The final chapter - going home after 31 months of travelling (Miami, Florida, USA)

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October 31st 2010
Published: November 10th 2010
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(Day 940 on the road) How do you even begin writing the final blog entry after over 2 1/2 years of travelling? I am struggling. Writing my blogs along the way over the last 31 months has always been something I was looking forward to. It gave me the time to pause and reflect, to address issues that have been on my mind, to choose the best and most meaningful pictures, to consider what has been really important to me.

Not this time. I have been dreading this entry for a while now, but there is no way around it; I might as well get it over and done with. So here it is, my feeble attempt to hide the sentimentality that has taken hold of me over the last weeks, and which grew stronger the closer the inevitable end of my trip drew on October 31st. I realising that it might sound pathetic, but the last week was not easy at all for me.

For this final leg of my journey, a ten-day stint in Southern Florida, I flew up to Fort Lauderdale from Panama. Leaving Central America behind was fairly easy; towards the end things had started to become repetitive (another jungle, another beach, another cloud forest, another chicken bus). I was ready for a change of scenery, and Florida seemed like just the place for that. And I wasn't to be disappointed. Although, having said that, it didn't blow me away either, and had I come over all the way from Europe just for a week of holiday in Florida, I might have been somewhat gutted. It proved to be neither spectacular nor boring, but certainly a nice enough place to end a long journey in.

Immigration to the US was a breeze this time (the officer actually said "Welcome to the US" - definitely a first!) and I spent a few days on Hollywood Beach in Fort Lauderdale, jaywalking as much as I could and generally enjoying the relaxing life that a hostel right on the beach, with free bikes, super-fast Internet and great like-minded people had to offer, before heading down to Miami airport to pick up my sister Britta, who was joining me for my very last week. It was to be a very nice week indeed, and travelling with Britta certainly kept me from sulking and being depressed too much.

With no public transport to speak of (how exactly do people in the US live that cannot afford to or don't want a car?), we opted for a rental car. A complimentary upgrade soon saw us cruising in style in a massive eight-seater SUV through downtown Miami, and with petrol prices about a third of the costs in Europe, it was rather affordable as well. Except for parking I should add, which often cost more for a night than two beds in a dorm hostel. Crazy.

For the next week we did pretty much what most first-timers in Florida do I would imagine: Drive down the Florida Keys all the way to Key West, then spend a few days in the Everglades, and finally round it off with a couple of days of beach-and-art-cure in Miami before heading home.

Cruising along the endless stretch of single road for hours and hours that lead down to Key West, my sister and I had ample time to catch up. We hadn't seen each other since I left home in April 2008, and correspondingly we had lots to talk about. The scenery was pretty, there was country music on the radio, and cruise control made driving almost too easy with these low maximum US speed limits.

Due to outrageous hotel prices in Key West (dorm beds starting at 44 US$) we visited Key West on a day trip from one of the upper Keys, and it was pleasant enough but nothing special really. Essentially, Key West seemed like a town geared 100% towards tourists, and the main street is literally door-upon-door of cheap souvenir shops and overpriced bars. It was alright for a lazy afternoon stroll, but no place really to spend any length of time in. It was however the beginning of the Fantasy Festival, which peaked at Halloween a few days later, and already there were some pretty funky characters around. Check out the picture of the woman with the nice body-painted bra in this blog - priceless!

Up next for us were the Everglades, the huge national park in southern Florida that is famous for its rich wild life, including, of course, alligators and crocodiles. And hordes and hordes of giant blood-sucking mosquitoes, for which the swamps and wetlands of the Everglades proved to be the perfect habitat. We did a number of short walks, literally covered head-to-toe in insect repellent, and also visited an alligator farm, complete with a thrilling air boat tour (environmentally controversial, I know I know) of the surrounding swamps.

Back in Miami, we sampled the art scene with a visit to the amazing Vazcaya villa museum (the obsessed owner brought entire ceilings over from Europe to build his mansion here) and the intimate Bass museum before it was time to hit Ocean Drive and South Beach. Both were pretty funky and great for just looking around and taking pictures. Tanned and sexy bodies on the beach, fit skaters and body-builders on Ocean Drive, vintage cars cruising around, people dressed up in costumes for Halloween on the streets, and of course tourists everywhere. It was an eclectic mix. Unfortunately my great indigenous Panamanian body tattoo had mostly worn off by now; I would have fit in nicely!

South Beach itself was packed with people and surprisingly wide (I wonder if they have widened it artificially). And, this being the US, it was also heavily over-regulated and patrolled at all times. I can't remember ever being on a beach (and I have been to a few in my life now) that actually "closes" at night, which was impossible not to gather due to the high number of large do-and-don't-do signs that were posted at every access point to the beach. It seems that the various rules and regulations were enforced as well, judging by the countless patrols and police that were driving up and down the beach at all times, both in cars and beach buggies. Police in cars and buggies on the beach? "Beach Code Patrol" on buggies? Life guards constantly blowing their annoying whistles because somebody did something that they weren't supposed to? Really?

And then, before I knew it, the last day of my travels had arrived. I was beginning to feel pretty sad and down, especially once I realised how many "last things" I was doing at the time. The last night in a hotel, the last morning, the last breakfast, the last time on a beach, the last everything. Britta and I spent the final few hours on the beach, had a final swim and then drove out to airport, arriving there still with sand on our feet and with wet seats in our rental cars from our dripping swimming costumes.

A few hours later, it was time to board my final plane, this one not carrying me off to another exiting destination, but home, where my parents were awaiting me at Düsseldorf airport. After more than 2 1/2 years on the road, my travels were coming to an end. Unfortunately, I have absolutely no idea what's up next for me. In fact, for the first time in my life, I am at a complete loss what to do.

But of course all this doesn't matter - regardless of what happens next, my travels were worth it all, and I enjoyed every single moment of it. What lies behind me? Everything I could have possibly hoped for. What's up next? I don't know. What remains to be said? A lot, but at the same time, nothing at all.

Next and final stop: Home (Germany). Also have a look at my pictures at .


10th November 2010

So sad...
... no more words needed.
10th November 2010

Hi Ben, ich kann mir vorstellen wie du dich fuehlst, bei mir waren es das letzte mal nur 12 monate. Die naechsten monate werden ein bisserl verwirrend sein , aber dann faengst du an davon zu zehren und bist reicher als jeder um dich rum. Wie gesagt, wenn du mal in Zurich bist , lass mich wisen, werude mich freuen mit dir ein bier trinken zu gehen, Alles gute, Florian
10th November 2010

Hey Ben - it's been a pleasure following your trip. The only even remotely similar experience I've had that makes me empathetic to the heart-squeezing realization of the end of a chapter was a 6-month hike on the Appalachian Trail. I sobbed the whole last mile, crestfallen that such an experience should have to end. And so I can only imagine what three years of constant adventure will be like to 'recover' from in the sense of assimilation back into 'normal' life. I wish you all the best and know that we haven't heard the last from you. Your blog has inspired countless souls out here living vicariously and for that we thank you. Cheers and good luck! Alisa
10th November 2010

Same feelings here after (only) 14 months travelling. And yes, I felt lost also when I got home.'s some good news: both of us found really nice jobs within 6 weeks + a lovely house within 8 weeks. Hope to see you soon.
10th November 2010

I was anticpating this final blog would see you go down in a blaze of glory after getting deported in a highly charged jaywalking spat with a local law inforcement officer! Although I plead with you to write a final final blog, turning that critical lense on your own country, after so long away you may able to see it as only a foreigner can. Good Riddance...until next time,-)
10th November 2010

hi Ben! surely the sentiment has now spread among your readers. i still cant accept that my world tour, courtesy of your blog, is now over. somehow i was hoping you'll extend or something. maybe you'll write some retrospectives, or compile your journals into a book? just a few days ago i was re-reading your china and japan entries, still as enjoyable as ever. it was a wonderful journey and i wish you all opportunities to do the next one!
10th November 2010

Your last blog
I am sorry to say, I have not been following your trip, but happened to open this one, it popped up randomly. I can only say that it may be the end of that trip, but I can assure you the journey continues............. Welcome back
10th November 2010
Oh no! (woman with body-painted bra in Key West)

I bet her husband is a very happy man!!!lol
10th November 2010

Join the club ;) Things to do when you are home: start planning your next trip! It always works for me
10th November 2010

Good Riddance !!!
Finally !!! ... I'm sick of all your criticism on every country you visited. What I would really like to read is what you have to say about your own country.... Ann
10th November 2010

Want to hear more
Returning is sad and re-entry provides some challenges but it has a lot of good things also. It takes months for you to absorb all that you have seen and the people you have met. Can't wait to read your future blogs.
10th November 2010

Nice reading
Congrats on the trip, hope you can transition back to "normal" life. Enjoyed reading your blogs!
11th November 2010

Ben, it's been a pleasure following your trip for the past year. I can't even imagine traveling for 2 and a half years. I hope to one day see as many places and have as many experiences as you have. All the best in your new life at home. PS Tell "Ann" to eat it.
11th November 2010

Your Travels
Ben, I have enjoyed your travels immensely. You are my hero when it comes to adventure. Hopefully, someday, I'll make the trip. I would like to catch up with you in a year just to see where you are and what you are doing. It just doesn't seem right not to see what is next in your life. I wish you the very best in health, happiness, love, and career, wherever life leads you.
11th November 2010

It's been a pleasure.......
........reading your blogs over the past few years. You've certainly helped with my inspiration. Hopefully another trip will just be around the corner!
11th November 2010

Welcome back to Germany !
As you have fianaly come to the end of your trip does it now really mean that we have to leave our comfortable armchair and our cosy home and to travel finally by ourself again ? Do you think that this is fair ? As far as I had the pleasure to get to know you I am very sure that this is not the end of "LivingThedream" and this is not the end of your journey it is only a break. I hope we once have the chance to meet us face2face maybe in Frankfurt or Berlin. What a pity that you did not continue your trip to Peru! Thank you so much for letting us share your experience! I will miss your Blog. with kind regards walter
13th November 2010
Life guard tower on Miami's South Beach

nice one
just Passed to say so nice shot ..
13th November 2010
My father, sister and mother welcoming me home after 2 1/2 years

great to have family
God bless you and your family
15th November 2010

Welcome home!
Hallo Weltenbummler! Also ich bin mir sicher, dass das nicht deine "last things" waren, sondern dass deine Reise irgendwann wieder weiter geht :) Welcome home! Dein Tobias
15th November 2010

Hi there! 31 months travelling?? how did you do it!! I'll read your blog! I'jm Carol. I'm from Spain but I live in india now. I'm thinking in one big trip too. Maybe you can tell me some tips! keep in touch if you want! Carol
15th November 2010

End of the road
Congratulations on an amazing journey .Really enjoyed your blogs. You never know they could be trips to the moon before our days are out. Good luck to the future stick tight to those lessons learnt on the road they will come in useful back in the material world......
15th November 2010

Und, wie fuehlt's sich so an?
15th November 2010

Your Final Blog
Hey Ben, I have thoroughly enjoyed following your blog for the past zillion months. Your blog was an inspiration for me before I began my own long-term travels. Currently I've been traveling one year and, I must say, it's the best decision I've ever made. Again it's been a pleasure, and I wish you well in all of your endeavors. Best, Adam Daigle
15th November 2010

Hi Ben - endlich zurück lass Dich mal wieder in der Provinz Mainz sehen - ich würde mich sehr freuen!
15th November 2010

kopf hoch, alles wird gut :)
15th November 2010

Welcome Home!
Hey Ben! Welcome back again - and indeed enjoy and cherish home. What to do next? Well, start writing - I am serious about that. Hope to see you soon, Uli
15th November 2010

Willkommen zurück!
Mein lieber Ben, gerade habe in deinem Blog gelesen, dass du nun wieder zu Hause bist und deine lange Reise beendet hast. Als ich deine letzten Zeilen so gelesen habe, hat mich das selber auch ein bisschen melancholisch gestimmt, obwohl ich mich dann auch wiederum freue, dass du in erreichbarer Entfernung bist und vielleicht sogar die Chance auf ein Treffen besteht!? Selbstverständlich bist du jederzeit nach München eingeladen. Oder aber wir schaffen es, uns in Plettenberg zu sehen - du bist doch Weihnachten da? Fühl dich auf jeden Fall fest gedrückt und genieße jetzt wieder die Zeit im neuen alten Leben. Jetzt gehen neue Abenteuer los... ;o)) Dicken Kuß und bis hoffentlich bald! Lynda
15th November 2010

Welcome back und Woe :-)
Hi Ben mein Weltenbummler, lese gerade Deinen letzten Blogeintrag und hab gleich zu dem Telefonhörer gegriffen, um in Neuenrade anzurufen - besetzt :-) Two things to say: 1. Ich kann nicht auf den Schulball kommen -> Doof! 2. Ich komm am kommenen Wochenende heim -> Möglichkeit! Bist Du zufällig da? Wie wäre es dann am Samstag sich zu treffen? Fänd ich super, Grüßle Sven
15th November 2010

Hey Ben, I just read your last blog entry, and while I continue to be very jealous of you, and think you have been ridiculously spoiled, I still cant imagine how hard this must be for you. Also, I suppose its not the kind of thing, like heartbreak or something, that nearly everyone could sympathize over. I don't think youre going to get a lot of "I know how you feel" in the coming weeks. Anyways, best of luck for your re-introduction to settled society, and I hope finding a new path is painless and exciting. Don't see it as the journey being over though! Just a new challenge. Good luck, -Lilia
15th November 2010

"berlin, berlin, wir warten auf dich in berlin ... BERLIN CALLING ...:)
15th November 2010

i shed a tear after following you for 2.5 yrs
I have loved following your blog so long and will miss it! Your life was so exciting to follow and it brightened others as well! I totally understand how it feels to come home after a long time on the road. I think I was depressed for at least 6 months after (and it's only been 8 since i got back from my year long travel). And going back to work is a real killer, as well. However, my advice...move to a new city and start exploring while working. It's fun b/c you have more money to do things and also can feel really connected to the city b/c you live there. However, i have no other advice b/c it really sucks coming back to day to day life. Good Luck! Your travel blog will be missed!
17th November 2010

Thank You
Hey Ben, You been a true inspiration to me. I love discovering and even more rediscovering some of the most beautiful place in the world. I really thought for a moment you would never go back home. Its been great to read you along the way. I cannot remember how many time I was bored in a train somewhere in the world and start reading some of your old entries. Hope you are not too bored at can always leave again...there is still a lot to see. Trust me, you can probably make up a book with all your blogs... Take care Nick
17th November 2010

Hey Ben, welcome home... wenn man das nach fast drei Jahren noch so sagen kann (und dann auch noch im November, der schlimmsten Zeit für eine Rückkehr). Fühle mit dir. Einzige Lösung: Geld auftreiben und wieder los (gibt ja noch ein paar weiße Flecken auf deiner Landkarte... wenn auch nicht so viele ;-).
19th November 2010

Gosh, this is such a definite story. I can soo remember the sad final feeling, the choking feeling as soon as you let the emotion to surface... How are you now? And how does it feel to back in Germany, to hear only german? As I was reading your blog I kepton thinking about my own last moments and I can;t remember it as I didn't right it down. I though Id remember. Good for you thatyou took the time to right this last story... For now... :-)
20th November 2010

Congrats on living life and hope the adventure continues. Reading you blog reminds me what's important in life and to follow our passion no matter how difficult we make it seem sometimes. Thanks Ben and welcome back
22nd November 2010

willkommen zurück, mein lieber. habe deine route stets mit interesse verfolgt! 31 monate - REEEEESPEKT!!! es ist schwer vorstellbar, wie du dich jetzt fühlen musst...
26th November 2010

Auf weidersehen!
I too got a bit depressed at this being the last entry. It comes as a bit fo a shock: in my mind you would go all the way through South America. Well, it was fun. My first travel blog that I have followed regularly. I also enjoyed your take on American culture. Yes, the beach nazis are everpresent here in new york too. We Americans like being told what and what not to do, apparently. Something about how the terrorists win otherwise. Thank you for opening my eyes to other places in the world. I enjpyed reading about the Indonesian islands and the Darien Gap as well. Danche schein.
26th November 2010

All good things come to an end.
I've been a regular visitor yo your blog so thank you for all those entries and wonderful pictures. Now i've picked my destination for my next trip your entries will surely be used for inspiration.
28th November 2010

Still causing controversy on the final blog ;)
I love some of the comments :) - I agree with Jason - I'd love to read a little about the return home and seeing Germany with new eyes. I know that happened for me after a much shorter trip... Congratulations on the longest continuous journey blogged here so far. Hope settling back in is going well.
30th November 2010

30th November 2010

agree with jason
So, it's over? Can't help but agree with Jason there. For you to write a final, final blog. Seeing your own country after 2 1/2 years of exploring other areas, and seeing it now in an entirely new perspective. Some habits die hard. Tell us about it!
7th December 2010

Like an enjoyable book I did not want this blog to end! I started reading from the very beginning & would like to thank you for the epic journey I took around the World from the comfort of my own home :)
18th December 2010

got this one late....
Hi Ben I love the fact that you tell it how you see it. Florida is nice but a bit 'meh'; Sun, sea and sand doesn't always have to equate to ATE (Amazing Travel Experience) does it? No. Been following your blog since Burma (when you experienced that awful fatal accident) and have enjoyed it a lot. I've just come off a 20 month trip myself and I'm impressed that you weren't completely jaded by the end! I know I was. Anyway, I've been meaning to follow up my blog with a kind of 'how I feel' report on being back in the UK; but if I'm honest nothing has really fundamentally changed for me - new job - new house etc. Anyway, it would be nice to read your views after such a long trip - I'm sure you have more to say! Kudos for still accepting all the negative comments on your blog. What can I say? There are a lot of eijets in the ether! Keep well and very warmest regards Sepulchre
29th December 2010

life after living the dream
hello! i found you blog by accident and now i can't stop reading it :) i am also fighting with a thought of leaving everything behind (good job) and go traveling for awhile. not so easy though :/ anyways, i'm interesting in how is life after coming home? i totally understood your last post, because i also went traveling for 3 months and the last few days were really melancholic :) i'm afraid that when i'd come home, searching for a job would drain my whole energy gathered on the road. that would definitely suck! so, how is your life now? maybe you can even write a post about it :) tnx for the answer and happy new year! :) gregor
2nd January 2011

According to your flickr pics it looks like you couldn't bear with germany very long? l very much look forward to some updates here! :-) All the best & happy new year, Felix
2nd January 2011

Thanks you!
Your blog entries kept me hooked, entertained and most importantly inspired. There are so many people who only dream of what you've done, through your stories you have made their dreams come true. Maybe someday soon I will take off on "my journey" and when I do I will think of your adventures.
9th January 2011

Thank You !
I really enjoyed your blog over such a long time and now look forward to the book! Really! It must be such a strange feeling after such a long time from home to settle iin? good luck in whatever you do Jon :D
28th February 2011

Blog of the year, 2010
Congratulations! :) This blog was nominated one of the best of 2010, in both the North America/photography and writing categories. ''great pictures & experience for this "the end" blog (although I do hope Ben that you will hit the road again as guess many people, me included, will miss your blogs, all the best to you in Germany)''
17th March 2011

I just came back from Miami on Sunday and I loved it. Btw, I love your pictures! What camera do you use? I've been trying to find a point and shoot camera with a good panoramic setting and I've been having a hard time...
20th August 2014
Oh no! (woman with body-painted bra in Key West)

Love this woman!
I admire this person for not being hung up that her body isn't that of a slender 20 something and having to cover it with clothing . Why must age discrimination and media driven body image be so controlling of our choices/attitudes/values?

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