Riyadh to Fairbanks – Now the journey starts

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
Sir Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

Travel has been a fairly significant part of my life since I decided to put accountancy and finance to one side in 2001 and join the much maligned ranks of consultancy. I’m used to going to new places, pleasant and unpleasant, safe and edgey, beautiful and ugly. My career with Atkins has taken me to Bangladesh, Moldova, Ukraine, Hungary, The Czech Republic, Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Estonia, Russia, Malaysia, Romania, Austria, Italy, Germany, etc, etc, etc and Iran! Sheila and I lived in the Middle East for three years so add to that list all the GCC countries and a few others nearby too. I enjoy travelling. Sometimes the edgier places are more fun and the challenging ones are more interesting. That is life.

Since we moved our home back to the UK in 2013 I have had the chance of going back to some of those places in the Gulf and looking at them with new eyes. I have spent the last week in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia at the Saudi National Cyber Security Centre’s annual conference and experiencing the excellent hosting of His Excellency, Simon Hollis, The British Ambassador, and his great team at the Embassy. Riyadh is probably one of the slightly edgier places to visit in the Gulf (unless you choose to take your holidays in Yemen) and it hasn’t always been my favourite place. This has been a different visit though. I went along as part of a well organised Cyber Growth Partnership mission, met some lovely people, learnt some really interesting things about Saudi Arabia that despite fifteen years of travel there I didn’t know and all in all enjoyed it immensely.

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The National Cyber Security Conference at The Officers Club in Riyadh

Perhaps one added reason why this felt so pleasant was that it really is the beginning of my journey to Fairbanks. I can map out pretty well every day between now and when I get off the plane in Fairbanks on 3rd February and head straight for Meet the Mushers. I sit writing this on Friday morning UK time whilst waiting to change planes in Abu Dhabi to head back to Heathrow. I know where I will be and what  I will be doing each day next week until I go back to Heathrow to catch a plane in the other direction (ie, west to Canada and the USA) next Tuesday and then beyond to Seattle and Fairbanks so it feels like a continuous process.

I have three days in London next week but I still have quite a few things to “procure” before a week on Tuesday so those too have to be fitted in to the schedule. In particular there are final touches to be added to the warm clothing wardrobe and some additional equipment that needs to be added to the collection of photograhic and computer kit that is going to travel 1,000 miles with Chris and I from Fairbanks to Whitehorse. I plan on posting something separate on that subject.

So now the fun starts. I’m on my way to Fairbanks and in a little over 14 days the Yukon Quest will be under way. Are you excited? I certainly am.

We started with words of wisdom from the genius of Sir Terry Pratchett  so it seems appropriate that we should end with some more. I think this sums up what this trip means to me and us (Sheila and I and Chris as well I think):

The whole of life is just like watching a film. Only it’s as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no-one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it out all yourself from the clues. — Sir Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures

You were so right Sir Terry. It’s about making sure you make those ten minutes the best ten in the movie.

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