I started to count up the flights we have taken in the last 18 months, I ran out of fingers (as you all know I can only reliably count to 9, 9 and a half on a good day). So I tried to count up the places, I don’t know why I thought that would be better. So I will just have to leave it at the fact after 17 months, we have been to a lot of places. So many people have said to us how lucky we are. Luck has nothing to do with it. We decided, we jumped off the cliff and we had the adventure of a life time.
But I don’t mean to sound so fatalistic, the adventure still continues. It just has different priorities. However we have one last hoorah in NZ before heading back to the world of big kid jobs, responsibilities and expectations.
At the start of ‘An Idiot Abroad’ Ricky Gervais says he genuinely believes travelling broadens the mind. I think about that every stop we have. Every stop has challenged me. And although I have more to experience and learn, I feel adequately challenged for the short term and I am ready to have a real life again.
One thing that has surprised me is how much of a homebody I seem to be. It's funny that emulating a turtle (carrying your whole life on your back) for 18 odd months would make you realize that you are a creature of comfort. I love travelling, but I also love having a home, making it a home, inviting people to your home, but most of all… being able to describe to others where your home is. Some people will read this statement and say - ‘well I’m from New Zealand!’. I am it’s true, and don’t get me wrong I am pretty blimmen patriotic. But, I have lived my life saying my home is where I rest my head, anyone that knows me well will testify to me calling their home, my home at some stage in my life. I guess it helps combat homesickness but it also makes you appreciate where you stay.
There is one thing that terrifies me about the big move to the northern mother land is the feeling that going back to a 'normal' life will leave me feeling unchallenged and the traveler inside of me will be trapped while the hermit version of me thrives.
Any-who. Both Iain and I have decided there is no part of our trip that we would exclude if given the opportunity to do it again. We would definitely have added more places given the chance, but probably given ourselves a similar time frame.
I have a friend who is just leaving an overseas military posting and she has been using her Facebook status’s to highlight some of the things she will miss. I thought that was a pretty cool idea – so I stole it and molded for my own personal amusement.
#1 The countries that have influenced me the most: Egypt and Bulgaria
Funnily enough these two countries are not necessarily the ones I have enjoyed the most, almost at the other end of the scale I guess. The influence and dislike I think is rooted in the same complete unfamiliarity with the lifesytle, and compulsion to change a culture that you know you cannot.
#2 Most influential food. Italy and Morocco (of course) but also Bulgaria (surprisingly)- its amazing how many cabbage dishes you can make. Just wait Mum, I’ll cut your grocery bill in half.
#3 Most surprising: Russia, it also wins the prize for most troublesome to get into.
#4 Most friendly, adventurous, physically demanding and life changing: Canada. I believe my biggest personal changes were formulated in the Rockies.
#5 Most likely to go back to: Morocco, Canada and Hawaii. I would also categorize Hawaii as the ‘If I had to be a homeless bum, where would I want my park bench’.
#6 Most jaw dropping for everything bad: The US. The size of portions, the racism, the polarizing ideals and unrelenting judgment. Wow that makes it seem so bad. I want to spend more time there, because to me aspects of The States are more foreign and abstract than Moscow, more sad than the Roma slums and more passionate than an Italian football fan. There is so much more to discover.
#7 Country most terrified of weather: This is a tie between the USA and UK. Having been in the middle of Hurricane Sandy and the Worst London Winter Ever… of 2012… not to be out done by the London storm of the century of 2011, 2010 and 2009. Actually no I take that back, UK win this celebrity death match. If someone sneezes in the north and the leaves fall on the train tracks the whole country stops.
#8 Most hilarious music experience: Guggenmusic Switzerland. Any music festival that includes drinking at 9 am on a Friday morning and dressing your infant child in a troll outfit has to win this prize.
#9 Craziest man on a train: Egypt. I thought this man would win comfortably, stealing another mans seat, fighting him for it when he returned, attempting to sell me scarves across the seat, preaching and throwing fruit at other patrons in the carriage for a solid 8 hour train journey. However, a man on the London Underground this morning, gave him a good run for his money. I was under the full understanding that he was attempting to eat my arm.
#10 Best Wedding Celebration: Moroccan Berbers. The photos say everything that needs to be said.
#11 and #12 Most cats- Turkey, Most dogs – Bulgaria. Funny how each country adopts their own specific abundance of strays.
#13 Country that made me the most angry and sick – Egypt, i think the Egypt blog describes this in enough detail the first time.
#14 The countries that made me the most sad are tied between Egypt and Greece. Both have been hit so had with the economic crisis and civil unrest that the tourist sector has pretty much disappeared. They are so excited and grateful you are there, but you can see the hardship in their eyes.
#15 Where I felt the most insignificant in the world. Greece with the Acropolis and Egypt with the pyramids. But I think if New York had been as busy as it normally is, I would have felt it there. We visited about 3 days after Hurricane Sandy and there was hardly anyone else around.
#16 Best alternative winter sport: Switzerland’s epic 2-hour sledding track. I don’t think my hair has recovered since that day.
#17 Coldest house – Sorry Eric and Caroline but it has to be France. Jeepers creepers, any kitchen taps that freeze the drips overnight is too cold for human inhabitation. I have to say I appreciate peeling potatoes so much more now that I don’t have to do it in front of a fan heater.
#18 Most overrated: Magnetic hill or the tidal bore in Moncton actually all of Moncton, Canada – I know everything else has been countries. However this place should be eradicated from the map.
#19 Best ski hill: Lake Louise, the ones in Europe are bigger, but nothing like the challenge that LL set every day for 5 months.
#20 Best thanksgiving: Toronto, Canada – thanks Ruth and Cammy for showing us how it’s done.
#21 Most excited to see the sea: Vancouver. 10 months, no sea. There are so many people in Alberta who have never seen it. Drumheller, Alberta was the furthest I had been from the sea in my whole life, I love the mountains but not as a trade off for the sea.
#22 Best wine tasting: Porto. Wine, Chocolate and Port. Need I say more?
#23 Best airport lounge. Without any hesitation I say the Star Alliance lounge in Istanbul, Turkey. It is the first time ever in my life that I have wished my plane to be delayed (let me just clarify - this is when I’m already at the airport. I have wished on a number of occasions for my flight to be delayed, but this is mostly because I am speeding my way toward the airport… late again.)
So as I sit here cocooned in my cage of an economy middle seat, surrounded by giants who don’t fit in their own seats, I think to adventures ahead, hopefully not crippled by deep vein thrombosis. I told Mum that there was no reason to be concerned about the drought, it would break for 2 reasons – it’s a long weekend coming up, there is no way NZ could deliver good weather for that. But also that Iain and I were coming home, and the weather will almost certainly turn to poos. But that’s ok, because I can spend my time inside drinking red wine with friends and family and feel like I belong.