Friends, we have finally come to the end. This is it. Really. We’ve enjoyed sharing our adventure with you, and now it’s definitively over. Enjoy.
Something I haven’t done since my carefree days of unemployment (how I long for thee) is write for fun. Sure, I’ve written boring work emails and more entertaining personal emails, but I didn’t realize how much I would miss blogging every day. We tried to maintain the blog after our readjustment to the States but found that life here (especially unemployed life here) was not nearly as fun to write about as our adventures out in the world. Settling back into a true daily schedule (coffee drinking, crossword puzzling, Swamp People-watching, and dog playing don’t really count) has been a hurdle to writing interesting daily blog posts. As I write this, we are flying to the West Coast for Hanna’s grandma’s eightieth birthday, and it hit me that this would be a perfect time to finally do what we’ve promised for ages to do: finish the stupid blog. Composing this on the very same netbook we brought with us on the trip seems like a fitting end too. (Note: we flew out to Spokane in mid-November. It took a certain someone a while to write her final blog post.)
We have said it time and time again: it’s not like we have a zillion posts left to write. It’s just that by ending the blog for good, it fully shuts the door on our can’t-believe-it’s-over journey that we were fortunate enough to experience. The hardest part about the end of the trip has been accepting that life is stable and routine now. While we certainly had our fair share of tough days on the road, we never knew what the day would bring…and I miss that.Being stuck on a Thai island for a couple days seemed a bit claustrophobic and repetitive at the time, but now I welcome the day when my hardest choices were whether to have an omelet or pizza for lunch and what TV show to watch as the rain beat down. The harrowing day when we were dumped at the Cambodian border was incredibly frustrating at the time, but it’s now a distant memory and a story to tell the grandkids. The monkey attacks at Mt. Emei and Bali cemented my fear of large simians, but I’d rather face a monkey than a crucial deadline at work.
Before leaving for the trip, we listed out our expectations, and I feel like I have only chipped away at my understanding of how the world goes round. We got to see how locals lived and got a feel for commuter culture. All bets are off as to whether the local Balinese family (mom, dad, two toddlers, a newborn, and grandma all on one moped) will get to their destination unscathed. Chinese subways and buses can seem like a cattle call at times, while waiting for Japanese subways is the epitome of efficiency and politeness. After months in Asia, subways and trams in Australia felt quite similar to home. Germany is the hands-down winner of train perfection in Europe. No matter whether I was sitting next to baby pee, riding atop an elephant, or floating on a noodle as the Great Barrier Reef current pushed me this way and that, the sense of forward motion got me excited about my next destination.
We certainly struggled more than we thought upon returning home. (I use the word “struggle” quite loosely as our lives really weren’t that bad.) Bouts of insomnia were accompanied by thoughts of “What the hell are we doing back in New York when there’s still a world to explore?”. One thing is definite: I am not sick of traveling by any means. While it’s nice to have our own place to call home that doesn’t contain snorers, bed bugs, or shared bathrooms, I miss the thrill of discovering that I am, in fact, in Tokyo…or Christchurch…or Phuket. The sad truth is that I don’t know exactly when (not if) we will get the chance to visit these places again.
I could list out everything that I learned by traveling for a year, but I don’t want this to get preachy. I will say that I am proud that I traveled with my wife for a year and never had any knock-down drag-out arguments. We definitely bickered and got annoyed with each other at times (wouldn’t you if your wife wanted to sample McDonald’s many times in every country?), but our disagreements were just that: quick bouts of differences. They didn’t last days or even hours, and this fact cements how lucky I am to have found a partner in Hanna. I have also found that even when the going got tough, we would get through it no matter what. Lying awake at night in a hostel in Siem Reap, we felt like we were being eaten alive by ants, mosquitoes, and/or bed bugs as dogs barked and music blasted. We couldn’t help but think that life was not so fun at that moment, but we knew it would be over soon enough. Life sucks sometimes, but you’ll get through it…albeit bleary-eyed and frustrated.As cheesy as this may sound, people all around the world aren’t all that different than us. Sure, people look and speak differently, but you may strike up a conversation with a local or the Swede, Kiwi, or German traveling alongside you and find that you’re not that far removed from life back at home. The little Malaysian kid likes Plants vs. Zombies just as much as the American tot. The Turkish teen perfected her English skills by watching Gossip Girl. No matter where you are in the world, Friends, How I Met Your Mother, Law & Order, and The Big Bang Theory are always on and universally loved. (Though the French in particular love the last one, I’m not as convinced.) While socioeconomic classes may provide a divide no matter where you are, simply chatting with whomever wherever proves the world really isn’t that big.
Though we won’t post any new updates to the blog, I enjoyed sharing our adventures and looked forward to reading comments every day while on the road. It was often times a race between us to check the blog to see who said what about our days. Our ownership of the blog domain expires in May 2012, but hey…we may renew it. There’s always the next big around-the-world trip to plan.
Did you ever know that procrastination is one of my middle names? Hanna Jo Procrastination. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? I have been meaning to write this post for months but have been putting it off and putting it off. I guess that once this post is written, it finally means that the trip is over. After being home six and a half months, you think that I would be ready to accept that, wouldn’t you?
In October 2009 Mike and I were sitting on the beach in Maui dreaming about taking a trip around the world. We had talked about it before, but I always refuted the idea, deeming it too expensive, too scary, and too exhausting. For some reason, however, the stars were aligned on that warm Maui day. All of a sudden, this idea to quit our jobs and travel for a year totally seemed like the best idea we ever had. Of course we could afford it! Of course we will have time for naps! Not having a job will totally rock! This was going to be the best thing we ever did….and it was.
The next nine months were filled with lists, charts, bank account checks, blog reading, and dreaming. We saved up more money, planned a basic route, replanned our basic route, packed, repacked, and talked about all the what-ifs we could think of. We felt really prepared until the night before we left….all of a sudden, a bit of panic set in. I made Mike book a private room for our first week in Tokyo because I just KNEW I was going to have a night of sobbing myself to sleep and worrying about the big decision we had just made. I knew that I would need time to myself to adjust to life on the road without my friends, TV, and couch. Surprisingly that freak out never happened, and then I knew that we had made the right decision.
Our ten months spent on the road were life-changing. I learned a lot about myself and became a happier, calmer, better, more confident person because of it. I learned that I am a lot stronger than I ever thought I was. Being able to take a two and a half hour ferry ride in some of the roughest waters I have ever seen without throwing up? That takes mental toughness and sheer horizon line concentration. Eating McDonald’s almost daily for a month? Well, that just goes to show how strong my mind AND digestive system really are. Getting food posioning, gastritis, bed bugs, and pneumonia in six weeks’ time? Yes, definitely not the highlight of the trip but always good for character building and storytime: “Remember that time I had shit coming down my leg while I puked in the shower? You were so nice to hose me down, honey.” That’s one for the storybooks. Luckily those certain “character-building” experiences were few and far between, and we were mostly graced with moments to laugh at.
I will be forever grateful to have had the most wonderful travel partner one could ever ask for. I know many people won’t believe this, but we never had a huge blowout fight. We would bicker but always ended up laughing about it. Yes, I was none too pleased when Mike wouldn’t let me eat at Outback Steakhouse on our first night in Beijing; he wanted more authentic fare, so off to KFC we went. Yes, I may have yelled at him to “calm the f*@k down” when he was freaking out about losing his wallet on a London bus. That was almost a daily event, and the wallet was never lost. (Mike’s on top of things like that.) As a whole we just enjoyed each other’s company and laughed through our daily trials. We genuinely had fun sharing this experience together, and I am so lucky to have such a kind, thoughtful, funny, and patient partner in life.
I could wax philosophical for hours about the benefits of long-term travel, but I’m sure no one really cares anymore. With this post comes my final update: we came home, got jobs, are working at those jobs, and are back at the “saving for a rainy day” game. What life might bring us next, we can’t say for sure….all we know is this: taking a huge leap without knowing exactly where we would fall was the best thing we have ever done. Enjoying life for what it is and not for what it could be was earth-shattering. Not always looking for the next best thing but trying to find the humor in the moment was spirit-altering. We will always try and find the joy in life’s moments, whether they be big or small. We do not live to work, but rather we work to live. There is so much of this world that we need to see and so many McDonald’s left to sample. (I should be a fortune cookie writer!)
Goodbye, old friends!
Final Picture of 2011. New Year’s Eve in New York.