As always with the final weeks before a journey starts, I always seem to be very busy and this time is no exception. In the last 11 days I have stayed in nine different towns: some of the trips for fun such as visiting the surf beaches of Ireland's north west coast and a family function in Shropshire; some for work, a conference in Coventry, teaching self defence in Devon and some for trip preparation - a visit to a distributor in Bournemouth to try out jackets and helmets.

I'm now home at Lands End again and looking at the bomb site that is supposed to be my bedroom with piles of bike gear, camping stuff, snowboarding gear, surf gear and just plain junk scattered around. I've got some serious sorting out and trips up to the loft to do before the end of this week. As part of the hectic 11 days I've just experienced, I was lucky enough to also visit Maggie and Annie- both previous travel companions of mine and both of whom are green with envy at the thought of Tibet.

Mandarin lessons form a book and CDs are also underway- not the easiest of languages to learn as I have discovered.

Zaijian from me for now.

As for Mandarin you'll be

As for Mandarin you'll be fine.  Smile a lot, bow slightly and often and say xie xie.  You can't ask for anything more than a job doing what you love.  Enjoy.

Hope to see you this year.  BTW, we have new source for Gruyere and have been topping our roasted vegetables often.

Bret, Lori, Jake and Alexis

oh, it's going to be fun ...

It felt like a sort of buzz generated by your trip preparations, and it's great that is getting started so soon. I'm glad for you and eager to read the trip diary as soon as it starts pooring from the road with pictures and stories (no pressure there :) ... It's interesting how different this new trip seems to project, with all this new gear, less improvised and more professional...

Best of luck,