Annual update from Chris

This is an email I just sent out to a bunch of people:


Dear friends and family,

This is my yearly update for 2009, to let you know a little about my adventures and hopefully get a reply from some of you to tell me what you’ve been up to over the past 12 months. As usual, it’s not the shortest email in the pile, but first I’ll give a quick summary of 2009 for the impatient among you:

Canada, Thailand, Burma, Sweden, Canada, China, Burma, China, Canada, England, Sweden, England, Canada. 24 flights. 365 days. Good times, bad times, a few ugly times. Met people, did stuff, saw stuff, took photos of stuff.

And now for the detailed version:

2009 was an interesting one, as every year seems to be. It’s one I won’t easily forget, because I actually recorded every single place I went using a wristwatch GPS device, and overlaid the tracks onto Google Earth maps, as a nerdy little project just for fun. If you want to see the maps showing every single place I went in 2009, including flight paths, check out

I also forced myself to take a photo every day, though I twice forgot to take a photo. Some are good, some are bad. They’re posted at if you’re bored and want to take a look.


I spent the first 3 days of 2009 in Vancouver, finishing up a 2.5 week surprise Christmas visit, then on Jan 4 I flew back to Thailand. I had spent nearly 2 months in Thailand before Christmas, and spent the rest of January there. I was based in Mae Sot, a small city at the Thailand-Burma border, to carry out interviews for my Masters thesis in Mae La refugee camp among Karen refugees from eastern Burma. On Jan 31 I flew to Yangon, Myanmar (aka Rangoon, Burma), for a 4 week backpacking trip. It was an amazing 4 weeks, particularly given that I had heard so much about Burma from my interview respondents and friends involved in various Burma-related NGOs/charities/groups. Photos are up on this blog (check out the archives from April and June).

After my 4 week tourist visa for Burma ran out, I had to return to Thailand. I wish there were longer visas, but 4 weeks is sadly all they give for tourists. I’d love to go back if I ever get a chance. Burma is by far my favourite country in Southeast Asia, out of the ones I’ve visited so far. So at the end of February I flew back to Thailand, picked up my backpack and laptop that I had left with a hostel owner, and flew to London via Kuwait. My night spent in London at my friend Aidan’s place involved helping his flatmates fill his room with crumpled up newspaper balls to surprise him when he returned from a rugby match victory that night.

I spent all of March in Uppsala, Sweden, at my old flat there. I tried to write my thesis, and got some work done but it was really tough going. Toward the end of March I got an email from the boss of a guy I met on a train in Burma in February, offering me an internship with a UK-based NGO (non-governmental organisation) in a different area of the country. I spent 2 months there, then off to Canada.

I spent 2 weeks in Vancouver, during which I built a bicycle from parts, saw many friends, went camping, spent time with my maternal grandmother just before she died, was a pall-bearer for the funeral, and then on June 29 I caught my scheduled flight to Fredericton, New Brunswick, along with my bike. I loaded it up and proceeded to cycle 440km in 4 days of cycling spread over 5 days, from Fredericton, NB to East Ship Harbour, Nova Scotia to visit my dad’s family. 2 weeks there, then it was time for a road trip with my sister and her boyfriend in his car, all the way to Gatineau, Québec. After a couple nights at his brother’s place there, I got dropped off with my bike in Prescott, Ontario, loaded it up again and off I rode 378km over 4 days to Toronto. I used throughout my trip and had amazing experiences with the wonderful people who hosted me in each place. I spent a week in Canada’s biggest city at my friend Jackie’s place, saw lots of old friends there, then on Aug 1 flew back to Vancouver for 4 weeks.

On Aug 29 I flew out of Vancouver, this time en route to London, England. On Sept 1 I began a 6 month internship in humanitarian logistics at the London head office of Medical Emergency Relief International ( So far, it’s been an amazing experience involving a tonne of learning and some really cool people and situations. September and October were really tough, as I had to finish my Masters thesis at the same time. With a lot of editing and proofreading help from my parents, I managed to hand in a final draft on time, and flew to Uppsala, Sweden on Nov 4 to defend it. I succeeded, and flew back to London on Nov 8 ( in case you’re interested to see the nice cover photo).

On Dec 22 I flew to Vancouver for a 9.5 day visit to see family and friends. I had a nice Christmas with family, and an interesting New Year’s Eve with friends. On Jan 1, 2010, shortly after noon, I flew out of Vancouver, stopped over in Edmonton, and landed the next morning in London.

I’d really like to hear back from anyone who has time to write a line or ten – tell me what you’ve been up to, where you’re at, whether you’ll be in London while I’m still here (until the end of February), etc. If you want strange postcards and haven’t been getting any, send me a mailing address. If you’re bored and like pictures of random stuff, this blog has photos of almost all the adventures in this email and I update it on occasion.

All the best to all of you for a successful 2010,