Perhaps we should have planned something big for our last week in order to go out with a bang, but as it turned out we spent most of our time in the car. We were dazzled by the light and empty landscapes of Namibia for days before turning east and making the final slog to Johannesburg. Thank goodness for books on tape is all I have to say. With one interesting dinner at the Carnivore Restaurant (crocodile or zebra anyone?) and culturally enriching stops at the Mandela House and Apartheid Museum, we flew home via Dubai, a long and painful flight if ever there was one. We hit the ground running, plunging into car and school registrations, home repairs and preparations for sleep-away camp. As long as the planning and build up is for a trip like ours, when it ends it is OVER. Within days it felt like a hazy dream.
But we did it! I’m so proud of us! In part I am relieved; we made it with no serious illnesses, no broken bones, no theft, no major losses aside from sunglasses, two hats, and one stuffy (rest in peace, Crabby, wherever you are.) Aside from one jerk of a customs man in Turkey, we received nothing but human kindness along the way and met some delightful folks. At the same time we mourn that this extraordinary year of freedom is over as we head back to the structure of school and work. We won’t be able to take a year off again with our 9 and 12 year olds.
What do we have to show for it? A depleted bank account, many passport stamps, some big life experiences, photos, memories of beautiful places and some not so beautiful. The best souvenir by far is the mighty resiliency of our kids; they’ve risen to the occasion in all sorts of surroundings and situations. They’re unfazed by dodgy urban bus stations or persistent touts, they’re comfortable and poised chatting with just about anyone who crosses our path. I feared they might get jaded or spoiled, but it didn’t come to pass; they were as excited to see and learn new things in the end as in the beginning and at least one kid hopes to travel more. Best of all is the whopping amount of perspective gained. Seeing shacks alongside the train tracks in Sri Lanka or the sprawl of Soweto couldn’t help but make an impression, of course, but so did attending school in New Zealand and watching street life in Hanoi. I dearly hope it sticks with them. I’m so grateful we had this chance to make their world so big.
A round up of the past ten months then, diligently compiled by Miles.
Total distance: 52,760 miles
Countries: 20 (Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, UAE, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa)
Where we spent the shortest amount of time: Zimbabwe (about 3 hours)
Where we spent the longest amount of time: New Zealand (3 months)
Modes of travel: plane, taxi, metro, bus, sleeper bus, funicular, tram, ferry, train, tuk-tuk/bajaj, motorboat, bicycle, bicycle rickshaw, cable car, car, elephant, traghetto/gondola and foot!!
A year’s worth of field trips including: Museu Picasso, Sagrada Familia, Mercat de la Boqueria, Barcelona Zoo, Palau Guell, Teatro Salvador Dali, MUHBA Plaça del Rei, Patheon, Colosseum, the ruins at the Forum, Vatican Museum, Italian cooking class, Castel St. Angelo, Villa Borghese, Explora (Il Museo dei Bambini di Roma!), Uffizi, Gallerie dell’Accademia, Genoa vs. Florence soccer game, Leonardo da Vinci Museum, Peggy Guggenheim Museum, Bascilica St. Marco, Museo di Storia Naturale, Palazzo Mocenigo, gondola ride, Acropolis, National Acheological Museum, Acropolis Museum, Asclepion, Delos, Ephesus, Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sofia, Grand Bazaar, cruise on the Bosphorus, Istanbul Archaeology Museum, Basilica Cistern, Antalya Museum, Goreme Open Air Museum, Cappadocia Home Cooking School, Heritage House, Atlantis/Aquaventure Water Park, Desert Safari (and dune bashing!) Colombo National Museum, Sigiriya, the ruins at Polonnawaru, Dambulla Rock Temple, Kaudulla National Park, Udawalawe National Park, Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, blue whale watching, Singapore Street Food Tour, National Museum, Peranakan Museum, Legoland Malaysia, Singapore Zoo, Singapore Night Safari, Sarawak Musuem, Semenggoh Rehabilitation Center, Bako National Park, Guning Gading National Park, Textile Museum, cooking class, Kuching Cat Museum, Puri Lukasan Museum, snorkeling, batik class, Indonesian shadow puppet performance, offering class, Balinese cooking class, Puru Ulun Danu Temple, Australia Zoo, Great Barrier Reef, Fraser Island, Noosa National Park, Quake City, Antarctic Center, Wild Bird Center, Puzzling World, Oamaru Penguin Colony, Routeburn Great Walk, Kaikoura Dolphin Swim, Abel Tasman Great Walk, Te Papa (Museum of New Zealand), Weta Cave tour, Zealandia, Hobbiton Movie Set Tour, Tongariro Alpine Crossing, surf lessons, Skyline Luge, Agrodome, Wat Po (Emerald Buddha), Grand Palace, Bangkok Food Tour, Siam Museum, Amulet market, Big Brother Mouse book party, Living Land Farm rice tour, Pak Ou (Buddha Caves), Laos National Museum, Halong Bay, Hanoi Street Food Tour, Vietnamese cooking class, Ethnology Museum, Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, One Pillar Pagoda, Tomb of Tu Duc, water puppet performance, Hue’s Forbidden City/Citadel, National Pagoda, ‘Dar Reality’ Tour, Usambara Mountains, Tarangire National Park, Lake Manyara National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Serengeti National Park, Oldupai Gorge, Chobe National Park, Victoria Falls, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Makgadigadi National Park, Living Desert Tour, Dune 45, Mandela House, Apartheid Museum
What trip is next? A girl has got to dream! Perhaps Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Japan, South Korea, Patagonia, Costa Rica, or Morocco. There is always more to see but for now, we’ll take some time to regroup and reenergize. Thanks for following along.