We made it.....

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October 11th 2012
Published: October 11th 2012
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We made it………………

After 116 days more than 42,000 km and over 22,000km of that being via ‘overlanding’ through 20 countries from London, England to Kuala Lumpur, we are now back home on the Gold Coast, Australia.

It was a strange and surreal feeling when the alarm went off at 5:45am on Day 116 in our hotel in KL. We’re going home!!! Country number 21 – Australia. It’s interesting to see how the boys ‘chew up and spit out’ a 8 hour flight from KL to Coolangatta now as if it’s just another day on the road, a short day compared to what they have experienced since arriving in London back in mid-June.

Arriving back in Australia always feels good. The smell of the coastal salt air as you walk across the tarmac at Coolangatta Airport and the ‘Welcome home’ you then hear from the guy working for Australian Customs in a deep Aussie accent as he stamps your passport signals that you are well and truly back home in Australia.

It’s the small things we have missed like drinking tap water and driving on the roads with hardly any traffic and much better drivers. Things we will miss are the cheap meals and accommodation across Asia. We called into McDonalds late last night few a quick bite on the way home and it was the most expensive meal since Europe over 2 months ago.

2 years ago when Melissa and I first started discussing undertaking such a massive adventure we were somewhat sceptical that we could actually do it, let alone with three boys in tow. Anyway, with a bit (well actually a lot) of research, planning and white-boarding, we knew we could undertake such a trip.

The last 4 months have been the most amazing times of our lives. For Melissa and I being able to share it with the 3 most important people in our lives and to create ever lasting memories that we will always cherish deeply is certainly the highlight of our trip. We have not only experienced and seen some amazing things together, we are now even closer than we could ever imagine. Yes, we’ve all had our moments along the way, but as I told the boys on our last night in KL. ‘If it was meant to be easy, everyone would be doing trips like this’. They, like us don’t know anyone else who has ever done a trip like this. We met many travellers along the way, but none were ‘overlanding’ anywhere the distances we covered. Many ‘hard core’ backpackers/travellers were certainly surprised to see Mum and Dad with the 3 kids in many remote and isolated locations rocking up at the bus or train station or border crossing as if it just another day for Team Free!!!

Instead of re-hashing some of the same old blogs, the five of us have now come up with a few words to describe each of the 20 countries we travelled through. We have also attached some of our favourite photos - it's hard to close one from each country as we have have taken over 4,000 photos in 4 months. We have also attached a photo of the people who have help, supported and made a major contribution to our adverture of a lifetime.

1 England – Catching up with friends

2 France – The Tour de France and showing the boys where Melissa lived for 2 years in Paris

3 Switzerland – Clean, green, snow-capped mountains and friends

4 Germany – Beer and Miniature Wonderland

5 Luxembourg – Small and green

6 Belgium – Chocolate and canals

7 Netherlands – Coffee and canals

8 Denmark – Legoland

9 Sweden – Vikings

10 Latvia – Cobblestone streets and little cafes

11 Estonia – One of the ‘surprise packets’ of the old USSR regime

12 Finland – Half Russian, half Scandinavian

13 Russia – Absolutely massive to cross and the Russians need to smile more J

14 Mongolia – The Wild Wild West still exists

15 China – Too many people, but had some fantastic scenery

16 Hong Kong – Hong Kong Disney and the night skyline

17 Vietnam – Spectacular beaches and scenery and very friendly people

18 Cambodia – Amazing temples and the tragic Killing Fields and again very friendly

19 Thailand – The beautiful beaches and crystal waters of Koh Phi Phi

20 Malaysia – Great beach resorts and the finish line to our ‘overlanding adventure’

The memories that Melissa and I have now given to the boys will be everlasting. The smells of cities and beaches, the tastes of different foods and the sounds of traffic, trains and people will remain with us for years to come.

We are humbled by the number of people of have been following our travel-blogs over the last 4 months. Some of these blogs have now had over 400 ‘views’.

Thank you to all our family and friends for the support you gave us before, during and after our adventure as we try and settle back into some normality. It was great with technology such as Facebook, email, Skype and our Blog that we could stay in touch with everyone. Even though we have been away for 4 months we still have a bit of an idea what we have missed out on. Some babies have been born while away and some news of some babies arriving next year. Congratulations to Carla and Melissa’s brother Nathan on the new expected arrival early next year. Some of you have turned 40 and some have started new jobs and one has retired from international rowing. I am yet to be convinced, as most of you, and like me think Duncan has one more Olympic campaign in him!!! I know one of you have bought a new boat and Team Free are keen to get out on it over Summer – Thanks Lorraine and Jono. We looking forward to catching up with everyone over the coming weeks and with friends and family in Sydney over Christmas. We hear we have inspired one close family to cycle around France for a month or two. (I’ll keep your names confidential until you both get your annual leave approved).

There are a very few special people that showed us so much kindness, generosity and support before and during our trip the need a special mention. Many things would not have been possible without your help.

Kings Christian College is an amazing school. The support and encouragement from day one when we first mentioned the concept of such a trip with the boys simply cemented our belief that we do send our kids to the best school there is. People we have met over the last 4 months always ask the question ‘So what did your school think when you took them out for so long?’ We answer that question with 3 simple words. ‘They were great’. Thanks Kings.

My employer Anglicare. Without a great employer that promotes the importance of a great work/life balance, especially with family, we would never have been in a position to have been able to undertake a trip like this, especially in one 4 month block. I’ll see most of you guys next week and thanks to Clarissa for ‘holding down the fort’ in my role.

My good mate Mark Halstead who has helped us with accommodation on the Gold Coast before and after our trip. Since we sold our house prior to leaving back in June, we have been of ‘no fixed address’ for the last 5 months. Friends like Mark are priceless.

Andrew and Jo Veal in Oxford, England. This was where we spent our first 3 nights of our adventure. We were pleased that you were able to squeeze us into your little mansion. Andrew was great in assisting us purchase ‘Jeff’, our purple Volvo Estate/Station wagon. ‘Jeff’ was a legend. Yep we still miss him and wonder where he is now after we had to abandon him in Helsinki after he had served his purpose.

Don and Emma Fraser in Exeter, England rock. Not only did they open their house to us for 2 nights, they invited us on their summer holiday to Sennen Cove in the south-west corner of England for another 7 nights. It was amazing to start our adventure with holiday with some great friends that we certainly don’t see enough of in such a beautiful place only a few hours south of Exeter. Don and Emma plan to visit in 2014 with their two beautiful daughters Jessica and Lucy. We can’t wait to be able to return the hospitality and show them our part of the world. As surfers, they will be impressed no doubt with what we can offer.

Staying with Lisa and Daniel Ross-Magenty Blaettler was a quick detour south to Switzerland after an invite to join them for the weekend when we realised that we weren’t going to see each other while we were in England. What a fantastic opportunity to catch up with an old friend and for the boys to have a fun ‘kids’ weekend building dams and bridges in the river at the back of their place.

Emma, Inga and Anders Eriksson in Sweden. Even though I had only meet Emma a few times on bike rides on the Gold Coast, when she found out about our trip only a few weeks before we were due to leave, she quickly offered us a night or two at her parents place in Sweden. It was great being able to meet Inga and Anders and their extended family and enjoy some great Swedish hospitality at their farmhouse.

Sania Galimova in St Petersburg showed us around for a day and a half with her mum, Delmara. As we had never met Sania before, it was very kind of her to show us around some of the best parts the city. Sania was put in contact with us through Nina Mikheeva. All the best to you and Peter with the new arrival around Christmas time.

Nina and Andreiv Mikheeva in Moscow were amazing to open up their house to 5 Australians that Nina had only met for 5 minutes in New Zealand back in 2010. Over the last 2 years we have built a friendship with Nina through emails and Skype and Nina told us that if we were ever in Moscow that we must stay with her and Andreiv. Not only did they open up their home, introduce us to Russian Pies, they moved two of the children out to relatives so we had room. They picked us up from the train station; they took us around the city for 2 days and even took us to the train station – right to our carriage and berths to ensure we didn’t miss our 4 day train to Siberia.

Des and Kaye Hastie had been following our trip since we left and it only made sense to catch up while in Hong Kong. Thanks Des and Kaye for a great afternoon. The lunch was a very pleasant change from noodles and rice in one of those ‘fancy’ places that require gentlemen to wear a t-shirt!!! Lucky I had one hey? See you back in Australia soon.

My sister Anita and brother-in-law Steve Disley have given us many tips and hotel recommendations for Thailand and Malaysia. These tips along with their encouragement have been great. They also introduced us to www.hotelscombined.com, our most helpful website over the last 4 months.

My brother Duncan and sister-in-law Belinda have provide us with constant support and followed our travels daily, even when they were going through all the dramas of Duncan’s 5th Olympic campaign. It was always great to Skype you guys while we were both in different parts of the world. Bike ride Saturday morning Dunc?

A special thanks to my 94 year old grandmother, Mary. Nan kindly offered us storage for all of our worldly belongings at her house. We were also pleased to hear that she had received every single one of our postcards from every country. The Malaysian one should arrive in the next 7 to 10 days.

Our parents, Barry & Julie Dunn and Reg & Helen Free to whom Melissa and I owe the most gratitude to. Our parents are the ones who gave Melissa and I the taste of adventure. We both still remember our first overseas holidays with our parents as clear as yesterday. Their encouragement and support to explore the world and everything in it has been a direct result of our upbringing. Melissa and I hope that we have now passed this ‘taste of adventure’ onto our children and in years to come they can continue to explore this amazing planet and also have an opportunity to travel with their children. Thanks Mum’s and Dad’s.

Finally, thank you to everyone who has kept us in their thoughts and prayers over the last 4 months. Your prayers have certainly kept us safe, so thank you.

Don’t just talk about your next holiday or adventure or even a hobby that you have always planned on taking up, instead, put the wheels in motion to make it happen. Trust us, you will never regret it.

Part of Don Fraser’s comment that he wrote on Facebook for our pervious blog the other day sums it up pretty dam well……….. ‘Well it had to come to an end sometime. Marcus get back to work, boys get your hair cut and back to school, Melissa I think you need a rest.’

The Team Free adventures are certainly going to continue and our next adventure is already in the pipeline. Stay tuned as this is only the beginning, not the end.………

Additional photos below
Photos: 36, Displayed: 30


11th October 2012

Welcome Home Team Free
What a great recap of the past 4 months, well done!!!!!! God was so good in keeping you safe and guiding you throughout your entire holiday. It will certainly take a little bit of time to adjust to a normal way of life now. We are so glad to see you home xxxxxx
14th October 2012

Absolutely magnificent! Hope you guys enjoy being home just as much as the journey :)!
20th October 2012

Welcome Home
Hi Team Free, Good to see you all back safe & sound. Will miss the blog, as I said before you have done some great writing. Must be hard being back at work, find it hard enough after a weekend. Cheers

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