We left home more than ten months ago with a tentative plan and a one way ticket to New Zealand. Prepared to spend up to 14 months on the world road, we knew that our trip might be cut short if the right opportunity were to present itself. Much to our delight and dismay, seven months into our trip Jason was offered a job in San Francisco with his former company. Unwilling to turn down Jason’s dream job and a chance to live in one of the world’s great cities, we are returning home on February 1. In a few short days we will board a plane in Santiago, 321 days after embarking on our journey around the world.
In the year leading up to our departure, trip planning felt like a second job. Countless hours were spent researching destinations, figuring out what to do with our house, searching for health insurance, selling some of our belongings, pricing plane tickets, finding the right ATM and credit cards and shopping for clothes we wouldn’t go crazy wearing day after day. For the past two years, this trip has consumed our lives. As I sit here today looking out at the beautiful landscape of southwestern Bolivia, I can´t help but reflect on the whirlwind of experiences we have had this past year.
From the hilly streets of Auckland, we have made our way through Asia, Africa and South America to the world’s largest salt flat in southern Bolivia. Along the way we swam with whale sharks, rode motorcycles through the Vietnamese highlands, slept in gers with Mongolia’s nomadic people, watched the sun set in the shadow of Mount Everest, seen four of Africa’s Big Five in some of the world’s best game parks, tracked mountain gorillas in Uganda, wandered through the tombs of ancient Egypt’s greatest rulers, lived the life of a gaucho on an estancia in Uruguay and hiked on a glacier in Patagonia.
We’ve grown accustomed to carrying our belongings on our backs, brushing our teeth with bottled water and checking for bed bugs. We have ridden on countless crowded buses, survived many nights in less than appealing hotel rooms and been ripped off by more shady taxi drivers than we care to admit.
In some ways it feels like just yesterday we were packing our bags and chatting excitedly about the adventures that lie ahead. I remember handing in my Blackberry at work, canceling my cell phone service, selling our cars and closing the door to our house one last time. I remember feeling free and that feeling is why I find traveling so exciting and addictive. It is also what I will miss the most once we return home. Each day is an adventure. We wake in the morning not knowing where we are going to sleep that night, how we will get there or what we will eat. We deal with confusion and uncertainty on a daily basis. Not a day goes by that we aren’t blessed with the opportunity to meet interesting people, locals and travelers alike.
As much as I enjoy life on the road, there are things about home that I miss. Obviously I am excited to see my friends and family but I’ve also missed hot showers with good water pressure, flushing the toilet paper, skim milk, doing my own laundry, not having to question whether or not the bed I’m sleeping in is clean, long runs along the Mississippi River and a consistent workout schedule.
Through our travels, I’ve learned so much about the places we’ve visited and developed a strong appreciation for the cultures we’ve come to know and love. Maybe more importantly, I’ve developed a deeper appreciation for my life at home. I am privileged in that I’ve always had access to clean water, electricity, indoor plumbing, paved roads, healthy food, and a good education. Seeing first-hand the number of people who live without these very basic things has been an eye-opening and heartbreaking experience. I will never forget the hungry little girl that stole food out of my hands in Egypt; the hardworking Indian pedicab driver who sleeps on the back of his bike and only travels home once a month to see his family; the young Filipino man who dropped out of school to earn money for his sibling’s education; or the schools we visited in Africa that didn’t have enough chalk, pencils or paper, let alone desks or chairs.
When we first told people of our plans to travel the world, I think some were skeptical that any couple would want to spend every single moment together for 300 plus days. I honestly never really thought twice about it and now that our journey is coming to an end, I am pleased to report that this trip has only brought us closer together. Of course there have been arguments and moments of frustration that would’ve featured prominently on an episode of the Amazing Race, but nothing we weren’t able to laugh about later. Having spent 321 continuous days together, it is obvious now more than ever that we have found each other’s best partner. I have no doubt that when we have a chance to travel again, regardless of the length of the trip, we will quickly fall back into the routine that is now second nature to us. Jason will forever figure out the maps, drive the stick shift rental cars and take care of the bargaining while I will likely always be in charge of determining the itinerary, finding us a decent place to sleep and asking for directions.
Thank you to everyone who has followed along as we’ve attempted to cram a lifetime of travel experiences into the last 10 and a half months. As you can see, we have been consistently behind on our posts and still have a lot of writing to do. Even though we are returning home we will continue to update the blog. Future posts will include stories about our journey through India, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia and Chile. Plenty more pictures will be posted as well. Feel free to keep reading as we document this trip of a lifetime. We hope to see many of you very soon!