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As uncomfortable as it is... Don't look away

Travelling this way you soon realise that the world isn't all "glitter and rainbows".

For some people life is really, REALLY tough!


We have seen things in the past couple of months that have shocked us; things that in our complete and utter naivety we didn't expect to see; things that have already ultimately changed us and the way we view the world; things that we dearly would love to turn away from.



The first is the amount of rubbish just dumped anywhere and everywhere, especially plastic; bottles, bags, wrappers. When driving through one country we saw a guy sorting through the bags of rubbish thrown at the side of the road and scattering the rubbish about. We knew that this man was just looking for something …anything! Something to eat, something to sell, something to use and all because he had next to nothing.

We are not slinging blame; we are not eco warriors; but we know that this amount of rubbish per head of capita is probably half of that generated in the country we call home …the difference is in our home country the government are financing the burying and hiding of these waste products, some of which will never break down.


DON'T LOOK AWAY ...this is happening.



When NZ banned single use plastic bags we considered it a pain in the butt, and those last few plastic bags we owned were treated like precious rarities. Oh my how foolish we have been! And don't even get us started on plastic bottles; it's a real catch 22 situation as we are in countries where we will (and have) got really sick from drinking tap water, but we need to stay hydrated. We have seen a famous YouTuber filling her hydration bladder with multiple bottles and then leaving them empty at the stall she brought them from. Errr... those bottles you just left there aren't going in the recycling!

Another stand out for us is the "convenience of it all" in Canada and the USA, in 3 months there we didn't stay at one place that had china (and reusable!) cups for coffee, in some cafes even the food was served on plastic or paper plates, and everything is wrapped in thin plastic layer from the plastic straw to stir your coffee with to the ready boiled eggs... we even brought some of those eggs to start with for nothing more than convienince.


DON'T LOOK AWAY ...this is happening.



The second and more disturbing are the beggars who have NOTHING! No government allowances and support, no charity shelter, no "Give a Little" page. These are people; some with disabilities, some with no family help, stand or sit next to busy roads wanting loose change so they can eat that day.

There are two very memorable examples (and there have been MANY) that stand out to us. The first was a blind man who was standing in the middle of two VERY busy lanes of traffic holding out his hand. The look on his face was terror. We were packed tight into fast flowing traffic and I could stop or turn around to give him anything. I can still see his scared face.

The second was two very young children under 7 or 8 who were going through the rubbish bin at a service station while the armed guard was looking the other way... if he turned they would face him with their arms still searching in that bin behind them. I was horrified and rushed into the shop to buy them food and drinks. When I came out they had gone and I searched everywhere for them but they had literally vanished. I had to fight back the tears. All we could do was wrap up the food and put it in the bin and hope they would come back later.


We were exchanging Christmas greeting with Tom and Ruth 3rd who we had met on the Dempster Highway months ago, and because they are seasoned travellers as well as having worked in West Africa in the 70's and 80's we mentioned our observations to them.


They are wise people and this was their reply.


Reading your message made me think about your and our travels - the world is a book and when you do not travel, you only read one page. So, you are on page 150+ or so, we are already reading the last chapter. Keep on turning the pages, enjoy the moment, don't look away.



We realised what a sheltered life we have led.

We realised how chance plays a part on who gets born in this country of relative wealth and who gets born in that country with absolutely nothing.

We realised that problems we have perceived as troubles are nothing compared to what some people live through every day.

We realised that in the past when we visited places we were nothing more than pampered tourists only seeing the nice sparkly bits.

We realised that we are currently incredibly privileged to be able to travel this way; to be travellers, to see EVERYTHING from the good to the bad to the downright ugly... that side of life that is hidden away from almost everyone as an inconvenient truth. A truth that is downright uncomfortable to see and acknowledge.


DON'T LOOK AWAY ...this is happening.


This journey around the world will be life changing …it has already made us so grateful for everything we have …even the s**t days!

We have no idea what is next, but it's guaranteed that we will share it ALL with you, from the glitter and the rainbows to the gut wrenching reality of some peoples lives.


We will continue to turn the pages and read the book.

We will not look away anymore.

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Christelle Meyer Paulsen
Christelle Meyer Paulsen
Jan 21, 2023

I love to read about your journey i mover from south africa to new zealand 14yrs ago i grew up with all of what you said around me everyday and times in my young life were close to being those rubbish bin kids ….. and i appreciate everything of my life here in nz …. I know you can always find something to complain about in our lives as we are just human and also not everybody has got the references on how other people live in other coutries and that is ok too ….its hard to see these hardships in the world and there is little we can do but we can do a bit for the things we…

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bikespanniersandpa
Jan 25, 2023
Replying to

Thank you :) It is the best thing to be able to share all of this with your best friend. A lot of the time we just "see" as we are travelling and riding all day and then we talk about what we have seen ...sometimes its the we stop for a rest/water break and sometimes its not until a few days later. We are noticing that the uplifting things we see we talk about very soon after the event. The more shocking things we tend to take a while to digest and then discuss. Its a crazy, funny, wonderful, cruel, shocking, kind, beautiful... (insert more here) world!

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twvick
Jan 18, 2023

Thank you Bec for your kind words and your (and Nick's) so well written reports. It is refreshing to witness you travelling with open eyes and open minded

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bikespanniersandpa
Jan 25, 2023
Replying to

Thank you. They are just thoughts, ramblings and memories to share with others and ourselves for the future. I think that by writing these things down we help to "hardwire" these experiences in our brains for the the time when we no longer travel, only recollect.

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ruthvick
Jan 18, 2023

We are proud to call you friends

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bikespanniersandpa
Jan 25, 2023
Replying to

ditto x

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ruthvick
Jan 18, 2023

Best report ever, I am sure that you opened the eyes of a lot of your readers.

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bikespanniersandpa
Jan 25, 2023
Replying to

Its really tough to see and even tougher to write about as you know it will turn a lot of people off reading ...but if we don't talk about how EVERYTHING in this trip affects us, good or bad, then we are not being true to ourselves.

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