Trip Start Dec 15, 2009
Trip End Aug 27, 2010

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Flag of Canada  , Alberta,
Sunday, October 24, 2010

So this is it – the last Moody 360 Blog, and it has been a crazy 6 or 7 weeks since we returned home. When one's "normal" has been redefined during an experience like this, every day life has to be somewhat relearned upon re-entry to regular life. Idleness though has not been an issue with a house that had to be made family-functional again, services that needed restarting, vehicles to be taxed and checked, old favourite toys had to be apologized to and played with, refrigerator restocked, family & friends contacted, and then the kids were due back at school 55 hours after touchdown in Edmonton. Sounds easy enough but carrying it out did seem pretty alien. And, after 5 days in our own beds, those itchy feet did indeed start to rear their ugly toes. But without going into all the details, the transition to our new norm has indeed occurred ... and it is not exactly the one we left 10 months ago. Sure, the kids are back at school in the next grade with largely the same friends, no academic issues whatsoever. Derek is stepping up his work commitments although not to the same degree as pre-trip (not necessarily a bad thing), and Sarah is back at work on the same schedule trying to get re-motivated at the Government of Alberta. A previous travel-family warned us that we shouldn't expect to "find ourselves" on a trip like this, and while strictly true that the trip didn't provide too many answers, I would argue that we are asking some very different questions now. The long-term consequences of this will remain to be seen, but it's both daunting and exciting to consider the next chapters in the book of life. For now, while not quite writers block, we’re just focusing on getting the words in the right order!

You might be surprised to learn that throughout the trip Derek only read 3 or 4 books, Sarah 4 or 5, and as a family we only watched half a dozen of the 160 movies we brought with us. A trip like this is not a vacation, it is a job, and one of the hardest yet rewarding jobs you could ever hope to take on. The effort required to be forever prepared enough to optimize time in every place without spoiling its surprise and charm, the time to ensure that we were choosing safe destinations (thank you Lonely Planet) and staying in a safe accommodation which had to have private rooms and good wifi at a minimum (thank you Hostelworld), and the time taken to write this blog were all significant but essential. I wouldn’t want to deter you from taking on a trip like this for yourself (in fact I’d encourage it), but it would be remiss of us not to mention our firm belief that if it wasn’t for the continuous and painstaking research, we would have had many more close calls and likely a few unwelcome incidents to deal with. A single person or chilled-out couple could probably get away with a more flexible approach and we would have loved to do so ourselves, but with the kids in tow we felt that option was more limited. Our route, milestones and achievements probably seem more like forty back-to-back vacation weeks, but our budget and choices did take us closer to the local culture than an organized trip could ever do so we have no regrets regarding our strategy. "Was it worth it?" we have been asked often. Tough question, and the quick (and defensive) answer is "yes of course". The truth will only really be revealed over the coming years and while we’re pretty sure the answer is indeed “yes” the reasoning for that affirmation is not as clear as you might imagine.

“How much does it cost?” is another question from our less reserved friends. Well, for our family of four, we had budgeted around $200/day, and that turned out to be a pretty accurate estimate. Of course, we had a spreadsheet to track such data (many of you will not be surprized), and you might be interested to know that it varied significantly from under $100 per day in countries such as India, with much of Asia and South America hovering around the $100-$200/day range, and Africa, Europe and Japan chalking up some pricy days in the $200-$300/day range. These numbers are excluding our RTW flight tickets and special events like the World Cup or Safari, but provide a good indication of what accommodation plus food, incidental travel and entry fees etc will add up to for a family of four.

The most common questions we have been asked on our return are “What was your favourite country?” or “What was the best part?”. Pretty difficult to answer without context – favourite for what reason? All things considered, Lauren seems to have settled on Tanzania (largely Safari driven), Alex highlights South Africa (World Cup of course), Derek raves about Japan (so many reasons), and Sarah ,,,?

Just for fun, we selected a number of categories for which to vote our “top fives” or in some cases our “top tens” (a.k.a. Letterman style). It was really a great exercise to see what our collective memories would unlock and we were pleasantly surprised at what we found. Take a look below and for those who have been regular readers, we’d love to hear the top stories, photos or moments that stuck out for you. (feel free to post a comment). So here we go....

Top 5 World Wonders : We found that many of the expected top attractions were somewhat let down by their tourist agencies; the way they handled tourists and often their own crown jewel was often disappointing.
1              Machu Picchu (Peru)
2              Great Wall (China)
3              Nazca lines (Peru)
4              Petra (Jordan)
5              Terracotta Warriors (China)
Top 10 Cultural Experiences : So many to choose from, but just in terms of overall impact, those these experiences are the ones that will stay in our collective memories, often assaulting multiple senses and sometimes tugging at the heart strings.
1              Varanasi (India)
2              Tuktuk Rides (S.E. Asia)
3              Ryokan accommodation (Japan)
4              Tuol Sleng/Killing Fields (Cambodia)
5              Hiroshima (Japan)
6              Trains & Train Stations (India)
7              Masai/Mt Meru Village (Tanzania)
8              Beau Family Meal (France)
9              Otavalo Livestock Market (Ecuador)
10           Cu Chi Tunnels (Vietnam)

Top 10 Moments : This is the flashback list; fun family moments interspersed with some good ones that the locals offered up. 
1              Sealion queue jumping Mummy (Galapagos, Ecuador)
2              Arusha village school mobbing (Tanzania)
3              Alex swallowing fish eye (Casablanca, Morocco)
4              Crossing the road (HCMC, Vietnam)
5              200+ Chinese Photo Opps (Forbidden City, Beijing)
6              Karaoke in Kyoto (Japan)
7              Serving at the soup kitchen (Xian, China)
8              Marrakesh fake snake incident (Morocco)
9              Monkey peeing on Lauren's head in on Xmas Day (Costa Rica) 
10           300kph on a train in Shanghai (China)

Top 5 Events attended : Healthy competition at the top here, but great fun all around.
1              World Cup (South Africa)
2              U2 concerts (Germany, Denmark)
3              Latitude festival (U.K.)
4              Expo (Shanghai, China)
5              Yeovilton air show (U.K.)

Top 5 Activities : The surprise here is that before the trip we would surely not have picked tis list as our expected top 5.... that's what it's all about!
1              Rock climbing on Karst (Cat Ba, Vietnam)
2              Toyota City (Japan)
3              Zip lining in Forest (Costa Rica)
4              Cycling in Ninh Binh (Vietnam)
5              Great Wall toboggan (China)

Top 5 Most Dangerous times : No surpise at the top here, but all things considered, we are very thankful to have escaped unscathed. Do however spare a thought for the people who died in the Peruvian landslides.
1              Peru landslides
2              Ecuador mustard mugging
3              Nairobi taxi shortcut
4              Getting onto Indian Train
5              Crossing road Vietnam

Top 5 People we met : Other than our friends andfamily of course :-)
1              Luis (Owner of the Gran Arenal hotel in Costa Rica, so kind and friendly)
2              Purple Rinse Man (Sabotaged Lauren's birthday on the slowboat to China)
3              Slo (He of Slo-Pony, the climbing outfit in Cat Ba ... just a cool guy)
4              Samith (Owner of the most impressive orphanage we visited in Cambodia)
5              Tony (Yellow Soup Kitchen founder)

Top 5 Animal Experiences : Top two are streets ahead, but these were some of the highlights of the trip.
1              Tanzania safari (Lions, Elephants, Leopards, Cheetahs, Zebras, Rhinos, etc)
2              Galapagos Islands (Iguanas, Boobies, Sealions, Sharks)
3              Panda sanctuary in Xian
4              Elephant training in Chaing Mai
5              Tiger enclosure in Chaing Mai

Top 5 Foods : Mmmm so good.
1              Tom Yam soup (Thailand)
2              Mango sticky rice (Thailand)
3              Dragon fruit (Vietnam)
4              Coated peanuts  (S.E. Asia)
5              German choc/mint icecream (Germany)

Worst 5 Foods : No explanation required
1              Guinea pig [Cui] (Peru)
2              Alex swallowing fish eye (Morocco)
3              Pig brain hotpot (China)
4              Dulce seaweed (U.K.)
5              Chicken feet soup (Ecuador)

Top 5 memorable smells : Just the thought can take you back there...
1              Rochfort cheese spilled in car
2              Indian Railway stations
3              Tokyo Fish Market
4              Durian fruit
5              Ganges Funeral Pyres

Top 5 Hikes : All fun and rewarding, but numbers 1, 3, 5 earned their spots on the list with some serious hard work required. 
1              Petra - to the Monastery (Jordan)
2              Ocotal & walk Coco Beach (Costa RIca)
3              Machu Picchu - Sun Gate (Peru)
4              Great Wall (China)
5              Hike around North Seymour (Galapagos, Ecuador)

Landscapes : All breathtaking and highly recommended
1              Cape Town Garden Route (South Africa)
2              Machu Picchu Environs (Peru)
3              Ninh Binh Karsts (Vietnam)
3              Cat Ba (Ha Long Bay, Vietnam)
4              Wadi Mujib (Jordan's G. Canyon)
5              Ngorongoro Crater (Tanzania)

Top 10 Accommodation : Kudos and thanks to all the owners for helping to make our trip so memorable.
1              Xian Hostel (China)
2              Treehouses (Cost Rica)
3              Full Moon Resort (Mui Ne, Vietnam)
4              Vejle B&B (Denmark)
5              Hilton Wanfujing (Beijing, China)
6              El Yacout (Fez, Morocco)
7              Florist Resort (Koh Samui, Thailand)
8              Gran Arenal (Costa Rica)
9              Hotel 82 (Siem Reap, Cambodia)
10           Ranthambore Tents (India)

We also have lists for "structures", "bugs", "technology", "vehicles", "airlines (yup Ryanair was the worst), "beaches", "beverages", "beers" (Heineken is everywhere).                         

So, thanks for reading, thanks for all the comments and your support. Moody 360 signing out ….. for now …
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Karla Rockwell on

I read every one of the blogs greedily, living vicariously as you went. The landscapes and stick out the most, I suppose. But if you ask me to remember immediately I would say the time at Machu Pichu when you narrowly escaped the river flooding. And of course that you spent your last day of the trip with me. Great job, Moodys!!!

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