Somehow, a year has slipped through our fingers like water. It seems that time, like the wind of Patagonia, just can’t be contained. It can only be lived. Anne, I and the kids have strived to live it as fully as a person possibly could these past months since taking off from our home in Bend, Oregon on June 2014 en route to Iceland, the first stop on our Round-The-World journey.
Harking back to Iceland, looking forward at the time to all that lay ahead in our adventure, I remember it felt as if the trip we planned would have no end. It was so packed with things to do and places to see, it seemed as if it couldn’t possibly come to an end. But it is about to end, despite all the things we strove to do to prolong the joy of discovery and travel in our lives.
We couldn’t possibly have completed this trip without the help of some amazingly efficient and creative travel agents who were acutely tuned in to what our goals were on this trip.
Special thanks to Gabrielle Venturi of Vaya Adventures for helping us through South and Central America; Troy Haines of AlpineHikers for getting us through the Swiss Alps and Austria; Larus Heidar Asgeirsson of Nordic Visitor; Uthai of Buffalo Tours for introducing us to Thailand and Cambodia; Milandi Joubert of Cedarberg Travel for taking care of us in South Africa; Paul and Caroline Swart of Natural Migrations for arranging a heck of a trip for us in Namibia, Zambia and Botswana; Anthony Alagiah of Antelope Travel for showing us the best of Athens and the fabulous Greek Islands; Beth Reid of BellaTerra Travel for her help with our destinations in France; Matteo Della Grazia of DiscoverYourItaly for the tour of his wonderful country’s most charming locations; the folks at Hurtigruten for showing us the hidden corners of Norway’s remarkable fjords as it was intended to be witnessed, by boat; Shelby Albo at Aspire Down Under for helping us see the amazing landscapes of Australia and New Zealand; Kirsty MacLennan of Prestigious Travel for her assistance in England and Wales; the staff at Toka Leya Camp, Zambia for their compassionate care to make our extended stay comfortable when three of our party fell seriously ill and could no longer travel.
There were times during our RTW when each of us suffered health setbacks, physical challenges, and disappointments. Sometimes it was difficult to convince ourselves to keep going, keep moving, keep packing and unpacking, keep focused on the next destination, the next bit of unchartered territory, the next hike, the next excursion. I don’t think for a minute we could have completed the trip without each others’ support. I don’t think we could have kept Sage, Alena and Jacob focused on their educational goals without help from Jacquelyn. We very much became a highly efficient and supportive team as we worked our way around the world in search of the next experience, the next landscape, the next people encounter.
I am very proud of Sage, Alena and Jacob for completing the hikes they did, for challenging themselves, for accomplishing so much during the year. We also owe a deep debt of gratitude to the phenomenal guides who became our teachers, protectors and facilitators during the countless excursions we embarked on. Ollie in Africa, Sokly in Cambodia, Kiddy in Thailand, Wilhelm in Namibia, Tom in the Blue Mountains of Australia, Abby in the Swiss Alps, Nancy in Costa Rica, Wilfredo in Peru and Wilson in Ecuador — you were invaluable to us on this trip. Thank you.
We also discovered a lot about ourselves during our the RTW, confirming what writer Miriam Beard said about travel’s ability to transform:
“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”
We all seem much more at home and at ease in the national parks and countryside of the places we travelled in and felt stressed and uneasy when in the big cities too long. We discovered Jacob is a natural-born snorkeler and probably will be SCUBA certified as soon as he is permitted. Alena’s extremely restrictive diet of peanut butter and jelly and breaded chicken tenders has expanded to include grilled chicken, some types of fish and lamb. Sage is as passionate about basketball as when we started the trip, and he carried a basketball with him in a backpack around the world playing at courts where he could find them. Anne discovered her love of being outdoors in nature could actually be focused in a new academic discipline that is available for study and research. It’s called eco-psychology, and she will be pursuing a master’s degree in that field at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado over the next two years through a low-residency program (which means she will still live in Bend).
Although the trip is about to end, Anne and I are looking into projects that will perpetuate the life-changing experiences we had during the past year and discussing ways to share them with others. Anne is writing a book about the transformative nature of our travels, and I’m planning on putting together an eBook of my photography and possibly a printed coffee table photo book. In addition, we would like to do a slideshow/video presentation of our trip with the idea of raising funds for a few of the charitable organizations we encountered in Cambodia and Zambia as well as Conservation International. A portion of the sale of any prints from the RTW from my web gallery and from art exhibits would also benefit those organizations.
As we traveled, we thought about the endgame and often asked ourselves if we could pick out the “Best Of…Worst Of” from among the most memorable moments of our trip. It became a good way to keep some precious details fresh in our minds and hearts. Here’s what we came up with:
Best of RTW
Most Memorable Moments: Too many to list, but here is a sampler: Sitting amid a pride of more than 20 lions in Botswana; Sitting in the middle of Deadvlei, a dry-sea bed millions of years old, in the Namibian desert; Jacob and Alena learning to use ice axes to drink fresh water from fissures in an Iceland glacier; Climbing to the top and inside the crater of an Iceland volcano; a boat ride at 2 am in the land of the midnight sun through the magical Trollfjord in Norway; live Mozart chamber music concert at night in an ancient fortress overlooking Salzburg, the composer’s birthplace.
Best Burger: Siem Reap, Cambodia; runner-up, Arenas del Mar, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.
Best Mocha: Port Campbell near the 12 Apostles, Australia; runner-up: Port Douglas at The Coffee Club; and Chocolateria, El Chalten, Patagonia.
Best chocolate: El Chocolateria, El Chalten, Argentina
Best ice cream: El Chalten, Argentina; runner-up Lyon, France
Best Breakfast: The Royal Monceau, Paris, France
Best Fish: Arctic char in Iceland
Best Lamb: Iceland
Best Pastry/Food display: Paris France
Best hotel: The Royal Monceau Paris
Best Ecolodge: Mosaic in South Africa and Patagonia Camp in Torres del Paine, Chile.
Best overall cuisine: Greece, Peru and Thailand
Most hospitable people: South Africans
Best wildlife viewing: Okavanga Delta, Botswana; Galapagos, Ecuador; Costa Rica & Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile; Tasmania, Australia.
Best beach: Murray Beach, Booderoo NP Australia; Wineglass Beach, Freycinet NP, Tasmania; Rada Beach, Thailand.
Best Guides: Ollie, Botswana and Zambia, Wilderness Safari; Wilhelm, Namibia, Wilderness Safari; Tim Tranter, Tread Lightly Eco-Tours, Australia; Wilfredo, Peru Tour Guide; Abby, Alpine Hikers, Switzerland; Kiddy, Buffalo Tours, Thailand; Sokly, Buffalo Tours, Cambodia; Nancy, Sun Cruise Tours, Costa Rica; Paul, La Selva Eco-Lodge, Ecuadorean Amazon.
Best lakes and rivers: New Zealand
Best city: Queenstown, NZ
Most Romantic place: Greek Islands; Annecy France; Positano, Italy.
Best Pizza: Daddy’s pizza, Lake Myvatyn, Iceland.
Best Scenic Drive: Ring Road, Iceland; Garden route, South Africa; South Island, New Zealand.
Best Wifi: Paris, France.
Best Weather: New Zealand.
Most Inhospitable Climate: Ecuador, Costa Rica, Southern Thailand.
Cleanest Nation: New Zealand, Iceland and Norway.
Safest countries: New Zealand, Iceland.
Hardest Country to Drive In: Wales.
Most Photogenic Countries: Iceland, New Zealand, Patagonia (both Chile and Argentina), Peru, South Africa.
Countries Most Likely to Revisit: Iceland, New Zealand, France, South Africa, Patagonia (Chile and Argentina), Australia, Norway.