I had every intention of writing one last blog to share my summed up thoughts on “2011: The Year of Discomfort and Self-Discovery.” But, as life can easily whisk you quickly from here to there, I have only now found the time to gather my final thoughts.

Who can put words to an experience such as what I had this past year? I tried hard to have an epiphany, to answer the oft asked question “How did the trip change you? Do you feel any different?” But as we all know, you can’t force that. It has to come naturally. Easily. Without too much effort. The harder I squeezed my brain, the more it resisted to squirt out anything worth repeating. But these past few months have given me the chance to chew and chew and come up with some final thoughts. Here they are:

~We live in the land of plenty. It is almost shameful. I found myself in the grocery store gawking at all of our food and product choices, how clean and neat the aisles and floors were, and the overabundance of choices we have in this country. Yet, people are starving, both here and abroad. Just doesn’t make sense.

~ I am grateful to be born in America. After seeing how other cultures live and survive, merely sustain life, I am aware and appreciative for the ease and comfort of our Western lifestyle. Many cultures struggle to put food on the table, to afford schooling for their children, clothes on their back and shoes on their feet, simple things we take for granted.

Woman and child on Cape Maclear, Malawi

~You can live with very little. We lived out of one bag for an entire year. All we needed, we had on our backs. Nothing more, nothing less. It was liberating and a great reminder not to get caught up in the excessive consumerism that has corrupted good people. I’ve never bothered with that mentality anyway. I like simplicity. I live by the KISS Principle: Keep It Simple Stupid. It keeps me grounded.

January 4, 2011-JFK about to begin our travels around the world.

~I am addicted to Coke. Not the shit you snort up your nose, but the cold and refreshing kind that you drink out of a glass bottle. I came to my addiction during our time in Africa, mainly East Africa, when the choice for a cold drink was extremely limited. Ahhhh, a cold Coke and a smile! You can’t beat that with a stick.

~People are resilient and resourceful. Absolutely amazing to see how other cultures live. Grass huts, mud huts, cow dung huts, reed islands, building scaffolding made of skinny branches (scarrrr-y!), babies carried in blankets sashed to the mother’s back, families getting from here to there by bus, van, bicycle, tuk-tuk, train, motorcycle, and anything with wheels or feet.

Cow dung house in Masaai Village

Uros, a reed island on Lake Titicaca, Peru.

Antigua, Guatemala

Locals queing up for Tazara Train, Mbeya, Tanzania.

~Traveling is either in your blood or not. It is definitely in mine. I am already dreaming of the next trip.

~My interest in world affairs has broadened. It becomes more intimate when you have visited these faraway places and then read about them or hear of news on the radio. I feel more connected to the world at large.

~My standards have been lowered to a point I never knew possible. I can wear the same dirty underwear (in times of desperation) and certainly the same clothes, over and over again. I can do my business on every toilet style imaginable; Western-style, squat, pit, and outhouse (maybe an over share). I can sleep with cockroaches, geckos, centipedes, rats, cats and mangy dogs (although I don’t like it!). I can sleep in sketchy lodging because it is cheap and eat cheap food because it is cheap. I can use any and all modes of transportation that would NEVER pass inspection in any first world country, as long as I don’t think too much about it.

Toilet at Salima, Malawi "bus depot."

Tazara Train bathroom.....Tanzania.

Disgusting "Hotel" room in Xela, Guatemala.

Living la vida loca in our Winnie the Pooh campervan, New Zealand.

Chicken buses, Guatemala.

~I feel empowered and proud of the fact that I had a dream to travel around the world and made it a reality. It has increased my confidence in my ability to do anything I put my mind to it. Now on to the next adventure!

and that’s where I’m at….

 

P.S. I want to thank all of you, our faithful followers, for taking this trip with us. What a wonderful trip it’s been! What’s your dream?

Settling in to life at home……..

We continue to be intrepid travelers during November, living in Newton, MA in our friend Virginia's office!

Look who followed us back from New Zealand!! Pooh, Eeyore, and Piglet!

Moving day back to our condo in Cambridge, MA.

What I have been dreaming about for quite some time....heaven on earth:)

Settled in and hosting our families for Christmas in Cambridge.

Courtney, me, and my sister Jill.

Sisters Lelinho.

Christmas 2011.

Merry Christmas to me from my sweet sister Jill-Pats vs Miami, December 24. GO PATS!!

Gillette Stadium-aka The Razor.

Patriots AFC Champs!!!

WE’RE GOING TO SUPERBOWL XLVI!!!!! GO PATS!

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Happy New Year!!  Just when you all thought you would be rid of us…

Jane and I are settling back into our “normal” life.  Each of us are going to cap off our crazy adventure with one last blog entry, so stay tuned.  For those of you who have complained about lack of reading material in the past month, hopefully this entry will hold you over!  It isn’t an easy thing to process all that we’ve seen, experienced and learned.  In the meantime, we thought you would enjoy some blog stats from this past year.  Find out things like who our #1 reader was!  This blog was a great way not only to stay in touch and document our journey, but will hopefully be a great resource for all of you in your travels.  Thank you all so much for your love and support throughout this year.  We loved sharing this journey with all of you. 

Stay tuned for each of our wrap up entries, but for now….that’s where we’re at.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

This is the last blog of Graffiti from Around the World, beginning with SE Asia and ending with New Zealand!! This last installment is dedicated to our Kiwi friend, Sam Smith..enjoy Sam:)

Graffiti Malaysia:  Kuala Lumpur

Technically not graffiti but I was taken by the STRONG message!

 Graffiti Thailand:  Bangkok

Graffiti New Zealand:  Auckland

Graffiti New Zealand:  Wellington

This little gem was inside the pit toilet in Tongariro National Park where we spent a few nights.

THE END.

and that’s where I’m at…

ENJOY!!!

Graffiti Portugal:  Lisbon

 

Here’s the second installment of Graffiti from around the world…..Enjoy!!!

Graffiti Italy:  Florence

Graffiti Italy:  Venice

 

Graffiti Italy:  Rome

Graffiti Spain:  Barcelona

As we traveled, I fell in love with the creativity and presentation of graffiti from around the world. This is the first installment from Guatemala, Argentina, Chile, and France. Stay tuned for the remainder.

Enjoy!!

Graffiti from Guatemala: Xela

Graffiti from Argentina: Buenos Aries-Camanito

Graffiti Chile: Santiago

Graffiti France: Paris-Monmartre

Graffiti France-Paris

We apologize for the lack of blogging, but our last week in New Zealand thwarted our efforts to do a final blog….bummer. And since we have been “home” life has been crazy in the past couple of weeks. (We cannot move back into my apt. until sometime December, so although we are home, we are not in our “home” but living with friends and family) First, for those that are faithful to reading the blog, we left NZ on Wed. Nov. 9th and arrived in Boston the night of Nov. 9th at 8:30pm after a 24hr journey home. We were beat but we never lost a day! It was like going back in time. We then had one day to find clothes that had not been worn for the past year in my friend’s basement where we were storing our worldly goods (thank you Virginia!!). The catch is that this was not the original basement, but a new house with a new basement, so needless to say, we had no idea where anything was. After digging around for the entire day of Thursday, we finally found some new/old clothes, hallelujah! Friday we were off and running again, taking the train to the Berkshires to visit my sister for the weekend. Monday night we arrived back in Boston, headed back to Virginia’s, had 1.5 days to further forage for new/old clothes, and Thursday took the Megabus to NY and then on to NJ, where we will remain until after Thanksgiving with Courtney’s family. and that’s where I’m at……

 

Here is our last blog entry we wanted to post before leaving NZ……

Our New Zealand adventure is now complete. While staying in Cambridge, NZ at the motorcamp, we met the sweetest Kiwi who is a hobbit extra in the upcoming Peter Jackson film “The Hobbit.” Of the 750 people called, only 70 were chosen, and he was one of them. He is a retired school teacher, having taught for 42 years at the primary level, and had the bluest eyes and the gentlest smile.

The Hobbit's hole:)

After retiring he sold his house and bought a caravan. When he is not in his caravan, he travels around New Zealand house sitting for people.  We chatted during dinner about different countries we’ve traveled to, life as a Kiwi, and places we’d like to visit in the future. We asked how life on the movie set was and he said it was a magical experience, working with wonderful people from around the world. He was a true delight and another fine example of the warm and friendly Kiwis we’ve met during our time in this country. Sidebar: I did ask to see his feet to confirm that in fact he WAS a hobbit, but suffice to say, his word was good enough;) The next morning as we finished our breakfast, he asked us if we’d like to have coffee with him at a place he knew on the outskirts of town called “Incrediblue Café.”  We had no strong agenda for the day, only heading out to Raglan for a few days, so we said, of course! The café was cute and specialized in all things blueberry, including blueberry wine. After finishing our muffin and coffee, we indulged in a glass of wine and chatted for another hour or so. This opportunity to sit and chat with Neville was one of the most pleasant experiences during our time in New Zealand. He is a fascinating individual living a fascinating life. He is a man who has created a lifestyle that makes him happy.  A truly remarkable individual.

Us and the "Hobbit"!

Prior to our return to the North Island, we spent a few rainy days in Christchurch, not motivated to do anything but watch movies and stay warm and dry while the skies dumped 2 days worth of water non-stop. Moving on to Arthur’s Pass, we enjoyed the scenery and hiking of the Southern Alps. It was here that we had our first official introduction to the alpine parrot, the Kea. The Kea is a large species of parrot found in forested and alpine regions of the South Island of New Zealand.

Kea in Arthur's Pass.

About 48 centimeters (19 in) long, it is mostly olive-green with a brilliant orange under its wings and has a large narrow curved grey-brown upper beak. The Kea is the world’s only alpine parrot. This bird is the equivalent to our pesky and curious seagull that inhabits the beach, but with a beak that could tear the rubber off of your car, and btw, DOES! The Kea seems out of place in the mountainous landscape. Its bright green and orange markings would be better suited to a more tropical setting. It has become a nuisance, mainly because of stupid humans feeding and encouraging the bird to interact.

We enjoyed 4 days of good weather, great hiking, and overall natural beauty. We met another couple from Wisconsin, just beginning a RTW adventure of their own. We hope we did not bore them to tears with our stories and advice. Jennifer and Bobby, if you are reading this, we’d love to monitor your blog and live vicariously through your travels, so drop us a line, please!

The beautiful view on our hike to Mt. Bealy.

From Arthur’s Pass we moved on for one night in Kaikoura so we could catch the Rugby World Cup final game between The New Zealand All Blacks (YAY!) and France (BOO).  Despite the fact that this is a game we know nothing about, we packed into a cute Irish Pub,

Strawberry Tree bar in Kaikoura.

had a couple of Speights, and enjoyed cheering on the All Blacks. The next morning we pushed on, but first stopped to admire the gorgeous scenery surrounding Kaikoura, where the mountains truly meet the sea.

The mountains meet the ocean in Kaikoura.

From here we made our way up the eastern coast, making a few stops before our ferry back up to the North Island and eventually Auckland, to fly out on Wed. afternoon, thus ending our RTW travels. I have mixed emotions about the ending: I am excited to be going home, but sad this journey is ending. We are both having a tough time processing this extraordinary adventure, so I will leave it at that. This will not be the FINAL blog, so stay tuned for the final blog of RTW travels of Jane and Courtney!!!

and that’s where I’m at…….