It's immensely satisfying to turn something from, "I always wanted to..." to, "that was fucking amazing."
22.12.2015 - 22.12.2015
Well it's over.
4 continents, 9 countries, 26 flights, 6.5 months, or 197 days. Countless miles, innumerable adventures, and heaps of friends. We successfully circumnavigated the globe, finally skidding into Chicago's O'Hare airport three days before Christmas.
Yes. It's weird to be back. I wake up at night and don't know where I am--something that never happened on the trip. It's weird to step back into your old life as if none of it ever happened. Especially since we feel as if we've been gone for about three years.
There are a few things we would do differently a second time around, but some stumbles were inevitable. But I also can't say that I would choose to erase the bad moments, because they always led towards great ones.
For example, if we hadn't suffered through the Don of Mildura, then we wouldn't have fled to Port Macquarie to work at Beachside, which led to Jane. Closed doors, open windows, you know the drill. It's completely true.
It is good to be back in many ways. It's nice to drive my car (on the right), snuggle my kitties, hang out with my loved ones and revel in the cozy familiar. It's nice not. To. Live. Out. Of. A. Backpack. It's not to have to switch languages and currencies every hour.
Things I missed about the US:
-Peanut butter. The good stuff.
-Working, full-sized showers that don't require shoes or a bucket.
-Restaurant servers bringing you the check without you having to submit paperwork and a blood sample.
But I already miss adventure. The thrill of discovery. I miss facing the world with my sister and plunging ahead.
And we did alright, you know. We didn't kill each other. Oh, there were many moments of flared nostrils and high tempers, but she is 50% of my family, and she can't leave me behind. Mom would kill her. My sister is the only one I could have in my hair for 6 months without sending out on an ice floe. We shared everything from toothpaste to bank accounts, and now we have to face living on opposite ends of the country again.
We speak a language only the other can translate, full of quotations and imitations, adages and private jokes.
She is the only one who knows the hole our father left behind, and she is the only one who can fill it in my heart.
And pardon my French, but we did a motherfucking number on our bucket lists. One's travel lust is never truly slaked, not if you are hardcore, but we slashed through our mental lists with shocking speed. I highly recommend it. It's immensely satisfying to turn something from, "I always wanted to..." to, "that was fucking amazing."
One of the things I like most about travel is that with every trip, of whatever length/distance, the world gets a little bit smaller. It's like walking through a giant house and turning on the lights one by one. Now we have an idea of what life is like in Thailand, Cambodia, Australia, Argentina. We weren't able to scour each country, to be sure, but we have an idea. And that is wonderfully illuminating.
We went to some very poor countries. We went went to some very wealthy countries. All of them had rich cultures and beautiful landscapes. All of them had homeless people and other social struggles. And all of them had beautiful, wonderful people who shared those cultures with us and helped us along.
I have been asked many times what my favorite part of the trip was. You will understand that this is a very difficult question. It's hard to compare experiences. We saw so many scenes that were literally breathtaking, and did so many new things.
New Zealand was the biggest surprise for me. I expected to like it but I had no idea I would be blown away. Each day got better and better, from the glow worm caves to Hobbiton to the Weta tour to Milford Sound. And Gina fulfilled her every expectation to love it. I loved Australia but I expected to love it. And the temples at Angkor in Cambodia were a great itinerary addition.
The Mindfulness Project was the single most life changing experience of our trip though. Learning new things about myself and the world, as well as getting in touch with things I already knew was something I really needed at this point in my life. Paired with the simplicity of living in rural Thailand and the hugely diverse group of volunteers (and new friends) it was the recipe for a new me.
But really, my "favorite" part of the whole trip was the people. I know, I know, slap me on the wrist for being cliché. But it's true. Santiago was more fun to discover with Anita. Bangkok felt safer with Tae. Australia wouldn't have been Australia without Jane and Adam, Rick and Jenny, or Rebecca.
Getting to know our new Argentinean family was priceless, especially meeting Dad's friends and goddaughter. And don't even get me started on our Croatian family. We were ready to shred our tickets home and just entrench ourselves in Dalia's guest floor.
Looking back, we had the good fortune of staying with locals in five of the nine countries. We learned to cook and to say thank you. We read history and observed popular culture. Over time these are the things that will surface when we reminisce about this trip. We won't remember the layovers, getting lost, being worn thin or the huge expense. We will remember Frano showing us how to crimp an empanada, off roading in the ute with Jane, sobbing on Carina's shoulder, watching Siniša drink champagne out of his son's championship cup.
These memories will be set against a backdrop of New Zealand mountains, Peruvian jungle, Viennese monuments, and Patagonian fijords.
Would I do it again? Of course. A hundred times over. Could I leave tomorrow? No. Money aside, I'm exhausted. An exhaustion that reaches down into my soul. My heart is wonderfully full and my memory bank is straining to contain it all. At least I will always have my sister, whom I can call up anytime and say, "do you remember...?"
We will write one last post with travel and packing tips, as requested. But before I close this I would like to thank you for sticking with me. I know the writing wasn't always my best or the posts consistent, but if you're reading this then we made it around the world together and I appreciate that more than you can know. Thanks for joining us.
Extra special thanks to Donna, Jane, Adam, the Katavić family, the Mirjanović family, Carina, Marisa, Anita and Belinda, Rick and Jenny, Angel, Jorge, Tae and family, Rebecca and family, everyone at the Mindfulness Project and in Surin, Mirjana and Mladen, Mirna, Federica and Max, Margherita, Jim, Stuart, and the loads of other smiling faces who made this trip beyond incredible. Thanks too for the support from back home, especially to Megan, Michelle, Karen, Ryan, Grandma, and our wonderful mother.