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A turbaned Pashtun offers me a joint with a toothless smile and a nod of his head before he squats on his haunches. "Afghanistan", he says, pointing to the joint and then to the right of the sun sinking slowly toward the horizon. Twenty metres to my left, a dozen men on prayer mats bow in unison toward Mecca — a thousand-plus miles to the west over brambles and hillocks of scorched, ochre earth. If nowhere has a middle, it's got to be close.

I started to pen a dark and moody piece about crossing Russia on the Trans Mongolian Railway during the depths of a Siberian winter. Of how harsh the Russian climate can be at that time of year. Of how there's an austere beauty in the bleak solitude of her snow-blasted villages. A sense of resignation in the puffy faces of those station vendors, whose lives in which you play the most minor of roles. In the end I thought stuff it, what's with all the poetic crap!

Although the days of working for your passage hopping freighters are a thing of the past - a heavily specialised and unionised work force put paid to that - with a little planning and flexible travel dates, there aren't too many regions you can't now get to as a paid-up-passenger on board a cargo ship.