Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Our Last Say: The End to the Amazing Dawdle... for now!

Sydney, Australia
Wow…. It’s over! We have a hard time believing that the trip has finally come to an end. We have dawdled since July of 2009, and logged in 33 countries. The trip has taught us a lot about long term travel, the world and our personal likes and dislikes. We’ve both loved and disliked parts of the trip, but never regret leaving Chicago to travel round the world. Some people thought we would never do it, others thought we were crazy, some looked down on us (yes, um, we’re not settling down), and the rest praised us for having the guts to live the dream. Life is for living, and doing what you want to do --- as long as you can pay for it!

We’re happy we took the Amazing Dawdle, but we’re also glad the trip is ending, as this vagabond lifestyle can’t go on indefinitely. We loved traveling, new cultures and foods, and meeting new people. We also realized what we personally like to visit/see at a destination, not necessarily what the guidebooks tell you. Our preference was walking the cities/streets/parks, sampling local cuisine, and observing life at cafes, not waiting endlessly to get into a museum or cathedral.

Would we do it again? Well, we would not do another trip in the same manner for a few reasons. Near the end of the trip (especially getting through the tricky driving in Eastern Europe), it became more of a travel marathon. The need for different gear for different parts of the world was a challenge --- like arriving in freezing Patagonia with no cold weather gear! Contrary to what we planned, it was not always summer where we visited. We’d also spend more time in the type of places we like – the beach and the mountains. Sometimes too many adventurous places in a row would leave us drained (Vietnam to India to Egypt!), and our preference was a more luxurious mode of travel (please no more overnight buses with no TP or hand soap!). In the future, we would break it down by area: the Pacific Northwest/Rocky Mountains/Great Plains by car; South America, but we’d travel with practically nothing that we would not want to part with; Europe, but see more of our favorites – and new favorites - in the Mediterranean; and Asia, with enough empty luggage for all the souvenirs (haha).

With every country notch in our belt, we learned as a couple how to make the travel work for us. Travel is not easy on a relationship, but has made us even stronger. We’ve seen each other at best and worst (celebrating with friends in Germany over the World Cup wins … and curled in a fetal position on a 5 star hotel bathroom floor in Egypt), just like our marriage vows. We still yelled at each other over stupid things like directions, but laughed over the funnier parts of the trip, like seeing the Naked Tan Man, and challenged each other, like rappelling in Argentina.

Everyone always ask what our favorites were… so here are our thoughts (in no specific order as we ourselves could not agree on an order):
1. Seeing all the wildlife in America’s National Parks
2. Microbrews in Montana and Colorado; wine tasting in Oregon
3. Rappelling in Argentina
4. “Bats in a snow globe” in Hervey Bay, Australia
5. Sitting on a bus and watching the world go by, sans electronics/TV. We recall being in awe as we zoomed down highways in Patagonia and watched the weather change to snow, or driving over the bridge from Singapore to Malaysia to find palm trees as far as the eye could see – for miles on end
6. Our amazing vegetarian meal at the Po Lin Monastery in Hong Kong
7. Whale watching in Puerto Madryn, Argentina – without getting sea sick!
8. Xmas celebration in Talca, Chile, in a town now sadly affected by the massive earthquake
9. Snorkeling at Ko Phi Phi, Thailand in a long tail boat --- with a crazy captain who we thought would sink the boat or get us killed with the incoming storm
10. Careening through the Goan countryside in India with Sunil our young cab driver while listening to “Africa” by Toto and “Do you Believe?” by Cher
11. Finding the “end of the road” where all the cars were driving to in Bansko, Bulgaria and eating in the mountain valley at a small tavern, where we had a perfect grilled pepper salad, a deep fried whole block of feta cheese, a local massive sausage, and grilled toast!
12. Driving in Scotland through the amazing Cairngorm National Park, while listening to Amy McDonald’s haunting CD (over and over) which fit the stark landscape, since there was no radio reception
13. Eating delicious French bread stuffed with chorizo/tomato and tomato/chevre in Paris while propping ourselves up on a bridge over the Seine on Il de St. Louis, admiring Notre Dame
14. Any beach in Hawaii!

We had some pretty amazing food and beverages on the trip, and without a doubt, we’d head to Argentina for empanadas, malbec wine, dulche de leche, and steaks; chicken tikka in India (where we never got sick – amazing!); Woolgoolga, Australia for some of the best pizzas on the beach; amazing grilled sausages in Germany; manchego cheese, tortilla espanola and a rose wine in Spain; any cantina for seafood in Greece; avocados in Chile; ghoulash in Romania; bison burgers in the Rocky Mountains in the U.S., wherever our friend Biaggio is for his excellent Sicilian cooking, and kahlua pork in Hawaii. Our favorite cuisine? We had so much good food in Vietnam (also thanks to the Vietnam Home Restaurant), that it was amazing we LOST weight in Asia. Christy is still figuring out how she could have the best potato salad of her life at a small cafĂ© in Ho Chi Minh City.

And there were some trip disappointments along the way – Lima/Peru will remain a huge $$%^$# for us, we still can’t figure out why the Egyptian food made us sick all the time, driving was trying in Bulgaria and Romania, and Hungary did not meet our expectations (except for the Eger wine region!). But, on the flipside, we were completely surprised by places like North Dakota (Roosevelt National Park) and Idaho (famous for more than just spuds), Bulgaria, Malaysia and Ho Chi Minh City!

We also could not have had as much fun along the way without meeting up with some really special people: Terry and Greg in Seattle – too much fun at a baseball game despite us rooting for the Chgo White Sox!; Misti and Jonathan in Portland for such a great time, and amazing wine and food; Nicci and Phil (and Pliner!) who met up with us in the beginning of our trip in S. Dakota; John for taking us on an exciting kayaking trip in Idaho; Karen and Russ, for a wonderful Chicago send-off; all our Chicago friends and family who came to our going-away parties; Doug and Jen – for coming from the farthest to say goodbye (and leaving the baby at home to do so!); Anne and Sean for wonderful dinners in Miami; Lucy and Pancho for amazing tours and veggie food in Santiago; Graham for some English kinship, good laughs and beer in Argentina; James, Mel and Baby Em – for always making us feel at home in London; our G. clan in New Zealand for putting us up and putting up :) with us over the holidays and to Denise and Phil for renting a house with us in Coja; Brett, Marnie, Hudson and James for a relaxing stay in Brissie, we’ll never think the same about a rubbish truck again; John and Lynn for bringing our AUS stuff back to NZ; Kittima in Hua Hin for becoming such a good friend during our stay; Rob and Vicky in Ko Lanta – for that welcome beer and a week of laughs and advice; Dang at Vietnam Home Restaurant in Mui Ne for some of the most amazing food, friendship, and a chance at fleeting fame on Vietnamese TV; Ika and Marianna for showing us Lisbon in a whole new light; Stu and Sarah for their UK hospitality right before they left for their round the world trip and then meeting up with us in Romania; Gloria and Biaggio for their warm welcome in Cologne, watching the World Cup in Kolsch style, and B’s amazing cooking; Maike and Andi for an awesome time in Ulm and one of the craziest nights on our trip (along with a special shout-out to Tina, Matt and Katerina!); Jonathon and Judit for a one day stomp through Vienna and the amazing Romanian grilled meats; John and Nadia in Greece for an amazing stay and great olive oil mmmmmm….; our new friends from Harmony Hills, Bulgaria (Don!) and from the Paris Hilton (Linda and Scott!); and lastly, Colleen and Dragan, who met up with us on their honeymoon in Sydney, for an amazing – wet – day and fun night out! Our time with old and new friends, and those we met on the road, really enriched our trip and made it very special. Thanks again! We hope we can show you the same hospitality when you come and visit! Lastly, we thank our friends and readers who provided the funniest responses/suggestions on our Facebook blog postings (Heath, think you may be the tops on that), as well as your support, emails, and letting us feel “in touch” with the rest of the world.

So for now, wheels down and time to carve out a new life in New Zealand!

Christy and Marcus