As we sit here in San Francisco (in Farley’s coffee shop to be exact), it’s quite an experience to think back to our trip and feel the distance between now and then. It was just two weeks ago today that we landed at SFO and unpacked our bags. In many ways it feels a lot longer ago than that. Job search, reconnecting with friends, moving back into our flat, moving my (Casey) mom into her new house in Grants Pass, visiting Cara’s family in Northern California and/or catching up on all the things that were left undone while we were away. All this “new” stuff in our lives in comparison to our “normal” lives over these last five months has an unwanted effect. Our trip is already too long ago.
We have struggled with this transition in many ways, and in other ways we have settled back in nicely (back into our own comfy bed for instance). and even though we still have wide-open days (yes, we are both unemployed), it just doesn’t quite feel like it did just a mere two weeks ago when we woke up in Guatemala with a wide-open day ahead of us… or Sydney or Bangladesh… I (Cara) have asked Casey many a times, “how we can do this (the RTW part) for a living?” We’re still working on that one.
But it is a good, and an important, exercise to sit down together and reflect on the adventure and where we’ve been. Because even now our RTW is a point of reference for us, and every time we remember it we keep a little bit of that experience present with us. It was once said to me to “spend money on experiences, not on things.” And I guess the meaning of that has to do with things can go away and, if you’re like me, you forget about them when they’re gone. But experiences are yours forever and no matter what your current situation may be, no one can take those memories from you. It’s an investment in your own fullness of life. In my humble opinion, the second best decision we ever made (after marrying each other), was quitting our jobs and traveling around the world. Such an incredible investment in experiencing each other, and the world with each other.
I think in some ways we have put writing this blog post “on-hold” since we’ve returned. Procrastinated. Put it off. Whatever you want to call it. It seems a bit overwhelming to try to summarize our trip. Or pick a few instances of which were our favorites. I mean, how DO you put 5 months of experiences together into a blog post? But we’ll do our best…
So as our last post we wanted to share with you some of the things we think about when we think back on our trip. Many people ask the natural question, “What were the highlights,” or “What was your favorite country?” We’re going to try and answer some of these questions by remembering some of those experiences that will stick with us for many years to come.
By the Numbers
Days on the trip: 120
Number of flight segments: 43
Number of times we packed our bags: 52
Nights spent sleeping in airport: 2
Visas and entry/exit fees (in US$): $890
Cost to replace items lost by Ethiopian Airlines: $2,650
Amount Ethiopian Airlines compensated us because they were required to by the Warsaw Convention: $320
Total value of items lost or stolen on trip: $4,250
Pictures taken: 6,397
- The moment I realized that my hard work of fitting everything I needed for 5 months in my one 22 inch carry-on bag, was all for naught!
- Our plane ride from SFO to Munich (Virgin Atlantic). We were so excited, that we journaled and watched tons of movies – Casey hardly slept a wink. For me, this will stay a beautiful memory of the beginning of our RTW adventure.
- Cara coming out of the bathroom in the Cairo International Airport, minutes before our flight, slumping down on the chair next to me, and with her head in her hands saying, “I think I’ve hit my low point.” While trying to flush the toilet, it shot (exploded!) pee water all over her legs and shoes (my [Cara's] shoes were soaking wet, just minutes before our overnight flight at 11 pm. All the airport stores were closed and our bags checked. Imagine: wet socks…wet pee socks!…for the next 6 hours. Arg, I get grossed out all over again remembering this one). As many of you know, she’s a germ-a-phobe. And we had a long flight ahead of us. So I wiped her pants and shoes with antibacterial gel while she sat there sighing. What a darling husband I have. To get down on his hands and knees and wipe my clothes down with antibacterial wipes. Oh how I love him, and in that moment I could see, even more, how much he loved me.
- Watching Cara talk with the women we stayed with in Cartagena, Colombia – it was her first immersion experience and to see her be so stoked to speak espanol was awesome.
- Waking up just moments before our car hit a dog on the road in Bangladesh. I turned around and watched the poor thing suffering on the road as our drivers continued to drive forward (me in tears). I spent the majority of my time in Bangladesh car sick.
- The business exchange with the shoe salesman in Luxor, Egypt. I doubt he will ever give a gift back just because it is Egyptian Pounds and not Euros.
- Exploring the deep caves at Semuc Champay in Guatemala – each person carrying their own single candle in one hand and swimming with the other across deep water crossings. The trip became increasingly darker as candle after candle burned away as we struggled to find the exit before it went completely black.
- Swimming and giggling in the waves of the Caribbean Ocean together as the sunset (first time we were able to swim at the same time b/c we had someone to watch our stuff on the beach).
- Our lunch on Playa Blanca in Colombia
- Watching my husband drive an ancient dhow sailboat in the Indian Ocean along the island of Lamu, Kenya.
- Standing at the foot of the Great Pyramid of Giza (Egypt) and atop the Pyramid of the Sun (Mexico). Two different cultures on opposite sides of the planet, same design. Extraordinary.
- Being homesick together in Vietnam. We stayed lying in bed for 2 hours not wanting to go anywhere while we reminisced about all the people and things that we loved back home.
- Our few days in Istria, Croatia – specifically the San Mauro farm. Dreaming of our own little farm someday.
- Standing together on the white lighthouse in Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay, looking across at Argentina together.
- Seeing the worm pop out of my little toe at 2:00 am in our hotel room bathroom in Sydney, Australia.
- The first over-night train ride from Cairo to Luxor. Casey’s first night sleeping on a train, and the excitement we had experiencing that together. A connected memory to this was the return over-night train ride back to Cairo – Casey had hit one of his low-points as the negative parts of our Egypt experience had settled in. They were two very different train rides.
- Sitting by a campfire in Uganda and learning about what our friends from other countries thought about America (Iraq, England, Israel…)
- Feeling Casey’s excited energy and watching his smiles as we explored the ancient city of Ephesus (Turkey)
- Taking Cara to the National Orchid Garden in Singapore.
- Dreaming together about living in Africa, outside the Dembi Dollo Catholic Church in Ethiopia.
- My birthday celebration in Dembi Dollo, Ethiopia. Coffee ceremonies, Obama t-shirt, and the warmth of good friends.
- Our turkish bath! Yeah – and hearing the dude slap Cara, knowing I’d be getting a half-second later.
- Walking the streets of Cartagena, Colombia with Cara.
- Our overnight visit to the Argentinian estancia where we were reminded of our ranching roots.
- Standing in an Ethiopian adoption home holding Sammy and Jenn Peppers’ son in my arms as he screamed bloody-murder!
- Falling asleep on the grass next to Casey in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, Australia
- Jen joining us for a week in Cartagena.
- My first safari – in Uganda – and the great people we met along the way. The elephants were awesome. This is also a memorable moment for me (Cara) with getting to see the excitement in Casey’s eyes as he would see each new animal. A very special time for me as well, as I was able to share a part of my love for Africa with my husband – and he was enjoying it! I have a picture-memory in my mind of him standing outside the top of the safari jeep with the wind upon his face and a huge smile. Lovely.
- The absolute downpour at the Acropolis and standing under the tree watching the water rise around us.
- Buying our Turkish rugs. …and the conversations we had after it.
- The football matches: Istanbul and Cartagena.
- Driving motorbikes through the mountains of Vietnam together.
- The look in Cara’s eyes each time I’d look at her and say, “Can you believe we are in (insert blank)?!”
- Finding out that my great-grandmother went to heaven (while in Dalat, Vietnam)
- Handing our U.S. immigration form with 21 countries listed, and finally hearing an immigration official finally say to us, “Welcome Home.” Amazingly, customs didn’t even blink. The agent looked at our card, asked us how long we’d been out of the country, then waved us through. Wow.
- Experiencing it all with my best friend.
Airlines, Ranked Best to Worst
- Thai Airways
- Virgin Atlantic
- Singapore Airlines
- Emirates Airlines
- Kenya Airways
- (Many others)
- Copa Airlines
- Aerolinas Argentina*
- Ethiopian Airlines*
* airlines we will never voluntarily fly again
Lessons Learned: Advice for the Reader/Traveler
- Whenever considering a decision that has (significant) financial ramifications, consult the wife. It can cost you in more ways that one. But you’ll get some cool rugs out of it. – wow, he beat me to that one (we’re writing this each separately!)
- When traveling to countries where the price of goods are negotiable (particularly countries in Africa), go into it knowing the initial asking price is 4X what the locals pay.
- Pay the $5 for the water on the other side of security so you are guaranteed some hydration on your flight – because you certainly can’t rely on the water service on board.
- Europe does not allow for a 22 inch carry-on (like Americans do) – 18 inches only! This certainly bit us in the butt later…
- When in negotiations don’t feel guilty or shamed into agreeing to a price simply because you are “rich” and they are “poor.” This is demeaning to both people. Always know the vendor will never agree to a price where they are losing money on the deal. If you get someone down to $15 from $40 know you are still paying way over their cost.
- Go ahead and pay the extra $1 for the trinket. She can use the extra money and this one time it’s not that big of a deal. But doing that a thousand times will cost you $1,000. Chose your “purchasing philanthropy” wisely.
- Try to embrace your own culture (even when it sometimes may embarrass you – ex: we speak our mind even when not asked our opinion) and accept the fact that as an American, there are many things that we may value that others do not (ex: our own personal space, or throwing away your own garbage). Bottom line: we may have differing values than others and we should respect others’ values and cultures as theirs.
- When going to a football (soccer) match, know the colors of the home club. Better yet, buy the club’s scarf and wave it proudly. You never know how that will benefit you in the days to come.
- Get out into the local culture as much as possible. The best experiences were meeting shopkeepers, local craftsmen, boat captains, etc. and spending time with them in their homes. This is the “real (where ever you are).”
- Listen. You’ll learn more than you ever would by talking.
- Step out of your comfort zone and reach out to people you don’t know. You will literally make friends all over the world. We started our trip in Germany with new friends we met in Yosemite and ended the trip with new friends from Mexico City that we met in Cappodocia, Turkey. Small world.
- It is different to travel as an American when the President of your country is Barak Obama rather than George W. Bush.
- You can go without a lot of what you thought you couldn’t go without.
- Casey and I walked away from this trip learning what hospitality really is. We learned that we want to exhibit this better, especially with visitors of our country.
- Find someone who loves adventure as much as you do and who can rough it through anything, and travel around the world with them. You will never forget the experience.
- If you’ve always wanted to do something, you should do it.
Casey: Life is an adventure. Live it like one.
Cara: Do it!