October 22, 2009

It is time to go. Disbelief. Nostalgia. It is time to leave Asia. I didn’t think I would be writing this post so soon. I don’t feel ready to leave Asia although I have to admit that some days I curse the heat and the noisy, functioning madness of it. We have to catch another flight on Sunday night and leave the humidity, incredible food, awesome people and simple life behind.

Arriving in Australia will mark the end of our nomadic lifestyle that we have led for the past half year. We are going to have an address and employment (hopefully)…what that means and what it will be like and how we will adjust…I have no idea. Before I get way ahead of myself though and start thinking about moving to Sydney…I want and need to summarize, as best I can, what this whole thing has been like and what it has meant to us.

Defining experiences. Moments that stand out to build the mosaic of this trip…when time stopped and we felt very alive…moments we can never get back but will always remain a part of us.

Atlanta, USA.
Being dropped off at the airport hung over, excited and scared.

Europe in general.
MANY overnight buses.
Lying in the sun in loads of amazing parks.

Morocco.
Stepping foot on the continent of Africa.
Hearing the call to prayer for the first time.
Experiencing the chaos of a medina.
Learning the art of “just go”…when I needed to use the very scary, very disgusting squat toilet at a public bus station. It was the moment when I realized…you need to just dive head first into the country you are visiting. No matter how bad it is…that is the beauty of travel. You will come out a better person for it (or at least you will have a good story to tell).
The tranquil, indescribably beautiful tanneries in Fez…being cornered and threatened for money after walking through a shop to view them but then handing over nothing and running away.
Wearing my one piece bathing suit on the beach in Casablanca (while all of the Muslim women were dressed head to toe in clothing).
Walking 5km to get to the Marrakesh airport instead of catching a taxi to save a few dirhams.

Spain.
Arriving in Madrid delirious and finding our first hostel.
Exploring Parc Guell and the beaches in beautiful Barcelona with Chrissy.

France.
Our first Couch Surfing experience.
Walking around Strasbourg at 5am.
Watching the Tour de France whizz by with Maeve in Saint Fargeau.
View of Paris from the Pompidou.
Waves in Biarritz.
A kiss in Paris and way too much red wine.

Italy.
Gelato with an old friend.

Germany.
Beer, beer and more beer In Calw, Stuttgart, Freiburg, Munich and Berlin.
Day at Dachau.
Marcus and his roommate making us Weiner Schnitzel.
The remnants of the Berlin wall.
Staying up all night to watch the Stanley Cup final.

Austria.
Florian and his fabulous roommates in Vienna…and staying longer with them than planned.
The Opera.

Czech Republic.
Running in the forests of Marianske Lazne.
Discussing communism with local friend over a few beers in Prague.

Belgium.
Walking around the grand square at 6am.

Netherlands.
Visiting a “coffee” shop.
Being very inspired by the beauty of Amsterdam – the houses, the canals, the food and the people.
Staying in the dumpiest hostel in Europe.

Denmark.
Staying out all night with Christian in Copenhagen to catch a bus at 5:45am; dancing at a club to the Baywatch theme song and the boys getting us kicked out of a McD's for throwing food.
Drinking beer and cider outside and getting caught in a serious rainstorm.

Sweden.
Demolishing a bread bar during a bus break at a roadside restaurant.
Walking around Stockholm at 11pm while it was still sunny. Seriously. Who said that you have to sleep at 3am….when you can go golfing in Sweden.
WWOOFing and meditating in Kilsmo with Fiola.
Laughing over hot cocoa and marshmallows with Liz Andrews while watching MTV videos from the 90’s.

Scotland.
Visiting multiple pubs and drinking many beers.
Spending my mom’s birthday with her in Edinburgh.
Glencoe in the highlands – insanely beautiful moment and my mom’s dream place.
Exploring the beautiful city of Edinburgh with my mom and Maeve at 1am

Northern Ireland.
My mom crying in our hostel in Belfast because she didn’t know that dorm rooms are shared.
Stumbling upon a pub in Derry and meeting the vivacious and colourful Gina and Bernie.
The peace murals.

Ireland.
Shots of Whisky on the Wicklow tour.
Talking about Winnipeg with a bunch of Winnipeggers’.

England.
Long walks around London to save money on transportation (very long walks).
Spending a Sunday morning at the Natural History Museum.

Asia in general.
Being followed by stray dogs.
Roosters crowing all night, screaming motorcycles and guttural call to prayers.
Boiling temperatures, shared bathrooms, squat toilets and rock hard mattresses.
Cold water showers for these penny-pinchers….we rarely had hot water showers…I can list the places where we did have one…the Watsa’s in Bangalore, hotel in Jodhpur, a few times in Nepal, hotel in Calcutta, hotel in Pulau Langkawi, Malaysia and once in Sanur, Bali.

India.
Hellish bus and train rides.
Being stared at and photographed everywhere we went.
Sleeping outside on the roof on small cots in Jodhpur.
Seeing a baby lying naked on a sidewalk outside a Delhi Metro station.
Playing golf with a toothless caddy that we were forced to hire.
Walking through the doorway of the Taj Mahal.

Nepal.
Meeting Surya.
Seeing Mount Everest for the first time.
Turning twenty-five years old in Kathmandu.
Being very sick in the most beautiful place on earth - having horrific diarrhea…puking for hours and hours on day six of our high-altitude Everest Base Camp trek and staying up all night to take care of each other and then in addition, going the entire ten days of trekking without a shower or shave. In the end, it was worth it.

Thailand.
Finding heaven in Ko Pha-Ngan.
Dancing to trance music all night in a jungle at a half-moon party.
Terrific night markets.
Hottest bus ride of the trip…after the air-conditioning system broke down.
Being chased and followed by a five foot tall shuttle driver for refusing to pay an extra fifty cents.

Malaysia.
Searching Kuala Lumpur for the second tallest buildings in the world.
Unexpectedly finding a profound country with vast beauty and incredible people.

Singapore.
Admiring the world class shopping and cursing our pitiful bank accounts and then going to a brewery and ordering a $20 jug of beer, just for the heck of it.
Wandering around the empty city streets at 2am.

Indonesia.
Using our budget senses to sniff out the best score in town.
Camping out in the shade with a steamy bowl of noodles and sweaty bottle of beer.
Discussing life and love with local women at their warung (local food joint).
Reaching a breaking point…completely and totally sick of our clothes.

Random facts about the trip…

Best Meals (in the past six months)

• Couscous in Casablanca in a tiny little restaurant off the main drag.

• Tapas in Barcelona with Chrissy in a small local joint.

• Lunch in Lyon with Madame Rebet and her amazing, cultured and wise family. Oh, how I dream of going back to that sunny afternoon!

• Kebab Sandwich in Berlin with Omid, two days in a row.

• Meatballs with cranberry sauce in Sweden at a roadside bus stop restaurant.

• Every single home cooked vegetarian meal in Kilsmo, Sweden.

• Picnic in Paris (CHEESE is a very good reason to go to FRANCE!) with gorgeous and bubbly Katie and her very smart friends!

• Omelet Shop in Jodhpur…a total dump with thousands of flies buzzing around and 35C heat and humidity…but some of the best food you’ll get in India!

• Pad Thai in Thailand (everyday for three weeks straight – sometimes, twice a day!).

Modes of transportation (in the past six months)

• Rode on a plane 15 times.

• Caught a long distance bus 40 times.

• Rode on a train 7 times.

• Took a ferry 11 times.

• Went on a road trip by car as passengers 3 times (Marianske Lazne, Frieburg and Biarritz).

• Unknown and uncountable number of rickshaws, metro rides (Europe, India and Singapore), taxis, shuttles, car rides, bicycle trips (Sweden, India and Nepal), long walks, runs, guided walking tours and public buses.

• Never drove a car once.

Places we went swimming (in the past six months)

• Casablanca, Morocco in the North Atlantic Ocean.

• Barcelona, Spain in the Mediterranean Sea.

• Lyon, France in a pool.

• Marianske Lazne, Czech Republic in a pool.

• Calw, Germany in a pool.

• Kilsmo, Sweden in a freshwater lake.

• Biarritz, France in the North Atlantic Ocean.

• Jodhpur, India in a pool.

• Bangkok, Thailand in a pool.

• Ko Tao and Ko Pha-Ngan, Thailand in the Gulf of Thailand.

• Ko Samui, Thailand in a pool.

• Krabi, Thailand in the Indian Ocean and a pool.

• Pulau Langkawi, Malaysia in the Indian Ocean and a pool.

• Legian Beach, Bali, Indonesia in the Bali Sea.

• Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia in the Badang Strait