saving us from an extra 8 hour wait on a packed stationary train with no food in an intense rain storm! All part of the travel experience. Ho Chi Minh City was very intense with traffic like I’ve never seen. Crossing roads in most Asian countries is wild and nerve racking but there was another level. I feel I have become braver navigating traffic over the past months.
We grew to really like Cambodia which we felt was a little more “wild west’ with a more anything goes attitude. Two incredible highlights there were firstly Angkor Wat which completely blew our minds. We spent three full days touring all, or at least most of the temples firstly with a tuk tuk driver and then we rented our own scooter and whizzed around. The whole site is almost the size of London and with 10th and 11th century temples that you are given free reign to climb up, on and around to your hearts content, it was an unforgettable experience seeing these historic wonders.
Cambodia gave us an incredible paradise island experience too on Koh Rong Samloem. A week of island living, stunning surroundings, living in a beach hut with no Wi-Fi and electricity for a few hours morning and evening. You couldn’t help but completely switch off. These breaks are definitely needed in amongst the traveling tiredness. There’s no getting away from it, it can be quite exhausting sometimes!
Then to Thailand
We generally move around every 4-7 days which is working well but it was lovely to have a whole two weeks on Ko Tao in Thailand for Christmas and New Year together with our boys who joined us mid December until New Year. It was wonderful to have them with us for a short while and we made sure that there was lots of fun with snorkelling, boat rides and good food. It was so hard to say goodbye to them.
Before their arrival, our two months in Thailand included Chiang Mai in the north, a personal favourite, very relaxed and inviting. We stayed with friends in Hua Hin, a beach town south of Bangkok and then went down to Ko Lanta with its particularly stunning beaches. We were lucky enough to have two great friends join us in Koh Lak also for 10 days as they had been wanting to plan a New Year getaway.
This was my first ever visit to Thailand and I absolutely fell in love. Kirstan was there last in 1993 which always made the tuk tuk drivers laugh as for the most part they weren’t even born then!
I’m writing this from our next destination – India, where we plan to spend three months exploring this incredible country.
We have a rough budget of £60 a day which we’ve managed to stick to for the most part. Some days are a bit more care free than others.
Our accommodation has always been comfortable in decent, small hotels but nothing fancy. With the Chinese tourist market still somewhat suspended, the Asian hotels are offering good prices at the moment which has worked in our favour.
Of course, such lengthy travels come with life admin challenges, such as sorting out a new thermostat unit for our tenant whilst sitting in a bar in Ho Chi Minh City or messaging friends for dentist recommendations for a son in Bristol whilst visiting temples at Ankor Wat. Luckily these moments have been minimal so far. It helps to have such good communication tools, especially as our friends and family are super keen to keep up to date with our whereabouts. WhatsApp chats with family members happen every 1-2 weeks but there is always plenty of messaging in between. We have been posting lots of photographs on Instagram and Facebook to keep everyone up to date.
We are having such a great time together as 50+ travelers. Laughing lots and getting to know each other properly again. I feel so enormously lucky I have to pinch myself quite regularly.
Our house is rented for 10 months, which takes us to this summer and gives us plenty of scope for more exploration of this beautiful planet.
By Kathinka Horn