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Current Location:Columbus, OH, USA
Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to.
– Alan Keightley
Since we’ve been back and catching up with friends and family, here are the questions everyone seems to have (and our answers):
What was your favorite place?
This is the toughest question to answer since we generally liked almost everywhere we visited. If we had to narrow it down, we both agree that Chile is the place we wish we’d spent more time, Santorini was beautiful, and Cambodia was the place we made the most friends.
Which place did you dislike?
Nepal. I can see how it would be amazing if you were there to hike. Unfortunately, we couldn’t afford to go hiking so we were just there to check out Kathmandu. It was dusty, it was cold, it was crowded, I saw a woman get hit by a bus, there was a yeti outside of our window, there were long power cuts (where we didn’t have heat), and the people were in your face about trying to sell you things. That being said, the temple was beautiful, the people were nice, and the food was good. It was just overwhelming.
We also weren’t fans of Dubai since it was unwalkable and boring (unless you have money to burn). Bangkok wasn’t so great, either, but we were there during violent protests so maybe it wasn’t the best time to judge.
What’s the weirdest thing you ate?
Crickets. They didn’t taste like anything. We accidentally ate balut eggs at one point, too. I think. It was dark. Truthfully, you really have to seek out “strange” foods to eat; usually they’re exotic treats, even for locals. We ate similarly to how we eat at home although in some countries food was fresher (and in some it wasn’t), there was more of an emphasis on rice, and there’s a serious lack of cheese outside of America and Europe. I missed cheese.
Did anything bad happen?
We never had to bribe anyone. We were never accused of smuggling drugs and thrown into a prison. We were never yelled at and no one made disparaging remarks about America. We had nothing stolen and we didn’t break anything major. We never even got sick, other than a few minor colds and at least one really bad sunburn. All in all, we did really well for ourselves.
That being said, we had friends who had had all that happen to them. While in Cambodia, one of our good friends got typhoid and needed to be treated (she also went on to be bit by a monkey in India). We met several people who had their cameras, laptops, and money stolen. We witnessed riots and protests as well as the response by police in different countries. We made friends with a police officer in Jo-burg who told us stories of scams he’s witnessed and experienced. I think we were really, really lucky. I also think, though, that a lot of this stuff is just random and you can only worry about safety so much. Any of it could’ve happened at home (well, maybe not the monkey but you never know) so you might as well be traveling when it happens!
Why did you come back?
Money, of course. Originally, we wanted to travel throughout 2014. We probably have enough to keep going for awhile, actually. However, hockey season starts in the fall and Randy needs to attend a seminar if he wants to referee (if we weren’t back in September, he’d have to wait until next September to renew his license). Plus, early in the school year is when I am most busy with testing kids. We could’ve spent a few more months on the road but we would’ve spent more money and come back to bleaker opportunities for earning it back.
Plus, I have to say, we were getting really tired of moving around. The first half of our trip was good because we spent long chunks of time in one place. I think we burned ourselves out by moving through so many European countries so quickly, though. It’s tiring to keep looking for a place to sleep and places to eat. It’s also monotonous to go to beaches, museums, sites, etc. It sounds like it would be amazing but if that’s what you’ve been doing for months and months, it loses its luster. I didn’t want to go see things just to see them and I didn’t want to lose excitement for traveling. If we had been able to afford to keep traveling until next September, it would’ve been a prime time to settle into a long housesit and recharge for awhile.
What are you most excited to do now that you’re back?
Sleep in a comfy bed. Do our laundry in a washing machine (not a sink). Unpack and buy non-thrashed clothes. Sit on a couch (there aren’t many of those in hotel rooms). See our friends. Understand what I’m eating. Cook my own meals. Have our own space. Drink good beer. Foster shelter dogs again. Use our library and read actual books (no need for ereaders anymore!). Sit in a green park in tolerable weather without sweating through everything. Drive wherever we want to go, whenever we want to go there.
Will you do it again?
It’s hard to say right now. I doubt we would ever do things exactly the same as the first time. I would definitely want to do another extended trip but I might prefer to split it up between 3 or 4 countries so that we spend a few months really getting to know a place and people. We also had the most fun when we had a purpose – whether it was housesitting, volunteering, or photographing certain things (e.g., graffiti). I think an adventure with a purpose (such as volunteering with multiple agencies, hiking an important trail, or circling the world in a unique way) would be the most fun for the next time around.
Rome, Italy is an amazing place to explore. There are tons of windy streets, interesting sites, and historic places which (in my humble opinion) are best explored on foot. It’s huge, though. The very first day we were awake enough to explore, we showed up for a free walking tour so that we could get a better sense of what was around.
We chose the New Rome Free Tour mainly because it was the first one in our search engine. I’m sure everyone else had the same idea because our group was huge.
The tour leaves everyday at 5:30 from the Spanish steps.
There were a ton of people on our tour and Rome is a crowded city as it is. However, I thought our guide did a pretty good job making sure everyone could hear him, ask questions, and see what we were supposed to be looking at.
If my family had attended churches with ceilings and decorations as amazing as the ones in Rome, I might’ve been more excited about Sunday mornings.
Just remember that these aren’t tourist attractions – there are people praying and attending mass in a lot of them.
Dude. There’s a head in there.
The Column of Marcus Aurelius was pretty amazing. However, true to my anxious nature, all I could think about was how intimidating it must’ve been to work on this and worry about messing up.
This ceiling makes me dizzy just thinking about it.
Inside the Pantheon.
It’s blurry but this guy has his dog sitting on his shoulder. He told us his dog was tired of walking and needed a ride.
The tour ends at the Trevi Fountain which was jam-packed with people. We took an obligatory photo, tipped our guide, and headed off (don’t worry, we came back when it was less crowded).
Our guide recommended the Antica Birreria Peroni for dinner and drinks after the tour. It’s where Peroni was first brewed and poured in 1906. It’s around the corner from the Trevi Fountain.
The beers were fairly reasonable and the food was good. It was crowded in there but fun after walking around all day.
Overall, this tour was just OK. It was too “church heavy” for my taste. It also didn’t go past any of the major tourist attractions you think of when you think of Rome (i.e., the Colosseum). Of course that’s because there is just too much to see in one tour and the city is pretty spread out. I think it’s a good one for anyone who has not been to Rome before, who is interested in architecture and churches, or who wants an overview of some of the lesser-seen sites in Rome.
New Rome Free Tour
Leaves everyday at 5:30 from the Spanish Steps
Takes approximately 2 hours
Their website includes a list of all of the stops.
When I last left you, I was traveling to Italy. That was in April. Today is the first day of September. Clearly, I’ve failed you as a blogger.
The thing is that there was just too much. While we were in Cambodia and Thailand and Australia and all of those other places, I had time to write and think about what we were doing and our experiences. After April it was like our trip was put in fast-forward. I can’t actually believe that it was that long ago that we were in Italy. It’s like I blinked and ended up here.
The other thing is that the longer I put off writing, the more stressed I get about it. The more stressed I get about it, the more I put off writing. It’s an annoying cycle that I am clearly aware of. I really want to complete the whole story and update everything because it has been amazing to have a written account of what happened (especially since my journal is now officially Missing for Good).
I plan to update everything but I also want to write about what it’s like to be back. So, some things might jump around but I’ll try to keep everything clear.
Here’s a highlight of the things we’ve done since April:
- We visited Italy (Rome, Naples, & Pompeii), walked all over, had picnics in the park and at the Circus, and did not get pickpocketed.
- I was kicked out of the Vatican.
- We drank a lot of beer in Germany (Munich and Berlin). I stole an old lady’s wieners (on accident, I swear).
- We met up with one of our fellow cheetah volunteers in The Netherlands and she taught us how to eat herring, salsa dance, feed baby birds, and become addicted to stroopwafels.
- We spent a long time (and a large slice of our budget) exploring London, meeting up with another cheetah volunteer, and enjoying being able to speak the dominant language again.
- We were lazy in Spain and drank a lot of wine.
- We spent two days back in the US during a layover in New York City. It was bizarre to be back, even if it was just for a little bit.
- We flew to Chile on the scariest flight I’ve ever been on.
- We explored Santiago and Easter Island which ended up being one of the most amazing countries we visited during our entire year.
- We met friends in Costa Rica, went ziplining, and chased monkeys.
- We visited the Mexican ruins in Mexico. Sadly, we did not get to play the ball game or witness a reenactment. We did learn how annoying fake jaguar sounds are, though.
- We flew to Alaska for two weeks to visit our parents and get re-introduced to America.
- We landed a nice apartment (thanks to our friends) in Columbus and Randy accepted a job offer. We flew home, he started work, and I worked on completing all of the requirements for re-licensure before I accept a job offer.
See? It’s a lot. There are five months of things to say. I’m going to work on it.
If you want to catch beasts you don’t see every day,
You have to go places quite out of the way.
You have to go places no others can get to.
You have to get cold and you have to get wet, too.
– Dr. Seuss
After an awesome time in Greece, our next stop was Italy. I was excited to see all of the history and famous landmarks; to eat a ton of pizza; to drink as much wine as I could; and to act like a tourist around all the other people. I was nervous about the crowds, pickpockets, and language barriers. That’s pretty much my standard areas of nervousness, though, so I guess it was normal.
Our flight from Athens to Rome went off without a hitch. (On a side note, the Athens airport is the last place I ever saw my ill-fated journal. RIP, little buddy.) Since Italy is part of the European Union (EU), we didn’t have to go through customs. I was extremely disappointed that we missed out on a bunch of passport stamps. Maybe I can draw them in or something.
We almost never take taxis so we hopped on the airport train. It was a super nice train with lots of seats. I happened to sit next to the door which, apparently, can cut you in half if you’re not quick enough:
We were very tired after a sleepless night in Greece before we left. Why they let those groups of teens giggle in the halls of hotels without a chaperone, I’ll never understand. I would’ve done it if I’d gone on an overnight as a teen but I really just wanted to sleep. In any case, all we had energy to do was walk to our hotel, meet our hall monitor, and go to sleep. Exploring can wait until the morning!
The hall monitor is on the right, by the way.
For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.
– Robert Louis Stevenson