Friday, October 22, 2010

The list

Way back in July 2009, I posted some of the things I hoped to do or see over the course of my travels. It was a wish list of sorts, certainly not a score sheet (especially seeing as how I had mostly forgotten all about that list and what was on it until a few minutes ago). The only things I didn't do included seeing a football match at Camp Nou (too expensive) and practicing yoga in India (although I did in Thailand and a bunch of other places after my friend the yoga instructor wrote up a practice suited to me). As for everything else...check, check, and check with bonus points for doing things I wasn't sure I'd be able to do at all and for doing things earlier than I expected to!

So, by popular demand (oh, alright - two people asked to see it!), I'm posting the list I mentioned the other day. I'm just typing it up word for word, as I wrote it originally, and not adding anything that I happen to think of now. It's mostly chronological because as I started the list, I went back to the beginning of the trip and worked my way forward.

What I SAW:
* La Sagrada Familia (Barcelona)
* ancient Roman ruins (Barcelona)
* gothic architecture (mainly Barcelona, but Prague too)
* Prague Castle
* Europe untouched by WWII (Prague)
* Acropolis (Athens)
* Hagia Sofia (Istanbul)
* Blue Mosque (Istanbul)
* Great Pyramids (Giza, Egypt)
* world's tallest building (Dubai)
* Taj Mahal (Agra, India)
* world's largest reclining Buddha (Bangkok, Thailand)
* Halong Bay (Vietnam)
* Hanoi Hilton
* Angkor Wat (Siem Reap, Cambodia)
* Petronas Towers (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
* orangutans in the wild (Sumatra, Indonesia)
* Great Barrier Reef (Australia)
* Sydney Opera House
* sea turtles and sharks (Australia and Indonesia)
* Southern Alps (south island, New Zealand)

What I DID:
* stayed in lots of strangers' homes
* made friends with those strangers and lots of others
* learned how to navigate
* got better at converting to/from metric system
* rode a camel
* pet tigers
* rode elephants
* took cooking classes in three countries (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia)
* volunteered at a school for orphans
* learned how to scuba dive
* pet a kangaroo
* had my first overnight plane, train, and bus trips
* tried lots of new foods
* bungee jumped
* experienced heaps of diverse cultures
* met people from 44 different countries
* hiked a glacier

* confusion as to what exactly I was doing as I flew into London and BCN (and a city or two after that)
* smallness at the pyramids
* life is a blink of an eye in Athens
* utter chaos upon arrival in Mumbai
* utter peace walking the grounds of the Taj at sunrise
* welcome relief for large cities in Bangkok and KL
* crushing homesickness
* appreciation for what I have
* surprise at my own accomplishments
* gratefulness for the kindness of strangers
* lost, scared, frustrated, angry, annoyance, shame
* happy, excited, thrilled, amazed, proud

That's a hell of a lot crammed into one year, wouldn't you say? I'm pretty sure there are things I've forgotten, too. Does anyone out there have anything to add to my list?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


So I'm enjoying being home, right? Of course I am and here's why.

I'm having lots of great conversations with my parents (and not all of them are around the kitchen island!). Dad's time tends to be in the morning before I head off to work (or while I drink my first cup(s) of coffee since I'm not currently working). Kathy's time tends to be in the evening since Dad goes to bed earlier. Some of the conversations are about heavy and/or weighty matters and some are more basic how's-it-going-how's-your-day stuff. All had been seriously missed and I'm thoroughly loving it.

Driving. I'm rediscovering my love of driving - even taking six hour weekend road trips (with more planned in the near future) - and it's great. I love my car and the freedom it allows me.

Cooking. The random instances of cooking in a communal kitchen at various hostels just wasn't cutting it. Besides, I get to try out some of those recipes I learned in cooking classes, too, and my friends and family have been willing guinea pigs.

As an addendum to that last one: texting my sister yummy looking pictures of the things I cook. What can I say? We're competitive like that and like trying to out-do one another! :-)

Being home means I'm available to help out when my sister or my friends need me to keep an eye on their kids for them. And it's nice being able to see my niece and nephews in person instead of just on Skype.

I'm calling people just because I can, because I don't need to schedule a time to do it (while keeping in mind, of course, that there's a nine hour time difference. Or, wait. Is it 12 hours? Wait. Where am I again?! Yes, scheduling those calls could get complicated!).

Yes, I've been busy catching up with everything I missed while I was away, but I've been trying to work in some down time, too. I'm enjoying sleeping in or spending the whole weekend in my pajamas just because I can. And it's nice to not feel guilty about not being out doing (or seeing) something.

I guess none of this sounds particularly exciting, but home has been good for the heart, ya know?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Wrap up

Since I've been home from Scotland for almost three weeks now, I suppose it's about time to (finally) do a RTW trip wrap up.

It's hard to know where to begin, really, because I did, saw, and experienced SO much. I saw architecture as varied as ancient Roman ruins, La Sagrada Familia and the Blue Mosque, the Taj Mahal, and the Sydney Opera House (just a few of many, many examples). I saw the Great Barrier Reef, orangutans in the wild, Halong Bay, and more instances of Earth's natural beauty than seems possible. I met people from 44 different countries; took cooking classes in three different countries; volunteered at a school for orphans. I hiked a glacier, bungee jumped, and learned how to scuba dive. 
(One of the few places to find peace in India)

In Athens I realized that my life is a mere blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things and at the pyramids I felt that smallness again. I felt a welcome relief for large cities in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, but I felt a crushing homesickness in Vientiane and Melbourne.

I actually wrote out lists of all the things I saw, did, and felt over the course of my 44 weeks abroad. If anyone is interested, let me know and maybe I'll post the whole thing. 
(Diving the GBR)
What would a trip wrap up be without me sharing some of my favorite moments? Without further ado and in no particular order, here they are:
* walking the grounds of the Taj Mahal at sunrise and feeling utter peace and happiness
* whiling away the days in Muang Ngoi, Laos, doing nothing but reading in a hammock, chatting and drinking with locals, and having nightly bonfire sing-alongs on the beach
* seeing my first shark and sea turtle on dives in Indonesia and Australia, respectively
* learning that not only was I willing to try kokorec, but it's also one of my favorite things to eat
* seeing rainbows galore, literally dozens of rainbows throughout the world; you just never get tired of the surprise of seeing them :-)
* celebrating the Thai New Year in Railay
* truly getting to know local people in Cambodia, India, and Indonesia
(They're friendly in Cambodia!)
Sure, there were some moments when I was tired or annoyed or frustrated, but there were heaps of times that I will forever look back on with fondness and nostalgia and I wouldn't trade or change a single aspect of my trip. 

So what's next for me? It's to be determined, actually. Short term travel plans are as simple as a potential trip to Key West over New Year's. Long term travel plans. . .ah, my wish list of places to go grows by the week! I doubt that I'll take another trip as long as this one, but one which is one to three months in duration seems doable. I've heard really great things about Croatia, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, and Ukraine, plus I'd like to spend more time in Turkey and the Czech Republic, so Eastern Europe is definitely up there. I'd also like to officially relearn Spanish, so South America is up there, too (especially since it's a continent I haven't been to yet!). For now, though, I'm really enjoying just being home.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Edinburgh the Second

I've been home for five days now and I still haven't even finished telling about our last few days in Scotland (but to be fair, the first two days back I didn't leave the house and didn't get dressed. What? I was tired!). Wow, so much to catch up on!

So, we had to be in Edinburgh by noon on 29 September (last Wednesday) in order to drop off the rental car which meant that we got a pretty early start leaving Perth (not a whole lot to say about Perth, btw; I don't think I even took a single picture there). It stormed hard the entire way to Edinburgh, but by the time we got there it had slowed down to just a drizzle. I thought it might be the perfect day for a pub crawl or maybe a visit to a museum, but DSH had other ideas. We ended up walking in the West End and Leith neighborhoods and by the time we ended up back in Old Town (where we stayed the first time around), we knew exactly where we were. By early evening, the sky was clearing up and our last full day in Scotland (uh, what we thought was going to be our last full day before all of the delays) was shaping up to be really pretty.

Thursday was an absolutely beautiful day. The day started crisp and cool, but the sun was shining brightly and the skies were blue as could be. Definitely not a day to be stuck inside pubs or museums. :-) I love the look of British pubs, though, so I took lots of pictures of them and did pop into one for a beer later in the day. So how was the day spent then? Well, souvenir shopping, of course! And by "of course" I mean that DSH did lots of shopping, I just helped, lol.

I guess that about covers it, so let's get to the numbers:
* 664 miles driven on "the other side" of the road
* 8 distilleries visited on three islands (Islay, Skye, and the mainland)
* Stayed in 2 hostels, 4 bed and breakfasts, and 1 hotel
* 0 couchsurfing hosts or events, but we did meet a friend of a couchsurfing friend
* countless full Scottish breakfasts - I'm done with bacon and eggs for a while!
* 1.5 days of rain (3 half days over the course of two weeks)
* Only one picture of a statue with a cone on its head (the cone was missing by the time we were back in Edinburgh)
* Serenaded by bagpipers, oh, at least a dozen times
* Ate black pudding three times before it was forever ruined for me
* LOTS of castles and ancient ruins

All in all, a good trip. Also, not all of the Scotland pics have been uploaded to Flickr yet, so be sure to check in about a week, they should be up by then.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Full circle

One year ago today yesterday, some time between this and this, I left for my solo RTW trip. How ironic then that today is yesterday was supposed to be the day I return from my little jaunt across the sea to Scotland? One year to the day and I didn't even plan it that way! I don't have much else to say about it at the moment, especially since this was a scheduled post and I'm probably dragging my jetlagged self off the plane in the real time, but there will be more to come shortly. Trip wrap up on its way!

**Yup, for some reason this didn't post as it was supposed to, but ultimately it doesn't even matter because the flights were delayed anyway. We were going to end up missing our connecting flight in London and British Airways only has one flight a day from London to BWI. BA rescheduled our flights and put us in a hotel for the night. Our first flight of the day was at 9:10am which meant that we had to be at the airport by 8:10am. That meant that my alarm went off at 6:15am today. So after 10 hours of actual flight time, plus six hours of layover time, PLUS flight delays, we're finally home. It's now after midnight, but my body thinks it's about 5:30am. Right now, me=tired.

Trip wrap up still on its way!