So, I complained that Les was spending too much time on the computer writing the blog. So, he said that I should to do some writing; that will teach me. Writing is not my forte, but I will do my best.
It is hard to believe that we are at the half-way point of our trip. In one way it feels like we’ve been gone a long time and it’s time to go home, and in another way it feels like we’ve just left home. It was particularly difficult to be away over the holidays. Each of us has fallen into a funk now-and-again, but the others have always been there to provide a sympathetic and encouraging word.
The world is a big place and we are only getting to see a small fraction. For various reasons, mostly time and energy, we’ve had to cancel visits to places in Greece, Turkey, and Vietnam. We completely missed Laos and Cambodia. On the positive side, we are increasing the number of places we would like to visit next time around.
We’ve met people from all over the world during our travels and they always ask, “What is your favorite place?” or “What has been the highlight?” and “What do you miss from home?” As well as many questions about how we’re schooling the kids. So I thought our readers might be interested in these five lists: Highlights of our trip (so far); Things I wish I could bring home from places that we’ve visited; Things that I would like to take from home to places we visited; My observations; and Our travel statistics.
Highlights of our trip so far, in no particular order:
> Our safari in Tanzania. It was so amazing to be so close to such beautiful wildlife.
> Staying at my cousin’s cabin in the Alps. As Alex put it, “I feel like Heidi”
> Watching America win gold in freestyle wrestling at the London Olympics. It was inspiring to hear our national anthem played.
> Hiking a glacier in Iceland.
> Jungle trekking in Thailand, even though I was 20 years old than most of the other guests
> Cooking school in Bali. An activity the whole family enjoyed.
> Staying with and visiting family and friends. I am very grateful that our hosts have been so welcoming and have made us feel a part of their family. Thank you to everyone who welcomed us to their country and into their homes; Tili & Dirk, Imka & Bertrum, Jim & Shirley, Richard, Francis, Anne Marie, Patrick & Natalie, Christina & Andre, Gopal & Mogil, Keiko & Paul. We appreciate your hospitality and hope you will visit California and allow us to return the favor one day.
The kids would also like to add para-sailing in Turkey and zip-lining in Thailand to the list. (You can see from the look on my face that it was not a highlight for me)
Things I would like to bring home from:
> Waterfalls in Iceland. We have some of the world’s best waterfalls in California, but in Iceland we spotted one every few miles as we drove along the coast.
> Roundabouts. Although they can be tricky at first, they are very efficient.
> Public Transportation. We appreciated public transport everywhere we visited in Europe; and especially in Switzerland, Germany and the UK. It is amazing how you can get anywhere in the country by public transport. Transport is fast, efficient and clean. Fares are often collected on an honor system, something I wish we could have in the US.
> Tilt and Turn Windows. These windows and patio doors slide, tilt and open. They are very versatile and very solidly built.
> Bikinis at the beach that women of all ages, shapes, and sizes wear with confidence. We saw this throughout Europe but mostly in Croatia, Greece and Turkey. I think we would all feel less self-conscience in the US if everyone could wear a swimsuit in public, not just slim 20 year-olds.
and since I’m such a foodie……
> Beer in Germany and England
> Pubs from the UK and Ireland. a comfortable place to relax and enjoy and meal and a pint.
> Cafes from everywhere in Europe. I love sitting outside and watching the people go by.
> Bakeries from Germany. Bread and sweets to die for! Yum! (and bread from Francis’s bakery)
> Water from Iceland. Cold water is fresh, literally from a melted glacier. Hot water in your shower is from a natural hot spring.
> Chocolate from Switzerland. Yummy!
> Cheese from Switzerland. Also yummy!
> Sausage from Germany. These were good everywhere in Germany, but especially Nuremberg.
Africa and India:
> Attitude. The people in Tanzania usually met us with big smiles and the enthusiastic greeting of “Jambo, Jambo”! This is especially impactful once we gained a better understanding of the economic situation in Tanzania.
> Tasty, healthy food from India. Almost all the food that we ate in India was fresh, lots of vegetables and creative combinations of spices. Yummy!
> Beautiful clothing from India. The women wear the most beautiful saris, especially during Diwali. They are colorful, some with gold thread and beading, very feminine, very pretty.
Southeast Asia (Bali, Thailand & Vietnam)
> Spicy food. Especially curry and pad thai from Thailand; and satay and nasi garang (fried rice with fried egg) from Bali. I can get good Thai food at home, but not for $2.
> $1 beer on the beach. One of my favorite things to do Bali and Phu Quoc was lay in a beach chair, listen to the waves and drink my $1 beer.
> Daily offering of beautiful flowers. Spending time being thankful every day by making beautiful flower baskets as offerings to the local deities every morning.
> $5-$20 massages. Awesome message and you can’t beat the price.
Things I want to bring from US to …..
> Showers. Many places just have tubs.
> Pooper-Scoopers. I can’t speak for all America, but our neighbors are very good at cleaning up after their dogs; not so much in Europe. Watch where you walk on the sidewalks and in parks.
> Unlimited refills/bottomless cup of coffee. Although it’s not so healthy, I enjoy a second cup of soda or coffee.
> Board-shorts style swimsuits for men. I’m not a fan of the Speedo.
> Ice. It is not common to get ice in your drinks, unless you ask.
> Garbage Disposals. We rented many apartments in Europe, none had a garbage disposal. Not a huge deal, just a convenience I enjoy at home.
> Toilets that flush well. In the older cities in Europe, they just don’t flush well. (stay tuned for a future post on toilets in Japan, best in the world!!)
Africa and India
> Resources. In Tanzania many homes don’t have running water or electricity. Some children can’t afford to go to school or they need to work on the farm or watch the cattle.
> Quiet Streets. In India the traffic is constant and loud. The cars are constantly honking their horns as they work to avoid other drivers.
> Dog Catchers. I’m not sure that we still have these in the US, but they need them in Bali. Bali is full of stray dogs that hang in packs at night and were very intimidating. Also, it appears that the dogs in SE Asia are not usually neutered.
> Breakfast meat. I love crispy bacon or a good sausage patty with my breakfast; but in SE Asia we were served very fatty, soggy bacon and sausage that was like a rubbery hot dog.
> Hot Showers. Some places had hot water, and some didn’t.
> Dry Bathrooms. In much of SE Asia & India, water is used to clean oneself in the toilet, it makes the floor very wet. Also, in some guesthouses, the shower doesn’t have a curtain or door, just a nozzle coming out of the wall. So, the whole bathroom was covered in water by the time I finished my shower.
> Pedestrian Right of Way. Motorbikes scared the heck out of us when they used the sidewalk to get around traffic in Saigon.
> Balanced Historical Information. In Vietnam it was hard to hear about the “evil Americans” or the “US soldiers who didn’t like the peaceful life in Vietnam, so they came to bomb the children having picnics”. Our guide warned us that when we watch the video, to remember that it is produced by the communist government, so take it with a grain of salt.
> Dr. Pepper. I love Dr. Pepper and I have only found it twice since we left home. At the train station in London and at a kiosk in Athens.
> Friends and Family. We miss everyone back home and we’re very grateful to have been able to meet up with Molly, Kari & Bill, Vi & Les, Dan & Janelle, and Doris. We hope to meet up with more friends and family in the next 6 months.
My other observations:
> I have found the people around the world are generally friendly, polite, good people; but there are nice people and rude people everywhere. One Bosnian man we met on the beach in Croatia made the insightful observation that “There are red-necks in every country”.
> I don’t like the phrase “Ugly American” and the Americans we’ve encountered while traveling are just as well, if not better, behaved than other tourists.
> Old ladies can be super-sweet or super-nasty. Many of the nice ones come up to our children, touch their face, and say something sweet, usually not in English. But some have knocked down my 9-year-old daughter to get on a bus or get off an airplane more quickly.
> Dubai is the cleanest, most modern city I have ever seen.
> Most people we saw in Dubai were Filipino or Indian.
> Since leaving Europe Alex has become extremely popular because she has blonde hair. On many occasions complete strangers stop and include her in their vacation pictures. We tell her not to get accustomed to her superstar status unless she develops some exceptional talents beyond her “hair of spun gold”.
>I have handled my small wardrobe better than I expected. However it is difficult when we are staying with friends and the other women dress cute and fashionable; and I’m in my practical travel clothes. I have seen women in full burkas with prettier shoes than I wear.
The world is a big place and I hope to return to many of these places one day to see all of the places that we had to pass by this time around.
Statistics at the half-way point (January 6, 2013):
- Continents: 3
- Countries visited: 19; Iceland, Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, England, Scotland, Ireland, Switzerland, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Turkey, Greece, Tanzania, United Arab Eremites, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam
- Transit cities/countries (where we only were in the airport or passed through on the train): Copenhagen, Slovenia, Northern Ireland, Qatar, Muscat, Kuala Lampur.
- Days: 189 days
- Planes: 30 flights
- Total Miles: 29,472 miles
- Air miles: – 24,907
- Train miles: – 1,194
- Road miles: – 3,371
Places we’ve slept:
- Hotels/Guesthouses: 32
- Hostels: 1
- Apartments/Villas: 19
- Friend’s Houses: 5
- Beach Bungalows: 2
- Village Home-stay: 1
- Red Eye Flights: 2
- Houseboats: 1
- Sleeper Trains: 1
- Rental Cars: 8
- Trains: 5
- Subways/trollies/local trains: 7
- Audio tours/walking tours/guided day trips: 37
- Cooking Classes: 2
- Museums/Cathedrals/Temples: too many to count