Published: August 24th 2008August 18th 2008
It is now just under four weeks since we arrived back in the US and the details of our frustrating journey home are becoming a distant memory. The main entries of this Travel Blog are complete and we've (mostly Janice) almost unpacked all of the boxes and got our condo back to "normal". We're back to visiting the various coffee shops around Palo Alto and I'm back at the gym three or four times a week; routine is a wonderful thing (so is sleeping in the same bed for more than two nights in a row!!).
So.....what was it like? Over 277 days we visited 36 countries, took 32 flights, visited 64 UNESCO World Heritage sites, had our passports stamped 69 times, received 8 visas and traveled tens of thousands of miles by ferry, bus, truck, train, taxi, horse and cart, donkey, camel, elephant and pretty much any means of transport you can imagine.
Was it all beer and skittles and relaxing the whole time? Absolutely, not....there were times when it was difficult, frustrating and tiring, but just when you start to think its too much you see some marvelous wonder or meet an amazing person and all the
negative aspects of traveling melt away and you remember how lucky you are to be really experiencing life.
Over the last few months, and especially since we got back, many people have asked us: What was your favourite country?; Which experiences were the most important?
Given the diversity of what we have seen and experienced, it is almost impossible to choose a favourite, but I can tell you my top five. My top five countries, in no particular order, are Peru, Laos, Egypt, Nepal and the Czech Republic.
The top five experiences were gorilla trekking in Uganda (one of the top experiences of my life), hiking the Inca Trail and arriving at Machu Picchu in Peru, visiting the Khmer Rouge sites in Phnom Penh (most emotional day of the entire trip), seeing the Temple of Ramses at Abu Simbel in Egypt, hiking through the villages of the Annapurna Range in Nepal, AND (I know this is supposed to be top five, but....) white water rafting in grade five rapids on the Zambezi River in Africa and watching the sun rise over the temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
So, after visiting all these places and seeing
some of the world's most amazing sights; what have I learnt? The
world is slowly, but surely becoming homogenized. This was very apparent in the former "iron curtain" countries in Eastern Europe. The growth of capitalism and the rampant spread of Western (American) "culture" is evident everywhere and eventually it will be omnipresent around the world. Get out there and see what's left of the world's diverse cultures while you can! People
are people regardless of where they are, what language they speak and what they look like. Everyone has the same basic needs and desires and, for the most part, if you respect someone's culture they'll treat you as a friend. It's also worth remembering that you're much more likely to meet a genuine person in the countryside than in a major city; friendliness in the cities is often used as a sales tool. There
are many examples that demonstrate just how cruel and depraved humans can be, but there are also many human creations and acts of selflessness that restore your faith in humanity. Finally
, even after seeing all these places, we have realized that there is still so much to see in the
world and that given the number of places we want to revisit, that our travels have only just begun.
So, now that we are home and have had the opportunity to reflect on our time away, have seen the effect on our bank balance and the reality of finding our next 'opportunities' has set in, was it all worth it? ABSOLUTELY, YES!!
While it wasn't always easy and fun, no-one can take away the things that we've seen, the experiences we've had and the memories that we'll carry with us for the rest of our lives. I don't have any philosophical points to make except this - the world is big, often ugly, sometimes beautiful and frequently amazing. It is filled with both compassionate and despicable people and there are some awe inspiring sights to see; natural and man-made.
My advice - get out there and see it for yourself as soon as you get the opportunity. And, if you don't get the opportunity, go anyway!!
Before I sign off for good, I'd like to thank all of you for reading this blog (almost 12,000 times), especially those who made comments or sent messages while
White Water, Zambezi River, Zambia
That's me at the very front of the boat
we were traveling. It was nice to know that people were reading it as the time involved to put it together wasn't trivial. To all the new friends we made while away, it was a pleasure to meet you all and to share the experiences we had together - our travels couldn't have been as enjoyable without you and I'm sure that our paths will cross again in the future.
I'd also like to thank my great boss for making the process of going away and returning as easy as it could have possibly been. Many people asked how we could just drop everything and take off for almost a year; it wasn't easy, but with the right support it can be done.
And last, but certainly not least, I'd like to thank Janice. Someone reminded me recently of what an achievement it was for the two of us to travel together and see each other constantly for almost ten months and still be on good terms.....I hadn't really thought about it, but considering that normally you see your spouse or partner for a few hours a day in the course of a regular week, it was quite a testament to her that a few minor altercations not withstanding, we got along very well for the entire trip and were great travel companions for each other.
Thanks again to all of you; it was a great journey, an experience of a lifetime and I hope you enjoyed following our progress!!